If They Lived
A/N: It's been a year since I updated? Really? Ah, well. I'd offer an apology, but I'm enjoying being a new mother far too much to care! I self-edited, so any and all mistakes are completely on me. Please enjoy!
Ginny stared up at the unfamiliar ceiling, deciding to wait a little longer for sleep to take her in its warm embrace before giving up on the idea entirely.
This always happened to her. Anytime she stayed some place that wasn't the Burrow, she would toss and turn for hours on end, unbearably hot or freezing cold, the mattress beneath her too hard or too soft for comfort. Her ears pricked at strange noises, her eyes darted to every shifting shadow. It took her ages to get used to Hogwarts when she began attending a little over four years ago.
She wondered briefly if Harry's mum was still up. Mrs. Potter was Head Potioneer for St. Mungo's, and Ginny was certain she kept her potion cabinet well stocked; perhaps she could supply her with some Dreamless Sleep Draught for the night. One look at the clock on the bedside table, however, left Ginny grimacing. It was nearly one in the morning. There was no way she could bring herself to wake the Potters. Quite honestly, she would rather go without sleep than disturb them. Not only were they exceptionally kind in opening their home to her, but upon receiving her, Harry, Ron and Hermione at King's Cross Station, they'd both looked remarkably tired.
Do not inconvenience them, Mum wrote to her in a very lengthy letter just last week, in which she permitted Ginny stay with Harry and his family over the Christmas holiday. They are very busy, important people. And you are to behave yourself at all times, understood?
This was the first time she'd been invited to stay over at the Potters' residence, and she hoped (before she could stamp down the thought) it wouldn't be the last.
Sighing for the umpteenth time that night, Ginny crossed her arms over her chest and glanced over at her bedmate with nothing short of pure envy. Hermione slept soundly and deeply beside her, so ensconced in her thick blanket that all Ginny could see was the top of her forehead and a section of her plaited hair. She attempted a glare, but her eyes were simply too tired to follow through. She let them flutter shut, tried to sink into the darkness behind her eyelids and was almost finally, blissfully asleep when…
The clock downstairs rang like the bloody Big Ben, and Ginny jerked from her near slumber, only just holding back a sob of frustration. Flinging the sheets off herself and throwing on her dressing gown, she lumbered out of bed and out of the guestroom, determined to find the DSD herself, even if it meant having to snoop through every cupboard in the Potters' house.
After making a quick stop to the loo, Ginny descended the stairs as quietly as possible, flinching when she stepped on more than one creaky floorboard. When she reached the sitting room on the ground floor, the fairies in the large fir tree were still twinkling and the fire in the grate was burning low. To her pleasant surprise, she also found Harry on the sofa, staring over at her sleepily, a small smile on his face.
"Hullo," he said. A shiver raced up her spine at his rough voice. "What're you doing up?"
She struggled for a moment to collect herself then shrugged nonchalantly as she made her way over to him. He reached up to push his glasses farther up his nose, and her heart performed a strange pirouette in her chest.
Keep it together, Weasley!
"Couldn't sleep. You?" she finally blurted.
His mouth spread into a wide grin. "Still wired on butterbeer."
She laughed openly at his confession and sat on the cushion beside him. Harry had had several mugs of the sugary, slightly alcoholic drink with their late dinner, and even managed to outdrink Ron. "Serves you right!" She regarded him with squinted eyes and said teasingly, "You aren't pissed, are you?"
He snorted. "What am I, a house-elf?"
Harry wound his arm around her shoulders, a move he'd started to make after she broke things off with Dean a couple of months ago. The first time he'd done it, she nearly jumped out of her skin. Now, she leaned into him, the weight of his arm familiar and comforting.
"Mm," she exhaled, closing her eyes. She dropped her cheek to rest against his shoulder and breathed him in. He smelled of nutmeg and winter wind, and she yawned widely. She wouldn't need a Dreamless Sleep Draught if she could stay here in Harry's arms.
