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CHAPTER NINE The four teenagers woke up to Mr. Weasley’s voice at around seven in the morning. "HEEEELLLOOOOO!!!" He bellowed from the fireplace in the kitchen. Ginny dragged herself out of bed and made her way down the stairs.

“Hello, Dad; everything alright?” she asked a little anxiously.

“Hello sweetheart.” His voice sounded weary. “Everything is fine. Don’t worry. Nothing new to report except that they’ve moved your mum to room 415. One of the healers said the sleeping potion should wear off in about an hour. I wanted to let you all know so you can be here when she wakes.

The quartet quickly got ready to floo to the hospital. As they walked down the 4th floor corridor Harry started to lag behind. Ginny noticed and slowed down, as well. She took his hand, interlacing their fingers and gently gave him a squeeze.

“If you’d like, we could wait out here for a while before we go in the room. It might be a bit awkward for you as Mum begins to recall everything that happened yesterday. I understand if you don’t want to relive all that. We can go in later, when things are a bit calmer.” They had both stopped walking now and Ginny was looking up at Harry with concern.

“I was just thinking… it might be best if I just waited for all of you back at the Burrow, or even Grimmauld Place, you know, just to give her time to heal before she has to deal with me…” he trailed off, looking down at the floor.

“Harry, please…remember what we talked about yesterday? I know this is hard for you, but you have to face this. Running away isn’t going to solve anything. You even said so yourself. Now please, sit with me until we hear from Ron or Dad.” She led him to a group of chairs situated near the healer’s station, a few doors down from Mrs. Weasley’s room. Soon Bill and Fleur arrived, followed shortly by Charlie, who had just flooed over from Romania. When Charlie started asking a lot of questions about yesterday’s events, Ginny took him for a walk so she could fill him in without making Harry feel uncomfortable.

Thus, Harry was left alone with Bill and Fleur. No one seemed to know what to say. They just sat in an awkward silence. Harry knew Hermione, Ron, Ginny, George and Mr. Weasley understood what happened yesterday and didn’t blame him, but Bill, Fleur, Charlie and Percy were another matter. They didn’t know him as well, and might be more prone to pass judgment on him. He was also sure they hadn’t reacted too kindly to the news that he and Ginny were in the same bed together for the past 2 nights. He really didn’t blame them if they didn’t want to talk to him, right now.

After ten minutes of uncomfortable silence, Harry decided he needed a break. He got up and left without saying a word.

He kept his head down so no one would recognize him and made his way down to the lobby. After exiting the lifts he turned the corner and ran right into something, or rather someone. He was forced to look up and to his surprise there was Neville, standing before him apologizing profusely, until he recognized who was standing before him.

“Harry! Good to see you, mate. How’ve you been? What are you doing here?” he asked while shaking Harry’s hand fervently.

“Oh, uh, hi Neville. I’m just, um, visiting Ron and Gin’s mum. She had a little, um, accident yesterday.” He was hoping Neville was in a hurry so he wouldn’t have to stay and talk with him. He really wasn’t in the mood for chit-chat at the moment.

“Oh, is she alright? It’s nothing serious, I hope.”

“Oh, no, no. She’ll be alright. Just a few broken bones and some sprains. She’s actually going to wake up soon. So…I should probably get going.” Harry finished quickly and started to move around Neville, toward the lobby, again.

“Um, aren’t the patient rooms in the other direction?” asked Neville.

“Oh, um…right. Yeah, I’d, er, better be off then…” Harry stammered, turning back towards the lifts.

But, Neville grabbed a hold of his arm and stopped him. “Harry, listen. I know you’ve been through a lot this past year. And, I know you have Ron and Hermione to talk to; but if you need to talk to someone else who’s been through a lot himself, well, just let me know. Sometimes it’s nice to talk to someone other than your best mates; it can give you a fresh perspective on things.” Neville offered his friend.

“Um, what makes you think I need to talk?” asked Harry, uneasily.

“Well, I don’t mean to pry, but you look like you could use a friend right about now. You seem a little tense. If you don’t want to talk, maybe we could get a cup of coffee and just sit for a while, give you a chance to calm down a bit before you go see Mrs. Weasley,” Neville offered his friend.

Harry looked at the tall man standing in front of him. He was no longer a scared shy boy living in the shadow of his parents’ legacies. And he was not just a casual friend to Harry, either. Neville had proven his loyalty and bravery to him many times, over the past few years. Then there were the many similarities between them. He never really appreciated them all until the prophecy was fully revealed and Dumbledore explained how Voldemort could just as easily have chosen Neville “as his equal” instead of him.

