The Last Remnants of Pain
Disclaimer: All the characters, places, objects in this fanfic belong to JK Rowling. I'm just borrowing them for a while.
Author's Note: This piece is dedicated to an amazing young woman, who died at fifteen, much before her time. She was funny, beautiful, caring, talented and intelligent. The pain is still raw and it takes a lot of bravery to face life, something I have shown in Ginny's character.
Harry Apparated to the gates of The Burrow, four envelopes crunched in his hand. He stared mutely for a minute at one of his favourite places in the wizarding world: the lopsided house with its overgrowing garden filled the local landscape, completely isolated from the Muggle world.
A bleak atmosphere had settled over the area, and somewhere far in the distance, the solemn church bells knelled in remembrance for those who had fallen heroically. The mournful tones of the bells contrasted directly with the decorations and loud music that had filled his senses as he had left Hogsmeade a few seconds earlier. At the moment, this house was not cut off from just the Muggle world, but also from the celebrations that were taking place in the wizarding world.
Dark shadows fell over the house in sharp angles, leaving the house dull and in despair. A trick of the light made it seem as if the leaves on the trees were hanging lifelessly. Dark colours were hanging on the washing line that lead towards the door. Silence shrouded the area, only whispers of death lingering around the deep corners of the house.
The Burrow was mourning; just like everyone who lived within it.
He let the gate swing behind him as he offered a small wave to Arthur Weasley, who returned the gesture with a quick nod. Mr Weasley was making his way to the door of his shed, a place that had become his sanctuary, spending much more time within the confines of the wooden walls than usual. He had taken on the project of repairing Sirius' old bike, working on it from the time he arrived home to the time he left The Burrow, ever since the battle at Hogwarts.
Harry made his way up the pathway to the house. Slight apprehension filled his body. The Burrow had lost its charm; gone was the lively and fun atmosphere that filled its very crevices. Instead, a shadow of death silenced the normally energetic conversations and laugher that erupted from the house.
At the moment, it did not feel like one of his favourite places in the world.
He felt like he was intruding on something too personal. The entire Weasley family's grief was still so overwhelming and raw. They were the people that he loved the most in the entire world, yet he felt that his presence was more of an intrusion than anything else. He did not have the same blood ties and for that reason, he had never felt more separated from them.
He looked up at the house, almost forcing himself to keep walking. He could easily make out Mrs Weasley's figure at the sink by the kitchen window. No doubt she was embarking on the menial task of cleaning the already spotless house.
After the war, Mrs Weasley fussed over everyone and everything, even to the extent that she was cutting up her grown children's food at meal times, something that no one seemed to mind. Bill had practically moved back to The Burrow to keep a strong arm around his younger siblings. Charlie had still not left for Romania but, rather, spent his time lurking in the garden, taking his anger out on the gnomes that warily rose from their holes. Percy had moved back into The Burrow, temporarily, though he was hardly to be seen as he spent each possible hour working. Harry had not seen Ron smile, especially since Hermione had left to find her parents in Australia and George just seemed lost.
However, it was the transformation of Ginny that had been the most unexpected and dramatic. Ginny was not one to fade into the background but it seemed as though she had barricaded herself in her bedroom, barely leaving her room for anything, unless she was dragged down for meals. Not only had she rejected all calls to celebrate her seventeenth birthday next week, but she had barely spoken a word to anyone else also.
No one seemed to know how to respond to her. Her entire family seemed to be struggling to work out how to treat her. Her mother had been literally dragging her out of her bedroom for the first week after the battle. Bill had made a point to ask her opinion in every conversation that they had and Charlie had tried to take her flying ten days ago, only to face the business end of his little sister's wand. They were all doing what they thought could pull out of her depression. Finally, eight days ago, she had snapped, almost screaming across the kitchen table as they ate as she recounted all the painful moments of her sixth year. She had resigned herself to the fact that she had been through a lot and just needed a bit of time to sort it all out in her head without any interruptions.
