A/N: Alrighty, I'm not trying to be cryptic here- it's Sirius's POV again, which means that at the end it may feel a little awkward to some, but Ginny just wasn't ready to talk about Harry, and he wasn't even letting me inside his head, which made even this difficult to write.

And as of late, I've noticed that I've been making some pretty funking punctuation choices. Everything in this is readable, but it's definitely...unique.

Happy New Year...

A Genuine Smile With Matching Touches

For Emily,
Who is brilliant
In every sense of the word.

New Year's Eve was celebrated quietly this year; just the way it was celebrated last year. Little seems to have changed since I've been gone—but then again tonight I'm not really gone at all. My presence haunts this house. That's all there is to say about it; I'm not angry, I have no 'unfinished business,' and I'm not completely unwilling to let go of my life and move on. And yet… I'm here. I spent the end of my life whining and pleading to be let out of this grim old place, and now I've been given the entire universe to explore without a body to drag along—who would have thought I'd ever return? And yet tonight I find myself back here, in the kitchen of good and evil.

To my great amusement I find it already occupied: a small, pretty young woman with red hair and brown eyes sits at the table, staring mournfully at the clock on the wall opposite her as she draws her fourth finger in languid, graceful circles around the rim of her water goblet. Almost without warning, her gleaming eyes overflow, and if it weren't for the steady tick-tock of the clock you might hear the muted pitter as her tears drop on the tabletop. A miserable sort of moan breaks through her lips, and… I don't care to know who she's thinking about. But whoever he is—he must feel loved to know that she hasn't forgotten him.

It's disconcerting to see them cry. In the beginning, we all knew it was necessary, but by now it disturbs me that Harry is merely pained by the mention of me. I didn't put my life at risk and lose it so that he could swallow it all and take the blame for things that weren't his fault. But he's got a free reign of misery down there; he's got a monopoly on pain it seems, and no one wants to tell him how to deal and he would refuse to listen to them anyway because no one understands just exactly how he feels. If things keep going the way they are he's actually going to get his hermit, prudish, frigid, backward way.

I can see it all play out in my head as if it's already happened: there he sits in a dark room that smells of mildew, turning pallid and growling at anyone who so much as looks at him... and there he sits alone in the library on a Friday night, furiously studying ways to kill evil wizards, learning every spell he can lay his hands on... and now all it takes is just one Dementor to finish him off because he knows every spell in every book but he has not a single memory from which to cast a Patronus.

But then here's Ginny, sitting in front of me on the one year anniversary of our first and only real conversation, crying for the obvious reasons. And yet, if I'm not mistaken, I've come to believe that Harry must be woven into every great emotion she feels. As if on cue, the man of the hour appears at the doorway, looking frustratingly normal.


Ginny starts, and her finger slips from the rim of her glass as she quickly and discreetly dries her tears, holding her eyes wide open to get rid of the redness. She turns to face the young man in the doorway.

"Harry," she says breathlessly,

"Sorry—I didn't mean to scare you."

He trips haggardly into the kitchen, and I wonder if he can hear the rapid pounding of her heart—because I can.

"I thought everyone had gone to bed," she says, getting up and carrying her goblet to the sink.

"I think they have," he replies in his usual, laconic simplicity as he sits down at the table.

"Couldn't you sleep?"

She's pacing haltingly at the counter behind him, trying to look busy with something, but there's nothing to be done.


There's a beat that even a dead man can sense. She stops her flitting and takes a breath.

"Right. Well—I was just going to make some tea—er—hot chocolate. Would you like some?"

Harry pauses, as he always does before accepting anything, "Sure. Thanks."

Several minutes lapse into silence as Ginny has found something plausible to do with herself and Harry sits at the table with his back to her—too lost in his thoughts to worry that he makes poor company. Ginny doesn't notice this, or if she does she doesn't seem to mind, because with each beat that passes her breathing slows into a steady, even pace and she moves with more poise and confidence.

She pours two steaming mugs and sets them carefully on the table as she seats herself opposite him.



They sip in more silence, as she looks at him and he stares somberly into his cup.

"Harry," she says gently, and he raises his head halfway, "Are you alright?"

