Disclaimer: Nothing relating to Harry Potter belongs to me.  I live an ocean too far away.

A/N: Thanks so much for all of the reviews!  Someone suggested changing the title, because it implied romantic comedy, but I'm not going to.  If it was comedy, I would have put it in the 'humor' section.  The title is a part of the story for me, and I don't want to change it.  : )  Not sure if I explained that very well or not, so I'll get off that topic.  Oh, and those upset about me killing off Remus, don't go cursing me just yet.  So, I decided to post the second chapter only a day after the first… yes, I'm weak.  I really wanted to hold off and have a consistent once a week posting schedule, but… right.  No will power here… the reviews just hack away at my attempts to wait.  Oh well, read and (hopefully) enjoy!

xxxxxxxxxxx

Chapter Two

Harry was the first one up the next morning.  Both Ron and Ginny were fairly late sleepers if they got the chance, so he didn't expect them up for a while yet.  Hermione ambled out about a half hour after Harry had gotten up.  They both sat down with a cup of tea in the living room and watched television.  Harry was surprised at the amount of channels he received.  Hermione explained that it had been charmed to pick up all frequencies in the area.

Hermione looked at him with unhidden worry, "Harry, you don't look very well.  Do you feel ill at all?"

Harry smiled softly at her, "I'm alright.  I just didn't sleep very well last night.  Stop worrying, you're on holiday."

She smiled back at him.  "It's hard to ignore when you look like you might pass out any minute."

Harry sighed.  "Really, I'm ok.  If I'm feeling tired later, I'll take a nap, alright?"

"Alright, Harry.  Maybe tonight we should have some of that relaxing tea before bed.  It might help you sleep.  Shall we explore the garden before those two sleepy heads get up?"

"Sure.  I don't even know if anything is planted back there.  I hope not.  I'd kind of like to start my own."

The garden in the back had plenty of weeds, but nothing Harry could identify as a useful plant.  They set about weeding the patch and Harry found a tool in the small shed out back to loosen the dirt.  They decided to go buy some seeds later.

Harry felt much better after working outside for a while.  He showered and was almost back to normal.  Ron and Ginny got up shortly thereafter and got ready for the day as well.  They settled on getting seeds first so they could work on the garden during daylight hours.

Harry would miss having the others there when the week was over.  Despite his bout of melancholy the night before, he really couldn't thank his friends enough for being there.  He hoped they would want to visit again.  He was in a continual debate with himself over whether to tell Ginny how he felt or not. 

Half-way through the week, the twins came by for a day (and night) of fun.  Harry found himself laughing more than he thought possible, and actually had aching muscles in his face and stomach from it.  Needless to say, it was an interesting night at the Three Broomsticks.  The locals were used to see The Harry Potter by now, so the stares were at a minimum.  Of course, whenever someone did make a show of staring and pointing, the twins would have to exaggerate everything.  Usually they would just get on their knees and bow to him, crying out that they weren't worthy, while his face heated like a boiling cauldron.  A few times they sent up sparks above his head and spoke loudly about his angelic glow.  All Harry could do was laugh.  Anything else would only further provoke Fred and George. 

They loved his house and promised many loud, raucous parties in honor of the beloved Marauders.  Somehow, referring to his father and friends as their childhood group was not as painful as thinking of them individually.  He could just imagine all the wild craziness they would get up to and the thought made him happy.  Although, he was a little nervous when he heard Fred whisper to George at one point, "Enough for sixty guests."  He was sure he didn't even know sixty people.  At least not well enough to have over for a party.  He had no idea where he would put sixty people in his small house, but he figured that the twins would plan it all out if they were seriously going to have parties.

He had survived Voldemort, but would he survive a summer with the twins planning his social life?  They were quite adamant about him getting a girlfriend, or just a friend with benefits, as they called it.  He took a while figuring that one out, and when he did he was blushing so much that he had to leave the room from embarrassment.  He couldn't tell them that the only girl he wanted was sitting right next to him.  She didn't seem phased by the conversation at all.  In fact she was encouraging the two troublemakers.  That caused a slight twist of pain somewhere near his gut, because it meant she wanted him to be with someone else – someone that wasn't her. 

