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I watched her, sitting still in the empty room, and waiting for something; a sign of recognition, perhaps, or a quick glance toward me. Something that would tell me she knows. I waited for it, watching her lips move as she spoke to some girl I no longer cared to know. She shook the hair from her eyes and I thought I saw them dart to me for a fleeting moment, what should have been the inception of an eternity.
I couldn't be sure, I could never be sure, but I like to think that the smile that slipped upon her face was for me, that she was smiling in silent encouragement.
It takes my breath away that she wields such power over me, that a fling of her hair, or a stray, momentary glance could provide the day's sustenance. I continued to watch long after the other left her alone. She had a freckle on the tip of her nose and I wondered stupidly if she knew about it. The urge to walk over and point its existence out to her was quelled — I was not yet so mad. She turned her face and my neck spun around. I inhaled deeply and, having placed my hands on my knees, I rose up, departing through the portrait of the Fat Lady: Time to go back to real life.
I walked through the corridors, side-stepping other students and keeping my head low and my eyes fixed downward. I didn't want to spoil the morning by allowing in others. I wanted to be alone with my thoughts, and I was in luck; the only class in the world, I thought, where I could be alone with my thoughts was the one in which to speak risked poisoning.
So I walked into Potions, early for the first time that year. I was one of three in the dungeon classroom; most of the others, my iron lungs too, would not be arriving for another five minutes. I sat quietly with my thoughts, trying not to think of her.
It was third year, the year of the Triwizard tournament, and my worst year so far. Christmas was approaching, and with it would come the Yule Ball, which I was anticipating with dread. I was only a third year, and therefore ineligible to go without an older student, which would have otherwise suited me fine. I didn't have much interest in attending some dance anyway. But leave it to Ron and Hermione to make an otherwise obliviable event the most important thing in the world.
They dropped the most obvious hints in the world, "Ginny still hasn't got a date, you know, Harry." I'd roll my eyes, ignoring the comment. It had become Ron and Hermione's term goal, apparently, to get me to go with Ginny to the Yule Ball. Where before they might have just dropped it after awhile, figuring it just wasn't going to happen, they now were the most insistent pair of people in the entire school.
Couples... I'd think to myself every time, desiring their damnation.
"You two would be so... erm... cute? Together..." Hermione awkwardly said once to me on the way to Defence. I just rolled my eyes, as per usual, and kept on as I was. "I've seen the way you look at her, Harry," she persisted, stopping, obliging me to as well.
Hers was an icy statement; it froze my heart a moment, an arctic shock I hadn't foreseen. Hermione offered weight to the possibility of things, validated my forbidden thoughts. Her words were spoken with greater gravity than I was accustomed to hearing from her then, in those early days, when she still was relatively woeless. Her voice was not penetrated with the expected lilt of playfulness. Though I could not look upon them, I could feel the intensity of her eyes fixed upon my face, burning into me.
"We're going to be late," I said, lusting for oblivion.
Hermione seemed unsatisfied, and two of her main principles, pursuing my own happiness and her loyalty to her schoolwork, clashed. Classwork being victor, I was in luck; her only display of discontent was a loud sigh.
And we were off again.
I had become ashamed, greatly ashamed, horrified, even, that a glimpse of her, of Ginny, was the highlight of my entire day. It was the most disgusting and pathetic thought I'd ever had. I got out of bed in the morning for her. It was pathetic! But still, every day and without relent, I sought her out the entire day, taking inconvenient routes to class, that I might pass her in the halls, that only she might smile. I was sick with lust and affection, and I hated myself for it.
My obsessive affection was nothing short of stalkerhood; mine was the kind of love that brought with it murmurs of illness. It was unhealthy, it was obsessive.
"You need to ask her, Harry."
How in Merlin's name was I supposed to ask Ginny to her dance? I could only go with someone in her year or higher; it was ridiculous. I couldn't ask her to something that wasn't for me to attend in the first place...
"I'm not going to ask her, Hermione." I felt like an old Muggle record. "It's not worth it."
"You'll never know unless you try!" she persisted.
"I already know; I don't need to try."
"Look, just drop it, Hermione! I'm not going to ask her." I'm not going to put myself through that, I'd thought to myself. Not that I'd ever speak it. Rejection was too old an acquaintance, one of my oldest friends; from any attempt amounting to affection toward the Dursleys to venturing an educated guess in class, I was affected by beaten dog syndrome; I was kicked and battered, but I always came back, hopeful that I just might get that pat on the head, that validation and acceptance. So no, I would not be asking Ginny to the dance, I would not be setting myself up for that pain again. Better to close down and ignore it all than to wage that senseless sort of savagery on myself.
"You've only got two weeks left to ask her, Harry. If you don't, you'll regret it."
