Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.

First chapter: July 19, 2005

Final chapter: July 19, 2007

. . . That's kind of crazy if you really think about it.

Chapter Fifty-Three: The Price of Freedom

What felt like a lifetime later, Harry opened his eyes. The white light blinded him, but it was so warm and so consuming that he fought to stay there, fought to keep his eyes on it. Where the hell was he?

His life came back to him in mental snapshots, things and people he used to love but now just wanted to forget. Needed to forget. He didn't know how long he'd been asleep, but even if it had been years now – and it certainly felt like it was a possibility – the Final Battle was fresh in his mind. It had been preserved there and in this moment it was the only thing he knew.

He changed his mind and closed his eyes again. He didn't want the light. He wanted to drown in the darkness, where there was none of these awful feelings and memories and regrets.

'Did you see that?' a voice said. It sounded hazy and so far away.

'See what?' another asked.

'He just – he opened his eyes,' the first one said. There was a desperate quality to the voice that Harry thought he might've been able to recognize if he only cared more.

'I didn't see anything.'

'Well, you must've not been looking! Just wait. He'll do it again.'

But Harry couldn't do it again. His head burned and his body ached and his mouth was too dry. Opening his eyes would take more effort than he was willing to give. He just wanted to go to sleep and never wake up.

'I … I don't see anything …'

'But I saw him do it.'

'You didn't. You couldn't. He's –'

'Don't say that he's gone. He isn't gone.'

'The Healer said –'

'I know what the Healer said.'

'It's been too long,' the second voice said. There was so much pain there. So much. Harry could feel the guilt rising from somewhere deep inside of him. 'Nobody could've –'

'No. Maybe nobody else is the world could've. But he could've.'

Suddenly there was a hand clenching Harry's. Warm and large but shaking.

'I know you're in there. I just know it. C'mon, Harry,' the first voice pleaded. But it wasn't enough for Harry.

He felt himself getting lighter again. His muscles were loosening and the light wasn't burning through his eyelids the way it was a moment ago. It felt like a warm blanket had settled over him. There was something more than this. He was sure of it. He was going someplace else, someplace far better. Ginny was probably there, waiting for him. And he wanted to go there so badly … to be with her …

But that foreign hand was an anchor, keeping him from going any further away. He had one foot in the door but that grip wasn't loosening at all. Nails dug sharply into his wrist and he flinched.

'There! Did you see?'

'Stop doing that! He's bleeding. Let go of him.'

'I can't.' The voice broke and the hand squeezed his even tighter. 'I … I can't let go.'

'I think we should go home.'

'What? No – he's still in there.'

'I know. I know! But he …' the voice died away. 'He doesn't want to come back to us.'

'But I need him to.'

'It isn't up to us. If it was …'

'This isn't fair.'

'Ron …'

What part of this wasn't fair? Harry had done his job. He'd done everything anyone had ever asked him to do. And this was his reward – he could finally let go and not have to care about the rest of the world. He'd already saved it once. That was as much as he was willing to do. Everyone he loved was fine now. They were all safe and sound. Harry had given them their lives back. Voldemort was gone. What else could they possible have to worry about?

'We didn't even get to say goodbye, Hermione. We didn't get anything. And Ginny … what about her?'

He didn't want to hear this. Ron and Hermione … he couldn't stand the despair in their voices. Didn't they understand that they had each other? What more could they possible need? How could they take that for granted after seeing what had happened to him and Ginny? And how could they be so selfish as to try to keep Harry in a place where he could never be with Ginny again?

Ron didn't take his stupid hand off of Harry. A moment ago he'd been so close to going somewhere else … but now it was as if the door had slammed shut and he was trapped on this side of it forever.

He hated his best friends for doing this. For not being able to give up on him. For always bloody being there. Always. Right up to the end, and then even afterward.

Merlin, he loved them. He wondered if they understood how much. He loved them too much to lie there and pretend he didn't hear them. He wanted to just fall back asleep and never wake up. But he wasn't that kind of person. He wished with all of his heart that he was, though. And he hoped that one day soon he could become that kind of person.

Harry opened his eyes again. And when he finally focused them, he saw red hair and wide eyes and a mouth hanging nearly to the floor.