A few minutes passed in companionable silence, where the only sound that could be heard in the small and cozy sitting room was the soft crackling of the logs in the fireplace. Ginny tucked her feet beneath her and curled herself more firmly into Harry's side, drawing in the heat he generated.
"You feel good," she mumbled drowsily. Her eyes popped open in horror. Had she just said that out loud? "Er-"
There was a soft pressure on her arm as he pulled her closer. Any closer, and she would find herself in his lap (not that she'd mind in the slightest). He fingered the ends of her hair, gently tugging on several strands and making her scalp tingle. "Be careful no one hears you say that," he said laughingly.
She chanced a glance up at him through her lashes, even as a flash of heat raced up her neck to settle on her cheeks. She was delighted to note that his face had gone a bit ruddy, as well. "Oh? Why's that?"
Tilting his head to the side, Harry regarded her thoughtfully. "You know," he said, waving his free hand about, "all the talk… people reckon we're dating."
Heart ramming against her ribcage, Ginny shot away from him as if burned, barely acknowledging the small noise of protest he made.
"I… heard about that," she said, carefully avoiding his eyes. She pressed her cold hands to her face, willing away the beetroot red blush that took over her features. "I'm really sorry."
For all intents and purposes, the constant gossip that floated through halls of Hogwarts was normal; with thousands of students shut up in a castle for the better part of a year, there was just nothing else for it. But… maybe she shouldn't have flirted so openly with Harry before, during and after Quidditch practices. Perhaps allowing him to hug her and innocently touch her in the Gryffindor Common Room, The Great Hall, and in the corridors between classes was a bad idea. And making that rather explicit, sexual quip one wouldn't mind performing on a certain dark-haired wizard to a flustered Hermione in the girls' lavatory (where voices were wont to carry) during the lunch hour? Yeah, not good. Not good at all.
She deserved this humiliation, one-hundred percent. She had unintentionally stirred the already roiling cauldron, which only boiled over when the blatant questions started rolling in. People she'd never spoken to before stopped her on her way to her lessons, accosted her coming out of the loo, slipped her notes during lectures, asking if she and Harry were or weren't an item. She ended up serving two detentions, one for shouting, "It's none of your damn business!" in the Charms section of the library, where Madam Pince was prowling, and the other for ripping open the nostrils of a rather intrusive Zacharias Smith with a particularly strong Bat-Bogey Hex.
Ginny started when, with gentle fingertips, Harry pried her hands away from her cheeks and squeezed them lightly.
"Don't be sorry," he said softly. "It's not your fault everyone else is an idiot."
She smiled in relief, glad he wasn't upset about the rumors, and brought her gaze to meet his. "There are no truer words," she said drily.
Harry laughed and shook his head. His right hand flew up to scratch idly at the back of his neck as he cast her a sidelong glance, but his left hand remained over hers, large enough to cover hers entirely. "My parents even took quite a bit of convincing."
"What?" she choked out, her throat suddenly dry. Mr. and Mrs. Potter thought she… and Harry…? Together? She wanted to laugh, it was so outrageously funny. He'd gone out with the prettiest girl in school just last year, and there were far smarter and more beautiful witches for him to pick from over her. She was Harry's best mate's sister, she was his friend, and that was it. Why they needed convincing that she and Harry weren't together was mind-boggling.
With her head still spinning at Harry's revelation, Ginny swallowed and said, voice warbling, "Well, they must be a bit mad, as well! I mean, the two of us…? Really?"
Harry's tone was suddenly hard. "Is that so difficult to believe?"
She blinked up at him, startled. Had she… had she offended him somehow? Perhaps she should not have implied his parents were crazy. She was only joking, of course, but some people do get upset when insults are hurled against their family members, even in jest. "I just meant-"
Harry shook his head and cut her off, his expression ranging somewhere between rueful and annoyed, "Blimey, forget I said anything." He let go of her hand and shifted away from her, so that their knees were no longer touching.
Her stomach twisted painfully into knots, and she tangled her fingers together in her lap, suddenly colder than she'd ever been. "I didn't mean anything by it, Harry. I'm sorry. Your parents aren't mad."