Ginny had reminded them that she had also fought this war; maybe not the same way that they had, but she had played her part in the resistance, especially at Hogwarts. She had had a year of nothing but pain, misery, and loneliness; she had served weekly horrendous and torturous detentions, including the detention in the Forbidden Forest, which had not been easy despite the rumours, until she had been forced to go into hiding. Returning for the battle, she had been very much aware how close she had been to the Killing Curse that she had narrowly escaped but the losses hadn't stopped there. She had seen Harry 'die' and then, as a further crushing blow, she had lost her brother; the brother who had supported her actions, the one who had let her finish her fight that had started at the age of eleven with her possession by Tom Riddle.
Everyone was still grieving. The pain was still far too raw; the draining sense of helplessness made it hard enough to get through each day.
If Harry closed his eyes, he could still remember that dreadful day. It was by far the worst of any of the funerals he had been obliged to attend. Tonks' and Remus' joint funeral had been unbearable, but laying Fred down, who had been like an elder brother to him, someone he could always turn to for a joke or smile to pull him out of the gloom, had put him over the edge.
Fred had been part of his only family.
The image was impeccably clear in his head. Fred's wand and gnarled Beater's bat rested on the top of the white coffin. It had been the bat that had triggered the onslaught of tears that swept his face. The whole event seemed surreal; Hermione sobbing into Ron's shoulder; Ron, who had fresh tears rolling down his face, holding onto a chair to keep him upright; Percy looking unkempt, as if he had not slept or even looked in a mirror for days; Charlie taking upon himself the task of supporting George, like he had done so many times before; Bill and Fleur looking sombrely at the procession; Mr and Mrs Weasley openly crying; and unbelievably, Ginny collapsing into his arms, hardly daring to look at the coffin.
With everything that had happened, it had been easy to forget that Ginny was still underage and had seen more horrors in her life than many people twice as old.
Harry paused slightly as he pushed the door leading to the kitchen. Ginny had not let him mourn his life away after Sirius' death and, to a lesser extent, even after Dumbledore's, and he vowed that he would not let her, either. He could remember the times when she had taken him out to the paddock where they had spent hours playing two on two Quidditch while performing priceless imitations of 'Phlegm.' He chuckled at the memory of him and Ginny pranking Mrs Weasley with numerous undetected fake wand switches.
She had shown him that life went on, and that the last thing that those who loved us wanted was for us to wallow in mourning.
He stepped over the threshold to The Burrow. He had never seen the Weasleys' kitchen look so clean, not even in the build up to Bill and Fleur's wedding last year. But that was hardly surprising considering the fact that Mrs Weasley had not left the kitchen in a month, cleaning anything that had stayed still for two seconds. True to form, Molly Weasley was standing by the sink using her wand to wash the dishes.
China crashed to the floor as Mrs Weasley let a plate fall from her hands and she took her wand away from the sink and shot it in the direction of the door. Mrs Weasley had been on her guard for anyone entering her home since the battle, scared that someone would take away another of her children; wary of anyone until she knew who it was. He knew that Ginny had a policy of hexing first, asking questions later, in tense situations; this was something that she had obviously inherited from her mother. The tension was so palpable at the moment; no one was willing to drop his or her guard until it was completely safe. Mrs Weasley let out an audible sigh of relief as she saw him standing there.
"Hello, Harry," Mrs Weasley said, finally placing her wand on the ledge and wiping her hands on her apron. "I wasn't expecting you to be back so soon." She crossed the kitchen and pulled him into a motherly hug, which he returned, earning him an little extra squeeze. "How was your meeting?"
"All right. The rebuilding looks to be going well, and there should be no problems in getting it ready for September, even if a few corridors have to be closed off until Christmas." He held up four envelopes. "And McGonagall has invited us to return and complete our seventh year with Ginny. It looks like she is trying to get everyone back who went into hiding."
"That's wonderful news." There was such a genuine smile that spread over her face. Any trace of happiness had all but disappeared from the faces of the remaining Weasleys and the smile seemed to lift years off Molly Weasley's face. She scrutinized his face. "And do you think you will?"