'Hermione. Look,' Ron choked out.

Hermione was turned away. She didn't look.

'Hermione,' he said again.

'What?' she demanded. She turned around and she was the same as Harry remembered. Big brown hair and serious eyes. She had tears running down her cheeks. 'Oh …'

'Bloody hell,' said Ron.

'Harry,' whispered Hermione. She brought a trembling hand up to cover her mouth. 'You're …'

He tried to speak. He tried to tell them that he loved them and that he couldn't think of two other people he would've rather gone through every ridiculous obstacle with. He tried to tell them that he was sorry but he couldn't stay, that he couldn't find a reason to live in a world without Ginny. But he couldn't. His throat was far too dry. He couldn't make any sort of noise at all.

'I've got to go get her,' Hermione said. Harry tried to protest. He didn't want to see Audrey or whatever Healer was assigned to his case. The less people who knew about this, the better. Just once, he didn't want to be the center of everyone's attention. He just wanted to say what he needed to say to them and then let go. But Hermione was already gone before he could even react.

He tried to sit up. It hurt like hell. He wouldn't have been able to manage it if Ron hadn't stepped in and done most of the work for him.

'You're … I mean …' he stammered. He looked at Harry as if they hadn't been best friends since they were eleven. As if he didn't know what to say or even how to act. 'Do you know what the date is?'

Harry just blinked.

'Bloody hell. Of course you wouldn't. It – it's fucking July,' said Ron. 'Five months. You've been – er, you were – and – the Healers said you were just going to stay like that. That we should just give up and go home. Good riddance, you know? But we didn't. We … I mean, we couldn't …'

Harry could remember seeing Ron this choked up only once before. He was glad for his inability to speak. He wouldn't know what to say, anyway. Telling Ron that this was a fluke and that he really just wanted to go back to whatever state he'd been in seemed inappropriate. Especially now that he knew that Ron and Hermione had been visiting him for the last five months and that they'd never given up hope despite everything.

'Ginny – she would've loved to be here when you woke up.'

Harry set his eyes on the blanket. He knew that he could never put into words to Ron how sorry he was about Ginny. He knew that Ron was too good to say what his entire family probably thought – that if it hadn't been for Harry, Ginny would still be alive and with them.

If Harry did, for some strange reason, decide to keep fighting and go home to The Burrow, he would just be a reminder of everything they'd all lost. Every time Mrs Weasley looked at Harry, she would see the reason her only daughter wasn't going to be home for dinner that night. Mr Weasley would see the reason he'd never get to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. Ron's brothers would hate him forever.

He forced himself to look Ron in the eye again. He at least owed him that. He wished he could somehow convey everything to his friend. He needed to tell Ron how sorry he was. He needed Ron to know that he was the best friend anyone could ever ask for and that Harry had never done anything to deserve anyone like him. Harry would never be able to forgive himself for all the anguish he'd caused the people who had so loyally stayed by his side through the very worst of times. He needed to apologize for dragging Ron and Hermione into this and for letting them down in so many ways. So, so, so many ways.

He had to tell Ron that Ginny was the most amazing person he'd ever known and the fact that someone as awful as him was alive while someone as wonderful as her had died was possibly the greatest injustice ever. He had to apologize for failing everyone. For not doing more. For not keeping everyone safe and handling the situation the way he should've. He wanted Ron to know that nobody would ever love anyone the way he'd loved Ginny and that he couldn't possibly be expected to live in a world without her. Ron had to understand the reasons why he had given up and why he now wanted nothing more than to be with Ginny on the other side.

Even if Harry could've spoken, he wouldn't have been able to get a word in. Ron was chatting away, rambling about a million different things at once. He really was a terrific actor. That grin on his face looked so real. But how could it be real after everything Harry had done to him? After everything Harry had taken from him?

'And hey, check this out,' said Ron. He pulled his shirt up and Harry's eyes widened as he caught sight of a long scar stretched across the pale, freckled skin of Ron's chest. 'Pretty wicked, yeah?' He grinned proudly. 'I spent two weeks in here after the battle. Well, not right here, because this is a ward for – er – more long-term patients ...'

