Ginny woke up the next morning cold and alone. Shivering, she pulled the duvet that had been kicked to the foot of the bed during the night up to her chin and looked around the room for a sign of Harry. She sighed and closed her eyes after confirming that she was completely alone. She wasn't sure what was going on with Harry, and she wasn't sure she wanted to know. She was terrified that he had decided he no longer cared for her, now that he didn't need her to care for him. Even though she knew in her heart that he loved her, she couldn't fight her insecurities. She felt a flutter of panic in her heart every time she thought about it.

Sitting up in bed, Ginny threw her legs over the side and reached for her dressing gown. She padded to the bathroom to try and make herself feel a little more human. Afterwards she found the bag Harry had packed for her and changed into a pair of jeans and a jumper. She had just pulled her hair back into a ponytail when there was a knock on the door.

"Tonks!" Ginny exclaimed after she opened the door. "What are you doing here?" Ginny paused and then started to panic. "Where's Harry? Is he okay?"

"I'm not sure," Tonks replied, her confusion showing. "I thought you might want to go out and celebrate this morning… You know, show off some."

Ginny frowned. "Celebrate and show off what?"

Tonks bit her lip before smiling brightly. "Your successful party, of course. And the fact that as of today you and Harry don't have Auror escorts anymore. We're going to show off the newfound free you!"

Ginny couldn't help but smile at the thought of having her freedom back. "I'd love to go shopping… I just wish I knew where Harry disappeared to this morning."

"No worries," Tonks replied. "I'm sure he's fine. He probably had an errand to run or something, and didn't want to wake you."

"If you say so," she sighed. "Let me grab my cloak and then we can go."

"Brilliant," Tonks said, leaning against the door frame.

A few minutes later, the two witches were strolling together down the streets of Hogsmeade. Ginny couldn't help but feel like people were staring at her as they walked, and she tried her hardest to write it off as her increasing paranoia.

"Ginny," Tonks said out of the corner of her mouth. "Why are all of these people staring at us?"

Breathing a sigh of relief, Ginny shrugged. "No clue, I thought I was imagining it."

"No, they are definitely staring," Tonks replied. "I know I'm a radiant bride to be, but this is ridiculous. Wait right here." Tonks walked away from a protesting Ginny and over to two witches standing close together on the street corner. Ginny watched them have a brief conversation, and then it looked like Tonks was struggling with them over something. Finally, Tonks appeared to be victorious and she walked back to where Ginny was waiting.

Ginny could tell by the way Tonks was walking that whatever it was, was bad. "Just tell me, whatever it is," she said through gritted teeth. Tonks reluctantly handed Ginny a magazine. Laughing nervously, she took it. "What kind of rubbish has Witch Weekly published this time?" Her jaw dropped as she saw a picture of herself on the cover, kissing Harry, under the title: Boy Who Lived, Living with Slag? "Oh my…"

Unable to keep her morbid curiosity at bay, Ginny flipped the magazine open to the story.

Boy Who Lived, Living with Slag

An expose by Valerie Valkryie

i It has come to the attention of this reporter that England's most eligible bachelor is no longer on the market. Last night at the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade, one Harry Potter threw an early Christmas party with his significant other, Ginevra Weasley. The two have been together for an unknown amount of time; however it is important that the reader notes that Miss Weasley was the team manager for the English Nation team. That position forbids the romantic involvement with any of the players, and Mr. Potter was unconscious for approximately a month after England's departure from the World Cup.

It seems that Miss Weasley has found herself above the rules of common decency in the past, so we would not put her above doing it currently. Apparently, Miss Weasley had a reputation of sleeping around while attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I've spoken to several of the young men she went out with while at Hogwarts, all of which have two things in common: they wouldn't like to be named, and they all claimed to have slept with Miss Weasley.

One has to ask, does the boy who lived deserve better? Harry Potter has been rumored to be romantically linked with muggle-born Hermione Ganger in the past, and he was still living with her before he joined the World Cup team. Did Miss Weasley steal Mr. Potter away from his girlfriend as she did with so many boys in her past/i

"I can't believe this," Ginny whispered, letting the magazine drop the ground.

