Watching the Storm
Summary: "How was she able to so precisely express in words what he was feeling when he couldn't even sort out his own thoughts? She knew him better than he knew himself, and he hated her for it." HG, slightly dark, one-shot.
Disclaimer: Harry, Ginny, Sirius, and anyone else from the Harry Potter universe belong to the great Joanne Kathleen Rowling.
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Night fell, and Harry was glad for it. Night meant that he could go to bed and have time to himself, without anyone looking at him anxiously or asking if he was all right or whispering about him to each other when they thought he wasn't listening. Yet nighttime also meant dreams he had no control over. Dreams of Sirius falling, falling through the veil at the Department of Mysteries, causing Harry to wake up, shaking and sweating. There were other dreams, too—of Sirius, his face full of life and laughter, of Padfoot, sniffing curiously and chasing anything that moved. Those dreams were a million times worse, and more than once, Harry woke up without knowing if the dampness on his face was due to sweat or tears.
Harry changed into his pajamas and crawled into his bed at the Burrow. "G'night, Ron," he said.
Ron, already half asleep, grunted in response. Harry lay awake, chasing away the thoughts of Sirius that flooded his mind so often. He rolled over on his stomach and propped himself up on his elbows, looking out of the slice of window that was not covered by the curtains. Tonight, the sky was thick with clouds, a sure sign of an impending storm. Good thing, too—the day had been so humid and muggy that it had put everyone in a snappish mood. But the clouds also meant that Harry could not see Sirius. He craned his neck and stared out the window. Not a single star was visible.
He dropped back on his stomach and rolled over to his side, unaware that he had fallen asleep until he woke up two hours later to the pounding rain. Knowing that slumber was fruitless after he had woken, he sat up.
He'd had a dream. He couldn't quite remember the details, but it didn't matter. Sirius was gone, and no amount of dreaming would bring him back.
Distant thunder jolted Harry from his reverie. Quietly, he pushed aside his sheets and climbed down the bed. Tiptoed across the room, opened the door, and twisted the doorknob to close it without making noise. He made his way down the crooked flights of stairs, opened the front door, and nearly tripped over someone sitting on the porch.
"G-Ginny?" he gasped, grabbing the nearest pole to prevent himself from toppling over her.
"Harry," Ginny greeted. Unlike him, she looked completely calm and not at all surprised to see him.
"What are you doing out here at this time?"
Ginny motioned for him to sit, and he did, careful to leave a few inches of distance between them.
"I used to come out here a lot," Ginny explained. "I still do, in the summer, to watch thunderstorms. Not all of them happen at one o' clock in the morning, of course, but the thunder woke me tonight, so I came out here."
He nodded, glad for her voice as a distraction. She continued conversationally, "I think, when I was small—well, smaller—" She scowled, and Harry laughed. Ginny was easily a head shorter that nearly all of her brothers, something Fred and George never missed an opportunity to tease her about. "—When I was smaller, I used to be afraid of thunderstorms, but I never wanted to stay inside and hide in my room and wait for them to be over. I always wanted to go outside and watch the lightning and hear the thunder. I'm not quite sure why. I guess scary was exciting to me, and I somehow had the notion that if I didn't face what I feared, it would mock me forever." She smiled a bit sheepishly and hugged her knees together.
"I'm not afraid of thunderstorms anyone, but they still inspire a certain amount of awe when I watch them. Do you know what I'm talking about? It's the—I guess you could say, aura—of the storm. Power and fury and danger." She laughed, more to herself that anything, and smiled at Harry. "But I'm rambling, aren't it? Sorry about that. You can always tell me to shut up, you know, when I get annoying."
"I don't think you're annoying," Harry said honestly. He remembered something Ron had told him a long time ago—"You don't know how weird it is for her to be this shy. She never shuts up normally"—and smiled.
The two of them watched the storm in silence for a moment. Giant forks of lightning seemed to crack open the sky, and claps of thunder nearly burst Harry's eardrums. The pounding rain and howling wind added to the din, but under the shelter of the roof above the porch, Harry felt a certain sense of security.
"Getting to be rather busy out there, isn't it?" Ginny remarked, and Harry had to lean closer to hear her.
"It is," he agreed, then added in a conspiratory whisper, "Sure you're not scared?"
Ginny gave a defiant toss of her head. "Of course I'm not scared. Not anymore." She inclined her head toward Harry, her brown eyes sparkling. "Hey, you haven't told me why you're here. Insomnia?"