He gave her a confused look. "Wait… what?"
She stared at him quizzically. "I'm sorry," she repeated, "for calling your parents mad. I didn't mean anything by it-"
"I should hope not," came a deep voice from the stairwell.
Mr. Potter, hair in a grander disarray than Ginny had ever seen, was grinning over at them sleepily, his eyes twinkling behind his slightly crooked glasses. He winked at Ginny, then turned towards Harry and said, "I'm not interrupting, am I?"
Harry glared at his father and opened his mouth to retort. Ginny stood up quickly, a strange clenching in her chest, and hastily explained, "I just came down for Dreamless Sleep Draught."
Mr. Potter's right brow twitched up. "Did you find it?"
"I-I didn't get a chance to look."
With amusement lacing his voice, Mr. Potter said, "Cupboard by the refrigerator. Second row from the top."
She scurried into the kitchen, leaving the Potter men gazing after her, and spent a moment forcing down the lump that had risen in her throat.
Idiot, idiot, idiot.
A tear trekked down her cheek. Ginny roughly wiped it away. What had she been thinking? She'd suppressed her crush for Harry long ago, hadn't she? Done everything in her power to put him out of her mind. She'd tried ignoring him. She'd tried dating other people. And now… was she really trying to be friends with him?
Idiot, idiot, idiot.
It felt as though her heart was cracking and mending itself over and over again every time he looked at her, talked to her, spent time with her. Her infatuation with him had slowly risen from the shallow grave she'd buried it in and developed into something even more ridiculous now that she'd really gotten to know him: it had blossomed into love. Unrequited, bloody love. She was a fool for thinking she could be close to Harry and not fall deeper.
Staying with him in his house was her biggest mistake yet. He was everywhere. His scent lingered in the very air, his little face grinned at her from simply framed pictures that hung on the walls, and the house felt like him, too, warm and sweet and fun. She wanted so badly to stay, but she knew, without a doubt, that she had to go home, and soon.
This has gone far enough.
Moving through the kitchen in the pale moonlight beaming through the window before the sink, Ginny hurriedly located the DSD, right where Mr. Potter said it would be, and used the lowest shelf to boost herself up to reach it.
Harry and his father were whispering heatedly to each other, right where she'd left them, when she stepped back into the living room. She smiled over at them grimly, not meeting their eyes, and waved the potion bottle at them. "Goodnight. Thanks for this," she said, and fled to her room without a backwards glance.
Ginny woke up when Hermione began to stir beside her. She stayed absolutely still, kept her breathing as even as possible, and listened as Hermione quietly gathered a change of clothes and head out the room. Once the door squeaked open and clicked shut, Ginny curled herself into a tight ball and wept.
"What do you reckon?" Lily whispered to her husband over her steaming tea. "Lovers' quarrel?"
Lily counted the number of glances her son threw at the staircase throughout breakfast (a dozen and four) and pressed her lips together in the attempt to banish all traces of amusement from her face. He looked completely adorable, Harry did, with that pathetic expression on his face.
"He said they weren't together," James replied softly, lifting the Daily Prophet to cover his face and look over at her from behind it.
She rolled her eyes. "Yes, well, he's either a terrific liar-"
"Your influence, not mine," James interjected cheekily.
"-or they were together and aren't now," she finished, scowling at him. "I mean, just look at his face! She must've broken up with him. Why else would he be staring over at the stairway like that?"
"Or," James humored her, "maybe Harry broke up with her, and she told him she was okay with it but is really upstairs, bawling her eyes out."
She stared at him, stunned. "He… he wouldn't do that!"
"Well, he didn't," James said shortly, turning back to the paper. "And I wouldn't worry about it, Lily. Leave it alone."
Lily set her mug down and waited, perhaps a minute or so, all the while watching his face avidly. His mouth kept pulling down at the corners, and though he was staring at the Daily Prophet, he was not reading a single word.