"Its rubbish, all of it," Tonks assured her, putting her arm around her shoulders. "Come on; let's get you back to the Burrow and away from all these nosey witches."

Ginny nodded her head and wiped a stray tear from her cheek. She wished she knew where Harry was. She could use the company of someone who loved her.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Ginny had no idea how her day continued to keep getting worse. Tonks had dropped her off at the Burrow so she could try to find Harry, and for five peaceful minutes it looked like things were going to be okay. Five peaceful minutes before her brothers started showing up. She was currently sitting at the kitchen table, her head resting on it, while her brothers continued to debate about her life like she wasn't there.

"I say we round up all the blokes Ginny went out with at Hogwarts until someone confesses," Fred said, slamming his fist on the table.

"She did go out with a lot of blokes," George pointed out.

Ginny angrily picked her head up from the table and glared at George. "Are you accusing me of something? Do you actually believe any of this rubbish?"

"Well," George began, shifting uncomfortably in his seat, "none of us were exactly innocent while we were at Hogwarts… And you did just admit that the article was right about you living with Harry. You could have told us about that, you know."

"What, and face this lovely inquisition? No thanks," she replied bitterly, dropping her head back on the table.

"I think we all just need to calm down," Charlie said evenly. "What's important is that Ginny's name is being dragged through the mud, and her relationship with Harry is wide out in the open now."

"Thank you," Ginny said, glad someone was getting the point.

"The truth isn't what's important," Charlie added.

"Charlie!" Ginny exclaimed.

"That's not what I meant," he stammered. "I just meant what you do is your business, not ours."

"I'm not a slag!" Ginny screamed. "I had some fun in school with a couple of different blokes, is that a crime?"

"Hey, I was at school at the same time as you, and I never heard any kind of rumor about you," Ron agreed. "I think this is just someone trying to get to Harry again. That Valerie woman is just constantly going after him."

"Did you talk to Padma about it?" Ginny asked.

"She was already at work when I found out this morning," he replied.

"I bet she'd know who was behind it," Fred mused.

"Well, I'm sure I know who talked to the press," Luna said airily as she walked into the room.

"Where'd you come from?" Charlie asked.

"My house. All of the Ravenclaw boys talked about you all the time," Luna continued as if she were talking about the weather. "You were quite popular with them… When I asked why, they laughed and said you threw a good slumber party. I always wondered why you didn't invite me to one of your slumber parties when we lived so close."

"I can't believe this," Ginny groaned. "Luna, why didn't you ever say anything?"

"I mentioned something to Neville once, but he just blushed and said that Dean thought the same thing," she replied, sitting down next to Ginny at the table. "I asked if Ron ever went to your slumber parties, and he said Ron and Harry didn't know about them. I guess now I know why."

"Luna, I never slept with any of those blokes!" Ginny exclaimed. Her eyes went wide as the cause of Harry's odd behavior suddenly dawned on her. "He couldn't believe all of them… He knows me better than that… He wouldn't…"

"I'm going to kill him for deserting you," Ron muttered. "And then I'm going to go and kill every last bloke you went out with."

"That's not going to solve anything," Charlie said, putting a restraining hand on Ron's shoulder. "At least give Harry a chance to explain why he's gone missing."

"Maybe he just had an errand to run," George suggested.

Fred gave George a sideways glance before lowering his voice. "Then why didn't he do it last night?"

"We were busy last night," Ginny sighed. "The party was taking up all of our time, not to mention appointments with healers, constant Auror guards, I could go on…"

"I still want to know why you felt like you had to lie to us about your living together," Fred said.

All of Ginny's emotions were finally too much for her to handle. She felt like a volcano had erupted inside of her. "Because it wasn't your business! I think it's time for all of you to leave! I'm a big girl, I can handle myself, my business, and my boyfriend. If I want your help, I'll ask for it!"

"Sheesh, we were just trying to help," George said as everyone refused to make eye contact with Ginny.