They left early the next morning, needing to get back to the shop before customers were about.  Harry was the only other person awake.  He hadn't been sleeping well, despite the relaxing days with his friends and his tiredness when he went to bed.  He had a sleeping potion from Madam Pomfrey, but he didn't want to take it unless he really had to.  He didn't like the feeling of dependence on something that could so easily be taken away.  He'd also heard rumors that it was an addictive potion.  The thought of Aunt Petunia finding out her worthless nephew was also an addict made him cringe.  He didn't have anything to prove to them, as they would never be impressed by anything having to do with him, but he still didn't want to give them any more ammunition against him.

Around ten o'clock that morning, when everyone was in various states of being clean and dressed for the day, there was a knock on the door.  Harry could sense, through the wards, that it was someone he didn't know, but they didn't seem to mean any harm either, so he answered the door.

A woman of medium build and a business looking face was standing with a clip board and folder.  She did not look like someone who would appreciate a good joke, and Harry was half-glad, half-disappointed the twins were gone.

"Yes?" he inquired politely.

"Hello, I am Thelma Stencil of the Werewolf Support Services.  May I have a minute of your time?" she asked while looking at her clipboard.  She finally glanced up and recognized Harry.  She seemed a little shocked, but kept her professional face quite well and didn't comment.

Harry's heart thumped loudly the second he heard 'werewolf.'  Was this something to do with Remus?  Did they find him?  Was he alive?  Why was the WSS telling him?

He realized she was waiting to be let in and apologized.  "I'm sorry.  Won't you come in?"  He led her to the living room and offered a seat.  Hermione and Ginny sat on either side of him on the couch; Ron was in the shower.  "What do you need Ms. Stencil?" he asked in a too-calm tone that only his closest friends could recognize as abnormal.  Hermione and Ginny both shifted slightly so their legs were touching his in an unnoticeable display of support.

"I am here regarding an application for residence in the area by a registered werewolf.  The subject would be living within five kilometers of your home, and as such, needs your consent to be approved.  I am here to go over the rules and regulations of safety methods the subject must adhere to, and you may decide when I'm finished whether you approve or not.  Do you have any questions thus far?"

Harry was speechless.  This wasn't about Remus, but some other person that happened to be a werewolf.  The cold attitude of this woman and the entire WSS put him off right away.  "Are you saying that if I tell you no that this person would not be permitted to live where they please?"

"That is correct."

"What right do I have to tell someone else where to live?  What right do you have to make people agree or not?"  Harry stopped when Hermione placed a hand on his forearm.  He turned to look at her, then turned back to the unfamiliar witch.  "What else do you have to tell me about the, er, 'subject'?"

The witch was a little nervous now, after upsetting the great Harry Potter.  He was sure she didn't really know how she had upset him.  To her this was just business.  She didn't seem to understand that she was actually controlling people's lives here.  Just because they had a curse, didn't mean they weren't allowed to live their lives.

"Well, as the subject is a minor, his parents will be held responsible for upholding all regulations, which include isolation and/or restraint by a WSS approved method on the full moon.  That about covers everything I am required to inform you, unless you would like more detailed information on restraint mechanisms or your rights concerning any unfortunate encounters with the subject.  I have an informational packet that I can leave with you.  Do you have any questions?"

"How old is the person?" Harry asked after hearing that it was a minor.

"He is eight years old and has been infected for eighteen months," she said factually.

Harry sighed, he seemed to do that a lot lately.  Maybe he wouldn't if he didn't feel like the world was pushing him down so much.  "Please tell the child that I would be delighted to have him in the neighborhood, and if anyone gives him trouble to come see me.  Is there something I need to sign or something?" he asked dismissively. 

The witch handed him a form and special quill that disallows forgery.  She indicated the proper line, and Harry signed quickly before all but shoving her out the door.  Even the manners engrained into him from an early age couldn't make him apologize to the woman for his rude behavior.

He made his way back into the living room and sank to the floor in front of the couch with his face in his hands.  He scrubbed his tired eyes with his knuckles and ran his hands through his disheveled hair, showing his irritation.  Hermione and Ginny sat in silence for a few minutes, giving him time to collect himself.  It wasn't working.  He felt completely undone.  He didn't know how to collect himself from this.  The Ministry was allowed to control people's lives and the rest of the population just went along with it.  He couldn't see how it was different from Voldemort wanting to control the muggle-born wizards.

"How can they…?" he tried to ask.

"Who, Harry?" asked Ginny quietly.  She had joined him on the floor at some point, but he didn't know when.  Only a month ago, inattentiveness like that would have gotten him killed.