Harry meant to nod or smile or give any sort of reaction at all, but all he could do was imagine the million different ways Ron could've gotten that sort of injury. No matter how it happened, Harry was to blame.

'I don't know what's taking Hermione so long,' Ron continued. 'Ginny was only downstairs getting food.'

Harry wondered if Ron realized that he'd said Ginny's name instead of the name he'd meant to say. Or perhaps he'd done it purposely, to see Harry's reaction.

But his thoughts ended when Ron handed him a glass of water. He gulped it down, wincing at the pain in his throat.

Ron stood up and poked his head out into the hallway. 'Ah!' he declared. 'Here they come. It's really –'

The first thing Harry noticed was Ron being knocked out of the way as a body rushed into the room, and the second thing he noticed was who it was.

He stared at Ginny Weasley and tried to remember how to breathe.


Harry said nothing. He didn't smile or reach out for her or anything. He didn't even blink.

Hermione couldn't understand it. If anyone was going to get a reaction out of Harry, wouldn't it be Ginny? She and Ron had figured as much. But there Ginny was, standing in front of him, and he was acting as if he had no idea who she was.

'Harry?' said Ron.

'That isn't Ginny,' Harry said. His voice was faint and hoarse. Hermione strained to hear him. He sounded hesitant, maybe even a little angry … but it was so wonderful to hear his voice after going the last five months believing she never would get the chance again.

'What? Of course it is,' Ron insisted. Ginny took a step toward Harry and he was visibly uncomfortable with the idea of her being close to him.

'It can't be,' said Harry quietly. He looked down at his hands. 'Ginny died. I …'

'Harry,' Ginny said softly. Hermione couldn't see her face, but Ginny sounded as though she was close to tears. 'I'm right here. I'm fine. I promise.'

But Harry shook his head. 'I saw her die,' he choked out. 'It was – she – she died an inch in front of my face, Ron.'

Hermione shook her head. 'But Harry –'

'Voldemort threw the Killing Curse at me and she jumped in front,' he continued, ignoring Hermione. 'I … there was nothing I could do …' He closed his eyes briefly. 'So don't tell me it didn't happen because I was there and you weren't.'

Hermione couldn't stand seeing him like this. Did Harry think this was all a big practical joke? What in the world had happened in that forest, anyway? She'd only heard Ginny's account, and Ginny had only been present for a few moments. Only Harry and Voldemort would ever know what transpired that night, and Voldemort was dead. It would be up to Harry to tell them the whole gruesome story. Something told Hermione that nobody, not even Ginny, would ever get the details from Harry.

'You're right,' said Ginny. 'That did happen. Only … not exactly the way you think it did.'

'What are you talking about?' Harry said harshly, not bothering to look up at her.

'It was the unicorn,' Hermione explained. 'You know about unicorns, don't you? How pure they are?'

Harry shrugged. 'Firenze once told me that anyone who drinks the blood of a slain unicorn is cursed to live a half-life.'

'Exactly,' said Hermione. 'But there are other things about unicorns, too. Killing a unicorn is one of the most awful acts that a witch or wizard can commit. And there are certain magical properties that …' She paused. How could she explain this? She wasn't even sure herself of what had happened.

'Because Ginny was the closest thing to it when it was hit with the Killing Curse,' Ron jumped in, 'a bit of the spell sort of … transferred over to her. She didn't die, but she was pretty bloody close. We still aren't sure exactly how it all happened. People are looking into it but … you know the Ministry. Even if they do find an answer, I doubt we'll ever get to know about it. Maybe they'd already known and just wouldn't tell us.'

'Then how is she alive now?' Harry asked, but his voice was softer than before. He was looking anywhere but at Ginny. His eyes met Hermione's for a split second, and Hermione recognized something in them that she hadn't noticed before – guilt.

'That was because of you,' Ginny told him. 'I woke up nearly two days after the battle ended, only I didn't know then how much time had passed. I didn't know what to do. You were still unconscious … I considered leaving to get help for you, but I didn't think I'd be able to find you again in that bloody maze of a forest. I thought the battle was still going on, and I was in no condition to fight. I felt so drained that I could hardly move. Ronan, one of the centaurs, told me that he'd seen all of it – right after you killed Voldemort, you transferred the very last of your energy into me. That's why you've been here for so long. Without you, I – I would've died, no question about it. He carried your body out of the forest with me. By then everyone had nearly given up hope that either of us had survived.'

