A/N: This story started life as a Harry/Luna one-shot in summer of 2007. Then called The Scream, what you see here is a considerably more developed and revamped version of that story. Anyway, this is called Loveless and it's for no one.
Harry Potter stood silently, staring, before the invisible barrier between the Muggle and Magical King's Cross, dressed in ill-fitting trousers, worn trainers, and a dark-coloured jumper several sizes too large. Today would be his first day back at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry since he had left it behind at the end of his ruinous fifth year. His face, in the months between, had sharpened and his demeanor had cooled.
He stood at the threshold of the magical world for one more brief moment and then, with a deep breath, he walked calmly through the portal to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters.
The first thing he became aware of when he walked through the portal was the great number of red-robed wizards, Aurors from the Ministry of Magic.
The second thing he noticed was quite as unpleasant: As soon as he stepped foot onto the platform, one by one, people stopped what they were doing to stare at him. As a test of his willpower, Harry had not once looked at The Daily Prophet since he left school the term before. Had he done so, the enormous number of lookers-on might have made more sense to him.
The third thing he noticed was by far the most pleasant and welcome. Ginny Weasley, a Gryffindor fifth year and the younger sister of Harry's best friend Ron, was standing just a few feet before him, and though her gaze had not yet hit him, the sight of Ginny Weasley cheered Harry up anyway. She was a friend among the faceless and nameless.
When her eyes spied him, she smiled and walked quickly forward, throwing her arms around him. "Harry!"
Harry, his face in her hair and his arms snaked around her, smiled at the greeting; though not what he had expected, such an embrace was hardly unwelcome. "Hi, Ginny," he said a bit lamely. "How was your summer?" he asked when they had detached.
"Quiet," Ginny said. "The twins live in Diagon Alley now, and the Ghoul's been really quiet; I think he misses them."
Harry wondered to himself if it wasn't just the ghoul who missed the Weasley twins.
"How were the Dursleys?" she asked.
"Quiet," he responded. "They'd left me to myself most of the summer, and they didn't fuss much when I wanted to be driven here." Noticing at last that Ginny was unaccompanied by Ron and Hermione, and for that matter the other members of the Weasley family, Harry asked the elephantine question. "Where are the others?"
Ginny blushed slightly. "Dumbledore called a meeting of the new prefects yesterday," she mumbled, bashfully pulling her pin out of her pocket.
Harry smiled in quiet congratulations.
"The meeting was in London, so most of us just stayed in the city rather than go back home to be here again the next day. Ron and the others should be here soon."
Satisfied by this explanation, Harry had just opened his mouth to ask Ginny if she knew when Ron and Hermione would be arriving when he closed it abruptly, preventing anything resembling a syllable from escaping his lips. It would not have been the most polite of questions, and at Ginny's curious look he asked a different question entirely: "D'you, er – d'you want to get on the train?" Before she could answer, however, he, flustered and reddening, answered the question himself, "Oh, erm, well I suppose you'll be waiting for Dean. So, erm... well, nevermind."
"Dean Thomas?" she asked, curious. "Why would I wait for Dean Thomas?"
"You — er — you're seeing him, aren't you? On the train, you said... back, last term..."
She tilted her head back and her freckled face split with laughter. "That was for Ron's sake, Harry. I barely even know Dean Thomas."
Secretly, floodgates gave way and relief washed over him. Mirroring Ginny's amused smiled, Harry basked in the curious sensation, but refused to allow his mind to explain why, exactly, he was so pleased to hear Ginny wasn't seeing his roommate. Harry didn't dislike Dean; he was, after all, a decent bloke, and even a member of the previous year's DA.
"Right," he managed, sputtering, blushing.
With nothing left to say, Ginny and Harry boarded the train, three minutes before its destined time of departure.
When the two managed to find a suitably evacuated compartment, only a minute or so after the train began to pull out from the station, they settled in quietly, stowing away trunks and preparing themselves for seven hours' sitting.
One thing became very apparent very quickly for the two of them; despite all they time they had spent together over the course of the last five years, they had spent almost no time alone with one another; consequently, neither knew how to communicate with the other. And so, as often happens in situations such as these, Harry asked the first question that fell into his head:
"Is Luna one too?"