"You know something," she said slowly. She poked his arm hard. James jerked away, papers rustling. "Tell me!"
"I promised I wouldn't. Lily- ouch- stop stabbing me!"
"I'm not stabbing you. Merlin, James, you're such a wimp."
"Am not," James said, frowning and rubbing his bicep. "You know my arms are sensitive."
"Whatever," she dismissed. She took two slices of toast from the rack at the center of the table and began to butter them thickly. "Something's going on between the two of them, and I have two weeks to find out what it is. Plenty of time, if you ask me."
"Harry's not a child anymore, Lily." He snapped the newspaper to straighten it out. "You can't fix his problems with a plaster."
Lily looked up at him sharply. "So, there is something wrong?" Her mind played a hundred scenarios at once as she laid down her butter knife. "Did he ask her out? Did she reject him?"
James threw her a warning look. "Stop meddling."
"I wouldn't have to meddle if you'd just tell me what our son said to you!" she hissed. "And when did this shite start, anyway? We've never kept secrets from each other!"
James had the decency to look apologetic. "I know. I know it isn't fair. But these aren't my secrets to tell, and I swore I wouldn't say a word. And if Harry was in danger, or doing something illegal-"
"Says the unregistered Animagus," she grumbled.
"-I would tell you about it in a heartbeat. You know that, don't you?"
"All right, all right." Lily hated to concede to him, but she had no other choice. Gazing over at Harry and his friends, she frowned when she caught them all casting glances at the staircase with worry lining their young faces. "Shall I call Ginny down?" she asked them. "Or does she usually have this long of a lie-in?"
"She couldn't sleep last night," Harry said.
Ron's fork clattered nosily against his plate, and he raised both eyebrow sin his best friend's direction. "How would you know that?"
With cheeks blooming pink, Harry answered, "I was still in the sitting room when she came down for a Dreamless Sleep Draught." Then, Harry turned towards his father and said pointedly, "Right, Dad?"
Lily shot James a look, but he ignored her. "That's right," James answered evenly, then disappeared behind the paper.
"I'll get her," Lily said when Hermione made to get up. "Finish your breakfast. I'll be right back."
As she moved past James, she shoved him so hard he nearly fell off his chair.
Lily stared at the guestroom door, thinking hard. She'd knocked twice already, and Ginny had yet to answer. Either she was still knocked out from her- rather potent, if she said so herself- Dreamless Sleep Draught, or she was ignoring her call. Worrying her lip, Lily tried to remember what it was like to be a teenager, what she would've wanted or needed if she were alone and upset and away from home, and drew a deep breath.
With a slightly louder knock than before, she called, "Ginny, it's Lily. Is everything all right?"
A loud thump emitted from the room, followed by several impressive swear words. The door flew open seconds later to reveal a rumpled and splotchy-faced Ginny, wiping roughly at her cheeks with the cuffs of her threadbare dressing gown.
"Mrs. Potter! I'm sorry! I thought you were… never mind." She grinned at her with teeth bared, lips twitching at the corners. "I hardly ever get a chance to sleep in anymore! OWLs have been a nightmare. Did I miss breakfast?" She let out an unconvincing laugh.
Lily stared at her. "Ginny, are you-?"
Ginny's face fell a fraction, just enough for Lily to see a flare of pain in her soft brown eyes, before she blinked and grinned even wider.
Perhaps this would be harder than anticipated.
"Oh, I'm just fine!" she said brightly. "I'll be right down!"
The door shut abruptly in her face. She'd clearly been dismissed.
What was she supposed to do now?
But Lily found she did not have to act. The guestroom door swung open again just seconds later. Ginny stood there, no longer masking her hurt, tears leaking from the corners of her eyes and fists clenched at her sides. Her heart twitched in sympathy at the sight.
She looked downright heartbroken.
And just like that, it dawned on Lily: Ginny was in love with Harry.
More importantly, Lily was quite sure that Harry loved her back.