"I think I just might," Harry replied, as he placed the two letters down on the table, "I know Kinglsey wants me in the Auror squad, but I think I have a few things to learn first." 'Plus I get a year of uninterrupted fun with your daughter,' he added in his head. 'That's if I can help her now.'
Mrs Weasley studied his face as if she was reading his mind. "She's upstairs." She gazed at him shrewdly, making him jump backwards. "You should go up."
Harry glanced at Mrs Weasley's pale face, and he could not help but be a little surprised that he was being allowed to enter Ginny's room alone. Had the circumstances been different, he would have faced more opposition from Mrs Weasley. In fact, he would not be surprised if Mrs Weasley, as much as she appeared to approve of their relationship, charmed the door against him as soon as the twinkle re-emerged in Ginny's eyes, so that they were forced to make sure that any kisses took place away from shut bedroom doors.
If he was being encouraged to go up, then Ginny was still very far from being back to herself.
He gulped. "Has she been down today?"
"Briefly, before Charlie took George back to the shop. Apparently, they had something important to do at the shop today. They suggested the rest of us come, but Ginny – well, she didn't say anything but sulked back up the stairs."
Mrs. Weasley looked up at the ceiling, almost as if she could see her daughter through the two floors. "I've heard her moving around a little upstairs."
Harry glanced at the stairs before looking back at Mrs Weasley. The idea that hit him was so simple that he was amazed he hadn't thought of it earlier. It was perfect, as most simple and straight forward ideas tend to be. He knew just what Ginny needed.
"Mrs Weasley?" he asked slightly nervously. It was one thing to go into Ginny's room, but completely another to whisk her out of the house. Despite everything, or maybe because of everything that had happened, he needed her consent before he acted.
"Would you mind if I take Ginny to Diagon Alley?" He looked straight into her brown eyes, trying to make her understand the motive behind his actions. "We could come back with Charlie and George."
She continued to study his face before finally consenting with a nod of her head. "That may just be a very good idea. I'll ask Percy if he wishes to go as well."
"No," Harry almost shouted. Percy was the last Weasley brother he wanted involved, not that he really wanted any of her brothers involved, but he had a feeling that if Ginny saw Percy, he'd have to knock Ginny out to get her out of her bedroom. "I want to talk– talk about Sirius."
"Very well." Harry could tell that her enthusiasm for his plan was starting to ebb away. "Don't be too long and make sure you're home for dinner."
Harry knew that with the look Mrs Weasley was giving him, she was sure what would happen with two teenagers alone, once the sense of grief had lifted. If he had any doubts earlier, he was now positive that he and Ginny would find themselves with a varied selection of Weasleys around them, once Ginny's forceful personality returned.
He quickly crossed the room before she could make any objections and set off up the two flights of stairs. Before he knew it, he was facing her bedroom door. Steadying his breath, he knocked softly on the door.
"Ginny? Ginny?" He pushed open the door slightly. "Can I come in?"
She did not turn to face him, but instead, she offered a small nod of acknowledgement.
The room had changed very little from last year, when he had come in under very different circumstances. The room was still brightly coloured and her two posters of Gwenog Jones and the Weird Sisters still adorned the walls, although the latter had a large tear through the centre of it. Her Hogwarts trunk was at the foot of her bed, open, overflowing with a hodgepodge of books, quills, potions ingredients as well as her Quidditch gloves and pads. As he looked around more carefully, however, he noticed that some things had gone missing, including her U-No-Poo flier and the photo of the three on three Quidditch matches, which the twins had joined in last summer in the few free hours they had in the build up to the wedding.
Ginny sat on her bed, throwing crumbled pieces of paper into the bin without any thought or attention. Her vibrant red hair was bunched in a loose ponytail, looking dull, and her bright brown eyes were devoid of their normal look of mischief. She sat in a pair of black combat trousers that were cut just below her knees and a scarlet Quidditch shirt with a small lion logo on the front and 'WEASLEY' with the number 4 printed on the back in gold.
Barely paying attention to his presence, she picked up another piece of paper in her hand and crumbled it into a ball. With a small flick of her hand, the paper glided through the air and hit its target, rolling around aimlessly in the bin. Harry took a closer look at the bin; it was getting fairly full of paper, but not one of the paper balls had missed the target. Despite the circumstances, he could not help but be impressed.