I can see the ready-made response rising up—all the way past his throat before his eyes meet hers and it dies between his teeth. She kicks up the intensity of her stare a notch: I can sense him weakening.

"It's just an odd night," he says, bringing his mug up for a sip and then changing his mind, and clunking it back down, "It just feels like he's here."

She gets up and moves around the table to the chair next to his—a bold move for the girl who used to blush every time she saw him.

"You feel it, too?"

Harry, who was about to take a sip again, lowers the cup and looks dumbfounded.

"We talked once," she says, "Just this time last year, actually."

Harry finally manages to actually take a drink in the silence that ensues. In fact, he manages to get nearly four healthy gulps in before he caves to his curiosity and glances at her.

"So, what did you talk about?"

If I could control the scene before me, Ginny would tell him about how she'd come down that night after everyone else had gone to bed, and how she'd found me sitting in the kitchen drinking gin. Then she would tell him that I'd discovered what a rebel she was when she asked me for a sip, and how she'd taken me up on the offer for a glass of her own. Then she would tell him her real name, and asked him if he thought it suited her, and so before he answered he'd really have to look at her. Maybe for the first time in his life he would have to look at her just for looking's sake—just because she was nice to look at. And then the two stories would go their separate ways when he realized the greatness she is, and they'd talk through the night. They'd find out loads about each other—about how he could never tell a lie to her because she's told the same ones before and she was much better at it; they'd find out that neither of them place much value in authority; and that both of them long to be loved for who they are and not the cosmic roles destiny had handed them at birth. And in knowing all of this they would realize that neither had anything to fear from the other, and when he finally kissed her, I'd feel a lot better about leaving him behind on earth.

But none of that is happening. Harry's gazing into his cup again while Ginny stares almost pleadingly at his guarded, lowered head. Merlin, Harry, look at her!

He's careening out of control with this whole noble thing. He's pushing people away, and not always gracefully; letting someone in would be out of the question, I suppose. My formless presence is pacing around them, but it's like being trapped in a Pensieve, like looking in hopelessly on a memory I can't change. He'll push her away too, I can see it happening already. But then he asks a question I wasn't expecting him to ask.

"Did he say anything about me?"

It hits me like a bludger to the gut, and I'm not completely sure why. He's finally looked up at her, glaring into her eyes with an unmanned look of vulnerability on his face.

My pangs of regret are excruciating. Now I'm so incredibly sorry, Harry. I never should have been so cocky—if I'd only stayed focused on the battle, instead of goading her… I could be here with a body and a voice to tell you that I love you and I'm sorry. I'm sorry for ever thinking of you in terms of James. You're a good man in your own right, and I really do believe you could win this thing. I really do.

…But then, you can't hear me, can you? I seep sadly back and resign myself once again to silently observing.

The secretly contented expression on Ginny's face makes me think she sees something we don't. She hesitates for just a moment, before giving him a glad little half-smile, and a matching touch on the arm to complete the gesture.

"He said he loved you, and that you'd figure it out."

A palpable silent thud punctuates her words, as Harry lets them run unchecked into his bones. I wait for him, wondering if he'll snap closed again and announce that he doesn't have to be happy if he doesn't want to because nobody understands what he's been through. But instead he looks mildly surprised, or surprised that he should feel surprised. She's said nothing he hasn't heard before, but the faint blush rising in his face and neck when he fully realizes her close proximity tells me that on some level he's beginning to understand what it means to have happiness that outweighs the risks, and that with her hand on his arm it's much easier to believe in that great 'power of love' thing. Slowly but surely, his face breaks into a smile.

The most overwhelming sense of relief washes over me—this must be the most powerful feeling I've ever felt. All the bad memories and grudges I didn't know I still had are quickly fading into blackness, followed by the sad memories... and then the happy ones, and then the incredible ones—until all that's left is the image of them sitting now in those horribly familiar kitchen chairs, with his hand covering hers so she doesn't take it away from his arm. They're thinking of me—but they're smiling.

Now that it's vanished, I understand the meaning of 'unfinished business', and the true feeling of peace that follows. That was all it took… a genuine smile with matching touches.

A/N: It's my birthday on the first-- review!