Two weeks later as I sat in the common room, late at night, waiting for the upper-classmen to return from the Yule Ball, I hated myself. Ginny probably had a great time with that Corner. I didn't want to think about it. But at the same time, I knew it was hypocritical; I hated her for going with him, hated him for taking her, and I hated myself for caring, but still, I sat up in Gryffindor Tower into the early morning hours, alone, waiting for her:
I hadn't seen her that day.
Was I so desperate to have my heart broken? Was I so desperate to throw myself into the downward spiral that I knew this must lead to? I was an utter slave to all of this? I couldn't stay away. I had to stay up, I had to wait for her. I had to know that it went badly, that Corner had disappointed her.
But something in me knew; I knew that he will not have, that she will have been completely satisfied with him and their time together that night. What masochistic urge in me compelled me to wait where I would always wait, sitting in the armchair further from the door? I didn't want her to see me, to know that which shamed me, to feel it too.
Fred and George, in a moment of folly, had told me earlier in the week what kind of things went on after these dances, when the boys walked their dates back to their common rooms. They told me the kind of antics they got up to. I don't think they realised that it killed me to hear what Ginny could very well be doing with Michael Corner tonight. Or maybe they did know. Maybe they wanted to spur me into action. It didn't work.
This was my fault; all of this was on me, on my inertia. I could have prevented this, perhaps; I could have asked her, I could have thrown myself at her feet, told her everything; I could have told her that I loved her, that she was all that meant anything at all to me; I could have told her that, without her, I was nothing; that without her, I didn't want to be anything; I should have told her not to go with Michael. I should have told her to go with me. I should have...
I jerked in my seat, slave to a spasm beyond my control. I was so filled with regret, with what I should have done, with what I wanted to do. It killed me, tore to shreds my heart, to think what Ginny could be doing with him now. The dance was probably over. I wanted to find out, I wanted to know for myself. But I couldn't bring myself to get up from my seat. What if she came back? What if I missed her tonight...
Gryffindors had been streaming back into the dark common room for a few hours now; I didn't know whether or not to hope that their early arrivals were due to dates gone awry; if that was the case, Ginny should be here... I longed for her to be here.
I thought over a thousand times in my mind what I would say to her if she came in. Part of me knew I'd never say it, knew I could never say it. But, oh the longing that filled me, to say to her the words... I'd tell her how I dreamt of her, how I was every night filled with such pain to find that my dreams of her and I together were just dreams; I would explain to her the ache that filled my heart to know that she did not feel for me as I did for her. I would explain to her that she was all I ever wanted, all I ever needed; I would tell her, I would tell her that I lived and breathed for her... That I loved her.
The flutterings in my belly of feeling were quashed quickly. These were words I would never say, words that I was not bold enough to express. How could I verbalise them? 'I'm so in love with you...'? It sounded awful even in my head. In this, I had no one to turn to. I had cast Ron and Hermione away hours and hours ago. I didn't want them here; I didn't want them watching the madness that Ginny could cause in me.
She never even knew any of this! She must have had no idea of the love that consumed me! Everything, every last moment I'd dreamt of her, had been of my own imagining! The glances I thought furtive, the smiles I thought for me... A thousand different explanations could invalidate them. The smile wasn't for me, she'd thought of something funny. The glance hadn't been cast my way intentionally, it had been by chance. She hadn't even noticed me there!
Was I so pathetic? Was I so broken? How could I allow myself to be reduced to this? To this rambling, lovesick mess? It was disastrous, the effect she had on me. She slew me without ever knowing, without ever caring. But how could I ever have expected her to care? How could I ever have expected her to reciprocate that which I felt? I was so inferior.
I could never be deservant of her, and I knew it. I was totally and acutely aware of this irrevocable fact, that I would never be worthy, that I never had been worthy. It was only in my dreams that I would allow myself to think of her and me together, sharing a secret kiss underneath the skies, loving life and each other. I was in love with the very idea of her... perhaps the ideal of her.
The portrait door opened; the corridor's candle-light illuminated everything briefly: The fire in the hearth had long since gone out. This was not the first time the door had opened, and it couldn't have been the last; maybe as much as half the house hadn't yet returned.
I hated the hope that rose in my chest as my neck craned upward, trying to discern if she had come back. Did I want her to return in tears? That I might comfort her? It was despicable, the thoughts that plagued me, the horrible things that filled my mind. I was actively wishing distress and despair upon her.
When I caught sight of the entering figure's brown hair, I felt the hope collapse in my chest; I sunk back into my chair: It wasn't her.
With this realisation, a familiar thought filled my head; it had been a frequent visitor to my thoughts these last weeks. In me filled a hate for love and everything it entailed. I hated that the love which I so frequently saw others enjoy eluded me so entirely, that I had no one to love, no one to hold into the night. The others in my dormitory, they spoke of the bestial side of relationships, of the passionate and torrid. They disgusted me with their ideals. And I hated myself for contributing to it, hated the side of me that could even stand to engage in that infernal exchange.