"The Ministry bastards.  How can they control people's lives so much?  It's like using the Imperious Curse on where they can live!"  Harry took a couple of deep breaths.  "Ok, so it's not really like the Imperious, but still, it's not right.  What the bloody hell do I have to say about who can move in near me?  I wouldn't get a say in it if it was Malfoy or Rita Skeeter or anyone else I can't stand.  Why should I get to have a hand in preventing someone I don't know from living their life?"

"I don't know, Harry.  I guess it's just how it is right now.  Maybe you can help change that."

"I can't do anything.  I'm worthless.  I couldn't even save Sirius.  I didn't find Remus… I just… Did Remus have to file an application to live here?" Harry asked the room in general, not really expecting an answer.

"I'm sure he did.  I bet Professor Dumbledore helped him with it," said Hermione.  After a pause she asked tentatively, "Harry, you don't really feel that way about yourself do you?  You can't think you're worthless…"

Harry didn't answer her.  He got up and went to the kitchen.  He wasn't hungry, but the task of frying eggs and bacon helped calm his temper.  He really didn't want to snap at his friends, which he knew he would do if he didn't get away from them when he felt like this.

A hand gripped the spatula around his and started to push the egg around in the pan.  He had tuned out and didn't notice that the eggs were starting to burn.  He turned and found Ginny's face by his shoulder.  She didn't say anything, only helped him cook the rest of the meal. 

The feel of her hand on his was nice.  The anger he felt drained away and left him with a deep sorrow that had been his companion since Remus disappeared.  She didn't make him nervous like his crush on Cho had.  On the contrary, she always seemed to calm him with a look or a touch.  It was really amazing.  That strange inner voice was telling him to tell her again, but he ignored it in favor of his pain.  He couldn't just let go of thoughts of Remus and what might have happened to him.

They set everything out on the table and Harry held Ginny's hand in his own for a few seconds.  With a quiet, "Thank you," he let her go and she smiled. 

"Anytime, Harry.  You know that," she replied softly, then called to Ron and Hermione to come and eat.

Ron was a little puzzled by the dark mood, but didn't asked any questions.  Harry figured someone would explain it to Ron later, and he knew his best friend was also aware of that.  He appreciated everyone's silence, but it was becoming oppressive.

"I found a trail while we were working in the garden the other day.  I forgot about it until now.  Anyone want to go for a hike through the woods?" Harry asked.

Ginny's eyes brightened and she grinned.  "That sounds fantastic!  I love exploring.  Maybe there's a big enough clearing in there to fly some," she said hopefully.

They all agreed to go and cleaned up the breakfast dishes quickly.  Harry and Hermione packed a bag with more food that they would need, as well as blankets and a few other outdoor items.  Hermione insisted on bringing an energy potion along in case Harry became overtired while they were out.  He tried to convince her he didn't need it, because he had been feeling much better lately.  He hadn't been sleeping well, so he was tired, but it was a different kind of tired from the complete exhaustion that had overtaken him a few times since the battle.

Finally, he relented, knowing it would make Hermione feel better to have it along, and he didn't want her to spend the entire time worrying over him.  He suspected she slipped in some other potions as well, but he didn't ask and put them out of his mind.

After an hour or so, they were ready to go.  Harry led the way to the tree line and found the entrance to the trail again.  He stepped into the shade of the trees and breathed in the forest air.  It was cool and refreshing compared to the rising heat of the yard. 

Immediately, he could tell that this forest was nowhere near as old or large as the Forbidden Forest.  The trees were slightly smaller and more light filtered through the canopy.  He didn't mind; it was still going to be a fun place to explore.  The wood didn't have much of a magical feel to it and Harry guessed that it didn't house many, if any, magical creatures.  He assumed the trail they were using was made by deer from the size of it.

They walked lazily for about an hour and a half and came upon a small clearing.  It wouldn't be good for flying, but it was a beautiful place to sit and relax.  There was a small, but surprisingly clean pond to one side and a patch of open grass on the other.  A small stream issued from the pond in the opposite direction of his house. 

They decided to stop and put down the blankets here and eat a small snack.  Birds were fluttering around the pond, and a rabbit hopped by while they sat quietly.

"This is amazing, Harry.  It's so peaceful," commented Ginny.

Harry smiled.  "Yeah, it is.  I'm glad we found this spot."  He thought it was made even more beautiful by Ginny's presence, but he didn't speak that thought aloud.