Harry looked as though he was trying to accept all of what she told him, but it was clear that he was still having difficulty.

Ginny moved even closer but still seemed apprehensive about trying to touch him. 'I don't have all the answers; it's been months since all of this took place and I'm still as confused as you are about most of what happened in there.'

Harry glanced up at Ginny for the first time since she came into the room. 'So … you didn't die? And … you're okay … because of me?'

Ginny nodded. 'Entirely because of you.'

'And it's over?' he whispered. His hand was tangled in her hair now. Ginny leaned into his touch and nodded. 'I mean, it's … you said I killed Voldemort and … really, it's over? Just like that?'

'Just like that,' said Ron.

Only Harry wasn't paying Ron the slightest bit of attention. Hermione wasn't even sure that Harry realized she and Ron were still in the room. His eyes searched Ginny's face for the truth, and Ginny gave exactly what he wanted.

'It's finally over,' she choked out.

Harry sat there motionless for a long moment. Hermione tried to imagine what could be going through his head, but eventually came to accept that this was something – perhaps one of the only things – that she would truly never know. She was quite fine with that, truth be told. If she got even a glimpse of what it felt like to be him, she would probably break down. She wasn't as strong as Harry in the slightest. Nobody was.

The relief and pride he was probably feeling was unimaginable to Hermione. But the grief and the burden and the anguish he had experienced for the last seventeen years could probably never be erased, even by this moment of unbelievable achievement.

Harry reached out for Ginny, and Hermione motioned to Ron for the two of them to leave the room. She and Ron slipped out quietly, and she waited until she was in the hallway before she allowed her tears to fall.

'I thought we'd lost him a long time ago,' she admitted. 'I … I started to actually wonder if maybe the Healers were right and he was gone …'

'We all did at one point or another,' he agreed.

He put his arms around her and she cried tears of joy and relief into his shoulder. Perhaps he cried as well, but she would never be sure and certainly she would never ask. She and Ron had spent the last five months offering each other support in every way they knew how. Their side had won, but there had been so much death and destruction; Hogwarts had been restored to its original beauty, but Hermione wasn't sure that she could ever return anyway after all of the terrible things that had happened on those grounds. Going back for seventh year was unimaginable. The thought of having to sleep alone in her dormitory was too difficult to bear.

Perhaps the grass by their favourite tree would be just as green and lush as always, but Hermione would never again be able to look at that spot without seeing Remus Lupin, flat on his back and getting a Dementor's Kiss.

Hermione would never be able to express the relief she felt that Harry was awake and (hopefully) on his way to making a full recovery. But her heart was heavy with the knowledge that Harry knew nothing of what had happened to any of the others during the battle. He only knew that Ginny and his best friends were alive, and that the good side had won out against Voldemort and the Death Eaters. He had no idea what was in store for him.

She and Ron went to get Benson, one of the Healers in charge of looking after Harry.

'When did he wake up?' asked Benson. He sounded half-amazed and half as though he'd been expecting the great Harry Potter to pull through all along.

'Only a few minutes ago,' said Hermione.

'How did he seem?'

'Well, he remembered the fight,' Hermione reported. 'There didn't seem to be any damage.'

'I'll need to do an exam to make sure,' said Benson, 'and he'll have to stay here quite a while more just to be safe. But I'm fairly certain that he'll make a full recovery, if he's as alert and in tune as you say he is. I wouldn't expect anything less from Mr Potter.'

'Neither would we,' Ron said. The pride in his voice was obvious.

Benson's expression turned serious. 'Is he asking questions yet?'

'Not yet,' said Ron. His voice changed. 'But we were only in there for a minute. He's with Ginny now.'

'She won't tell him a thing until he's ready to hear it, though,' added Hermione.

Benson nodded. 'I understand that this will be incredibly difficult, but you have to tell him,' he said. 'I think it would be best to do it as soon as possible.'

