The young women paused in the doorway, turned back around and took one last, long look at the apartment behind her. It was completely empty now and she allowed herself one more moment of nostalgia, soaking in the echoes of a thousand after -dinner conversations, a million peals of laughter, and the peace that washed over her every time she had stepped in the doorway of her Paris home. It wasn't very big but it was charming and she had treasured every solitary inch of it. Whenever she thought about another tenant living here, putting different pictures on the white plaster walls, throwing different rugs down on the polished wood floors, and arranging new furniture in the sun filled rooms, when she had spent so long getting everything just right, her heart clenched.
She had by chance already met the new tenant two weeks ago. She'd been on her way out of the front door to meet some friends at the nightclub three blocks away. They were celebrating the end of their senior exams at the university they attended and she was running late beyond the agreed upon hook-up time. Her landlord had stopped her in the lobby of the old house where the woman owned four other apartments and introduced her to a petite girl with soft blond-hair and a hopeful look on her face. Her heart had gone out to the woman as she was reminded her of herself four years ago when she had first come to this city. Wide-eyed and searching but older than she looked. Nothing and everything had surprised her back then. When you've survived the imminent threat of mass destruction, you can pretty much put up with anything.
With a final sigh, the woman turned back around to face the hallway, picked up the canvas satchel at her feet and settled the long strap diagonally across her chest. She had already sent the rest of her things ahead and all that was left was for her to make her way to the Paris International Portkey office. She was glad she had chosen to leave this way. No big fanfare, just a final walk through the neighborhood that had been her home the past four years. She paused outside on the sidewalk, her waist length red hair swinging with the sudden halt, and took a final sniff of the familiar air. It was 7:30 a.m. and the local shops were just beginning to open. She could smell the bread baking at the bakery shop four doors down and the first whiffs of petrol as Mr. Zamir from across the street started his automobile–the only car on the block. She heard the familiar sounds of Jean Paul setting up his newsstand for the day and the tingling of the bicycle bells as young boys raced by her on their way to the local muggle school.
It was Paris in October–the air was crisp and the leaves were a mix of oranges, yellows and red. It was her favorite time of the year in France and now she wouldn't be there to enjoy it. On the other hand, she reflected, her high heel boots making rhythmic clicking noises on the sidewalk as she walked to the portkey office, perhaps it was best that she was leaving at such a high point of the year. She would always have this last morning in Paris when everything seemed right in the world. The next few months were going to be difficult, she knew that, but this last morning of peace might sustain her.
"And," she whispered to herself, "I could always come back if it gets too tough."
But she knew that was a lie. She wouldn't come back. She had run here four years ago, looking desperately for something she could sense she had lost and had indulged herself.
For once she had chosen to think about herself instead of her family and friends, instead of those she loved, and jumped at the chance to attend the 4-year Wizarding University that had offered her a scholarship to study transfiguration and charms. She had surprised everyone with her decision. She was the youngest of seven children and six older brothers had overshadowed most her life's attempts to stand out.
Her mother had been almost hysterical when she had announced she was moving to France and her brothers had expressed confusion but her father had stood in the background waiting for the protests to quiet down before saying,
"Is this what you want? You've thought this through?"
"Yes," she had said, looking him in the eye and willing him to see the reasons in her own eyes. "I've thought about it. I really need to do this."
"But why?" her mother had wailed. "Everything is just starting to come back together! Why would you leave now?"
She had opened her mouth to reply but her oldest brother had stepped up behind her and laid a hand on her shoulder, silencing her.
"I think we all know why," he had said to his mother. "It's time for her to do things herself."
Now, as she quickened her steps to cross the street busy with early morning traffic, she remembered the look of understanding in her brother's eyes. It shouldn't have surprised her that he understood--he had always understood. He was almost 10 years older than her and had been the only brother who had ever "got her."
With a snap back to reality, she arrived at the office and took one last final check of her watch. Her portkey left in 10 minutes. She just had time to sign the paperwork before grabbing on to whatever piece of muggle junk the office had decided to use today.
Ten minutes later, after some furiously signed paperwork and two screaming children whose mother looked stressed beyond belief, the portkey activated. With a thump, the passengers landed in another office that looked remarkably similar to the one in Paris. She knew it was different though. She could tell by the pinched looks on the office worker's faces, the ruthless efficiency with which her paperwork was processed and by the unfamiliar smells as she opened the door and stepped outside into the autumn air.