"Nice shot," he said as he smiled at her, happy now he realized he had a good excuse to enter her room. "I've got your Hogwarts letter from McGonagall."
She took it from him, and without looking up, tore it open. She let the letter fall onto the bed and crumbled the envelope up into another ball, which once again hit its target. "No captain's badge," she muttered, as if she was looking for something to say that did not involve the war or death. "I guess you've got it back."
"You never said you were made captain."
"More important things happened than that," she shrugged. "Besides," she continued, "I only had it for one match before Snape gave me a lifetime ban."
"What for?" he asked eagerly.
For the first time, he was truly starting to understand what he had missed. And he now was curious to learn all those little details and to hear about the rebellion that had taken place during her sixth year. He was eager to find out what she had done that caused Phineas Nigellus to scorn her name with contempt, and eventually leading her into serving so many detentions. He doubted very much that Ginny had physically harmed someone; she was much more creative and less crude than that. Even if she didn't throw her fists around, everything else was pretty much fair game.
She gave a glimmer of a smile for the briefest of seconds.
"Fred bewitched some fireworks for me, and with the help of some Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder, I managed to spread a few Dumbledore's Army messages to nearly the whole school when Natalie had beaten Malfoy to the Snitch, and won us the match." She shrugged but her smile grew slightly, lighting up her whole face for an instant.
"For some reason, Snape took offence to the sparklers that spelled 'murderer'." Her eyes twinkled with mischief briefly as she spoke. "No one admitted to the crime, and Snape could never prove it with the Darkness Powder, but he knew it was me. And since I was captain, he made a very public example of me and I was issued a life-long ban. McGonagall tried to argue against it, but the best she could do was to keep the rest of the team going on without me. Not that I cared too much, I was already thinking of new ways to use the twins' products."
"You're amazing," he told her, grinning widely, "and I can promise you that the new captain is putting you straight back on the team as his leading Chaser."
She looked directly at him for the first time. Tears were glistening in her brown almond-shaped eyes, the sunlight bringing out flecks of amber. "Only now, it all seems so pointless."
"Not if it makes you feel happy, it's not. Just think how proud Fred was of you and your Quidditch skills. He couldn't find a bad word for them. He actually called you 'pretty good' when I stood next to him during the Hufflepuff match."
She smiled weakly at the high praise as Harry sat on the edge of her bed, taking her hand. "It's okay to be happy again and do things that makes you happy."
"But I feel guilty being happy," she gulped, trying to fight back the overwhelming tears, turning to look out the window. "I don't want to think of you and of the possibility of us as we were before all this, while all of this is going on. I can't help but think how lucky we've been; we were all fighting out there, and it could have been so much worse." She sniffed as she pulled her hand away.
"Then, when I think about Fred, I can't imagine how it could have been any worse. He's still in my mind. I can still see him, hear him, smell him and then, it's as if the tears don't stop. And as much as it hurts, I don't want to stop thinking about him as that would mean I've already forgotten him." She wiped her eyes on her sleeve.
"And then I feel guilty again. George should be the last one grieving, he was Fred's twin, not mine, and George is back at work, while I'm sitting here, crying my heart out." She shrugged. "And I don't cry, it's pathetic most of the time just to cry, yet that's all I'm doing even though you'd think I didn't have any tears left."
"You're far from pathetic, Ginny."
Harry tried to take her hand but she pulled it closer to her body, preventing him from any contact. It was a gesture that a few years ago would have sent him retreating back downstairs. But today, he was determined – determined that he was going to help her work through all the pain.
Silence fell on the room and time stood still, the couple of seconds feeling like an eternity. Ginny had fallen back into silence, unwilling to open up to him , especially since she had just told him more in the last ten minutes than she had to anyone else in the last week. Apparently, he did not need any more information that was troubling her so much. He paused, thinking hard about what he could say. The ease of being able to talk to her had been lost.
