Disclaimer: I'm poor. Don't sue me.A/N: Dedicated to the HMS GP who waited oh-so-patiently while I worked on this. The FIP is no longer IP! ;)
Rain spattered on the dirty window as she gazed out onto the street below. Not many people were out today, and those who were walked quickly, darting from shop to shop as they made their way to whatever destination awaited them.
Her eyes caught sight of a figure robed in black, huddling beneath an awning as if waiting for a break in the downpour. She smiled sardonically at whoever it was. He obviously wasn't used to this part of London – his head moved constantly, looking up and down the street, a look of confusion on his face.
Well, what she imagined was a look of confusion – she couldn't quite make out his features. Instead she sketched them in her mind and smirked at what she saw. Foreigners weren't that uncommon around here, and they were a constant source of amusement for her.
Bored with her game, she moved away from the cold glass of the window and reached for the kettle. Maybe a cup of tea would pull her from the darkness that had characterized her mood of late. Maybe it was just the rain – Merlin knew it had been like this for weeks. Yes, maybe that was it. A nice, simple solution. Easy. If only.
She dropped a lump of sugar into her cup. If only tea could bring her peace of mind. Days like this always made her think of him, of the last time she'd seen him. How long ago had it been… six years, seven? More like ten.
Ten years. How on Earth had she gone ten years without him?
It wasn't as though she hadn't thought about him. Every day, actually. And she'd certainly had opportunity to see him. I can't escape him. But she'd avoided him, chosen solitude and seclusion instead of facing the enormous amount of possibilities that stood before her. And she hated herself for it. When had she ever run away from a challenge? When had she ever hidden away like a recluse? And yet now, here she was, running and hiding like she was afraid of her own shadow.
It was etched clearly in her mind: the day she'd become a coward.
"I really need to talk to you." She paused. "Please?"
He looked up, surprise visible in his gaze. "Oh. Er… all right."
She sat down beside him and looked directly into his eyes. "I know it's probably not the best time to tell you this, what with you getting ready for graduation and Auror training and all, but there's something I have to say to you and I can't wait any longer."
He raised an eyebrow but didn't speak. She took a deep breath. "I love you. I've loved you for years. I tried to ignore it but I can't any longer. So I'm telling you now – I love you."
A wide range of emotions passed over his face, yet none was the one she sought. "Please, say something," she begged.
He closed his eyes.
"I can't love you."
And she died inside.
She set her cup on the table and wiped a hand over her eyes. I can't love you. She'd analyzed and dissected those words thousands of times since she'd heard them spoken, and still she had no answers.
It's been ten years. Let it go.
But she couldn't. It invaded her dreams, haunted her every step.
Why? Why can't you love me?
It's what she should have asked. What she should have made him tell her. But he had picked up his things and left, and she hadn't gone after him. She'd never gone after him.
She let out a sigh and determined to push him from her mind. Over the years she'd found that it was easier to ignore the memories than to deal with them. Nothing would change, so what did it matter? The pain was too strong to constantly dwell on. Better to move on with her life.
Except that she hadn't moved on, not really.
She doubted she ever would.
"Why don't you at least talk to him?"
She sighed. "Because I can't."
"You can't? Or you won't?"
A frown. "I still think you're being a bit silly about this."
"I'm not ready."
"But it's been years."
"I'm just not ready."
"Will you ever
She hadn't answered. She hadn't known how to answer. She still didn't, even now, years later. Would she ever be ready to face him?
So far she'd been lucky – she hadn't so much as passed him on the street. She'd avoided every social situation where there was the remote possibility of seeing him. She rarely visited her own family anymore for that very reason. She just couldn't risk it. He wasn't worth the pain.
"No, he's not." Her words echoed in the empty room and surrounded her. "I hate him."
I love him.
She hated herself. She hated her own weakness. But she didn't hate him.
She loved him. She always would.
A knock at the door drew her attention away from her torturous thoughts, but when she saw who was standing on the other side, they all came rushing back.
He was there. At her door. Standing there in front of her, his hair damp from the rain, his soaked robes dripping water on her floor. He was there, and she didn't know what to do. She opened her mouth to speak, but could only say one thing.
"Don't say it."
"It's going to come back to haunt you."
"No, it won't."
"You treated her like rubbish."
"I did what I had
She was beautiful, just like he remembered. Even more so, if he was honest with himself. She'd grown up. She was more mature.