James looked up from the dishes that were scrubbing themselves clean at the sound of the kitchen door bursting open like the blast of a cannon. Lily entered the room and began to pace, a look of sheer excitement on her face, cheeks glowing and flyaway hair dancing around the crown of her head.
James found himself grinning as he turned to watch her and leaned back against the sink. He knew the look on his wife's face well; she wore it every time she stumbled upon a rare potion ingredient, just days ago when she'd finally submitted (after years upon years of research) a remedy for those suffering from lycanthropy, and most recently last night, when she'd climbed on top of him and-
"-wants to leave, and we've got to help them, James. James? Are you even listening to me?"
James shook his dizzy head, his wife's exasperated tone bringing him back to the present.
He took a deep and calming breath, then said, "I'm sorry, what were you saying?"
Lily stopped pacing long enough to glare up at him. "I said, Ginny is still in love with Harry, and you all but confirmed this morning that Harry loves Ginny-"
"I haven't confirmed anything," James said quickly, a little too quickly.
She gave him a look with lips pursed. "Right. Well, I know my son, and he was miserable last summer, and do you know whowas unattached last summer? Not Ginny! So, I'm thinking we get them together before Ginny finishes packing her bags and-"
"Packing her bags? Why?"
Lily fluttered a hand at him. "No time to explain. I was thinking we should get them together," she continued, "like Sirius and Remus and Peter did to us the beginning of seventh year and-"
James groaned and raked at his face with both hands. It was a stupid, juvenile plan, but it had managed to get the two of them started…
"What happened to letting it alone?" he beseeched desperately.
Scoffing, Lily said, "When it comes to the happiness of my only child, I never let it alone."
After a moment of staring at her, James nodded in resignation. "What do you need me to do?"
The front door shut behind a red-faced Ron and a bashful Hermione, and Harry glanced quizzically at his mother as he dropped from the last stair. She was suppressing a smile and bouncing on the balls of her feet.
"Where are they off to?"
"I needed a few ingredients from the Muggle grocer and sent them off. They seemed like they wanted some alone time, don't you think?"
Harry saw right through her and snorted. "You know, the last time you played matchmaker, Sirius got a pie thrown in his face."
"Details, details," Mum said airily. "You know Sirius can't be helped."
"And yet you still tried."
With dancing green eyes, she replied, "I can't be contained."
"You should be," Harry said seriously, but he could not control the affectionate smile he gave her.
Mum grinned brightly and clasped her hands together with a clap. "Now, on to the next order of business. Your father needs you. He's in the broom shed. Something about the twigs of your Firebolt? I don't know."
Harry frowned. "Right now?" He'd been on his way to make a cup of tea for Ginny, hoping she felt well rested enough to talk to him, if only for a little while. He gestured towards the kitchen. "I was going to… Ginny, she…"
Mum's head bobbed dramatically, and Harry stared at her, wondering just when she'd gone so mad.
"Later," she said firmly. "Your dad's waiting. Broom shed. Now. Go."
She gave him a push in the direction of the back door.
"All right, all right!" he said. "I'm going!"
But she followed him the entire way, running a hand through his unruly hair as if to smooth it down, straightening his shirt and picking lint from his cloak when he slung it over his shoulders. Once he'd taken a step out into the garden, the door shut quickly behind him, smacking him right on the bum. He turned to glare at his mother through the small glass window, and she smiled at him encouragingly, waving him away energetically.
"Mad," he muttered to himself. "Absolutely mad."
He approached the broom shed, pulling his cloak more tightly against himself and shuffling his feet over the light dusting of snow on the ground, then stopped right before it. Something felt different, and there was such a weird prickle between his shoulder blades, as if someone was standing right beside him…
It was then that several things happened at once.
Just as he was glancing over his shoulder, a gust of wind came from nowhere and blew the door of the broom shed wide open, a bright light streaked at him and caught his right leg, and Harry staggered forward, only just breaking his fall with something soft and warm and remarkably loud.
"Bloody- buggering- ouch! What the fuck?"