Hermione felt her heart drop into her stomach. She thought they'd at least get a few happy days with Harry before he had to learn the truth.

'Not now,' she said. There was finality in her voice that she hoped Benson would not fight.

'He's going to ask. You can't avoid it,' Benson said wisely. 'He'll only be angrier the longer you wait.'

'We know,' Ron told him. Of course they knew. Hermione and Ron had been waiting for Harry to wake up for months now, but in the back of their minds, they had been dreading this day as well. 'But … we can't do it. Not just yet. He's been through so much.'

'And doesn't he deserve the truth?'

'He deserves to be happy,' Hermione countered. She peered through the glass window and into Harry's room. 'Look at him in there. He's got nothing weighing him down anymore.'

'You don't know the half of what his life has been like,' explained Ron. 'We've known Harry for seven years, and we've never seen him without something major on his plate. Doesn't that tell you anything? He's never had this sort of freedom before. Just let him have this moment. Please.'

'All right,' said Benson. 'But if Mr Potter is anything like you say he is, he's going to start asking questions very soon. And you will need to give him the answers.'


Ginny wasn't at all surprised when Rufus Scrimgeour stopped by later to visit Harry. But although she wasn't surprised, that didn't mean she wasn't outrageously offended by the Minister's nerve.

'Say the word and I'll give him a Bat-Bogey Hex he won't soon forget,' Ginny said under her breath.

Harry had merely laughed. 'Don't worry about it,' he said. 'Stick around if you want, though. This might be interesting.'

Ginny sat down in a chair beside Harry's bed and waited for everything to start.

'Oh, hello,' Scrimgeour said to her when he came in. 'Would you mind terribly, dear, if I had a moment alone with Mr Potter?'

'The only person who isn't welcome in this room is you,' said Harry. 'So say what you have to say and then leave.'

Ginny marvelled at this sudden change in Harry. He had never exactly been the most respectful to any authority figures he disliked – Snape had been a prime example of this – but until now Harry would have never dared be so rude to the Minister of Magic. It was strange and thrilling and rather sexy, even.

'I see your old pal Dumbledore taught you a thing or two about arrogance,' Scrimgeour growled.

Ginny glanced at Harry, expecting him to snap at the mention of Dumbledore. She was shocked when he merely laughed and said, 'No, sir, I learned that from you. Now get on with it.'

'I'd like to hold a press conference in your honour – once you're out of St. Mungo's and fully recovered, of course. You know, give you a medal that says Order of Merlin, First Class and the like.'

'That sounds … dreadful,' said Harry. 'Why would I want to participate in such a thing?'

'You think the world hasn't been sitting back these last few months waiting for you to wake up?' asked Scrimgeour. 'The minute anyone gets word that you're awake – and it'll be soon, no doubt – this hospital will be swarmed with reporters and admirers of all kinds.'

'And I can promise you that I don't want that,' said Harry. 'But how will holding a press conference help?'

'This war is over, Potter,' said the Minister. 'The adoration you'll receive in the upcoming weeks will be huge, but it will end. The novelty always wears off. Give it a few months and you'll be able to relax in your kitchen without reporters busting in through the fireplace; a few years and nobody will even remember your name.'

Ginny rolled her eyes. She seriously doubted that anything Scrimgeour had just said would come true. But it was what Harry wanted, after all, and so she hoped that just maybe this idiot of a Minister would end up being right.

'Again, I ask you how a press conference will help me slip into anonymity,' Harry said, sounding bored.

'Give 'em what they want straight away, let 'em hear the story straight from your mouth, and they'll have no use for you anymore. They'll only want you more if you're quiet about it. Come to the conference – get your medal, give a statement, acknowledge the Ministry for our help in the war, and we'll all shake hands and part as friends.'

Harry sat up a little straighter. 'Acknowledge the Ministry?' he repeated. 'The Ministry denied Voldemort's return until not even two years ago!'

'Look, Potter,' began Scrimgeour. 'Don't be difficult. I'll make sure your, er, cooperation isn't forgotten … if you understand me.'

'I understand you, all right,' said Harry. 'But I'm not going to get up in front of everyone and lie through my teeth about what a wonderful job you're doing as Minister.'

