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Chapter 5: If Only


“I can’t believe you have a date! It’s just twisted, Sirius. You do realize she’s about twenty years younger than you?” Remus exclaimed, sounding mildly revolted.

“Pure technicality, Moony. She’s twenty years younger than me of this time. But me right now is only a year older than her, nothing so disgusting about that, Moony. You need to relax, mate,” Sirius shrugged off. The girl was gorgeous and already head over heels for him; why would he turn her away?

Remus muttered something about “No morals” but dropped the argument. Really, where was the point? Over six years being his friend had taught Remus when to concede with Sirius and his dating habits was one of those. It was like trying to talk James off Lily; it was simply never going to happen.

“He mightn’t get a chance to take her to Hogsmeade anyway,” Hermione admitted as everyone tucked into their dinner.

“Why not?” James sounded surprised and amused all at once. “He may not be a patch on me, but I doubt she’s going to cancel on him.”

Hermione shook her head. “No, it’s just with all the attacks and everything, it’ll be a miracle if there’s any visits at all this year.”

James, ignoring the sinister aspect of Hermione’s comment, turned eagerly to Lily. “Come on, Evans, it might be the last Hogsmeade visit we ever get to go on! You’ve got to let me take you, for old time’s sake.”

“”Old time’s sake”? Potter, we never went to Hogsmeade together ever! And were you even listening? There might not be any anyway,” Lily replied.

“Exactly, this is out last opportunity because we mightn’t get back to our time for it. Don’t you see? This is our last chance! And, mark my words, if you don’t say yes this time you’ll always regret it,” James argued.

“You know, you could always agree. If it doesn’t happen, then you don’t have to go, Evans, and it’ll keep Prongs quiet until then,” Sirius offered, willing Lily to say yes for his own peace of mind…not to mention amusement.

But, like Sirius having a reasonable dating ritual, or James ignoring Lily; Lily saying yes to James seemed like a very very long shot.

“But if I said yes and the trip wasn’t cancelled then I’d be stuck with Potter for a whole day. I’m not about to risk that so I’m going to stick with my usual answer of; Not a chance, Potter,”

James shook his head. “You’ve no adventure in you, Evans. You always choose the same things. Are you afraid of the change it would mean if you said yes? Or are you afraid of falling for me like you are already deep down?”

“Neither actually. I’m more afraid of losing my sanity if I went anywhere with you that wasn’t absolutely necessary,” Lily explained with ease.

“But you came to the future with me! If that hasn’t made you lose your marbles nothing about me possibly could,” James challenged.

Everyone in the group watched the exchange with amusement and no one could stop their grins when Lily spoke, her tone final. “I don’t know about that. And, before you say anything, I’m not about to risk it and find out.”

James looked thoroughly disgruntled. “Fine, but this isn’t over.”

Lily raised her eyebrow in a stern challenge. “Isn’t it?”

“Nope, not by a long shot.” James’ grin was sly.

Harry let himself smile as he watched his parents glower at one another from opposite sides of the table. He felt he should be worried that it was technically their seventh year and they weren’t showing many signs of warming to one another, but he really just couldn’t. Aside from the fact he had a million other things to worry about, he felt he wouldn’t really exist if their deadline expired and right now, even though he’d be pretty happy not to be Harry Potter just now, he was feeling pretty much alive.

Just then Headmistress McGonagall stood up from her seat, looking very grave, and a shadow seemed to fall over the Hall. Harry was beginning to expect that this was to become a tradition, as not one dinner time had passed as yet where someone hadn’t broken news about more attacks.

Obviously, today would be no different Harry decided as everyone inwardly prayed that this time wouldn’t bring news from their own family or loved ones. But not everyone was always so lucky as to escape.

“Silence please,” McGonagall called unnecessarily as all students were instantly silent the moment she rose. “The Ministry has just delivered word about another series of attacks by Death Eaters on a village just beyond Hogsmeade. A lot of damage was done to the town and the surrounding areas,” she explained but Harry knew she was stalling, not wanting to reveal the casualty list that had come with this news.

“We are very sorry to inform you that a former student of the school was killed in the attack, along with thirteen others all of whom were Volunteers to the war effort. Please, bow your heads for Oliver Wood and all those who lost their lives defending us all,” she finished quietly, revealing the name in an almost whisper, though everyone heard it like it had been shouted, and a tear trickled down her face as she reseated herself.

The Great Hall of Hogwarts castle sat with grieving stillness as they mourned the loss of people they knew well or maybe even never heard of. Anyone below fourth year didn’t feel the blow caused by the death of Oliver Woods, but the senior students definitely felt its impact.

Harry in particular. He had been very close to Oliver during their three years together on the Gryffindor Team as Seeker and Captain; he’d been the one to show him how to play Quidditch in the first place as well as someone to look up to as one of the best Keepers to ever pass through Hogwarts.