For better or worse, Ginny Weasley had returned to England.
Two-hundred miles away, in a rambling and teetering farmhouse outside Ottery St. Catchpole, Molly Weasley was beside herself with anticipation. It was 8 a.m. and she was humming merrily to herself as she gathered ingredients for a breakfast so large it was sure to strain the trestles underneath the scarred, wooden tabletop it would rest on when she was finished. Her youngest child and only daughter was returning home today after a four-year absence. It had been over a year since they had last seen Ginny.
Although Ginny had never stepped foot in England the entire four years she had lived in Paris, her parents and brothers had made occasional trips to visit her. The wizarding world was still putting itself back together after the war that had threatened to destroy them and it had taken almost two years before people felt like traveling outside of England. Once they relaxed, the Weasley family had taken full advantage of visiting their only daughter and sister in France.
Molly stopped whipping pancake batter long enough to remember the first time they had visited Ginny in Paris. It had been springtime and over a year since they had seen her. When the portkey had stopped swirling, Molly had turned to find her daughter and barely managed to stifle a gasp. Her baby girl was gorgeous and the Paris spring air seemed to caress her skin as Ginny stood up to welcome them. She had grown a bit taller but she was still petite with waist length red hair that shimmered in the Paris sun. Her large brown eyes, which had been haunted for the past six years, were bright and laughing and the strain that had shown on her face before she had left England was smoothed away.
Ginny was happy, Molly had recognized with no small amount of shock, and she had vowed to herself then and there that she wouldn't say another word about her only daughter living so far from home.
Now, as she turned to the stove to fry the pancakes, she couldn't help but make all sorts of grandiose plans of what she would do with her baby girl when she finally arrived in England.
"You're making big plans again aren't you?" a voice said behind her. Molly turned around with narrowed eyes to glare at her husband.
"So what if I am?" she asked. "It's been so long Arthur, a mother can't help it!"
Arthur snapped his newspaper flat, folded it shut on the table and stood up. He was tall and lanky and even though his bright red hair was thinning on top and a small pouch was developing on his stomach, he still took Molly's breath away when she looked into his kind eyes that, at the moment, seemed to be filled with laughter. He stepped around the table to stand it front of her and put his hands on her upper arms. His eyes searched her face for a moment and then his arms slid around her shoulders to bring her into his embrace. Her arms automatically came up around his waist and she buried her face in his chest, breathing past the lump in her throat.
"I know Molly," he murmured. "I can't help imagining either. It's been so long…" his voice trailed off as Molly pulled back and wiped her eyes on her apron.
"Well," she smiled shakily, "we'll she what she wants to do and then go from there. I'm sure she'll want to stick around for a few days anyway!" With that optimistic thought, Molly turned back to the stove and began humming again as she prepared her daughter's favorite breakfast.
His wife was probably setting herself up for disappointment, Arthur mused as he walked to the front door and stepped out onto the front porch. She was so excited about Ginny returning home and she was trying to remember that Ginny was an adult now who would probably move right back out of her parent's house as soon as she got there but she couldn't help her hopeful plans that involved Ginny spending the next 10 months living with them.
The truth was, Arthur admitted to himself, he was just as excited as his wife. He didn't hold any illusions about how long Ginny would stay with them, but his heart seemed to swell every time he thought about his little girl sleeping in her old room and sitting at the kitchen table on a regular basis. Ginny had always been a Daddy's girl and it had been extra hard for Arthur to support her decision to attend the Paris Wizarding University even though he had been the voice of reason at the time.
The night she had announced her intention to leave, after everyone had come to terms with the fact that she was serious, Ginny had stepped out onto the front porch where her father had been smoking a pipe, trying not dwell on the memories when he had taken her small hand in his to help her down the front porch steps when she was child.
"Daddy?" she had asked.
"Yes pumpkin?" he said, holding out his hand for her to take. She slipped her still small hand into his and he pulled on it to sit her down next to him on the porch swing. They rocked in silence for a moment, Ginny curled up in his embrace before he cleared his throat and said, "I know we've already talked about this, but I want to make sure, are you doing this for the right reasons?"
"What do you mean?" She replied innocently but Arthur thought he detected certain wariness in her voice. He was silent a moment longer, organizing his thoughts before slowly saying, "I just don't want you to have made this decision because you are running away."