"Okay, here's what I think," he paused, making sure that she was not about to make another paper ball, and that she was at least giving him some of her attention. She had paused, not moving, making an apparent motion of listening to him, even if her gaze was looking elsewhere.
"There are no guidelines here. No one knows how you should handle all this. There are no black and white rules on how to grieve, and how to handle people dying. There's no book on it, although I'm sure that Rita Skeeter will find a way to publish one soon."
He was sure he could see the faintest of smiles appear on her lips for a few seconds. "Look, Ginny, I guess what I'm trying to say," he started, taking her hand again, and feeling a swoop of relief that she didn't pull away, "is that if you want to cry, then cry, laugh, talk about Fred. If you need a release, there's nothing stopping you." He gave her hand a small squeeze, seeing a ghost of a smile on her face.
"Fred was your big brother and nothing is going change that. Just like nothing can ever stop Sirius from being my godfather." He tipped her chin upwards, forcing her to look at him. "We – me, your mum and dad, and your brothers – just want you to stop shutting yourself off from everyone. Locking yourself in here and hiding away from everyone, even your own thoughts and feelings, isn't going to make Fred return."
He paused briefly to add weight to his words, gently caressing her hand. "I know how much this hurts. I understand the feeling of just wanting to shut down, to do anything that will make the pain stop. But that's the easy way out and you're a true Gryffindor, Ginny. And I guess that means we do things the stupid and noble way." He smiled at her, continuing, "It's much easier to be braver in life-and-death situations. You don't have time to think about anything else, it's more of a reaction and an instinct. It's a lot harder afterwards."
He took her other hand, turning her body so that she was looking directly at him. "You'll get through this, I swear, but you have to let us help you. You can't lock your feelings in a small box. You're not the only one going through this phase and, trust me, it will help to share this with everyone else."
"Like you share your feelings with people, Harry," she spoke with a small laugh.
He echoed her laugh. "I'm not too well known for it."
In that instant, their eyes met. Instead of turning away, she continued to look directly into his green eyes, trying to open up her feelings to him so that he could understand. It was clear that within the depths of the brown in her eyes, there were remnants of pain, longing, and anger.
"Does the pain stop?" Her voice sounded weak. "When Sirius died, did the pain go away? After Cedric died, did the nightmares disappear?"
He got to his feet. "Come with me."
Without giving her a chance to object, he took her hand and pulled her to her feet, ignoring any mild protests she offered. If she had really not wanted to go with him, she would have pulled her wand on him with or without the Trace; he led her down the stairs. They paused only briefly in the kitchen for her mother to give her a once over.
Mr Weasley was leaving the shed as they entered the garden and he almost looked as if he was going to rush over to Ginny. Instead he restrained himself, watching them very closely, but choosing not to say anything as they headed towards the gates. There was a strange expression on his face. It was hard to tell whether he was happy or anxious. Harry offered him a feeble smile, hoping to reassure the older man. Once they exited the gates, Harry tightened his grip on Ginny's arm as he Apparated them into the heart of Diagon Alley.
The smell of The Burrow and dinner disappeared. The combination of grass and mud had been replaced with cobbled streets. There was no doubt that they had arrived in the middle of Diagon Alley. The boards on the shops had been taken back down, and Gringotts had been fully restored with the white marble building looking as fine as ever. The famous wizarding street had returned to its pre-war glory as if nothing had ever happened.
It took Ginny a matter of seconds to realise where she was and why Harry had brought her here. "I don't want to be here," she spat.
"You wanted to know if things got back to normal and look around you. Come and see the shop," Harry encouraged her, setting off down the street.
"I'm not going anywhere." She stood firmly on the spot.
"Please just trust me." He walked back and took her hand.
"I do trust you, but I'm just scared to go there. I'm not ready to see it yet."
"This is what I meant about being brave." He smiled at her. "And I'm going to be right here, holding your hand."
"Can't we just go?"
"Look, if you're still feeling bad when you get there, you can Floo home, but I think you should see it and see George as well." He gave her a quick smile of encouragement as he started to walk down the street.
"I can just Floo home?" she repeated, starting to walk with him.