"Yeah," Harry said in what he hoped was an offhand manner. He didn't want to bring up the topic of Sirius, not when he and Ginny were carrying on such a lighthearted conversation. He didn't want to be reminded.
Ginny watched him closely for a moment, and he must have given something away, because she said quietly, "This is about Sirius, isn't it?"
Harry didn't want to answer, so he didn't.
"Isn't it?" Ginny persisted.
"I don't want to talk about it."
"You don't want to talk about it," Ginny echoed. She gave a strangely harsh laugh. "You know, Harry, that's what you say to every single person who tries to bring up the topic. You never want to talk about it, and everyone else is too busy trying to respect your wishes, or too busy trying not to upset you, to actually give you what you really need."
"And what do I really need?" Harry demanded, his voice rising along with his anger.
Ginny looked at him squarely in the eye. "You need to talk about Sirius and vent until all your feelings are out there in the open instead of hiding them. It's unhealthy. You need to speak your mind, and after you're done, you need to stop moping around."
"I am not moping around! I'm—I'm—grieving." The word sounded foreign and foolish in Harry's mouth.
"You're not," Ginny said, more quietly this time. "Either you've stopped grieving a long time ago, or you haven't started yet, because right now all you're doing feeling sorry for yourself."
"And how would you know?" Harry shot back. Anger was muddling his thinking, and he was hardly aware of what he was saying. "How come all of a sudden you seem to know everything about me?"
"I don't know everything about you. Far from it. You don't know everything about yourself. No one does. But I know what you're doing now. Instead of grieving for Sirius, you're wallowing in self-pity, and you're taking it out on Hermione and Ron and me."
"I am not!"
"Do you think you can prove me wrong?" A flash of lightning illuminated Ginny's face. Her eyes were flashing dangerously. "Don't think that I'm not aware of what you're doing. Just today, when Hermione asked you if you wanted to talk about what was bothering you, you completely exploded in front of her. You yelled yourself hoarse at her, and you made her cry. She's your friend, Harry, and she was only trying to help. There's no excuse for you to deliberately hurt her for her good intentions."
Harry swallowed the waves of guilt that were rising up his throat. "It's just—annoying. How everyone keeps on asking me if I'm okay, and if I want to talk about it. I want to be alone for a while, to think things through." And just like that, he realized that he was defending himself to Ginny and wondered how she had managed to make him do that. And his excuses sounded pathetic even to himself.
"People keep on asking you if you're okay because in case you haven't figured it out yet, they care about you." Ginny spoke the next words very slowly, as if talking to a five-year-old. "We love you, Harry, and you're the thickest person alive if you don't know that."
Harry's eyes had begun to prickle, and he concentrated very hard on the ground.
"Do you want to know what I think?" Ginny said. When Harry didn't answer, she ploughed on. "I think you're scared."
"Scared?" Harry repeated incredulously.
"Yes, scared. You scared that if you let yourself grieve about Sirius' death, you'd be showing weakness. And you're scared that if you grieve, you'll be admitting once and for all that he really is gone, with no way of coming back. You're afraid of accepting the truth."
Harry stared at her with amazement. How did she do this? How could she know this? How was she able to so precisely express in words what he was feeling when he couldn't even sort out his own thoughts? She knew him better than he knew himself, and he hated her for it. She had no right to come marching in, stripping him bare of his defenses, leaving him exposed, naked, and vulnerable. And yet…
"Listen to me," Ginny said, almost imploringly. "Expressing sorrow is not weakness. If anything, what you're doing right now is weakness—denying what happened and trying to cover up any emotion. And the truth of the matter is, Sirius is dead."
Harry flinched at the word.
"Dead," Ginny repeated. "I know it's a hard thing to accept, but you have to. I can't tell you I know how you feel, because I don't. I have never had to cope with half the losses that you've had to, and I have no idea how it feels to lose someone so close to you. I only know that it's difficult for you, and—Harry, please. Look at me."
Harry, who had been staring down at the steps of the porch for the last few minutes, looked up reluctantly.
"You're allowed to feel," she said softly. "You don't always have to hide. Talk, Harry. Talk, vent, shout, cry. Talk about Sirius, or about death, or about anything that's troubling you. Talk. I'm listening."
He was silent for a long time. And then everything came rushing out.
"Sirius," he said. The name sounded clumsy on his tongue; he had gone so long without saying it that he had forgotten the sound and feel of it. "Sirius. He was—he was the closest thing to a family I ever had. He was my dad's best friend, and my godfather. He knew about my parents, and he told me about them, and I was so sure that eventually, he'd get cleared for the crime he didn't commit, and I'd come live with him during the summers, away from the Dursleys."