Hermione, who had gotten up to inspect the pond more closely, said, "This must be a natural spring.  That's why it's so clean.  Look, you can see where the water comes out if you look closely."

They all gathered round and looked at the slight bubbling of the water at one end of the pond.  The water was clear and looked deep, from what Harry could tell.  On impulse, he took off his shoes and socks and sat on a rock, dangling his feet in the cool water.

Ginny giggled at him and joined him on the same rock, which was rather large.  Ron and Hermione soon sat on the next rock over.

Harry wasn't sure who started it, but someone kicked the water and splashed everyone else.  Then someone else kicked back.  Soon, there was an all out water war with everyone splashing everyone else.  Harry didn't notice the rocks become slippery before he slipped off and into the pond.  He dipped under the water and was amazed at how deep the small pond really was.  He came up again for air and burst out laughing at his friends faces.  They were a mix of concern and humor, and Harry hated seeing his friends worry.  Once he started laughing, they all let go of their fear for him and laughed along with him. 

Ron helped pull him out and he shook his head like a dog, splattering water out like a sprinkler. 

"Oy, your hair is even worse now, mate," Ron teased.

"Good thing no one from Witch Weekly is around then, eh?" Harry joked. 

His friends were glad to see him joking about his fame.  He was usually so uncomfortable with it, but here in this isolated place with only his closest friends, he didn't mind so much.  He wasn't famous to them; he was just their friend who got in a lot of trouble. 

True, there was a time when Ron was jealous of his best friend, but he had gotten over that.  Ron seemed to realize how lucky he really was when Bill was attacked and found nearly dead.  He pulled through and made a full recovery, but Harry knew Ron would always remember those few days when they didn't know if one of the Weasleys would be lost.

Ron had sought him out after Bill started getting better and asked Harry how he did it.  How did he go on when he lost someone so close?  Harry didn't know how to answer him.  He just kept going.  Of course, one of the reasons was the prophecy.  If he didn't know he was the one who had to kill Voldemort, Harry wasn't sure he would have made it past Sirius's death.  Now, he didn't have anything so dire to be done, but he couldn't quit now that the light had won.  Voldemort was gone and it was time for Harry to live.  His friends were going to make sure of it, even if he lost sight of what was really important.

Harry was utterly amazed and eternally grateful that all of the Weasleys had made it through the war.  He had dreaded the day they would find out one had been killed.  The closest call was Bill, but he was fine now.  He had gone back to work and moved on with life.  Charlie, Fred, and George had all gotten into some scrapes working for the Order, but none were severely injured.  Ron was knocked out before Harry faced Voldemort, but otherwise unharmed.  Percy hadn't been injured, but the rift remained between him and his family.  Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were on speaking terms with him again, but it was all politely forced conversation, even for Percy.  The siblings didn't even try to reconcile yet.  Harry wished they would.  He felt responsible for causing such a large whole in their family. 

Harry and Ron were playing a game the twins had made up.  It was similar to muggle 'Hide and Seek', but it involved invisibility spells or any other useful spell for the 'hider' to use.  The hider wasn't allowed to use any spells on the finder (they couldn't use the term 'seeker' because that was already used for Quidditch); they could only spell themselves.  The finder could only use a color charm, which could be applied like paint.  It would stick to the hider, who would be found, and the game would start again.  The hider wasn't allowed to use the Impervious charm for obvious reasons.  The interesting part was figuring out where to look for a hider.  They could levitated into a tree, or lie flat behind a log, or any other imaginable place in this clearing. 

Harry was currently hiding from Ron up a tree.  Ron opened his eyes after a count of ten and began looking up in the trees.  Harry figured he was too predictable.  He levitated himself to the ground silently, just as a woosh of red paint splattered on the branches he had previously occupied.  Harry crept behind Ron, following his movements exactly.  After a few minutes of this, Harry sat behind Ginny on the blanket where she was talking to Hermione.  He must have brushed against her back, because she jumped and whirled around.

Looking exactly where his eyes were, Ginny whispered, "Harry?"

He squeezed her hand in response. 

She pushed him teasingly.  "Go away, I don't want paint all over me."

By this time, Ron had noticed, so Harry took the spell off himself and smiled at an annoyed looking Ron.

"Hey, I thought the blanket was off-limits?" he accused.

"Oh yeah, I forgot.  I don't really want to play anymore, though.  Want to keep walking?" he asked everyone.

"Sure."