Now he was gone too. Lost to the struggle against Voldemort. The seemingly never ending string of attacks and loses, his name now attached to a long list of people just like him; brave, loyal strong. Would there be anyone like that left in the world when this was over. Would it ever be over?

Harry knew the answer to that; it could end if he chose to end it. He needed to make a decision.

When Harry looked up he found himself staring at the sad faces of Ron and Hermione. One glance around the Hall mirrored several hundred similar expressions. He turned his gaze back to his friends, nodding to them once before standing and exiting the Hall. It didn’t take long for Ron and Hermione to follow him. They knew what he meant;

It was time for action.

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“Too much time is passing,” Harry commented as he paced in front of the Head rooms’ fire. “I need to do something and soon or-“

“You mean; we need to do something,” Ron interrupted firmly. Harry looked at him with a mixture of frustration and gratitude but Ron didn’t budge.

“He’s right; we,” Hermione agreed, making it two against one as always was the case with this subject. “But what can we do? We haven’t been sitting waiting for nothing; we don’t have any new leads to go on that we didn’t have before.”

That was the most aggravating part of the whole thing. Harry knew what needed to be done and where he had to go. But he hadn’t the slightest notion on how to get there.

“There has to be something that can give us clues. I mean Dumbledore didn’t just randomly guess where the last two were hidden,” Harry said, though he was beginning to think he wouldn’t be surprised if that had really been the case.

“But the one you destroyed was found by chance, Harry,” Hermione pointed out. “Maybe you have to wait for the clues to come to you first?”

Harry was pondering this but Ron cut off his train of thought by saying; “Well, right now I think we might have more immediate problems at hand.” The Weasley boy was pointing at the open Marauder’s Map, almost constantly under surveillance by Harry on the table lately, and more significantly at the names of said Marauders themselves walking towards the Head Dorms.

Ron and Hermione both looked up enquiringly at Harry. “What are you going to tell them?” Ron asked.

All Harry could do was shrug. He really didn’t know what would be the right thing to do. On the one hand, it thrilled him to think of going through all this with a form of his parents and role-models with him. And yet, the other part felt like it would be torn to shreds when he realized he could share all this with them just to have them lost again at the end. He tried to keep in his mind all the time that this was only temporary. They weren’t going to be here forever, they were already gone from his life, so how could he allow himself to depend on them?

“I think you should at least tell them what you intend on doing. Then they can decide what they want to do for themselves and you won’t have to feel responsible for it. You never know, they could be of some real benefit, Harry. Maybe that’s why they showed up now of all times,” Hermione suggested.

But, before any more discussion could be voiced, three of the visitors from the past, minus the vibrantly noticeable Lily, came into the room with Sirius storming at the front.

“What the hell was that?! That sudden walking out during dinner?! I like to know about games in advance…so that I can complain about missing desert,” he gave out, flopping into an armchair like he was at home.

Harry, trying to avoid the pressing topic at the moment, decided to address the missing factor. “Where’s Lily?”

Of course, it was James who gave a prompt answer. “She went to Gryffindor Tower with Ginny and then she said she was going out with that idiot she was talking to the other day,” James explained, his voice bitter but with a note of triumph.

Remus rolled his eyes and said. “She’ll be here in a minute really. She was only winding you up, Prongs, no need to worry,” he laughed.

“Who’s worried? He wasn’t going to get anywhere near her tonight. He suddenly became very….tied up in a few things,” James grinned.

“What did you do to hi, exactly?” Somehow, Harry felt himself lacking all sympathy for Dean Thomas, and was nearly grinning along with his seventeen year old father.

“Nothing really. I just happened o hear him boasting about going to ask Lily out so I accidentally knocked him into a broom cupboard where my wand slipped causing him to get tied up and the door to lock. Tragic accident really, I hope the poor unfortunate fellow is alright,” James said. Needless to say, he didn’t sound like he was the least bit sorry, and was most likely wishing Dean was far from alright. He sounded more like a little kid who had gotten away with eating sweets when he wasn’t meant to.

“You are aware that Lily will murder you if she ever finds this out,” Remus pointed out casually.

“It’s all in the ‘if’, Moony. I don’t really intend on letting her discovery my involvement in his standing her up and simply be there for her to cry on, as I should be,” James said.

“You mean you left him tied up in a closet? You know as Head Girl I’m meant to report these types of things,” Hermione reprimanded, but her smile was barely concealed.

Sirius scoffed. “You wouldn’t dare! It would draw unnecessary attention to our presence here, not that everyone doesn’t already know. But there’s no need to go screaming it around the caste, and you know that this type of so called ‘bad’ publicity will only cause you trouble.”

He sounded like he was very convinced in his own argument.