'What will it take to make you reconsider?'

Ginny gaped at Scrimgeour. Harry merely shook his head. 'There's nothing you can give me that could change my mind. I've already got everything I'll ever need … and then some.'

'You've wanted to be an Auror for quite some time, yeah?' the Minister pressed. 'I can make that happen for you!'

Harry cleared his throat. 'Perhaps I'm disillusioned, but I'm fairly certain that I won't have any trouble getting into the Auror program,' he said.

But Scrimgeour's smile did not waver. 'Yes, yes, I suppose you're correct. So tell me what you're after and I'll make it happen. As long as I'm Minister of Magic, you'll stay a very happy man. Lay it on me. Your wish is my command. You ask and I will deliver.'

Harry winked at Ginny. 'Well, Minister … I don't suppose you've released Stan Shunpike yet, have you?'


Scrimgeour finally got the message that Harry wouldn't cooperate and left, though not without a good fight. Harry hadn't minded that the Minister came to visit him. In fact, a large part of him had been expecting it since he awoke. It had been rather entertaining to say the least. But he was glad that the "meeting" it was over with, at least for now.

Harry had been alone with Ginny for what must've been several hours. Not that he was counting. It occurred to him that he would never have to keep track of time again. They had all the time in the world now to do whatever they wanted. They were free. And he'd always thought that this sort of freedom would come at an awfully high price, but if Ginny, Hermione and Ron were with him, what the hell sort of downside could there possibly be?

'There's something you should see,' Ginny told him. Her voice was hard to get a read on.

'Okay,' he said. He tried to feel nervous or anxious, but all he could feel was happy. Something told him that all he would ever be able to feel from this point on was happy.

Ginny picked up a small hand mirror and held it in front of his face. His hair had covered his forehead for so long that Harry did not immediately realize the difference. It was not until Ginny put a hesitant hand to his forehead and brushed the hair away that he even noticed the absence of his scar.

He stared at himself for a moment. His features were the same as always – his hair just as messy, his eyes just as green, his nose just as straight. But without his scar, it was as if he was looking at an entirely different person. He struggled to recognize himself somewhere in that person reflected back at him. Ginny took the mirror away and looked at him again. He caught his reflection in her eyes and suddenly he could see himself the way she always had. He was just Harry, and for the first time, he felt that he could really begin to know who Harry was.

'Are you okay?' she asked. 'Your scar – I …' She paused, looking at him with concerned eyes. 'I'm not sure what this means to you.'

'It was just a mark, Gin,' he said, already believing it himself. 'Growing up, it was my favourite feature. But if you think about what it meant … what it symbolized … I'm not that person anymore and I'm never going to miss it.'

Ginny had tears in her eyes. She put her hand on his cheek and leaned into him. 'It's okay to cry, you know,' she said.

'I can't,' he said. 'I mean – I don't think I even know how to cry anymore. But here's hoping I never have another chance to find out, yeah?'

Ginny looked at him with pity and worry in her eyes, and he felt an unbelievable rage flare up inside of him. She was looking at his as if he was weak or pathetic or stupid. Nobody got to look at him like that. He was Harry fucking Potter. He'd saved the Wizarding world! He'd be damned if he let some snot-nosed little brat feel sorry for him. Nasty, filthy blood-traitor. As if she had any idea how to emphasize with him. He was a million levels above her – he was a million levels above them all. Surely she realized that. He opened his mouth to tell her to take her pity and shove it straight up her —

And then it was gone. Even though it was so far from the truth, he convinced himself that he had no idea what could've evoked such awful thoughts and feelings inside of him.

His hand shook and he hid it under the blanket so Ginny wouldn't notice. He no longer had the sudden irrepressible urge to grab her and scream at her and hurt her … but his blood was still boiling and there was still that flicker of something lurking around in the very deepest part of him. He waited a moment for it to pass and it did somewhat, but not enough that he was confident it could never come back. It was to be forever inside of him, festering and perhaps even growing, taking hold of him, until maybe one day when …

But it would not happen that way.