"Running away from what?" she had asked in a low voice before pulling back from him and looking down at her hands twisting in her lap. His arm that had slipped from around her shoulders as she pulled away, landed with a small thump on the back of the porch swing.
He hesitated again, not sure if he should just come right out and say it, not wanting to scare her off when he desperately needed this moment with her.
"Running away from him," he finally answered. There was a pause, an intake of breath and Arthur waited for her to turn on him for having the audacity to bring this up.
After a moment, Ginny's shoulders slumped and tensed again as she stood up from the porch swing and walked over to the porch railing, leaning her hip against a column and gazing out into the moonlight-patterned yard.
"I suppose that is part of it," she said, and he could hear the quiet honesty in her voice. "But if I don't leave now, when I have this chance, I don't know if I'll ever get another one and I can't stay here and just watch while he…while the world goes on again."
She turned towards him; her eyes that had seen too much in her 17 years on this earth filled with unshed tears and took a deep breath.
"I know it sounds clichéd but I don't know who I am anymore. Most of my life, I've been teetering on the edge of what I am and what I thought I wanted and now that what I wanted isn't what I have, I need to accept that and move on."
She walked back over to him and kneeled in front of him, her hands gripping his knees with urgency.
"I need you to understand this Dad. It's not that I'm running away, it's that I know there is something inside of me that is removed from the life I have here and every part of me, including the part tied up with him, is screaming at me to go find it."
Arthur had set aside his pipe and took Ginny's hands from his knees, holding them in his hands.
"I know," he told her. "I've known for a long time that you would find a way to do something like this. And I came to terms with that long ago."
He leaned forward, resting his forehead on her and closing his eyes. "You've made decisions that I wish you never would have had to make," he had said quietly. "You've got more gumption, intelligence, power and bravery in your pinky finger than any other witch I know. If anyone can do this, it's you. I believe in you and I trust your judgment."
Ginny had let out a quiet sob and thrown her arms around her father. "Thank you," she whispered. "Thank you for understanding."
Arthur had hugged her back, tightly as if she was going to slip away that very moment. "I'm so proud of you pumpkin," he had said, dropping a kiss on the crown of her head.
Ginny leaned back and smiled at him, "Help mum with that okay?" she'd asked cheekily.
He had chuckled lightly and reached up a hand to smooth back her hair.
"I'll do my best but she's your mother and she has a right to worry about her children. Especially after all the trouble you've gotten into the past few years."
"Hey!" Ginny had protested. "I don't go looking for it…it just…it finds me," she had finished lamely. They had laughed quietly together and Arthur had given her once last hug before they stepped back inside to go to bed.
Four years later, Arthur stood on the same porch, his ears tuned for the soft sound of apparation that would signal Ginny's arrival.
She had done what she set out to do, he thought to himself. Ginny hadn't wanted to forget, she had just wanted to learn how to live with the memories and nightmares and vanished dreams. And while he was sad she had to move so far away in order to do so, he knew it had been the only answer at the time. It had cost her, he reflected. She had missed out on the weddings of her brothers, births of nephews and at some point, all of the Weasley brothers had needed reminding of why their sister was in a self-imposed exile. But she was strong—she would find a way back in.
He was startled out of his reflections by the sound of bubble popping behind him.
"Daddy," a voice breathed.
And Arthur Weasley turned around with open arms to welcome his youngest child home.
The early morning sun peaked through a slit in the heavy drapes and cut through the darkness in the bedroom of a wizard's house in downtown London. There was a stirring, a rustling of covers and the quiet rhythmic breathing that returned for a few more moments. Without warning, a sudden blaring pierced the quietness as the clock struck 8 a.m.
Harry Potter pulled his arm out of his tangled covers and flopped it on top of the alarm clock, silencing it. After a few more moments of silence, a groan was heard as Harry buried his face in his pillow. He really didn't want to get out of bed. He had tossed and turned for hours before falling asleep in the wee hours of the morning, his mind finally shutting down the memories that had insisted on replaying over and over in his head.
With a loud sigh, he rolled over onto his side, threw back the covers and stood up, scratching at his bare chest with one hand and rubbing his head with the other. His black hair, always messy and the bane of Harry's existence, looked even sillier in the morning after a night full of tossing and turning. He took a few halting steps over to the window and threw back the drapes to let in the morning sun.