They both had parents in the Order. They both lost their parents at a young age; even though Neville’s parents were technically still alive. They were both raised by family members who did not show much, if any, love towards them. They also both went through most of their school days being misunderstood and ridiculed by the other students. He wondered why he hadn’t noticed it all before. Maybe if he wasn’t so wrapped up in fighting Voldemort and trying to fulfill his prophecy, he would have had more time to build a better friendship with Neville.

So, Harry decided to take Neville up on his offer.

They sat in a remote corner of the cafeteria so they would not attract attention. Harry found himself talking to Neville freely about the events of the last few weeks. He let Neville know what he went through the week after the battle and how he ran away form everyone, like a coward. He told Neville details about his inner battle with guilt and depression and finally finished with the sad story of Mrs. Weasley trying to stun him yesterday.

For his part, Neville sat and listened, nodding his head occasionally and asking a few questions to clarify things. But, mostly he just listened. He let Harry get everything off his chest. When he was finished, Neville did not pass judgment or offer advice. He just let Harry know he was not alone and that he had people who cared about him to help him get through this.

Harry was surprised to find that he actually felt better after their talk. “Thanks, Neville. This really helped. You’ve been a great friend. If you ever need me to return the favor, just let me know.” With that they shook hands and said their goodbyes.

Harry decided it was time for him to stop being selfish and head back upstairs. He knew Ginny would be worried if she got back before he did, so he hurried towards the lifts, intent on being there for her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

About 10 minutes after Harry left the small sitting area, Ginny returned with Charlie. Right away she noticed Harry’s absence. “Bill, Fleur…where is Harry?” she asked.

“He left a little while ago,” Bill answered.

“Do you know where he went?” Ginny asked, a bit worried.

“He didn’t say. And, I didn’t ask.” Bill answered, shrugging his shoulders non-challantly.

“Well, when you guys were talking did he seem upset?”

“Actually, we didn’t talk much at all,” Bill replied.

“What do you mean ‘not much at all’? Did you talk to him or not?” Ginny was not liking her eldest brother’s attitude one bit.

“No,” was the only answer she got.

“What? Why?” Ginny’s voice was beginning to rise along with her temper.

“We just didn’t, that’s all.” Bill replied curtly.

“So, you all sat here, in silence…and then he just up and left?”

“Yeah, that sounds about right.”

“Didn’t you think of how uncomfortable that would have made him feel? He probably thinks you’re upset with him.” Ginny was trying hard to stay calm.

“Well, it wasn’t comfortable for us either,” he said, trying to defend his actions. “We just didn’t know what to say.”

“How about, ‘Hey, Harry. Sorry about everything. How are you holding up?’”

Fleur spoke up next. “You are right Geeny. Zat wasn’t very nice off us to do zat to eem.” She said quietly, looking uncomfortable.

“Wait, are you serious?” Bill looked at his wife incredulously then turned back to Ginny. “Our poor mother is the one lying comatose in the hospital right now, not Harry. I’m sorry I’m not worrying about his welfare instead of hers. Especially since he’s the reason she’s---

“No, Beel, don’t zay eet,” Fleur told her husband.

“…injured and in the hospital,” Ginny said, finishing his sentence for him. “Is that what you really believe, Bill?” she asked in a quiet voice.

“I don’t know what to believe, Ginny. All I know is what Dad and George told me last night.”

“So, you know that it was Mum who tried to attack Harry and not the other way around? And it was the rest of us throwing our shields up to protect Harry that caused Mum’s injuries? And that Harry never even tried to defend himself? He was going to just allow Mum to hex him without hesitation. And, did they tell you how mad he was that we protected him against her?” Her voice was growing louder as she spoke.

Bill looked down at the floor and took a while before he answered.

“Look, I’m not saying I think this is all his fault, but you can’t expect me to be worried about Harry’s feelings when Mum is the one who needs my attention, right now. Frankly, you don’t sound very concerned about her, at all.”

“Bill, that’s enough,” Charlie cut in. “Ginny just explained everything to me and she’s just as upset about Mum as we are.” He went over to Ginny and placed an arm around her shoulder. “But, she is also concerned about Harry, and rightly so. Apparently, Mum said some pretty harsh things to him. They are both in need of our support, right now.”

“Well, I’ll worry about him after I know Mum is awake and alright,” said Bill.

Ginny was very saddened by Bill’s attitude about Harry. “Well, it will probably be too late by then,” she said in a quiet voice. Then she turned to Charlie, “Charlie, I’m going to go find Harry and we’ll both wait down the hall a ways. Will you come get us when Mum wakes up?”