Harry had always believed that people were either innately good or innately bad, and that it was virtually impossible for a person to change such disposition. But what if that wasn't the case? Maybe everybody, magical or not, had good and evil waging a constant war inside of them … maybe the only thing that would keep Harry from being like Voldemort was the fact that Tom Riddle had not had it in him to fight the evil, while Harry did not have it in him to give up fighting. Perhaps, if nothing else, it was Harry's desire to be good – or, at the very least, his desire to not be evil – which separated him from Voldemort.

Someone had once told him that he and he alone had the ability and the authority to choose his destiny. He had always felt that his destiny was to defeat Voldemort … but he now understood that this was not at all the case. The world had opened up to him in ways he could not have previously imagined, and he refused to slam the door shut on all of those wonderful possibilities because of something inside of himself that he could control.

Ginny held his gaze for a moment, and a flicker of concern passed over her face before she cleared her throat and looked away from him. As they had previously discovered, their mental and emotional connection to one another was gone. But Harry no longer needed such a thing to connect with Ginny, and he believed she felt the same.

He put his hand on her cheek and said, 'I'm okay.' It was perhaps the first time he'd ever said those words and meant them. Her eyes met his again and he knew that she understood.

Ron and Hermione came in. 'Benson said he'll be bringing you another potion in about an hour,' said Hermione.

Harry shrugged. He used to hate taking potions at Hogwarts, mostly because of the horrible taste. But he would take anything, no matter how vile it tasted, if it allowed him to leave this bed and go home soon. He wanted to see all of his loved ones. He wanted to have a giant party outside, right in the open, because they never again had to worry about being attacked by another Death Eater operating under Voldemort's orders.

Something occurred to Harry. He'd been awake all day and nobody other than Ginny, Ron and Hermione had seen him. He didn't expect everyone to drop everything to come visit him, and truthfully he was grateful for the chance to be alone with just Ginny and his friends for a little while, but at the same time, he thought he really could use a big hug from Mrs Weasley right about now.

'Why hasn't anyone else stopped in?' said Harry. 'I mean, I know I'm not supposed to have a lot of visitors until I'm better, but I'd like to see them all.'

Ron and Hermione exchanged looks. Ginny pursed her lips. 'Let's get you healthy enough to get out of here, and then we'll go from there, okay?' suggested Ginny.

Something didn't feel right. He was so used to always expecting the worst that he couldn't even tell if he was just paranoid or if this was a time to be genuinely worried. 'What's going on?' he asked.

'Don't worry about that right now,' Ginny said soothingly. It was clear they were hiding something. He didn't like her talking to him as though he was a child, as though he was stupid.

'Tell me,' he said angrily. 'What is it?'

'Harry,' Hermione said slowly. But Harry was through with being kept in the dark.

'Why can't I see anyone else?' he demanded.

'Let's wait for a Healer to check you out again before –'

'No!' Harry erupted. 'Someone had better tell me what's going on right now. Why won't you let me see anyone else besides you three?'

Ron didn't look at him as he spoke. 'Because there isn't anyone else but us, mate,' he said. 'Not still alive, anyway.'


I was thirteen when I posted the first chapter to this. I never could've imagined that this story would span from a few days after HBP was released to today, two days before the release of DH. As of this moment, this story has achieved half a million hits and more than three thousand reviews. You wouldn't even believe me if I told you all of the ways this story was supposed to pan out … this result is nothing like my original plan (which was only fifteen chapters long)! It took me exactly two years and now that it's done, I have no clue what to do next when it comes to writing for Harry Potter. But I'm only fifteen, so I'd like to think I've got a lot of time to figure out my next move.

I'll say it right now: I will never, ever, ever write a sequel to this

NOW PLEASE REVIEW. To everyone who has done it even once, thank you. If you've just read and never reviewed before – I know it's a pain and I know it doesn't seem important, but the minute it'll take you to write a sentence or two is absolutely nothing compared to the two years it took me to actually write the story. I've read every comment I've ever gotten, so do it even if you only want to criticize me or say this wasn't worth your time.

Thank you for everything. I hope everyone enjoys Deathly Hallows … and I don't know about the rest of you, but I've got my fingers crossed that Harry dies.

– pinkdigi.