He laughed ironically. "Funny, isn't it, how it turned out." Sighing, he ran his hand through his hair. "I guess what I wish most is that Sirius had a good life before he—I wish that he had a good life. But he didn't. He didn't get the kind of love from his family that he needed. He was accused of murdering thirteen people and betraying his best friends, and was sent to Azkaban for thirteen years for it. I should have let him kill Pettigrew—then at least he would have been cleared. But I didn't, and Pettigrew escaped, and Sirius had to spend the last years of his life living in hiding. If only—"
He choked on the words. "It was my fault. If only I'd worked harder at Occlumency, or if—if I'd opened his gift on time. He'd given me a two-way mirror so I could communicate with him, but I never even knew about it until after he… after he died. I think I was angry with him, and that was why I didn't open it, but I can't even remember why I was angry. I wish… I wish it didn't have to turn out this way."
"I loved him. I loved him the way I would love a father." Tears were gathered on the surface of his eyes now, and he could not force them down. He wished that Ginny would look away, but she was still watching him closely. He swallowed hard and turned his head.
"Oh, Harry," Ginny said, her voice shaking. "You're allowed to cry. You don't have to be ashamed. Tears heal."
Harry turned back to her, and before he knew it, all the barriers he had built came crumbling down, and he cried, really cried, for the first time since Sirius' death. Wordlessly, Ginny closed the distance between them and placed her arms around him. His tears dropped unrestrainedly as he laid his head on her shoulder. She stroked his hair and whispered words of comfort, and for a while, Harry forgot that she was Ginny. Instead, he imagined that she was a different redhead, one he had lost long, long ago. When he finished, he was startled to realize that the girl next to him was barely fifteen, younger than himself, red-haired, freckled, and dressed in a white tank top and pink flowery pajama shorts. He was even more surprised to see that she, too, had tears in her eyes.
Of course. He could not have been the only person affected by Sirius' death. He had been selfish to assume that.
The thunder and lightning had stopped, replaced by a light rain that splattered the ground. Harry untangled himself from Ginny's arms and hair, suddenly finding that he was blushing.
"I'm sorry," Ginny said meekly.
Harry was sure he had heard wrong. "What?"
"I'm sorry. The words I said—I didn't mean them all—they were really harsh—"
Harry shook his head. "No, Ginny. You were right. I needed that, and I needed to hear those words. Thank you."
They sat in silence, watching as the rain thinned.
"Are you afraid?" Harry asked after a moment.
"Afraid of what?"
"Of what's to come."
"Of course. Are you?"
Harry swallowed. "Yes."
Ginny nodded. "I think we've got good reason to be afraid. We both know that the next few years aren't going to be easy." She took a deep breath, as if summoning the courage to do something. "V-Voldemort—Voldemort's powers are returning, and so are his followers, and more people are going to die. You know that. There are going to be deaths and sacrifices. But you're not alone, Harry. You don't have to fight him alone. There's going to Ron, Hermione, me, all my brothers—Bill, Charlie, and maybe Percy, and Fred and George—and Mum and Dad, and the people in the Order, and our friends and classmates, and our professors, and people we don't even know. I know it's not going to be easy, but I truly believe that in the end, Voldemort will be defeated. You've got one thing that he's never had, and never will have."
Ginny's brown eyes were sincere when she replied. "Love."
"But Voldemort's got followers—"
"Voldemort's followers don't love him. They fear him, and serve him in hopes that they, too, will gain power."
Harry thought about her words for a moment. "You're right, of course."
Ginny smiled. "I think—I think that there will always be good and evil in the world, but that the good outnumbers the evil. And as long as that is true, there's no way evil can win."
The raindrops splattered the ground with less frequency, until they stopped altogether. The sky cleared into a clean, inky black color, and the clouds slowly dispersed.
"Look," Ginny said, pointing.
Harry looked in the direction she was pointing and smiled. Up in the dark canopy of the sky hung a single bright star.
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Author's Note: Hope you enjoyed that. Five House points to the first person who can correctly describe the correlation between the weather and Harry's mood.
For the purposes of this story, pretend that Harry was sent to stay at the Burrow the summer after his fifth year. I probably should have said this before the story started, but I didn't want to have two author's notes.
No kissing in this one, unfortunately. I highly, highly doubt that Harry and Ginny would have reached the point in their relationship to do so after the summer of Harry's fifth year. I just wanted Ginny to give Harry a piece of her mind because I can completely imagine Harry being an arse in the sixth book, considering how moody he was in the fifth.
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