“Sure, Ginny. Go on.”

“She started to go then turned back around to face her siblings. “Oh, and I’d also appreciate it if no one mentioned this conversation to Harry, for now,” she added.

“Mention what?” asked Harry as he stepped around the corner to join them.

Harry’s sudden appearance surprised Ginny for a second. She quickly recovered and asked him if he would take a walk with her.

“How about you tell me what you all were talking about, first?” he countered.

“Geeny vas just egsplaining some teengs to us about yesterday,” Fleur offered.

“And, what did Ginny not want me to know?”

“I was just explaining yesterday’s events to Bill. It seems he was misinformed about some of the details. I just didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you to have to relive it all again,” said Ginny.

“Why do I not believe you’re telling me everything?” Harry asked, looking her straight in the eyes.

“Because she’s not,” Bill stated, as he stood up from his chair.

“OK…so what more is there to the story?” He had a feeling he wasn’t going to like the answer Bill was about to give him.

“I’m sorry Harry,” Bill sighed. “I’m just having a hard time dealing with my mother being in hospital right now. I feel like this shouldn’t have happened; like perhaps everyone over-reacted a bit in casting their shields.”

“I see,” Harry said, slowly. “And that’s why you weren’t talking to me earlier? Because you think the others shouldn’t have put up their shields to protect me. Then your mum wouldn’t have gotten injured and we wouldn’t be here right now worrying about her recovery.” He paused and looked at Bill, calmly. “Well, I agree with you. That’s why I didn’t put up a shield of my own. Then it would have been me in that bed instead of her. That’s what I would have wanted to happen, too.” Harry spoke like he was simply stating the facts.

Ginny had heard enough. “Harry! Didn’t you listen to a word Dad and I said, yesterday? This is NOT YOUR FAULT! How many times do I need to say that? If Mum was herself none of this would have happened in the first place. And, you can’t fault your friends for protecting you.” She then spun around to face Bill. “And you! If it was Fleur who was being attacked by Mum would you have stood by and let her get cursed? Would you?”

Bill didn’t reply, but looked a little uncomfortable.

“And would you then have blamed Fleur for Mum’s injuries and wished she was the one in hospital, instead?”

This time Bill shook his head ever so slightly.

“So, why are you blaming Harry?”

“It’s OK, Gin,” Harry said softly. “I know this is hard on everyone. There are no winners in this situation. Come on, let’s go for that walk you suggested.” But, Ginny didn’t move. She stood staring at Bill, waiting for his answer.

“Come on…” he whispered, taking her by the hand. She reluctantly gave in and let him lead her down the hall. They found a little nook a few meters away that offered some privacy, and leaned against the wall.

Before Ginny knew what was happening, tears were rolling down her cheeks. She wasn’t sure if it was because of the craziness of yesterday or the way her brother felt toward Harry that triggered the crying. But, she couldn’t stop herself. Harry gently wrapped his arms around her and tried to comfort her as best he could. Ginny sank into his chest, as her tears kept flowing.

She thought the way Harry accepted Bill’s accusations was unsettling. He just accepted them without any qualms. It was as if it never occurred to Harry to take offense to what Bill said. He seemed so comfortable with the role of the accused; the one blamed for everything bad that happened to others.

Then it occurred to Ginny that Harry had dealt with that kind of treatment all his life. It was the way his so-called family treated him since the day they found him on their door step. He was used to being treated this way; being blamed for everything. And because of that treatment, Harry automatically takes the blame for things even when he shouldn’t. Why hadn’t she made that connection before? That’s why he readily takes the blame for every person who ever died or lost a loved one due to Voldemort.

After a while, she was able to control her emotions enough to speak. “Oh, Harry, it’s so unfair!” she said suddenly, looking up to see a surprised look on his face. “You’ve been through so much already. And you still have to deal with people like Bill who don’t understand; who blame you for things unjustly. How can you stand it?”

“Gin, it’s OK. It doesn’t really bother me, people blaming me for things is nothing new to me. Besides, a part of me does agree with him.”

“I thought we had settled this Harry,” Ginny sighed. “You are not to blame. Even Dad said so.”

“I know, I know. I heard what you and your Dad, and Ron and Hermione told me, and most of me agrees with you. But, there is still a part of me that is having trouble letting the guilt go. I guess it’s just so engrained in me. Like you said before, it’s going to take time.”