He let the brightness glare him for a few minutes hoping it would wake him up. As his eyes adjusted, the reason for his sleepless night returned in full force and his stomach gave a nauseating swooping motion.
Today was the day.
Four years, 1 month and two weeks and today was finally here. He was surprised, actually, that it had come.
After the first 18 years of his life had been spent living in a shadow that threatened to take down the entire wizarding world with it, Harry was not only reluctant to anticipate anything, but pleasantly surprised when the anticipation came to fruition. When he had received Molly Weasley's letter two weeks ago explaining that the youngest Weasley would finally be coming back to England, the memories of why she had left had returned, sending him into a lonely night of drinking trying to stop them.
It hadn't worked, he thought now ruefully, remembering when Ginny's older brother and Harry's best friend Ron had found him, cast a quick sobering charm on him and lectured him strictly on the dangers of drinking alone.
"It's all your own fault anyway," he had told Harry. "You've only yourself to blame."
"I know," Harry had moaned. "That's why I'm drinking."
"Well next time wait for me," Ron had retorted. "I might have some things I'd rather forget too." They had grinned at each other, no words needed to begin the reminiscing of some of their more harrowing adventures.
Harry sat back down on his bed with a thump thankful that, despite how he was sure this day was to turn out, he still had Ron. Ron was one of the few treasured friends who had always stood by him and was with him at the very end of the moment when Harry had finally challenged evil. Ginny had been one of those treasured friends too, Harry thought glumly, before she left to conquer her own world.
He sighed, tamping down the traitorous thoughts that threatened to place blame for her departure elsewhere. It was his own fault-- he knew that. Well, he mused, at least a good bit of it was his fault.
Ginny Weasley was…special. She was the brightest, most powerful star of her family and had surprised them all when she left England to pursue an education elsewhere. No one had expected her to make such a move, least of all Harry who had taken it for granted that she would remain after the war, standing beside him, behind him, sometimes in front of him if he was being honest about it.
He had known how she felt about him since he was 12 years old but it was easy to forget that when she was making it so easy to be just her friend. He hadn't realized how hard she worked at it. And after Voldemort was gone, there had been no reason for her to hide it. Which was, she had explained to him, exactly why she had to leave.
Harry flopped down on his back on the bed, closed his eyes and let the memory of that last conversation wash over him. He didn't like to remember it but just once, he decided, he would relive it.
He sprang up and walked across the room to the wardrobe on the opposite side of the room. He opened the door and pulled out a waist-high pedestal with a basin on top. A silver light was shining from the basin and a gray fog seemed to swirling inside the bowl. It was a pensieve--a magical device that Harry used to siphon off thoughts and memories from his head.
He walked back to his nightstand and grabbed his wand, a long polished piece of holly wood with a Phoenix-feather core and went back to the pensieve. He closed his eyes and allowed the memory of his last conversation with Ginny to come to the front of his thoughts. He put the tip of his wand to his head and slowly pulled it from his temple pulling a silvery piece of gray matter away and dropping it into the basin where it swirled around with the other thoughts. He tossed his wand back to the bed in the center of the room and turned to face the basin.
Harry took a deep breath, preparing himself for the moment he was about to face. He had never done this before with this memory. He had faced countless other memories in this pensieve that would have made grown men whimper but he never allowed himself to view this one. It was too raw, even after four years.
He peered into the swirling fog and saw a bedroom. Slowly he leaned his face forward into the bedroom and fell into the memory. He landed with a thump on the bed, grateful for once that it wasn't the ground or the hard stone floor of Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that he was landing on.
He got off the bed quickly and turned in a slow circle. It was Ginny's room at the Burrow, the Weasley home outside of Ottery St. Catchpole. He had only been in there a few times preferring to hang out in Ron's room on the top floor of the house when he visited. The room was decidedly Ginny, he thought. Pale green walls, white painted furniture, a fluffy white comforter on a neatly made bed but a cluttered desktop and vanity full of Ginny's pictures and things. It was a small room, practical but girly…just like the youngest Weasley. He stopped his circle at the sight of Ginny rummaging in her closet. She gave a quick shout of triumph and turned around with her arms full of clothes and one pair of trainers in her hands. She couldn't see him, he knew and he was free to stare at the 17-year-old Ginny Weasley as she walked over to a large trunk and began forcing the items into the piece of luggage. She was packing, he remembered, for her move and there were boxes and trunks scattered throughout the room. A knock was heard on her door and Harry steeled himself for what he knew was about to happen.