"Just leave," she sighed. "If he's not back in a few minutes, I'm going to go out and find him myself." She stood up and walked over to the backdoor, holding it open for all of them to walk out. She shut the door behind them, not failing to notice that they had congregated in the backyard. She decided that as long as they weren't inside bothering her, she didn't care what they were up to.

"Hey."

Ginny whipped around and was faced with Harry. He looked like he hadn't slept, and he refused to look at her face.

"I'll just leave you two alone," Tonks said awkwardly.

"Charlie's in the backyard," Ginny replied, not taking her eyes off of Harry. As soon as the door shut and Tonks was gone, Ginny couldn't hold anything in any longer. "So you believe what some reporter said about me, is that it? Do you think so little of me? Do you think I'm some slag?"

"No!" Harry exclaimed, bringing his gaze off the floor. "I love you," he added quietly.

Ginny crossed her arms over her chest. "Then why did you run away from me?"

"I just needed some time to think! All of those blokes you went out with at Hogwarts cornered me last night… saying things about you… asking how our sex life was… I was mortified when they all laughed at me when I said we hadn't slept together yet. They said you were the bike everyone had ridden."

"Why didn't you come talk to me about it?" Ginny asked, almost completely blinded by her fury.

"That would have been a fun conversation," Harry said sarcastically before sighing. "I don't know. I kept thinking about every time you went out with someone new. All the weird things people would say that didn't make sense at the time. For Merlin's sake, even Neville thought it was true! He said he just didn't have the heart to tell me or Ron."

Ginny lost all control and she slammed her fists into the table. It felt like the entire world was against her. It was bad enough that her friends thought she was a slag, but Harry? It was more than she could bear. She felt Harry try to put his arms around her, and she shrugged them off. She turned around and pushed his chest.

"How could you?" she asked angrily.

"I'm so sorry," he said as he tried to take a step closer to her. "I shouldn't have listened to them. But it was all of them, not just one. I just didn't know what to think, so I needed some time to myself. I was an idiot, I should have come directly to you," he whispered, running his hands through her hair.

Ginny closed the distance between them and buried her head in his shoulder. "You have no idea how much this hurt me."

"I might."

She pulled back and looked into his eyes. "How so?"

"When you believed I was with Hermione… it destroyed me."

"So is this my punishment? You don't trust me now?" she asked in disbelief. "I thought we were past all of that, Harry. How many times do I have to say I'm sorry?"

"No! That's not what I meant! I was only trying to say that I understood how you felt," Harry said desperately. "I love you, Ginny. I would have still come back to you even if all of this was true. I just needed some time to sort through my emotions."

Ginny pulled away from Harry's grasp and looked him in the eyes. A sudden wave of calm overwhelmed her, and she realized how much of her life was wrapped around Harry. It was as if someone had turned on a light inside her head. She realized that she had to do something for herself, something that didn't revolve around Harry. "Then you'll understand that I'll need sometime to sort through this," she said cautiously.

Fear shot through Harry's eyes. "Are you, are you breaking up with me?"

"No," she replied slowly. "But I think it might do us good to spend some time apart. Your Healers say you're doing better than ever, so I think we can afford to spend a few nights away from each other."

"Can I see you?" he asked shakily.

"Of course," she replied, forcing a smile. "We just won't spend quite as much time together. I need to think about some things, figure out what I want to do with my life. Get a job," she added with a foreign chuckle. She felt like someone else was saying the words, but she knew that it was what needed to be done.

"Why do I feel like things will never be the same after this?" Harry asked quietly.

"Because they'll be better," she replied, kissing his cheek gently. "I'm going to go lay down in my room. I'll owl you tomorrow." Ginny walked to the steps before pausing and turning around. "I wouldn't go out the back if I were you."

"Okay," Harry said softly. "Gin, I love you. Please don't forget that."

"I love you too, Harry," she replied with a sad smile. She turned her back to Harry and began her trek up the stairs.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Ginny spent the next two days around the Burrow, thinking about what she wanted to do with her life. She and Harry exchanged owls and ate lunch together, but Ginny was having a hard time explaining to him exactly what she was going through. She knew she loved Harry, and she knew she wanted to be with him. She just wasn't sure if she was ready to settle down with him. She had been miserable for so long before they had gotten together that it felt like he was her only reason for happiness. She needed to be able to make herself happy. She needed to get a job.