Yes, that's what it was. That's what he saw in her eyes. Pain. Anger. She was tired, world-weary. Had he done that? Had he put that hatred in her eyes?
"What are you doing here, Harry?" Her voice was flat, devoid of all emotion, but her eyes sparked with dangerous flames.
He swallowed hard. "Your mum told me where to find you."
"Well, you've found me," she snapped. "Now get out."
He put up a hand to stop the door from closing in his face. "Ginny, please."
"No, Harry. I don't want you here."
"I don't care. I'm not leaving."
The look she gave him was nothing short of murderous. "Get. Out."
"Not until you let me explain."
She turned on him. "Explain what, Harry? Explain why you smashed my heart into pieces with a bloody four-word explanation? Oh yes, please tell me, because I'm dying to know why I've spent the last ten years hating the very thought of you."
"I hate him."
"No, you don't."
"Yes, I do. I hate him."
"You love him."
"I hate him."
"You love him."
A pause. "I love
She saw that she'd surprised him. Had he honestly thought she would be thrilled to see him again?
She ignored the traitorous thoughts and gathered her shield of anger. "Well? Go ahead. Explain."
He took a deep breath and she felt a chill go up her spine. "I didn't mean to hurt you, Ginny."
"You didn't mean to hurt me?" she retorted. "Oh, well, thank you, Harry. That makes it so much better." She turned away from him. "You can find your way out."
"Ginny!" He reached out and grabbed her arm, pulling her towards him. She saw the desperation in his eyes. "It wasn't that I didn't love you. I… I just couldn't love you."
She wrenched her arm from his grasp. "And what is that supposed to mean, Harry?" she shouted, her anger building. "Tell me! What the bloody hell does that mean?"
"It means I loved you so much that I couldn't have you!" he shouted back. "I had to give you up! He would have found you and he would have killed you!"
"No, Harry! It means you were a selfish coward! You could have told me that! You could have told me the truth but you didn't! You took the easy way out to spare yourself from any unnecessary pain!"
"Saying goodbye to you was the most painful thing I've ever done! I loved you, Ginny! I still love you!"
Rage filled her, blinded her. She wanted to hurt him. She wanted him to feel what she'd felt for the last decade. "Well, I can't love you. Get out of my house."
Her words slammed into his chest like a death curse. What had he expected? For her to fall into his arms and forgive him?
He'd spent the last ten years mourning the loss of the woman in front of him. He had resigned himself to living the rest of his life in the same manner, but somehow his friends had convinced him that she wouldn't be angry anymore, that he should try again.
That was the last time he was going to listen to them. Apparently it was back to wallowing in misery.
He looked into her eyes. Maybe it was a masochistic desire, but he had to have one last glimpse of the woman he would spend the rest of his life loving and grieving over.
"I'm sorry, Ginny," he whispered as he held her gaze.
Her eyes flickered. He saw anger, pain, regret, sadness… and he knew what she was telling him.
Don't be a coward. Prove me wrong.
Fight for me.
The very thing he'd failed at the last time he'd seen her.
Well, he wouldn't fail this time.
"Tell me you don't love me."
She frowned, apparently taken aback by his command. "What?"
"Tell me you don't love me and I'll leave you alone."
He could see the emotions warring in her eyes.
"I don't love you."
He felt cold.
Fight for me.
In two steps, he closed the distance between them and pressed his lips to hers.
His kiss was everything she'd imagined it would be. All coherent thought left her, and she doubted she'd be able to recall her own name if asked. She couldn't even remember why she was mad at him. The only thing she knew was that she was a liar.
She did love him.
He pulled away from her before she was ready. He looked shaken. "Ginny…"
She shook her head, knowing that if he spoke first she would give in immediately. It wasn't that simple. "I'm going to need some time, Harry."
He frowned. "Ginny, I love you. Please…"
She took his hand. "It's been ten years, Harry," she sighed. "I've changed. You've changed. We need to become friends all over again."
"Do you forgive me?"
Did she forgive him? "Yes."
"Do you love me?"
He placed his hands on her upper arms and pulled her closer. "Tell me. Do you love me?" he asked again, his eyes pleading with her.
Don't be a coward. Tell him.
"I do," she whispered. "More than anything."
He leaned down and smiled against her lips. "Then you can have all the time you need."