"Come in," Ginny called, now on her knees in front of the trunk, forcing too many things into it.
An 18-year-old Harry opened the door and walked in. He was thin and there were shadows under his eyes that were haunted and sad but looked a little confused at the sight of Ginny packing. He looked slowly around the room taking in all the boxes and turned back to Ginny, now resting back on her heels and looking up at him with a guilty expression on her face.
"What's going on?" his younger self asked slowly. "Why are you packing up all your stuff?"
Ginny looked down at her hands resting on her jean-clad thighs and took a deep breath, steeling herself. She stood up, brushing her hands together and said firmly, "Harry there is something I need to tell you."
"I can see that," he said wryly. "What I'm wondering is why you haven't told me something before."
She walked over to him and took his left hand in hers, dragging him over to the bed and pushing him unceremoniously onto it.
"Wait," she commanded, holding up her hand as he opened his mouth to say something. "I've got something to say and it's going to be very hard for me so I need you to stay completely silent and not ask questions until I'm finished. Can you do that?"
"Okay," he said warily.
"Promise," she insisted.
"I promise," he said, rolling his eyes at her. "What's going on?"
Ginny took another deep breath, crossed her arms protectively in front of her body and looked him in his emerald-green eyes that always swam with so much emotion.
"Harry," she said quickly and breathily, "I'm leaving. I'm moving to Paris and I don't know when I'll be back."
There was silence. Harry sat on the bed dumbstruck at her announcement, his mouth opening and closing with jerky movements.
"Close your mouth Harry," Ginny said, her eyes twinkling, "we are not a goldfish."
"Wha…why?" Harry finally managed to get out.
Ginny's face darkened and she looked down at her bare feet. She was silent for a moment, twisting the big toe of her right foot in a circle on the carpet. She looked up and her eyes were sparkling. The Harry viewing the memory recognized them now as unshed tears although he wasn't sure he remembered knowing that at the time.
"Harry, we've always been friends." she started shakily and then stopped. "No, that's not how I want to do this," she muttered to herself before walking over to sit next to him, taking his hands in hers and twisting him to face her.
"Harry," she said softly, eyes searching his face, "We've never talked about this but I think its time we faced the fact that I…that I…that I have always felt more for you than friendship."
And there it was–the hippogriff in the room they had both ignored for the last three years. Harry had known what she meant. They had never discussed it but her feelings had always been there in the background, subtly influencing everything she did.
The Harry on the bed looked down at their joined hands and squeezed hers gently. He opened his mouth to reply but Ginny quickly freed her hand and put it over his mouth before he could speak.
"No," she said softly, "You promised you would let me speak. Please Harry, I need to get this out." His eyes met hers and he nodded, indicating she could continue.
She let go of his other hand, stood up and walked over to the window next to the bed overlooking the flower garden behind the Burrow. She stayed there and began to speak haltingly, "It feels like I've felt this way my whole life. Even before you rescued me from the Chamber of Secrets, from the moment I saw you on that train platform your first year at Hogwarts, do you remember? You asked my mum how to get on the platform and I wished you 'good luck.'"
Harry nodded to show that he did remember but she continued as if he wasn't there.
"You were so…small and innocent and I had grown up hearing the story of how Harry Potter had survived the killing curse from the darkest wizard ever known and saved our world when he was only a little boy. So I was surprised when you looked so normal, if not a bit neglected. My heart immediately went out to you…"
Harry looked down at his lap and began shaking his head back and forth; it looked like he was about to erupt.
"No," Ginny said firmly, turning to face him. "If you ever cared about me at all, you will let me say this my way." He stilled his movements and looked back up at her resignedly.
"I know you don't want to hear about any hero worship I may have felt for you Harry," she said gently. "But please know, my fascination with you was only about partly hero-worship. When I met you, a part of me opened up, a part I was sure you would one day fill. I can't explain it, it just felt…right."
She turned back to look out the window. "After you risked your life to save me from Tom Riddle, I knew my faith in you wasn't misplaced. And over the next year I convinced myself that if you would just open your eyes and see the real me, then you would realize how perfect we were for each other."
A small smile tugged at her mouth as she looked back at him. "We are you know, perfect for each other, I mean. We share the darkness that is…was…Voldemort. There are things only we can understand about each other and we have loads in common…" she trailed off and turned back to the window. "Hermione convinced me to calm down around you, to be myself and maybe then you would see me as something other than Ron's little sister. And so I did and you did, only you didn't see me the way I wanted you to."