"Yeah."

"Alright."

They packed up again and headed down the trail.  Harry was bouncing.  He could hardly believe it, but he was actually bouncing down the trail.  He was so excited that he was feeling happy with his friends that he couldn't help it.  He didn't turn back to the others, but heard some giggling from the girls that he was sure was at his expense. 

Up ahead was a stream.  Likely the same stream that started at the pond.  It was wider here, but there were rocks to step on to cross.  He saw a long vine hanging from a tree and tugged on it.  It was solid.  He was a good distance ahead of his friends at this point and waited for them to come into view around the curve.  As soon as he saw two reds and a brown, he jumped. 

He heard a squeal as he flew through the air over the stream.  He made it, although he hadn't planned on the landing.  Needless to say, it wasn't pretty.  It was much like his experiences with Floo travel, only with more crunch. 

He groaned into the ground where he lay and started laughing.  It was good to do something stupid again.  He was sick of getting hurt by battles and the like.  He enjoyed the bruised feeling on his side, knowing it was all his own doing in fun.

"Harry?" Hermione and Ginny called out.

Again with the worried voices, he thought.  "I'm fine, guys, just a little winded.  I'll stick the landing next time.  Promise."

He sat up with a grin as they approached more carefully across the rocks.  Ron walked up with an outstretched hand and just shook his head.

"Come on, mate.  You're gonna give the girls heart attacks doing that."

"Well, we are getting old.  It's only to be expected," he replied in a level voice.

"Oh, you two!  Stop it.  Now really, are you hurt, Harry?" Hermione asked.

"Nah, I'm good.  I don't think I'm allowed to get broken anymore.  The fates have spoken to me and given me immunity from any further injury."

Ginny laughed, which cracked the straight face Harry was trying to maintain. 

They continued walking along the trail and eventually found the end.  It opened into a small grassy field, which gave way to a steep cliff side of one of the surrounding mountains.  There were boulders strewn about that had long ago fallen from the mountain.

Harry figured if walking at a normal hiking pace, he could cross the woods in less than three hours.  It was larger than he thought, but still not all that big compared to the Forbidden Forest.

They headed back soon after finding the forest edge, because it was getting late in the afternoon.  They didn't want to be traipsing through the forest after dark, even if it didn't have magical creatures.

Harry let the others lead this time.  The trip back wasn't as exciting.  They just kept walking instead of stopping at every little thing that caught their interest as before. 

Harry yawned.  The forest was already quite dark without the high midday sun filtering through.  He wondered if camping out in that clearing was a possibility some night if he bought a tent.  He'd ask the others when they got back.

They passed the clearing and were on the last part of the trail when something passed in front of his vision.  He stopped and looked around with his wand lit.  It was probably just a rabbit or something.  He kept walking and it happened again, only this time he was pushed into a tree.

He held onto the tree and discovered, to his disgust, that it was his own weakness that had caused him to fall into the tree.  He was on the verge of one of his unnatural exhaustion attacks, which was causing black spots to dance in front of his eyes.  He tried to catch his breath and move on. 

He didn't want to call out to the others.  They had such a fun day, and he didn't want to ruin that.  Although, if he didn't catch up soon, someone was bound to come look for him. 

He found a large stick next to the tree and bent to pick it up.  His vision swam even more when he stood, but he had the stick.  He used it as a walking stick and started off again.  It was slow going, and he leaned heavily on the stick, but he was making progress.

He felt heavier than usual, and didn't understand where the extra weight was coming from.  He reached up and felt a strap on his shoulder.  He was carrying the backpack that he and Hermione had packed earlier.  He remembered their argument and was grateful for Hermione's insistence that she pack the potion.

Clumsily he sat down and wrenched the pack off his back.  He arranged it in front of him and started digging through.  It was hard to do with his eyes continually un-focusing and hands shaking.  Part of him just wanted to lie down and take a nap.  He could find the others when he wasn't so tired. 

"Bloody hell!" he heard Ron's voice whisper harshly.  "Harry, are you hurt?"

Harry looked up, but couldn't focus on his friend.  He was having a hard time figuring out the question.  He scrubbed his eyes again, hoping to clear his vision, but it didn't help.

"Harry?  Hey, come on, mate.  What are you looking for?" Ron tried again as Harry searched futilely through the pack.

"Potion," Harry forced out through his muddled mind.