She and Harry had eaten breakfast together that morning in celebration of his first Quidditch practice since the Cup. He was worried about what was going to happen, after talking to Jeff, but Ginny had tried to do her best to calm him down. The breakfast for Ginny, however, had just been another reminder that her life revolved around Harry. She was there to support him, but she didn't even have anything going on in her life that she needed support for. She was tired of debating about what she wanted to do with her life; she determined that she would go out the next day and start her job search, no matter what. The thought of going out in the public after the article was a scary one, but Ginny decided that she could hold her head high and ignore the whispers.

Ginny had also given a lot of thought to her relationship with Harry. She realized she couldn't blame him for her dependence on him… It wasn't his fault. She didn't want him to feel like she was punishing him for her own indecision about her life, so was going to surprise him with a romantic night after his Quidditch practice. She wasn't going to dwell on it, but if things went well, it might be a very big night for them.

During a time of so much confusion in her life, the only thing that was certain to Ginny was that she wanted to be with Harry. She just had to find the balance between her own life and her life with Harry. She was going to try and support him like she did before the article came out. She smiled as she thought about not sleeping alone anymore. She had missed waking up in Harry's arms.

"Morning sweetheart," Arthur said as he walked into the kitchen, bringing Ginny back to reality.

"Morning Dad," Ginny replied. "Shouldn't you be at work by now?"

"I'm taking a late morning," he replied. "How was your breakfast with Harry?"

"Fine," Ginny sighed. "He was really nervous about his practice today. I'm hoping he'll be done by about lunch time so he can let me know how it went."

"I'm sure it'll be fine," her father assured her, placing a kiss on the top of her head. "Have you reached any decisions?"

Ginny smiled. "Two, actually. I've decided that spending time away from Harry is just silly and counter productive, and that I'm going to face the world tomorrow and begin my job search."

"Good. I think it's time you moved on from this whole fiasco," Arthur replied. "I think you're making very mature decisions. Any ideas on job leads?"

"Well, I wouldn't mind finding another job with a Quidditch team," Ginny mused. "Or maybe something in Charlie's department at the Ministry."

"I'm sure people will be lining up to give you a job. Does this mean you'll be moving in with Harry full time?" he asked.

"If he'll have me," she replied. "Keeping up the charade just seems silly at this point."

Arthur patted her shoulder and sighed. "Well, I'm not thrilled about it, but I'll support you. You need to take all of the stress out of your life."

"Trust me, I know. I'm ready for my magic to calm back down." Ginny paused and began to use her best healer impersonation. "But, for that to happen I have to get rid of the stress in my life."

"That's my girl," Arthur smiled. "Now, I'm off to work before I'm even later."

"Bye Dad." Ginny watched her father apparate and tried to imagine herself holding a normal job like everyone else. She hated that she'd been mooching off of people since the end of the World Cup. She had a little money saved, but not enough to support herself. Ginny was determined not to go from being supported by her father to being supported by Harry. It all came back down to needing to figure out what she wanted to do with her life.

She stood up from the kitchen table and began to tidy up. She was going to have to talk to her father and Ron about keeping a clean house once she officially moved out. Of course, Ron hadn't really been sleeping at the house much. Ginny had to wonder if he and Padma would get married. It wouldn't surprise her if Padma already had the invitations, but she wasn't sure if Ron was ready. Padma was his first real relationship since Hermione, and Ginny was almost positive he still had feelings for Hermione. The devious part of her mind wanted to send Padma away for a month so Ron and Hermione could reconnect.

Putting up the clean dishes that were sitting on the counter, Ginny thought about how far she'd come since Hermione had first ventured down the path of motherhood. She was no longer jealous of the time Harry spent with Hermione and Lily. In fact, she thought she may have spent more time with them than Harry. Even while she was stressed out over Harry's recovery, she regularly had lunch with them. Ginny had realized how much she'd missed having a girl friend, and was glad to have Hermione back.