Ginny stared at him, mirth burning in her eyes. "What?"
Harry blushed. "A Prefect, I meant. Did she make Prefect?"
Ginny smiled at him. "Yes, she did."
The train compartment was silent for a few moments; Ginny looked out the window at the quickly passing scenery. Harry tried to look at the scene outside, but every few seconds, he would find himself glancing at Ginny, watching her watch the fleeing fields and hills through which the Hogwarts Express traveled. Harry felt very stupid staring, gawking at a girl he had known for four years without ever knowing. He regretted it now. If he had taken the time and bother to get to know her those years ago, the scene within the compartment might have been more interesting than the scene without.
"You never wrote," Ginny said eventually, breaking the silence. She was still staring out the window, but staring now without seeing. "We were all worried. The Order, Ron, mum, Hermione, me." She blinked. "All that we knew was that you were alive."
"I just needed time." He looked down at his hands. "I just needed time to get my head around things. Sirius dying..." he swallowed. "It took me time. I needed to be alone for... for a little while. If I hadn't had that... I'd be gone."
"Did you find what you were looking for?"
"I don't know. Maybe..."
"You're not even here... are you?"
"I don't... know anymore."
"You're not alone."
"I am. Between everything and the end, it's only me. I am alone."
Sirius dying, the prophecy being revealed to him, and his realization that they were running perilously out of time before the war was on in-full, had ravaged his mind over summer, and he knew then and now that it was for the best that he kept to himself; if he hadn't, he would have self-destructed, pushed away everything near him. He knew it, and that foresight saved him when he finally emerged on the other side that morning.
The silence that followed his last words was long and heavy. She knew what he meant, every word of it. But it didn't make it easier. It could never be easy. But she also knew that there was a point when the reflection and introspection became indulgent and self-pitying, that once the potential for healing had zenithed, the only way to go was down, back down the nadir whence he'd come.
"There's a wolf at the door, and I'm trapped. I wake up every morning and... it's like — like the sky's falling in. I just don't know what to do anymore. I am alone."
Ginny touched her palm to Harry's white hand, pressurelessly reminding him of her presence. "You're not alone. I'm here. Can't you feel me? I'm here."
"For a little while," he breathed, "then I'll be gone."
"It wasn't your fault, Harry," Ginny assured him at his level; "there is nothing you could have done to save him."
Harry smiled a broken smile, his eyes closing and head falling back. "Not Sirius. I don't mean Sirius. I..."
"What else is there, Harry?" Ginny asked softly, whispering in his ear. "What else happened with Dumbledore, Harry?"
A shudder passed through Harry. His shoulders shook, his eyes fluttered and his hands trembled. "Please..." he begged her comfort, her understanding. He had never said it aloud.
"It's not true, Ginny." He swallowed. "I'm a lie. He knows it, and... that's it. I'll die."
He'd tried so hard, struggling against the wave of helplessness that brewed, but he could not hold out forever. The howling cry he gave made Ginny throw her arms around him, a hand on his back and a hand on his neck holding him as he wept, clutching to her. "I'm not here... This isn't happening." His voice tore his throat with the force of his pleas, "Please... please..."
This wasn't indulgence; it wasn't self-pity. It was disintegration, and the most Ginny could do was hold him as he fell apart, giving him some sort tie to reality, any sort of warmth to touch him, to deliver him from the abyss.
She whispered things in his ear, things he'd never hear, but it was the act of being held and rocked, precious words proffered, that allowed him to be slowly extracted from his breakdown. Ginny held him, and she didn't let go. Not when he stopped pleading with unseen divinities, nor when he stopped shaking, nor when his breathing slowed and his body grew limp. In that moment she resolved to never let him go...
He stands on the edge of a silent forest, gazing into it and fighting against the feeling of fire in his hands; he clenches a fist at his side and missteps beyond the threshold and into the dark forest. One misstep at a time, left then right, he stares skyward to the tallest trees' tops.
He walks for years between gnarled trees, an eternal moon hanging in the sky, full and falsely luminous. He hears the brush of branch on branch as the treetops sway in the air, the softest sound of slightest warning.