She turned around to face him fully and shoved her hands deep into her jean pockets while she smiled ruefully at him. "We became friends and that was good. I was…am…a part of your life and you can't deny that we share something we don't share with our other friends."
At this point Harry nodded his head to show that he agreed with her. "Yes," he said hoarsely.
"But it comes to this," she said simply. "I love you. I always have from the very beginning. Every time I've stood with you and fought, every time I sat up with you and talked about our nightmares, every time I defended you to others, I did it all because I love you so completely. And that is the problem. Because so much of me is tied up with loving you that I keep forgetting you don't love me back. At least not the way I love you. And now that Tom Riddle is dead and everyone is free to live their lives the way they choose, I have to face the fact you have chosen to live your life without loving me. It's been hard to accept that, even with seeing the real me, you still aren't in love with me."
She paused to tuck a piece of hair that had escaped from her ponytail back behind her ear. "For awhile I blamed myself, thinking there must be something I was doing wrong. I was so sure you were meant for me and I for you. But the weeks went by and you still hadn't declared your undying love for me so I've finally understood that I was wrong."
She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. "And I can't stay here and watch that dream fall apart," she said shakily.
She opened her eyes and looked at him. "It isn't your fault, you can't change what you feel and I wouldn't want you to. The fault is mine. It's my fault for letting myself get caught up in you, for letting my imagination run wild. I could tell you all sorts of excuses but the truth is that I am just a girl looking for love. Real, all consuming love, the kind of love that lasts forever and I thought you were the one who could give it to me. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry that I couldn't get over this, that I've probably ruined our friendship but I had to tell you this," she pleaded.
"I couldn't leave without saying it. I'm not running away from you or my feelings, I just need to be elsewhere to deal with them. I couldn't…I can't stay here and watch you move on…" she broke off and breathed deeply.
"Do you understand? I have issues, I have problems. I don't know anymore where Ginny Weasley-who-loves-Harry-Potter ends and where just plain old Ginny begins. I've loved you so much, for so long, that I've forgotten why anybody would love me back." She looked at him searchingly. "Does that make sense?"
He looked at her, his green eyes piercing her brown ones, "I think so," he said softly. "But Ginny, I don't want you to leave just because…" he seemed to be struggling to put the words together, "just because we don't have that kind of relationship. I could leave instead. You shouldn't have to leave your family."
She dropped to her knees in front of him and put her hands on his shoulders. "I'm not leaving just because of that," she said pleadingly, looking into his eyes. "Please believe me when I say that my love for you isn't driving me away. I'm not ashamed of how I feel about you; I haven't been for a long time. But you aren't in love with me and there is nothing either of us can do to change that. And if this isn't meant to be then I need to find out what is meant for me. Understand? I need to find myself. I've spent my whole life trying to prove myself to my family and now its time for me to grow up."
He put one hand on her cheek and looked at her. "I'm sorry," he whispered.
"Don't be," she said, standing up and brushing off her knees. "It isn't your fault, truly it isn't."
Harry looked down the hand that had just cupped her cheek and said, "Why Paris?"
"I'm going to the Wizarding University there. They've offered me a scholarship to study transfiguration and charms."
He chuckled a bit to himself. "You always were good with charms." He looked up at her uncertainly. "It sounds like a good opportunity. Are you certain this will make you happy?"
Ginny arched an eyebrow at him. The fact that she could arch just one had always amazed him and he had never been able to do it himself no matter how much she tried to teach him.
"No," she admitted, "I'm not sure it will make me happy. But then I haven't been truly happy in a long time so I don't know what will make me happy."
"And that," she finished darkly, "Is definitely not your fault. That is Voldemort's fault."
"Why are you just now telling me about this? When are you leaving?"
"I'm a bit of a chicken," she said sheepishly. "I knew you didn't return my feelings and that this wouldn't be the easiest conversation to have. Not very good for my ego."
She was quiet for a moment and then added, "I leave this afternoon at 3 p.m."
"What!" Harry's head shot up. "You're leaving today and you're just now telling me! I thought we were friends, how can you just spring this on me?"