Ron must have understood, because he took the bag and found the potion quickly.  He held it to Harry's mouth and told Harry to drink. 

It took a few moments, but the potion did its job and Harry could finally focus again.  He hated that look on Ron's face.  He never saw his best friend so scared as when something was wrong with him, Harry, or one of Ron's family.

"Thanks, Ron."

"No problem.  What happened?" he asked gently.  Harry wondered when Ron had gotten so mature.  Wars could do interesting things to one's personality.

"I don't know.  I just…" Harry sighed.  "… and you guys were pretty far ahead already.  I didn't want to bother you… I thought I could catch up.  Don't tell the girls, please?" Harry begged.  He hated feeling this way.  If he kept having these episodes, it would be like Voldemort was still there disrupting his life.  He didn't want to worry Hermione and Ginny more than they were already.

Ron pulled one of Harry's arms around his shoulder and grabbed him around the waist.  He hoisted Harry up with a practiced ease that disturbed Harry quite a bit.  He shouldn't have to depend on his best friend like this.  He felt like a prat as he leaned heavily on Ron.

"If you can make it back ok and take a nap while the rest of us make supper, I won't say anything.  I just want to make sure you're alright first, ok?  If you still seem off after your nap, I'll have to ask Hermione to check you.  You know she's better with this stuff than either of us."

Harry nodded.  The potion worked well and he stopped leaning on Ron altogether as they exited the woods and entered the house.

Before he could be ambushed by questions from the girls he said, "I'm going to lie down for a few minutes.  Wake me if you need anything."  Without waiting for a response he went into his room and lay down in bed without removing any of his clothing or shoes.  The potion worked wonders when he would collapse, but it didn't give him endless energy.  He was always just as exhausted after only a half hour or so, but it gave him enough time to get to bed anyway. 

.

He was roused later by the smell of steak and onions on the grill.  He was missing his outer cloak and shoes and was tucked in under the soft covers of his bed.  Harry felt warm inside at the thought of someone taking care of him like that, even if it was a little childish. 

He stretched languidly and finally sat up.  There was a slight dizziness in his head, but he ignored it and went into the bathroom.  He felt better after cleaning up a bit and made his way out to the deck where the others were. 

It was dark out, but the lamps were all lit around the deck.  He wondered what time it was.  He had no idea when they'd gotten in or how long he slept.

"Hi, Harry, feeling rested?" asked Hermione.  Harry glanced at Ron, who shook his head, and back to Hermione.  Ron hadn't said anything, but Hermione wasn't known to be the smartest witch in the year for nothing.

"Yes, I am.  How long did I sleep anyway?" he asked in a light tone.

"About three and a half hours.  It's ten thirty now," Ginny told him.

"Oh, Merlin, I'm sorry… I didn't mean to make dinner be so late."

"That's ok, mate.  We snacked all day hiking and didn't really feel like supper until now," Ron explained, earning him disbelieving looks from everyone.  "What?  I'm not always thinking about food.  I happened to enjoy my time watching that letty-vision thing.  There was a program about clock makers in Switzerland on that was really interesting."  The odd looks didn't disappear, but were combined with chuckles around the group.

They had a good supper and watched a movie afterward.  Harry didn't know which one, though.  He was still quite tired and dozed in and out through the whole thing.  His friends seemed to like it though, and that made him happy.  He didn't notice until the movie was over that he had been dozing on Ginny's shoulder all night.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Ginny.  I didn't mean to, er, make you my pillow," he apologized awkwardly. 

"That's fine, Harry.  I don't mind.  It's nice having someone keep me warm anyway," she said with a smile, which made his heart flutter out of beat for a second.

.

It was hard for Harry to think about his friends leaving in a couple days.  Instead, he tried to think of what he would do next week.  He hoped his job ideas worked out, because he couldn't stand it if he had to sit around his house alone all the time.  He only thought of these things when he was by himself in the morning, before the others got up.  Once he was with his friends again, he had fun and laughed all day.

The night before they were to leave, Harry woke with a start at two fifty-three in the morning.  He was covered in sweat and shaking.  He'd been having unremembered dreams or nightmares all week, but this one was very clear.  It was Remus.  He was alive and hurt, crying out for help.  Harry got up quietly and went to the bathroom.  He washed his face, arms, and chest, clearing the sweat from his body where he could reach.  He didn't put his sweat-soaked shirt back on.  Instead, he went to the couch in the living room and sat unmoving with his knees drawn up to his chest and hands clasped around his shins going over the nightmare over and over again.