"Well," he started, risking a joke. It had been ages since he had seen her smile. "It's not like you can Apparate."
"Don't!" He saw her hand reaching for her wand. "I had enough from Fred," she stopped herself, her voice was shaking again as if she was struggling to keep her emotions in check.
"Fred did what?" Harry stopped moving and stared straight at her. He was not going to let her away this easily. Life wasn't easy and it was those memories that made it worth living.
"Take me home, Harry." Her voice almost pleading with him.
"What did Fred say to you?"
"You know I'll be gone in an instant once we get there." Her words took an eternity to get out, as if she was struggling over each one.
"Fine," he looked into her brown eyes as he hoped to reassure her, "but I still want to hear what Fred said to you."
"He never stopped teasing me. I should have known better, but I let it all get to me." She let the tears freely flow from her eyes, making no attempt to stop them. "He kept teasing me, non-stop. 'Poor little Ginny, still underage, can't use magic, can't Apparate, has to go back to school' he would say."
A weak smile formed on her lips for a few seconds, but there was no doubt that tears were still shining in her eyes. "Mum went mental when the warning letter arrived from the Ministry, just two days after you three had left, especially since Voldemort had just taken over. She didn't think losing your temper over what you brother had said and hexing him was worth having an official warning from the ministry and drawing more attention. She was scared, everyone was."
"So what happened then?"
"Nothing. It was just a standard warning letter; I was and still am a pure-blood." Distaste laced her voice. "They weren't going to do anything to me, as long as I kept my mouth shut, they were never going to expel me. They just wanted to indoctrinate me to the Death Eater beliefs. Re-educated, I was highly desirable; I would make a good pure-blood wife if I learnt to live with the new regime. But they had underestimated me like they did with so many others."
She struggled to get the last few words out. "I was never going to sit around quietly and Fred and George were the only two that weren't babying me." She took a couple of long deep breaths.
"They really helped me see straight, despite all the jokes they cracked, they never saw me as some little kid," Ginny let out, looking down towards the ground. "They helped me, and they were there for me when no one else was. They helped anywhere they could. It may have been a little thing, but it felt like a lot at the time." Her voice finally broke. "They always tried to give me what they could. I used so many Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes products this year."
"Which you desperately need to replace, I think." He led her a little further down the street. "Let's at least take a look in the shop and you can take whatever you need from the shop."
"It never hurts to look, Ginny," he paused. "Fred would be disappointed if you didn't."
"You don't know that."
He smiled. "Maybe I don't, but just walk down to the shop with me."
They seemed to know at once when they were within a hundred yards of number 93 Diagon Alley. Within seconds, the pair of them paused, almost at exactly the same time, neither speaking nor moving. Now he had come this far, his nerves were returning. He was positive that bringing Ginny here was the right thing to do and he was sure that it would help her but, in all his planning, he neglected to think how he might feel seeing the shop and remembering all his memories of Fred.
He could easily make out Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes. Even though the other shops were back to their former splendour, Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes had never lost its lingering appeal which beckoned shoppers to the store. As usual, a large crowd was gathered around the window display as Harry and Ginny began to approach the shop with trepidation. He gave Ginny's hand a tight squeeze.
"What would Fred say if he saw us like this?" He spoke so that only she could hear.
"That we were pathetic," she replied.
"And he'd be right," he said as they made their way closer.
As they got closer, some of the crowd parted, and the noise around the shop dropped dramatically. He could now clearly make out the window display of the flamboyant shop. The left window displayed all the different products in a variety of bright colours; he tried to take in all the pops, flashes, bounces and shrieks of the products that adorned the display. But it was the window to the right that caught his breath. The window was a collage of photographs under a banner that said in large red and yellow writing 'CELEBRATE LIFE'.
Harry studied the pictures closely; they were all those who had died, but they were pictures of them in happier days. In the very centre was Fred's photo, laughing the hardest. To the right, there were Tonks and Lupin, dancing, and on the left, were Dumbledore and Mad-Eye.