"I'm really sorry Harry," Ginny said. "I know I'm not being fair to you. Taking away part of your support system and everything. But it's important that you stay here. You know that is true. I need to do this. You understand, don't you? The need to get away?"
And Harry could not deny her that. He had felt that way himself. The urge to break free and discover whom he would be now that Voldemort was gone had been weighing on him but he had been reluctant to leave the Weasleys who had been more comfort to him than he had ever known.
Suddenly, the memory faded and a new one began. Harry found himself standing on the front lawn outside the Burrow with the rest of the Weasley's while the Knight Bus waited for Ginny to board. She had been making the rounds of her family, hugging them goodbye and whispering in their ears.
She looked so small, he thought, still like a little girl. But then, when she had backed away from hugging her best friend and Ron's girlfriend Hermione, he saw a glint of determination in her eyes that made her seem older. And he knew she would follow through with her plan and he knew that she needed to do this.
Fred and George were sobbing fake tears and hugging Ginny so hard she looked like she couldn't breath. "Ginny!" Fred wailed. "Don't leave us!"
"Take us with you!" George sobbed. "We have so many things still left to teach you! We can't face the world without you."
"Okay, that's enough," Ginny's oldest brother Bill said, pulling Ginny out of their grasp and thumping her on the back to get her breathing again.
And the twins were off again clinging to each other while they lamented their sister's betrayal.
Now Harry saw Bill looking tenderly down at his sister. She looked diminutive next to him and Harry watched as he put his hands on her shoulders and gave her a loving kiss on her forehead. "Be good firefly," he said in a choked whisper. "Don't get into trouble and be sure to hex anyone who stands in your way."
"I will," she said, smilingly up at him wearily. "Bill," she said chokingly, "Thanks for understanding…"
Bill wrapped his arms around her, hugging her with his eyes shut tight. "No need for thanks," he murmured. "We all understand."
Ginny pulled away and looked at them all gathered around. "I know you do. Even if you don't like it, I know you are trying. Thank you so much," she said, now earnest.
Harry couldn't take it anymore and had stepped forward for his own goodbye. They stood, looking at each other and he wasn't sure what he wanted to say. It had all happened so fast and he couldn't organize any words into something important that she could take with her. Maybe it was best that way, he decided.
He noticed her family had moved off a bit to give them some privacy. They knew, he realized. They had always known how she felt about him and that her feelings for him were part of the reason for her decision. He met Molly's eyes and she looked at him so tenderly he knew they didn't blame him. He was more grateful for that then he could express.
Ginny took the decision of what to say out of his hands when she put both of hers on either side of his face and turned his head to look at her.
"For what it's worth," she began. "I always saw you. I didn't fall in love with the boy-who-lived; I fell in love with just Harry. The truly brave, kind, loyal but often-sullen Harry Potter who only likes jam on his toast and thinks my mother's treacle tart is beyond description. To me, you were always Harry, the boy who spent summers at our house and who I happened to share a dark history with."
She stopped, her eyes roaming over his face as if trying to memorize it.
"I hope," she stopped and swallowed, "I hope you can find that kind of love too. You deserve it," she added in a low voice, so low he almost didn't catch it. And then she did something that she had never done before, that no one had ever done before. She smoothed back the fringe on his forehead and stood up on her tiptoes, placing a soft kiss on his lightening bolt scar.
Harry's heart stopped, remembering what that had felt like. He had felt her love for him in that kiss and his scar tingled again like it had tingled that day.
The younger Harry opened his eyes to find Ginny slipping away from him, one hand dragging her fingertips across his cheek as she stepped away and turned towards the waiting Knight Bus. He made a move as if he wanted to go after her but then stopped himself, clenching his fists at his side.
With a whoosh, the 22-year-old Harry Potter found himself landing back in his bedroom.
The memory had been hard to view and he lay on the wooden floor for a few moments trying to get the image of Ginny's eyes out of his head.
Finally he stood up and pushed the pensieve back into its wardrobe and shut the door. Resting his forehead against the doors of the wardrobe, he chided himself again for letting things end that way. He could have said so much to her, thanked her for being his friend…for helping him to defeat Voldemort. Instead, he had stood there in shock while she walked away and Harry wondered, now for what seemed like the millionth time, if he had made an irrevocable mistake.
Because deep in the recesses of his mind and tucked away in the secret part of his soul, Harry knew what he had done.
He had let her believe there was nothing between them and then watched her leave, knowing that he was lying.