"Ginny? Are you home?" a frantic voice called from the living room.

Fear struck through Ginny's heart as she rushed towards the fireplace. Tonks's head was sticking out of the fireplace, and Ginny flew down to her knees next to her.

"What's wrong? Is it Harry?" she asked quickly.

"There was an attack on the Magpies' Quidditch pitch this morning. I wasn't assigned to go out there, and there haven't been any reported injuries so far. I just thought you'd want to know."

A hundred different possibilities of ways Harry was hurt flew through Ginny's mind. Struggling not to freak out, Ginny took a deep breath. "Will they be bringing the team into the Ministry or letting them go home?"

"I'm not sure, but stay home for now and I'll let you know when I know anything else," Tonks replied. "I just wanted to let you know."

"Thanks, I appreciate it," Ginny replied.

"I'm sure everything will be fine," Tonks said reassuringly. "It'll take a lot more than an attack on a Quidditch pitch to bring Harry down."

"Bloody right it will," Harry said, walking into the room.

Ginny scrambled up from the floor and flung herself into Harry's arms. "Are you okay? What happened?"

"I'm fine, I promise. Bloody junior Death Eaters on brooms. They were only there long enough to scare everybody. If you ask me, they were trying to send me a message," he replied, stroking her back comfortingly. "Come on, let's sit down and I'll really fill you in." Harry led her over to the sofa and held her hands in his own.

"Why do I have the feeling this is about more than moronic Death Eaters?" Ginny asked shakily.

Harry shook his head. "It's so much more than moronic Death Eaters."

"Should I be nervous?" she asked.

"I don't think so… You may even find the situation humorous," he replied.

"Well, go ahead, the suspense is killing me," she chuckled nervously.

"I guess it started this morning in our meeting. I have to say it was all I could do to keep from slapping the smug look off of Jeff's face when he walked in. I knew he knew what was up, and I wanted to pound it out of him," Harry said with a grimace.

"Please tell me you didn't," Ginny groaned.

"I didn't," he replied with a grin. "I knew that I was about to find out what was up, and I didn't want to get kicked out of the meeting."

"Good. So what happened?"

"You're never going to believe this," Harry said shaking his head.

"Well you'll never know until you tell me," Ginny replied, growing impatient.

"Guess who walked into the room."

"Who?"

"Draco Malfoy."

Ginny's jaw dropped to the floor. She was certain that she had misheard Harry. "You've got to be kidding me."

"Nope. Apparently, he bought the team."

"No!" she gasped.

"Yep. He bought the team, then made the trade for Jeff," Harry replied with a sour look on his face. "Sound suspicious at all?"

Ginny shook her head in disbelief. "I can't believe it. He's been in cahoots with Malfoy this whole time?"

"Actually, I don't know," Harry said thoughtfully. "I'm leaning towards they didn't join forces until after we were out of the house. Otherwise, why not take me out when we were living together?"

"It just seems too simple," Ginny said. "And why would Jeff risk his career to help Malfoy? Threatening you to get you to quit was one thing, but the attacks were dangerous, and he was sloppy with them."

"I don't know," he replied, shaking his head.

"And why would Death Eaters attack a team owned by Malfoy? Better yet, why would Malfoy buy a team with you on it? Does he just want to make your life hell?" Ginny wondered.

"I wish I had answers for you, Gin," Harry sighed. "Right now all I have is more questions."

"You can't work for Malfoy," Ginny said.

"It's not that simple," he argued. "It's too late for me to be traded to another team, and I don't want to sit out the season. I'm tired of being restricted."

"But you can't work for him! You'd be coming in contact with Jeff and Malfoy everyday! If they still want to hurt you, and it's looking pretty obvious that they do, you'd be delivering yourself to them on a daily basis!" she exclaimed, throwing her hands in the air. "You must have suffered some kind of injury during the attack because you've obviously lost your mind."

Harry stood up from the couch and began to pace in front of the fireplace. "How can you of all people not understand why I can't just not work?"