An indeterminable amount of time later, he felt the cushion depress next to him.  An arm around his back pulled him tightly to another person.  Without thinking, he put his arms around the person and held on so tightly he would have worried he was hurting the person, had he been in the right state of mind.  They sat like that for a long time, neither moving or speaking, just sitting.

Finally, Harry lifted his head and saw that Ginny had been his anchor for the past hour or so.  That lifted his heart a little, but didn't erase the nightmare from his mind.

"Do you think there's any chance he's still alive?" Harry asked in a low whisper.  He wasn't sure if she heard him, but it didn't matter.  He didn't expect her to know any better than he did.

"It's possible.  Anything is possible.  I once heard a saying, 'Hope for the best; plan for the worst; and take what comes to the best of your ability.'  I think it's ok to hope he's alive as long as you understand the possibility that he isn't.  Either way, he wouldn't want you to suffer because of him.  Did you dream he was alive?" Ginny asked.

Harry nodded, because he couldn't find his voice.  How did she know that?  Well, it probably was pretty obvious to anyone that knew him.  "He was calling for help," he said in a small voice.

Ginny squeezed him tighter to her side.  "They're still searching for him, Harry.  We won't know anything until they find something."

"But Wormtail said – he said he killed him.  That bastard killed or was involved with killing all of his best school friends.  How could he do that?  I just don't understand!  That would be like me killing you or Ron or Hermione.  I can't imagine that.  I killed that – that creature, Voldemort, and I feel dirty just from that.  He was going to kill me, but I got him first, and I still feel guilty.  How can someone kill an innocent person?  Especially people that are like family.  Why did all of this have to happen?  Why did Voldemort feel he had to control everything?  Why did people like Peter follow him?  And that snake-faced thing killed the rat before he could tell me where to find Remus!"

He sniffed and continued very quietly,  "I hate them so much.  They're dead and it doesn't feel like enough.  I hate that they've made me feel this way.  I feel so dark and awful for what I've done and because I still hate them.  They're dead, how can I hate someone who's not even alive?  We may have won the war, but they beat me.  I feel like the person I was died that day.  I've killed.  I'm a murderer.  Do you have any idea what that feels like?  I have taken a life by my own hand.  How do I live with that?" 

He stopped talking and pushed a hand through his hair.  He'd almost forgotten Ginny was there, even though she was still holding him.  She had tears on her cheeks.  He felt terrible for doing that to her.  "I'm sorry, Ginny.  I-I didn't mean to say all that.  I'm sorry," he finished with his head bowed.

"Don't be sorry, Harry.  You needed to say something.  This has been eating away at you since that day.  I've seen it, but I didn't know what to do to help.  I don't think anything I say can help.  There is no way I can understand what you are feeling.  I felt horrible after my first year when I had let the basilisk out and it almost killed people.  But it didn't kill anyone, and I know there is a difference.  I learned to get past that, and you'll get past this in time.  It is going to be difficult, but you can always come to me or Ron or Hermione.  Do you understand that?  It's not a burden or a chore for us to listen to you and try to help.  It's what being friends and family is all about, and you're a part of our family now.  You're a good person, never doubt that." 

She paused, gently patting the top of his head.  "I could dye your hair red if you'd feel like you fit in better with the family that way," she said with a small smile.

Harry laughed, but it came out harshly.  He smiled at her.  "Thank you for listening, Ginny.  I'm sorry if I've brought you guys down lately.  I try not to, but it's hard sometimes.  You know?  I'll have to get back to you on the red hair.  It requires serious thought."

She giggled and poked him a few times making him laugh.  "What's this?  The Boy-Who-Lived is ticklish?  I wonder how much Witch Weekly would give me for that information…" she pondered thoughtfully.

"Don't you dare, Ginny Weasley."  Harry proceeded to tickle her back and they ended up on the floor.  Harry's breath caught as he looked at her in the dim light.  He had to tell her.  Hell, he'd already told her much worse things tonight.  If that didn't make her run off, surely this wouldn't.

He lay down on the floor with his head on a small pillow next to Ginny.  She played with his hair as they sat in silence.  It wasn't a tense or awkward silence, just them sitting together quietly.  They had done this a few times in the past couple weeks since he was let out of the infirmary.  He never knew how nice something as simple as playing with hair could feel.  He closed his eyes under the relaxing feeling.

},