The shrieks of ten thousand terrors pierces the night, the scream wordless but unchallenged, silencing the swaying trees. With the swiftness of a hungry wolf, he bounds through the trees, seeking the source of the scream in the wood's heart.
He hears a quiet sound: A tree's whisper in the wind, a whisper of his name. He moves more swiftly, he begins to run through the labyrinth. His name is breathed again, more distinct now, the sound the sound of a plea in the dark. His run becomes a sprint as he leaps over the roots and the fallen angels before him.
"Harry." This time he is sure he has heard it. Another is in the forest; the timbre of the echo, the lilt of the breath urges him on. The voice echoes across the ground, from tree to tree, and he follows the voice in his ear to the heart of the forest, ever further into the trees.
A streak of vibrant red flies before him, and he chases after its bearer, desperate for her. Swimming through the realized memory of forgotten dreams, he finds his specter failing. Clutching the ground, she who was mist corporealized is his red-topped love. "Help me."
He falls to his knees, breathless, and holds her to his chest, clutching her to himself as she to the ground, desperate for any sort of contact that could grant her salvation. "Hold on," he whispers into her cold ears, begging her. "Hold on," and rises with her.
Shaking and her colour receding, with every moment she grows more ghostly than before. Her lips begin to grow blue, her eyes begin to glaze, and he turns and sprints whence he has come, the idea of convalescence captivating him. But safety is too far, his breath is not enough. Desperation taking hold, he stops to plant a hopeless kiss, tears falling from his eyes and upon her cheek.
Her lips and cheeks regain lost rubescence, her eyes clear, her breaths deepen, her life returns. A smile claims his face, he kisses her more deeply still, a euphoric kiss to light the blackest night.
Fearless, doubtless and in love, they rejoice and delight in one another, but the skies above grow restless and a shock of white light bisects the night. A ripping sound invades their embrace, and a strike of black, silver-streaked lightning tears through the resurrected one.
He scrambles to her whence he had been thrown, clinging to her body and smothering her with kisses, tears cascading. "I need you." His voice cracks. "I need you. Please. Please! Don't leave." Her fall continues, her life fading, essence ebbing. He holds her, begging her, "Breathe!" His voice fails. "Keep breathing..."
She smiles a fading smile breathlessly, tears falling,
"And I will see you in the next life."
Harry awoke with a start, sweating and frantic. He scrambled about the room, his vision blurred and eyes unseeing, desperately searching. It couldn't be true, any of it; she had to be all right. But she wasn't there. She wasn't in their compartment. She was nowhere to be seen. She was gone because she was dead. In that horrible instant, Harry knew the events of his dream to be true.
He let himself fall to his knees, still. There was nothing in him.
Then the compartment door slid open, and standing there was Ginny. Harry looked upon her as if she were just back from the grave. Harry's confusion quickly gave to euphoria as he leapt to his feet, still entrenched in his post-nightmare shock, brought his arms around her, and kissed her. He kissed her a life-affirming kiss, a desperate expression of relief and joy and genuine feeling. It was nothing like with Cho.
At first, Ginny did not seem to know how to respond. She just stood there, frozen. But then her arms snaked around Harry and she responded to his kiss, matching passion with passion, the sort that lies dormant in the heart of the broken for years too long, the sort that fuels the fire of every unrequited lover.
Not a long while later, they broke apart slowly, panting slightly, their breathe colliding with one another's flushed cheeks as their eyes slowly opened to look upon the object of their respective passions.
"Hi," Harry breathed, to which Ginny responded in kind. "I, er," said Harry, starting again, before shaking his head slightly, giving up on words and placing his lips to hers once more, something eternal starting.
Who needs words?
Time passed. They didn't know how much. They didn't count the seconds. No one ever does, in the throes of it. At some timeless point, they broke apart for more than a few seconds, for reasons beyond respiratory necessity, and for a long time, just stared. Harry held her in his eyes as if he'd never seen her before. Her cheeks were redder, her lips puffier, her hair mussed; she should have appeared nearly the same to his eyes. But she didn't, and she would never look again how she had before. He loved her for it.
"Hi," Ginny whispered.
"Hi." He leant over a few inches and pressed his lips lightly to hers, not a hungry kiss as before, but the kiss that comes with comfort and real affection. When they broke apart, she softly pulled his hand into hers. There was a lot to say.