I had no use for the sexual things they spoke of. That's not what I wanted. I wanted someone to love, and to be loved by, not to use and abuse for fleeting physical pleasures; I wanted someone who would hold me while I broke down, while I fell apart. I wanted someone who would make it all right for me to fall apart, because as long as we had each other, nothing else mattered. I wanted to be able to forget the world, to absorb my existence into my love's, to disappear into her. I wanted...
I wanted something that probably wasn't real. I wanted something unattainable. And maybe that's why it was fitting that I want Ginny, someone unattainable, someone so far beyond me. Maybe I wanted something forever gone, something that I could always want. Maybe I wanted to dream. Maybe it was the unwillingness to allow reality to destroy my dreams that stopped me from ever telling Ginny how I felt.
However it was, I was a coward. I was crippled and tragically inert; I was complacent and self-condemning; I perpetuated my pain... and for what? For a dream that made me ache in the night? For a hate of reality and a scorn for love? I wanted it! I needed it! Love! The one thing of which I have never been worthy, the one thing I have never properly felt! It was what I needed! Couldn't anyone else see, that this was all that mattered? Couldn't they perceive everything else's relative triviality?
I could have shouted it from the rooftops at that moment, could have screamed it into the night, my love for her. If she had come in at that instant, Michael Corner or no Michael Corner, I would have told her everything; I would have told her of the intensity of my feelings for her. I would have stopped the world for her in that instant.
The door slammed open, smacking against the wall. I jumped out of my seat, I felt my legs readying to run: It was her, it was Ginny. I could see her red hair, backing into the common room and – my heart shattered. She was attached to him, to Michael Corner; she was kissing him, running her hands through his hair, passionately, lustfully...
I felt the ice in my heart, I felt my face and lips go numb. I felt myself breaking to pieces, falling apart where I stood, ready to run as swiftly as I could. I'd lost my breath, lost my warmth; ice coursed my veins, consumed me.
They backed further into the common room, scrambling in the dark, Ginny moving backwards and Corner running his hands up and down her back. They were — They were — they were moaning. Ginny stumbled back-first over a couch, falling on it, Corner atop her.
I was still standing, reeling from everything, from the weight of it all. I would liked to have died then, would liked to have never known Ginny Weasley, would died to never have known the name. I was so filled with disgust and hatred, internal and external... The depth of my emotions overwhelmed me; I'd never known I could be so hurt, be so broken in so few seconds; I never dreamed I would fall so quickly from the zenith to the deepest depths of despair.
He was — he was kissing her neck, he was... Tears began to fall down my face... furious, bitter tears; this was my end, in every intangible way. I walked forward, aimless, despairing, weeping. I walked by the entangled pair, and Ginny... She saw me. She called out to me, ceasing her and Michael's actions. I heard her call out to me, heard her calling my name. But how could I stop? How could I turn around and smile? How could I tell her it was okay, that I was okay? I had no smiles left in me, I had no false, reassuring words. I had only what was given to me when she and Michael entered through that door. I had nothing left but pain; no faith, no hope.
I heard her scramble to her feet, I heard Michael's protests. Ginny railed into me from behind, she knocked me to my knees; I felt myself falling; I let myself go. Self-preservation seemed so foreign to me; I had no will to keep myself from falling. At that moment, I couldn't understand how anyone could feel that will; I couldn't understand why they wouldn't want to fall. What was the worst that could have happened? I might have bled? Been bruised? I had nothing in me to fight it. Not even a tendril of any such emotion was left in my now-barren, soulless corpse.
She pulled me from my knees, looked me in the eyes. She looked so angry. She was yelling at me, yelling something about passing up the opportunity, yelling about missing my chance, yelling... It was all so muted now, like murmured words spoken from a distance; her shouts just added to the swirl of sound in my head; I didn't really understand her words until she forced me to look at her properly, something I hadn't been able to manage during her salvo.
And then I knew. I knew from the look in her eyes that it was too late; that I'd had a chance, that she would have gone with me, that she would have accepted, but that now it was too late... I understood, saw it in her eyes. There was something else in her eyes... there was apology on her lips...
I mumbled my word, not really understanding it either, "...Don't."
I turned again, away from her and her eyes, and, my heart shattered by the realities of my inertia, walked out of the common room, completely unconcerned with Filch and Mrs. Norris, Snape and any other patrolling professors. None of that mattered anymore. Not to me. Nothing mattered. It seemed so absurd, the very notion of caring about something like that; I felt such longing for the worries of others; I wanted to worry about my marks in Transfiguration, not the pain that consumed me more completely than the fires of hell one day would.
I was so numb, so overcome with sorrow and the aching pain of regret and bygone opportunity...; distraught, I wandered and wandered the castle, disintegrating with each step and passing thought.
As I walked those blocks of corridor, I was acutely aware that I wasn't coming back from this. I knew that I was breaking to pieces, that I was spiralling; and all the while, these thoughts still swirled in my head...
I was... I am falling: I mustn't be caught; I don't think I could bear it.