Exceptions

She willingly made exception after exception for him, but in the end, she was no closer to having him than the first time they met. HarryGinny, post-Hogwarts.

Chapter One

Ginny Weasley was not happy.

"Why," she snarled as she struggled to close the bottom drawer on her dresser, "does everything—" she gave the drawer another forceful shove "—have to—" she pulled the drawer out again "—go so horribly—" she gave it one last push, putting all her weight behind it "—wrong?"

The drawer rocketed out of the dresser and smashed onto Ginny's foot. She gave a howl of pain and hopped onto her bed, glaring at the drawer littered with piles of clothes and scowling, red-faced and bad-tempered.

It had been another tiresome day at work. Her job as a staff writer for the Daily Prophet was a joke; her job title might as well have been staff house-elf for all the writing she actually did. She mostly scrambled around hurrying to do her superiors' bidding each day. Make coffee, deliver messages, run errands, clean spills, answer owls—anything and everything that needed to be done, with no willing volunteers to do it. Today, Lucinda Greene had swept the articles she was proofreading from her desk onto the floor and casually tipped a bottle of ink right over them, then declared in a falsely surprised voice, "Oh my goodness! How could I be so clumsy? Ginny, could you be a dear and clean that up for me?"

Ginny had been so angry that as she was siphoning the ink off the papers with her wand, she overdid the spell and the text from the articles disappeared along with the excess ink. Lucinda had hardly been able to keep the delight from her voice.

"Ginny, how could you? Now I have to ask for another copy of those articles, and you know how busy journalists can be! And—oh my goodness!" She jabbed the coffee pitcher on her desk with the crook of her elbow, and it smashed onto the ground, cracking into a dozen pieces and spraying black coffee across the floor. "I think you'd better clean that up without magic, since your elementary wandwork seems to be a bit unpredictable!"

Ginny had thought of many clever and biting things to say to Lucinda at that moment, but as she honestly could not afford to lose her job on top of everything else, she took a few deep breaths and forced herself to calm down enough to clean up the mess. One of her kinder coworkers had tried to catch her eye to give her a sympathetic look, but she angrily averted her eyes, not trusting herself to act civil toward anyone just yet.

Then of course, when she arrived at her flat after work, she'd found it exactly the way she left it: cold and untidy and lonely, with boxes still strewn across the floors and a few empty spaces reserved for the furniture she'd buy when she could afford it. She had moved in a week ago, determined to assert her independence by moving out of the house where she was fed three delicious meals by her mother each day, but she found herself regretting her decision at once. For one thing, Ginny discovered that she really could not cook. She struggled each evening attempting to cook up something halfway edible for herself, until Hermione came to the rescue and informed her about Muggle microwave ovens and frozen, premade dinners. But mostly, though she wouldn't admit it to anyone but herself as she was still determined to prove that she was a young lady perfectly capable of taking care of herself, she missed her family. She missed her parents and all of her idiotic brothers. And most of all, she missed Har—no, no, no, she did not miss him one bit, she told herself. But the fact of the matter was, coming home at the end of the day to an empty room without even someone to complain about work to was not her idea of the life she was supposed to lead after Hogwarts. She supposed she had never been quite realistic when she had made plans for the future.

All in all, she could not have said that she'd had a terrific day.

Ginny sighed and flopped onto her stomach on her bed. What she really needed was a new job, something she was passionate about. She'd even settle, at this point, for something that she didn't hate with a passion. She had thought that a job at the Daily Prophet would be perfect, since she was articulate and had her own dry, witty style of writing, but she only had two assignments in the month she had worked, one about an annual beauty pageant for Pygmy Puffs and the other covering a new international standard on cauldron bottom thicknesses. She wanted to do some real reporting, and if she couldn't even do that, she definitely needed a new job.

Biting her lip, she sat on the edge of her bed and considered her options. She hadn't been accepted to train as an Auror; she had been one N.E.W.T. short. She didn't have the dedication for Healing, the patience to work in Muggle Relations, or the interest for banking. In fact, the more she thought about it, the more she realized that she had little choice but to endure her current job and hope that it would become more bearable over time. It didn't help that everyone else seemed to have found the perfect job, their own little niche in Wizarding society. Hermione was working in the Department of Protection and Regulation of Magical Creatures, taking her stance on elf rights to the government, and as she had been frightfully overzealous years before she had landed the position, she naturally attended to her job with the same overwhelming energy. Ron was helping George run Weasleys' Wizarding Wheezes, which was becoming an even greater success under his leadership, and Harry… Harry, of course, had been accepted for Auror training and was absolutely excelling in everything related to the subject.