He then added, “And, as far as Bill is concerned, I know he didn’t mean most of what he said. He’s just really worried and, hell, he’s been through a lot, himself. What with getting bit by a werewolf, facing your brother’s death, fighting in the final battle and now this…well, it’s understandable is all I’m saying.”

“That’s just it, Harry. You are way too understanding when people blame you for things. A normal person wouldn’t act that way. You’re so used to people blaming you for everything that you just accept their accusations without a second thought. It’s like you expect it to happen that way. That’s just not normal! And, I blame the way those awful muggles treated you all your life.” She took a deep breath before continuing.

“You didn’t do anything to anyone and after ridding the world of Voldemort, people should be thanking you, not blaming you, for things beyond your control. You shouldn’t be treated like this; especially not from a family member! And you shouldn’t just sit there and take it, either.”

“Whoa, hold on a minute. Did you just suggest that I am not normal…twice?” he asked with mock indignation.

“Oh, Harry this is no time for jokes! I’m really upset and you should be, too.” She pulled away from him and rolled her eyes in exacerbation.

“OK, OK, I’m sorry. Come here. Let’s sit down and talk this through. You’re getting yourself all wound up and I think you need to take a minute and breathe. Then, I can give you my perspective on things, OK?”

They sat side by side on the floor with their backs against the wall, holding hands. “OK. First of all, you are probably right in your theory; the way the Dursley’s raised me has had a negative impact on the way I deal with blame today. I’m sure my overwhelming feelings of guilt and readiness to take blame for everything stems from that. But, think about it this way: would I have sat there and agreed with Bill’s comments if they were made by Draco or someone else I don’t respect, even when I’ve been accused of things that are my fault. With Bill I am more understanding because I know him and care about him. So, I try harder to see things from his point of view. Also, I take it into account that he doesn’t know all the facts and his emotions are running a bit high, right now. I think once your mum wakes up, he will calm down some and see that he overreacted a bit. But, honestly, I’m fine with it so please try not to be too mad at him, for my sake as well as your mum’s.” He looked down at her, hoping he was able to make her understand.

All of a sudden Harry felt a shift in Ginny’s emotions. She looked back at him with a bewildered expression. “Wow, you really have grown up, haven’t you? You sound so...so mature. I guess living with Hermione for nine months, it was bound to happen,” she surmised, smiling slightly. “I even see it in Ron, a little. But, you, you’re like in another universe compared to him...and me.” She sighed and leaned her head on his shoulder. “I guess I can try to look at things from your perspective. I’m not sure how well I’ll do, though. I still don’t like how Bill treated you…but I’ll try to be a little more understanding, as long as you’re really OK with all this.”

“Thanks, Gin.” He leaned over and gave her a kiss on the top of her head. “And for the record, I really appreciate you sticking up for me back there.”

“No problem. You know I’ve always got your back.” She winked at him. “And, thank you. You did a good job calming me down. I needed that,” she added sincerely.

“Well, thanks. But, I can’t take all the credit. If I hadn’t just had a chat with a friend who helped me calm down first, I probably wouldn’t have been much help to you, now. Besides, I had to do something. Your feelings were starting to overwhelm me, a bit,” he admitted.

“Oh…so, you did this for your own selfish reasons, huh?” She asked with her eyebrows raised.

He chuckled. “Well, partly. But, mostly it was because I don’t like seeing you so upset. And, I didn’t want you and Bill to be angry with each other over me. We need each other, right now. It makes no sense to stay angry with the people we need the most, does it?”

“No, I guess not. Thanks, love.” She pecked him on the cheek. “You know, I think I’m going to have to hold on to you. You are definitely good for me,” she added with a smirk.

“Well, I’m glad you feel that way, as I don’t intend to ever let you go.” Harry stood up and held his hand out to Ginny. They slowly walked back to the waiting area, arm in arm. “Oh, by the way, Neville says ‘hello’ and he hopes your mum feels better soon.”

Ginny was about to ask if Neville was the friend Harry was referring to, when Ron came bursting out of their mother’s room. “Harry! Get in there before Mum blows a gasket! She woke up fifteen minutes ago and wants to talk to you, now.”

Uh oh…here it comes thought Harry, as Ginny dragged him into the hospital room.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When Harry and Ginny stepped into the hospital room, they saw George sitting to the right of his mother’s bed with Mr. Weasley standing behind him. Percy was standing on the other side of the bed and Hermione was sitting on a chair against the far wall. Ron came back in after Ginny and Harry and went to stand next to Hermione. He was followed in by Bill, Fleur and Charlie.