The door to the broom shed slammed shut, the locked clicked, and Harry was submerged in total darkness with a thoroughly peeved Ginny Weasley.
She waited for what seemed like an eternity for Mr. Potter to realize he'd accidentally shut her in the broom shed, but at almost the very moment Harry made his rather theatrical entrance, she knew she'd been set up.
Tears sprang to her eyes- how could they do this to me?-, and she was very grateful for the pitch black shack. Harry apologized a hundred times over, muttering about the "nerve of her" as he tugged frantically at the door in vain and then went searching blindly for any source of light. By the time he'd found a box of matches and an old and rusted oil lamp, Ginny had wiped away any evidence of tear tracks from her cheeks with slightly shaking hands and composed herself as well as she could have, given the situation.
"What's that?" said Harry.
Eyes still adjusting to the light, it took Ginny a second to realize exactly what Harry was talking about. He'd gestured to the ancient, dinged up luggage at her feet as he set the lamp down on the worktop behind him.
She reddened and looked vaguely over his shoulder, unable to look at him directly. "My suitcase."
"Why is it in here?"
She tried not to roll her eyes. Honestly, he could be so thick sometimes.
"I'm leaving." Or she had been until Mr. Potter had practically stuffed her in here to wait while he went back to "fetch some Muggle contraption" for her father.
"Leaving?" Harry's tone was incredulous. "What for?"
Anger sparked a fire inside of her that swiftly billowed into an inferno. She tried to reign it in, fight it, but before she could stop the words, she cried, "Because you're bloody blind!"
Her voice rang in her very ears, echoed over and over again in her head as silence consumed the both of them. Had she just said that? Had she really just said that?
Harry's voice was slow and wary as he said through the sudden hush, "I don't understand."
She scoffed, arms pulling at her worn cloak as she crossed them over her chest. "Yeah, well, you wouldn't."
"Why do you think we're in here?" she said, only slightly horrified that her voice was beginning to break. She finally chanced a glance at him. He stared at her, the furrow between his brows smoothing as it started to dawn on him, finally, finally, after years and years… "Why do you think I came here? God, god, I've b-been such an idiot."
She pressed her cold hands over her mouth, hiding her trembling chin and swallowing back a sob.
"You're not an idiot," he said firmly, taking a step towards her.
"I just want to go home," she managed to whisper between her fingers.
In the dim light, she saw the shadow of his Adam's apple bob as he swallowed hard.
"I have to. I can't stay. I can't do this anymore."
Another step closer, and he was almost on top of her. She could barely make out the green in his eyes, his pupils were so wide in the gloom of the broom shed. "Do it a little longer."
She froze as his hands curled around her wrists. She could have sworn her heart stuttered to a stop. She pulled herself reluctantly away from him, more confused than ever. Did he understand what she was telling him? Did he understand what he was asking of her?
"What are you saying?"
"Every time someone asks me if we're together," he said, inhaling sharply before continuing on, "I wish it were true."
She blinked up at him, astounded, unsure of what to say, of how to push down the sharp swell of anticipation rising in her chest. "Harry, I…"
"I know you used to fancy me," he said. Ginny quickly clamped her mouth shut. "And I'm sorry it took me so long to pull my head out of my arse, but I really, really fancy you back now."
She stared at him as he took her hands again, this time linking their fingers together. Despite the cold, Harry's hands were slightly sweaty, but it didn't matter to her. The words he'd uttered were the confirmation she'd needed.
It was more of a demand than a question, but it didn't matter which Harry took it as because he answered her quite readily.
"How can you be so calm about this?" Lily demanded. "The charm on the lock broke ages ago!"
James couldn't help himself and smirked. "This is what happens when you meddle, Lily. You must deal with the consequences."
"You'll be dealing with the consequences, too, if Ginny ends up pregnant."
James laughed. "Don't be daft. They only just got together."
Lily arched a brow at him. "Don't you remember what we got up to just hours after we got together, or did that little indiscretion slip your mind?"
It only took a second for her words to click before James vaulted out of his chair and bolted towards the back door.