Up ahead, Harry and Ginny saw two wizards with vibrant red hair, the very same shade as Ginny's, standing with their wands out. Some complicated wand movements and several jets of lights later, a statue appeared in the street. The statue was the same height as both Charlie and George, but slightly shorter and stockier than Ron's build. The hair on the stone statue reached the shoulders, and freckles could be clearly spotted on the beaming face. His arms were open, holding a wand in one hand and what looked to be a Skiving Snackbox in the other.
He should have known that George would honour his brother in the perfect way. And the monument was indeed perfect, just the kind of thing Fred would have loved, and would have done himself.
"What do you think?" he whispered to Ginny, as she looked at the shop. "Looks like they want to show us that life still goes on."
"It's brilliant," she breathed, breaking away from him to study the photos closer before turning back round. "Best way to remember them all. And that photo, it's excellent."
"Even in death, Fred will give us the best laughs," Harry smiled.
She made her way back over to him and stood on her tiptoes as she placed a soft kiss on his check. It was a kiss that sent as many shivers down his spine as the ones they shared while they were in Hogwarts. "Thank you."
"Ginny!" George turned upon hearing his sister's voice. On the sound of her older brother's voice, she surprised both Harry and the two Weasley brothers as she ran straight towards George. He grinned, pulling Ginny into a strong hug, which she returned. Ruffling her hair, they broke apart. "Hey, squirt, what on earth are you doing here?"
"Coming to collect the products you want me to sell in the common room," Ginny said, forcing a smile onto her lips.
"I thought it was forbidden to sell our stuff," George winked at her.
"Shame I've never got that prefect badge," she answered, her smile looked less forced, "or that might actually have meant something."
George studied her face for a few seconds without talking. "So what do you want in return?"
"Just a few freebies," she beamed at him, the twinkle of mischief returning to her eyes permanently. "Unless I get some more Skiving Snack Boxes, I'm going to have to do all my lessons this year." She gave Harry a small wink, which sent his heart racing, before turning her attention back to her brother. "And that wouldn't do."
"At least one Weasley has got her head screwed on when it comes to school," George smiled.
George pulled her into the shop, a broad grin spreading across his face. Looking at them now, Harry was reminded of how much time Ginny had spent with her twin brothers. Ginny had spent so much time in Fred and George's company that summer at Grimmauld Place three years ago, and they could only have got closer when she tried to escape from Auntie Muriel during the time when they were in hiding together. George probably needed her as much as, if not more than, Harry needed her at the moment, but he realised that everything could wait between them. They had plenty of time, especially if George was generous with his Skiving Snack Boxes.
Harry looked over at Charlie, smiling. Charlie beamed back at him. He had never spent much time with Charlie and, despite his good nature, he could not help but feel slightly afraid of Ginny's second oldest brother. Maybe it was because he had spent much less time with him than any of the others, or maybe it was the scars on his arms, and his fondness for pet dragons.
He stepped backwards slightly. Dating a girl who had so many older and bigger brothers was not going to be easy. It was a fact that he had very much underestimated when there had only been Ron at Hogwarts.
"I don't know how you did it, Harry, but thank you." Charlie said. "We've all missed our little spitfire's antics."
"I didn't give her much of a choice," he admitted.
"Well, that's more than any of us have managed." Charlie paused. "I'll kill you if you ever repeat this, but I think you're made for each other." His expression changed as he clapped his hand on the back of Fred's statue. "Just don't hurt her or you'll have the six of us to answer to."
He laughed slightly nervously. "I'm actually more worried what Ginny would do to me if she thought I'd hurt her."
Charlie echoed his laugh. "Our spitfire is someone who you should be wary of, once she's returned to normal." Charlie looked at the shop. "Which shouldn't be too long with you doing all this." He paused as he offered his hand, which Harry took. "We've all got a hell of a lot to thank you for."
Harry looked towards the shop. He had no doubt that right now, Ginny was stocking her hands with products that would make Mrs Weasley cry in despair and lead to more than the odd Hogwarts detention. His smile grew. He had no doubt that once they got to school, they would be discovering new corridors and rooms that even the Marauders Map had not uncovered. He could hardly wait to start a new year with Ginny and to help her heal the last remnants of pain.