But of course, she told herself quickly, the only reason Harry had made an appearance in her mind was because she was thinking about careers. She wasn't consciously intending to think about him.

What Ginny really wanted to do—and she was embarrassed to admit it even to herself—was to play Chaser for a professional Quidditch team. But that was impossible, of course. She wasn't nearly good enough; positions like that were undoubtedly extremely difficult to obtain. She had not played competitively long enough, and it was silly to even imagine it as a possibility. Shaking her head, she dismissed the thought from her head.

But no sooner had she coaxed herself to stop dreaming about impossible careers, her mind wandered right onto the subject she was most reluctant to acknowledge: a certain green-eyed, messy-haired boy with whom she had not had a proper conversation with for almost two years now. And it certainly didn't help that everything—everything—reminded her of him.

Stop it, she told herself sternly. We're broken up. He's none of my business anymore.

Except her devious mind somehow managed to convince herself that he was still her business and, burying her face into her blankets, she succumbed to the temptation of thinking about him yet again.

As a general rule, Ginny was the one who did the breaking up. She had a knack for spotting when a relationship was doomed, and instead of dragging it on for a few more months and waiting to be dumped, she saved both herself and the boyfriend the trouble by doing the dumping early. She did so with Michael, and she did the same with Dean. Harry, however, was a different matter. She had come to realize that the regular rules never applied to Harry.

When they went out for that brief but glorious one month and eleven days during her fifth year, she knew that a breakup was imminent. She knew that before the summer was over, Harry would end the relationship because he was going to be his normal bloody noble self and put her safety above their happiness. She could have ended it herself; it was inevitable, and Harry would probably be grateful that he wouldn't have to do the dirty work. But she couldn't quite bring herself to do it. Each day spent with Harry was indescribably sweet and precious to her, and she was willing to delay the end as long as she could, even though she knew that the end could come any day.

And so, he'd broken up with her on the day of Dumbledore's funeral. She'd cried buckets afterward, though of course she never allowed him to see. And then he'd gone off on his mysterious quest to defeat Voldemort with Ron and Hermione, and she hadn't seen or heard from him for ten months.

She thought that they would simply continue from where they left off when the war was over, but that was far too idealistic on her part. The first time they were alone together, Ginny wanted to throw herself into his arms and savor his solidity and warmth, but something made her check herself. Too much time had passed, and too much had changed. She had hesitated, and he stood uncertainly on the other side of the room for a few moments before they hugged, somewhat awkwardly. The next week afforded them no time to be together; Harry was so busy answering press releases and helping with war cleanup that she only managed to see him a few times, his face haggard with stress and exhaustion.

The day of Fred's funeral, he'd disappeared. She had woken up to a note on her windowsill:

Ginny, I'm taking some time off to be alone. I'm sorry. I know you are angry and disappointed in me. I'm so sorry. – Harry

Angry and disappointed was an understatement. Ginny was livid. She could not believe that he had the audacity and the blatant disrespect for her family to forego attending Fred's funeral. She could not forgive his pathetic excuse for needing to be alone, and she could not understand why he couldn't just show up at her dead brother's funeral and then take some time off. She was completely, thoroughly disgusted with his cowardice. When he returned two weeks later, nervous and contrite, she had shown him exactly what she felt and what she thought of him. She'd slapped him across the face as hard as she could.

Harry had stepped back a little, eyes pleading. "Ginny, please let me explain how sorry I am. Please hear me out—"

"No," she said, her words tumbling over each other in her fury. "No. You don't deserve to explain yourself. How could you not go to Fred's funeral? He's my brother, Harry, my family, and your friend! How could you just disappear for two weeks? I can't believe how—how unbelievably selfish and disrespectful and irresponsible you were. You disgust me. I never want to see you again."

He'd looked at her, stunned. "Ginny—"

"No, Harry. Just leave. It's over." And without waiting for him for say another word, she had slammed the door on him.

She had been savagely glad when Ron and Hermione expressed similar sentiments. Ron had punched Harry in the face, and Hermione had screamed herself hoarse at him. Just a week later, though, Ginny had walked past the three of them sitting rather too cozily together, buried in textbooks and notes as they struggled to learn the seventh-year material that they missed the previous year. Ginny's voice was shaking when she accosted Ron and Hermione after dinner that night, rising accusatorily as she demanded, "How could you just sit there and study with him as if nothing had happened?"

Ron and Hermione exchanged a worried glance.