“Plus, if you want to get technical on this, I’m also currently a Head Boy and so you have no power over me!” James said. All he was missing was adding an evil ”Mwah ha ha ha ha” in at the end.

“Not to mention the fact you love what Prongs here did and don’t really care at all,” Sirius added and everyone gave a little laugh, despite the previous subdued atmosphere.

Remus, however, was used to his friend’s antics and was determined not to let them side track the others. “So what’s going on, really? Why did you get up and leave after McGonagall made that announcement?”

Harry had come to a very sudden decision in that moment; he would tell them like Hermione had suggested. But how to start? “We….We had some things to think on, to work out,” he offered vaguely.

“What kind of things?” James asked skeptically.

“Wel-“ Harry was about to say more but he received a nudge in the side from Ron and a very blatant head movement towards the Map on the table. More dots were moving in their direction and Harry struggled to suppress a loud groan.

It was Lily….with Ginny.

“Well what?” Sirius demanded, not putting too much on Harry’s obvious change in track of thought.

“It’s complicated, now isn’t a good time to explain,” Hermione said sadly, knowing immediately that once Ginny was added to the picture Harry would shrink away again.

The Marauders didn’t look impressed. In fact, that was a gross understatement. James most of all had been thrilled when the prospect of learning more about Harry’s strange life had presented itself and how it was once more cancelled. What was doing it now?

“Is he always this afraid?” Sirius muttered angrily. He hadn’t been here too long, but he was already getting frustrated by the something huge obviously happening that he didn’t know about. “Does he always run away from things? Or is that just a new habit he’s picked up since we got here?”

Harry made no response as he stood from his seat and moved towards the window. The grounds were their usual stunning magnificence. In any season, whether it be spring, summer, winter or the current autumn, the beauty always remained there. Nothing seemed to tarnish or dull them, nothing stole away from the brilliance, and nothing had ruined them.

Yet. Harry wasn’t backing that they too wouldn’t get away from the destroying force of Voldemort. It seemed no one or nothing could so far….even Hogwarts it seemed.

Harry didn’t hear the precise time the portrait hole opened, he was too wrapped up inside his own little bubble of thought to pay attention. He was quickly running out of preparation time and there was a lot of decisions left to make.

He would tell his parents, Remus and Sirius. That much he had decided and chose to act on, with the help of Ron and Hermione, and there was no time left for a change of heart. Though, if he didn’t say something about it soon, his original doubts and worries might just over-write his newfound logic.

But, as was usual for Harry lately, it was Ginny who presented a problem. What was new? He was frightened to see that his usual strict stubbornness on this topic was waning ever so slightly in the favour of truth and so allowing him to entertain the idea of telling her and letting her be with him.

“Harry?”

The dark haired teenager turned around to see everyone in the room watching him intently. It was Lily who had called him with, Harry was somewhat surprised and warmed to find, concern written across her face.

He’d obviously zoned out in his thoughts a lot longer than he thought.

“So? Are you going to tell us what’s going on? Or do you need another nap?” Sirius asked jokingly, but Harry was well aware that the joke didn’t lie in letting the subject drop.

He sighed. He couldn’t do it, not now. “It doesn’t matter anymore.” He wanted to gauge out his own eyes after they flittered automatically towards Ginny and saw her face drop instantly the moment the words left his mouth.

“You mean, it matter so much you can’t say it in front of me? Is that right?” she asked in a venom sweet voice. Her voice betrayed none of the anger or hurt that had begun to bubble inside her again. No matter how much she tried to steer herself clear of these types of scenes and emotions, they always just sprang at her suddenly and she had to struggle to stall the natural reaction.

“It’s not like that, Ginny,” Harry said quietly, controlled.

“What is it then? Explain it to me because I don’t understand,” Ginny said, her voice soft like falling snow.

“I already have. We’ve been through this so many times before,” he replied calmly.

“Remind me again,” she persisted stubbornly.

Harry looked up, into her eyes now and saw the exact same pain he was feeling coming to the surface and sighed. This was exactly what he was trying to save her from. Why couldn’t she see that and stop fighting him? He was beginning to realize he might lose one of them if they kept on like this and he couldn’t afford that.

“Are we going to keep at this forever?”

Her answer was quiet but resilient; she nodded. “Until you come up with a real answer.”

Harry sighed for a third time, this one with a little more frustration. “I’m not going to change my mind about this, Ginny. You can forget that. It’s too dangerous, there’s too much at risk, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon either.”

“Where exactly is the danger coming from, Harry? Where is the harm in letting me hear what’s going on? What’s so dangerous about being informed? I thought it would actually be smarter that way because I would be prepared for what’s going to happen instead of going in blind. Unless you expect You-Know-Who to jump out from behind the sofa in camouflage and kill me for hearing something, I don’t think it’s as dangerous as you’re making it out to be,” she said, her recently soft tones rising with Harry’s frustration.