Immediately, all eyes turned to the couple, as they slowly made their way to the matriarch of the family, unsure of what to expect. Harry could feel his heart beating rapidly in his chest as he fought to stay calm.

Mrs. Weasley’s eyes welled up with tears and her throat tightened as she tried to speak to Harry. The result was a high-pitched squeak that Harry interpreted as an ‘I’m so sorry’. This was followed by full-out tears flowing down her face and her arms opening up to welcome Harry into them. But, Harry was too stunned to move. Of all the ways he had expected her to act, this wasn’t one of them. She was supposed to still be mad at him; maybe even ask him to pack his bags and leave the Burrow. How am I supposed to react to this? he thought.

But, before he could think about it more, he was stumbling forward into Mrs. Weasley’s arms, thanks to a push from behind by Ginny. The next thing he knew, he was overcome by his own emotions and was crying along with his surrogate Mother.

Mr. Weasley decided it would be a good time for a bit more privacy. So, he ushered everyone out of the room, except for Harry and Ginny. Even George left his mum’s bedside for the first time since they arrived last night.

After a little while, Harry and Mrs. Weasley were able to compose themselves and Mrs. Weasley asked Harry and Ginny to both sit down on either side of her bed. Once they were situated she took a hold of one of each child’s hand and started to speak.

“Harry, I want to ask for your forgiveness for how I behaved last night. I feel just terrible about the whole ordeal. It must have been very unsettling for you, as well as the others.”

“Mrs. Weasley, you don’t have to apologize to me.”

“No, Harry, I do. Please hear me out before you say anything else. I need your forgiveness, and Ginny’s, too. I over-reacted to the news about you and her sleeping in the same bed the other night. I know I didn’t even give you a chance to explain. I want you to know that I would never have drawn my wand on you had I been feeling well. It’s jus that I’ve been trying so hard to push down my feelings of grief for Fred that I finally cracked. Hearing that bit of news just seemed to push me over the edge. I realize that, now.” Tears were forming in her eyes again.

“I know now I haven’t been fair to everyone else by ignoring my feelings. I’ve been emotionally unavailable and I haven’t allowed any closure to take place, for myself or the rest of the family. I also know now that I need help. I can’t face this alone. It’s going to be a very difficult recovery over the next few weeks and I need everyone’s support to make it through; that includes both of yours.

“Mrs. Weasley, you have my 100% support; you always have. You have always treated me like one of your own and for that I can never repay you. I totally understand why you did what you did yesterday. And, I can see how hearing about our sleeping arrangements would have caused you to ‘go over the edge’, as you put it. But, since you’re being totally honest with me, I feel that I owe you the same courtesy.”

“What do you mean, Harry?” she asked curiously.

“Well, when you got upset with me yesterday, you said some things that really made me think, particularly the part about how I betrayed your trust.”

“Harry, I told you. I wasn’t thinking straight. Whatever awful things I said, I’m sure I didn’t mean them.” She said, as she patted the back of his hand, on the bed.

“Please, let me finish. You talked about how I betrayed your trust in me, and Ginny defended me by telling you all we did was sleep in the same bed and that nothing else happened between us that night. And, while she didn’t lie, she didn’t tell you the whole truth, either.”

“Harry,” asked Ginny nervously. “What are you doing?”

“I’m sorry, Gin. But, I’ve got to do this. I know this affects you, too. But, I can’t go on lying to your mother. She deserves to know the truth.”

“Harry, you don’t know what you’re saying. You’re overcome with emotion right now. I think it would be best if you took some time to think this through before saying something you’re going to regret.” Her voice was menacingly low.

The air was racked with tension, as the two teens stared at each other in silence.

“If it’s what I think he’s going to say, then it’s OK, Ginny, dear. I’d already guessed it for myself,” said her mother, kindly.

Both Ginny and Harry sat there wide-eyed staring at Mrs. Weasley with shock.

Well…this certainly puts an interesting twist on things thought Harry. He couldn’t believe he was having this conversation with his girlfriend’s mum, especially since she happened to be like a mother to him, as well. Well, no sense in putting it off any longer…
“Um, Mrs. Weasley? Um, what is it exactly that you think you know?” he asked meakly.

A/N: Well, there it is. I hope you enjoyed it! For those of you who think Mrs. Weasley is being a little too understanding about things between H/G, my only defense is that I am coming at this from the perspective that she and Ginny share a strong bond being the only females in the family. In my head, I picture them being very open with each other so Ginny feels comfortable confiding her personal life with her. 
Please let me know what you think. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE leave a review, no matter how short! Thanks!!!

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