"Look, Ginny, Harry's been through a lot," Ron began nervously.

"I know that, but that does not mean that he can ditch my brother's funeral and go wandering off by himself!"

"We're not trying to excuse him," Hermione said quickly. "What he did was terrible, and he knows it, and he regrets it. But can you please try to understand? The pressure and the guilt became too much for him—all these years of being the Chosen One, of being responsible for the lives of so many people—I think he finally cracked. He couldn't handle it anymore, especially when faced with the funeral of a friend whose death was—you know how he blamed himself. Can you please, please try to forgive him?"

Ginny barely heard her. "What he did was despicable," she said quietly, and strode out of the room.

She avoided Harry as much as possible that summer, and after a while, she wasn't sure if she was avoiding him because she still hadn't forgiven him, or because she became so accustomed to it that she wasn't quite sure how to act if she stopped. Their brief, inevitable encounters were awkward and stilted. He never quite met her eyes when he spoke, and she came to dread these encounters and took special pains to avoid them. She was relieved when September drew near and she was able to prepare for a year of school without his constant presence.

At school, she had kept her mind off of him by throwing herself into her studies and Quidditch. She was made captain that year, and she flattered herself in thinking that the Gryffindor team had redefined victory in Quidditch. She never scored less than a hundred points per game singlehandedly as Chaser, and whether or not the Seeker caught the Snitch became inconsequential; it signaled the end of a game, but by no means the victor. Which was certainly a good thing, because the Gryffindor seeker, a small third-year boy named Allen Samuels, did not manage to catch the Snitch during a single game. And he had been the best she could find, after scouring every inch of Gryffindor Tower and throwing her heart into leading tryouts, and she had spent so much time training him one-on-one that the very sight of his face led her to spiral toward despondency. Gryffindor still won the Quidditch Cup, though. It was a glorious moment.

Harry did not write her that year, not once. She did not write to him either, not after the flushed, triumphant afterglow of Quidditch victories, or during those hours when she felt horribly, sickeningly lonely. And despite her constant reminders to herself that she did not need him or miss him one bit, she wondered, with some sadness and a bit of fear, why he didn't ever write her. She tried not to ask about him in her letters to Hermione and Ron, and devised clever roundabout ways to do so. And she tried, to no avail, to convince herself that she was certainly not in love with him anymore, not after all these years.

She dreaded coming home after graduation that summer. She had hardly expected some kind of warm fuzzy reconciliation between her and Harry, but even she was stunned by the cold formality with which he treated her. After a week at home, she decided that it would be the best for everyone if she moved out. So against her mother's serious (and for once, quite valid) misgivings, she packed her bags and found herself a small flat in London. She broke the news to Hermione, declaring that she was moving on.

Hermione had not been pleased.

"Ginny," she began in her half-placating, half-exasperated voice, "I know I told you once before that it might be best to move on, but there's a difference between moving on when it's the wisest thing to do and moving on when there's really no reason to. Harry still has feelings for you, I know he does, and giving up on him now, without trying to work things out, will only make both of you unhappy."

Her words, however, had done little to sway Ginny. In fact, Ginny was thoroughly frustrated with Hermione's irritating tendency to always be right and wished fervently to prove her wrong.

"Hermione, things are not working out, and they have not worked out in a long time, and I'm done. Things just didn't happen the way we wanted them to," she said. "And besides, it was silly to think that our relationship could last, anyway. We'd only gone out for a month, and then gone two years barely seeing each other, and we've both changed too much within that span of time. It's better for us to move on. And besides, if he cares about me at all, even as a friend, he would have written me and he would have at least acknowledged my existence this summer."

And with that, she'd marched out of the room, not wanting to hear Hermione's further admonishments, or allow Hermione to see her own guilty face.

And that was that.

She had been sure, about a year ago, that after the war, everything would be perfect. She would have the perfect job, the perfect house, and of course she would have Harry. But the war was over and done with, the Dark Lord defeated, and all she had was a crappy job that involved menial labor and minimal pay, a two-room flat with a leaky ceiling and creaky floorboards, and she most certainly did not have Harry.

And there she was again, thinking about Harry with a mixture of regret and disappointment. This was getting ridiculous. It simply would not do; she had promised herself that she would move on this time.

But no matter how much she tried to justify it to herself, the fact remained that breaking up with Harry was the stupidest thing she had ever done.

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A/N: So it's been a while… a long while… a long long long long while… but I was just itching to start writing again all of a sudden so here it is. The writing is by no means fantastic but I hope you enjoy it anyway. Thanks for reading!