"What are you saying?" Ginny asked, jumping up from the couch. "Please stop pacing," she said impatiently. When Harry kept moving across the room Ginny stepped in front of his path to force him to stop. "Harry, I'm trying to talk to you!"

"I'm sorry if I have a lot on my mind right now," he replied sarcastically. "I don't need to hear you nagging me about working for Malfoy."

Ginny pushed Harry's chest, hoping the gesture would knock some sense into him. "Will you listen to yourself? Working for Malfoy? Do you honestly think that's a good idea? Forgive me if I don't want have to spend the rest of this year worrying about you like I've done for the past few months!"

"Sorry to be such a burden on you," Harry retorted. "Forgive me if some of us can't just be happy sitting around not doing anything all the time!"

Ginny saw red. "You know I've not been happy not working," she said, her voice quivering. "You know what this time apart has been about."

"You, Ginny. It's all been about you! Screw what anyone else needs or wants!"

Before she even knew what she was doing, Ginny's palm made contact with Harry's cheek. "My life has been about nothing but you since we've been together."

With his cheek still red with the imprint of Ginny's hand, his expression softened. "Gin, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it," he began but Ginny cut him off.

"No, Harry. Not this time. I'm tired of your excuses. I was ready to put this separation behind us, ready to really begin our time together as a real couple. I thought I was punishing you for something that was just in my mind, but this has proven to me that you care about yourself way more than you care about me."

"You don't understand," Harry pleaded.

Ginny shook her head sadly. "I understand that you love me. I understand that I love you. But what you don't understand is that I'm not happy with my life right now. I thought that I could be happy just being with you, and that hasn't really worked out. I thought that I could be happy living with you and trying to find myself, but that didn't really work out either."

"I thought we were happy together," Harry said quietly. "I thought I made you happy."

"That's just it," Ginny replied exasperatedly. "You're the only thing that makes me happy, and we just don't seem to be on the same page right now."

"So what are you saying?" he asked.

Ginny crossed her arms over her chest and sighed. "I don't know, Harry. I just don't know."

"So we're right back where we started?"

Before Ginny could reply a large Eagle owl began tapping on the window. Harry walked over and took the letter that the owl was carrying. He quickly read the letter and snorted before crumpling it up and throwing it across the room.

"What was that?" Ginny asked softly.

"Owl from Malfoy. Apparently I've been kicked off the team for being a danger to my teammates and myself. If this owl had come thirty minutes ago none of this would have happened," he replied bitterly.

"This may have been inevitable," Ginny sighed. "I wish I had a simple answer for you… No one ever said life was going to be simple."

"Do you need space? Just don't cut me out. I'll do anything you need," Harry pleaded with her.

"I don't want anything to come between us, Harry. I didn't ever imagine it would come to anything like this. I can't imagine my life without you," she said quietly.

"But?"

"But for whatever reason, we're not on the same page right now. I'm not ending us. I could never end us," she continued, "but I need to figure out what I want out of my life. I've put you first for so long…"

"Gin, I don't need anything right now but you. I'm currently unemployed, I'm financially secure, I'm yours… Just tell me what you need from me," Harry pleaded.

Ginny took a deep breath. "Tomorrow morning, I'm going to go out and start my job search. In a few days, we'll do dinner after we've both had time to think and clear our minds. The last thing we need to do is make any irrational, emotional decisions."

"Sounds fair enough," Harry replied. He walked towards her and pulled he body close. "I love you, Gin. I'm sorry if I've been selfish, or taken too much from you without giving anything back."

"I'm sorry I'm being so crazy right now," Ginny added. "I don't know what's wrong with me. If I was being sensible, I'd grab hold of you and never let you go."

"You're going to have to do a lot more than this to get rid of me," he assured her. "I love you."

"No matter how messed up my mind is right now, I could never forget how much I love you," Ginny assured him. As Harry turned to leave the Burrow, Ginny fought her instinct to go grab him and make him stay. She didn't know if she was making the worst decision of her life, or the best. Either way, she had a feeling she was about to find out.