He agreed. He despised himself for it, but there was a small part of him that was thinking; ”She’s right about that. Where could the harm be in letting her stay around me?”. But he was, under no circumstances, going to admit to his momentary lack of sense, his few seconds of thinking what it would be like to have Ginny around him any time he wanted again, and definitely not the feeling of happiness it gave him despite the obvious danger. No, he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t risk it. He wouldn’t.

And so it would continue on. At this stage, both had already very nearly forgotten about their own audience of five. They may not be a couple anymore, but the pure energy that shot through them was enough for anyone to tell the feelings had never changed.

“It isn’t as simple as that. I don’t get why you can’t grasp that, Ginny!” Harry said, shaking his head as if at a loss why someone could be so oblivious.

“What don’t you make it that simple?” Ginny fired back. “It can be done you know. It’s not like I’m going off to the midst of the war, Harry. I’m sitting in Hogwarts with my friends, talking about what’s going on out there like a hundred other people. Why do you need to make everything so dramatic?”

“Because I’m not like any of the other people here, Ginny. Our roles in all this, what we have to do, are completely different. They stay here in safety and hide away from the danger like they are meant to, and I have to go looking for it. Entirely different circumstances.

“Anyone here would willingly go with you to wherever it is you’re going to help you and to stop all this. Everyone wants to help you and even out the mountain you put between yourself and the rest of the blood world. And they’d do it without all the whining and drama! Why can’t you just open your eyes for a tiny second to see exactly what’s going on around you instead of blocking it out all the time?”

Harry looked at her, ignoring her last question as if she hadn’t spoken it. “Why do you want to choose my path so bad when you have the option of the better one?”

“I’m not asking to go to war with you, Harry. I’m not saying I want to go out and fight You-Know-Who with you. I just want to be included, just a little bit! Instead of this facing this cold wall every time I try to so much as say hello to you! I want to help, not just for you but for my family and friends who are out there right now in the real danger. You don’t have any right to stop me but you keep trying!”

“I do have a right to because I won’t put you in danger just so things can be the way they used to. Nothing is the same anymore, Ginny, you have to deal with that,” Harry said. “We can’t keep doing this every time the war is mentioned. There’s too much involved already, I will not let you get dragged in as well.”

Ginny’s eyes were hard. “Why? Just answer me that; why?”

“Because I don’t think you’d be able to handle it, alright?! How are you meant to cope with it, with everything you’d find out and the danger you’d be put in when you can’t even say the name of the person we’re dealing with?” Harry was grasping at loose straws now. The more she spoke, the more they argued, the more torn he became inside between keeping her safe and keeping her with him. It shouldn’t be this hard, of that much he was certain.

Ginny’s face was ice cold as she took a step towards him so that she was standing directly in front of him, mere inches away, glaring up into his face. “Voldemort,” she said clearly. “Happy now? Is that your only excuse? Does that change your mind?”

Harry tried to stay very controlled as he breathed in, trying not to breath in her scent at the same time. He hadn’t been this close to Ginny in a few months…it was almost torture to close his eyes and take a step back, a step that seemed to signify a permanent end between them. He shook his head; No.

The red haired girl hung her head. She hadn’t been expecting a different answer, but it didn’t stop her feeling crushed when he turned from her again. “Didn’t think so.”

“I think Harry’s right, he’s only trying to protect Ginny.” Both Harry and Ginny were momentarily stunned at the statement. This was the first time someone had gotten involved in their arguments. Usually they were alone when they brought it up, or if Ron and Hermione were there they knew to stay quiet. But this time James Potter felt they needed some outside input.

“I mean, if it were me in your shoes, Harry, I’d do the exact same thing. What do you think, Padfoot?” James was turning it into a talk-show topic.

Harry was grateful that someone else thought he was doing the right thing. It made it that little bit easier to deal with the hurt it caused him by knowing his father would have made the same decision.

He waited for Ginny to make an outburst or argument in return to stand up for herself like she usually did. But she didn’t say a word.

Harry wouldn’t look at her, he felt ashamed to, but if he had he would have known the reason she wasn’t reacting to the Marauder’s discussions was because she wasn’t listening. She was looking at Lily, seemingly having a silent discussion with the older girl who also hadn’t said a word a loud. She had nothing to tell Ginny this time.

“Well, I suppose I should go now and let you talk about whatever’s going on,” Ginny said finally in a quiet voice, but Harry heard it as if she was screaming at him again. It stung a lot more than any of the things she said while shouting.

The room was silent as the Portrait Hole behind Ginny. A small part of Harry wanted to race after her and bring her back, but he knew he couldn’t.

If things were different, he might have. If Dumbledore wasn’t gone, if his real parents were alive, if he’d never been the Boy-Who-Lived maybe then he could have run after her.

If only.


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