"I'm sorry," he said, leaning against the compartment wall and Ginny half-lying against his chest.
Ginny looked up at him in surprise. "Sorry? For what?"
"I spent five years not knowing you when I should have—"
"If you blame yourself for the Chamber, I'm walking out," Ginny said, and Harry wasn't sure if she was serious. In response he shut up and clasped his arms around her. "It wasn't your fault," she continued, "and I won't let you think it was. If it was anyone's fault—"
"If you say it was your fault, I'm walking out," Harry said, cutting her off. He pecked a kiss into her rather mussed hair. "If it wasn't my fault, it wasn't yours either." He paused. "He was after me—"
"Through me," added Ginny.
"You can't hold yourself accountable for what Voldemort—" he noticed that she twitched slightly in his arms as he said the name, "for what Voldemort has done."
"Wise words, Potter;" Ginny almost mumbled; then, her voice clearing up, she went on, "you might listen to yourself every once in awhile."
He smiled into her hair for a moment, then his mouth went slack again. "If we're not blaming ourselves for the Chamber, you have to at least let me take credit for not noticing how much fun this," he hugged her to him slightly, "is."
He knew she rolled her eyes. "Well, yes, all right, you can blame yourself for that." She sounded very smug.
"We have to talk about this, Ginny," said Harry, sounding very serious.
She shifted her body, sitting on her knees, looking him in the eyes now; this was a conversation to be had face-to-face. "I'm not leaving. There's nothing you can do to make me go. Not now, not ever."
She kissed him. She kissed him with every bit of emotion she could put into a kiss. She kissed him with greater passion than their earlier frantic fumblings could have allowed. She kissed him with purpose. She kissed him to instill permanence in his heart. She kissed him to tell him what she could not say.
"Thank you," he said quietly, distantly, ashamed. "Because I don't think I could...
"I can't do this alone."
"You won't," she said, kissing him, but softly spoke, "You won't be alone.
"You'll never be alone again."
He nodded quickly, his mouth tight and eyes gazing downward. "Okay." His voice was low. "Okay."
"What if we..." Ginny started, repositioning herself back onto Harry's chest, looking at the compartment ceiling to see her dreams. "What if we just ran for it, Harry? What if we just ran and left the world behind? Hogwarts, Him, everything."
Escape wasn't something Harry had ever really considered, beyond that desperate day after his second year. What if they did just make a run for it and disappeared? He had money. They could make it, at least for awhile. There were places they could hide. Hagrid's cave, that rock on the sea where he'd first found out about Hogwarts, even the Forbidden Forest. They could leave the country. They could disappear completely. No Voldemort, no worries. Just Ginny and him, all day, every day, for the rest of their lives.
"Let's do it," he said, inspiration blinding him. "Let's just disappear. We could go anywhere."
Ginny responded to his enthusiasm in kind, matching and then exceeding him. "We can escape. Tonight."
"We'd have to get the Firebolt. You haven't got a broom, but the Firebolt could probably hold us both, if we were careful."
"But we'll have to wait until we get to Gryffindor Tower. The Firebolt's in your trunk, isn't it?"
"Yeah. We'll have to wait until the trunk shows up in my dormitory. I don't know where it's at until then."
Harry smiled at the back of Ginny's head. "What sort of note do you leave? 'Dear Ron, I've run off with your sister, don't write us, we'll write you'?" Harry and Ginny roared with laughter at the absurdity of the note. "Ron would explode!" Harry laughed. "He'll think I'm off having my wanton way with you!"
"That'll be Percy's take, anyway," said Ginny, giggling into her hands.
"I don't want to wait, Ginny," Harry said seriously, but still with a smile. "I want to run. We'll go somewhere they'll never find us." His wanderlust now outstripped any desire he'd ever had to escape the Dursleys. He wanted to run away, to disappear completely and never be found. "How do you fancy France?"
She turned over and pressed her lips to Harry's, and Harry smiled into her face before kissing back, feeling genuinely happy. Today had been the first time he had been able to say that for what felt like years. He kissed Ginny, holding her to him, and resolved that he would not let what had happened to Sirius, to Cedric, to his parents, happen to her. They'd run away together; they'd run for their lives.