My take on the beginning of 19 years. Thank you so much for taking time to read my story. It means a lot and feedback is undeniably appreciated.
PS. I don't own anything. It all belongs to JK Rowling.
Harry slowly sat up in the bed he had spent half of his life sleeping in and reached for his glasses before he felt someone else slide them into his hands. He recognized the smoothness of the hand as more feminine than the usual inhabitants of the boy's dormitory and for a fleeting moment felt a flutter of hope that the owner of the hand might be Ginny. It only took him the couple of seconds to put on his glasses to realize that there was no reason for Ginny to even be up here. Once his eyes were focused and peering through the slightly cracked lenses he recognized that it was Hermione who had handed him the battered glasses.
"Good morning Harry, how was your sleep?" Hermione asked from where she was standing in front of Ron, next to Ron's bed. Briefly Hermione's eyes flitted down to her and Ron's hands intertwined securely but then her eyes flew back up to Harry with a look of distressed concern. "You slept for quite a while; well actually you slept for a whole day. Molly kept coming around to see if you had wakened yet so she could stuff you with food but Ron and I warded any visitors off."
"You alright mate? You look a little pale." Ron worried. He stepped around Hermione, still holding her petite hand closely, and walked towards Harry's bed.
"Yeah, I'm fine, I guess." Harry ran his cut up hands through his hair, matted with dirt and blood. He brought his hand down and stared at the blood. "Looking like hell, I reckon." Harry attempted a half smile but a cut running the length of his face halted the movement in pain.
"Not too bad." Ron replied. "Dean got pretty badly knocked around. No one looks as bad as him."
Harry tried to laugh but it came out more as a groan of pain.
Hermione contemplated Harry for a few more moments and then spoke up. "Are you sure you're alright Harry" Her brows furrowed as she selected the right words. "I mean besides the physical aspects…"
No one moved as Harry shook his head pensively. "You mean how my feelings and such are?" Harry asked sardonically. Hermione nodded timidly. "Frankly I'm not sure how I feel right now. Everything's a little jumbled."
Hermione placed a protective hand on Harry's knee. "That's all to be expected Harry. No one's really sure what to think at this point; jubilee and despair aren't exactly two compatible emotions." Hermione's eyes betrayed just how much despair she was feeling.
Harry switched his stare to Ron, whom he knew Hermione was referring to.
"The only thing I know for sure is that I feel horribly responsible that all of this happened and honestly that's more than enough for me to think about at this point."
Ron looked completely bewildered but Hermione on the other hand knew exactly what Harry was about to do. She spoke up before Harry could pin everything that had gone wrong on himself. "Don't you dare think that anyone who fought and died in this battle is dead on your account. No one blames you for any of this. Fred, Tonks, Lupin and everyone else came into this battle with a full knowledge of what the risks were but they all had an even better knowledge of the good that would come out of their actions."
Harry stood up forcefully but fell back into his bed when his knees buckled out from underneath him. "If I had just finished him off earlier nobody would have died."
"Stop trying to be so damn noble Harry." Ron spat with frustration. "If Fred was here," his voice caught and Hermione squeezed his hand tighter, "he would slap some sense into. Don't you realize Harry? V-Voldemort is gone; he's never coming back. No one else will ever die at his hand again and that's because of you Harry."
"But if you want us to get mad at you, I've got something." Hermione assured. "How about when we thought you were dead? When Hagrid carried you up the hill-" But a wave of torrid tears cut her off. Harry could even see moisture daring to spill out of Ron's eyes.
Ron cradled Hermione in his arms as her small but strong body shook with sobs. "You made a pretty convincing dead man Harry but bloody hell, if that had been the end I don't know what I would have done." As Hermione's tears subsided Ron added one more thing in a hushed voice. "You're my best mate Harry. That was hard seeing you like that in Hagrid's arms."
Before Ron could stop her, Hermione had thrown herself at Harry and buried herself in his chest. Harry wrapped his arms around her, apprehensive at first. He lifted his eyes to Ron's and with a shrug from Ron, Harry tightened his grip around Hermione.
Through a new wave of tears Hermione managed to spit out her thoughts. "You were dead Harry. It was over and you were gone. You were gone at his hands. He had killed you and it was all over. You were never coming back." Hermione stuttered slightly incoherently. She dragged her tear filled eyes to meet Harry's avoiding green eyes. "Do you understand how unbearable that thought was for me? For all of us?"
Harry nodded into her hair and rubbed soothing circles on her shuddering back. Harry shifted his eyes to where Ron was standing at the end of his bed and saw that despite Ron's most valiant efforts he was also crying. Ron's muffled and distressed sobs overtook Harry's thoughts and he was left in a dejected reverie until Hermione began wiping furiously at her own eyes, regaining some shred of composure.
Hermione stepped off the bed and stood back, staring calmly at Ron and Harry, holding her breath, afraid to break the uneasy silence. After a moment she breathed out and smiled pitifully at the situation.
"Gosh, what a mess we are." Hermione swiped her thumbs underneath her red, swollen eyes to remove any forgotten tears and slapped her hands together as if to shake herself out of the stupor.
"A sight if I've ever seen one." Ron added. Hermione reached up and dabbed at Ron's tear stained cheeks.
"But never mind us Harry. There's someone waiting for you down in the common room and she's not doing so well at the moment." Hermione raised her eyebrows warning Harry to take caution.
"Pull anything funny and I'll…" Ron shut up as Hermione's warning look switched its focus to him. "Need any help down the stairs then?" Ron asked and Hermione nodded approvingly at his reformed demeanour.
"I'll be fine." Harry replied pushing himself off the bed. He stumbled forward and Hermione reached out and steadied him. "Never better." Harry reassured her.
"You're sure, Harry?" Hermione questioned. He bobbed his head in affirmation and made his way towards the door. "Oh and Harry," Hermione called out, "it's good to have you back."
"Yeah mate, it's good to have you back." Ron called. "Ginny will be glad to see you too."
Harry felt his heart jump at the mention of Ginny's name. Desire filled his chest with a burning sensation he had never felt before. He suspected now that his future was as untainted as anyone else's and that he hadn't been able to talk to Ginny for such a long time were both roles in the warmth spreading throughout his body. But they hardly crossed his mind as he wobbled gingerly down the stairs. All he felt was a yearning for Ginny's skin on his fingertips and for her eyes to be reflected back in his.
When he reached the end of the curved stairs the sight made him stop in his tracks. Ginny was sitting alone on the couch facing a dwindling fire, one hand fisted around a clump of hair, the other clasped over her mouth. The body Harry had held securely so many times in secluded corners of the castle in his sixth year now shook with silent sobs. He walked towards her on discreet footsteps and circled around the sofa so that he was facing her. Her eyes were pinched together as if in pain and her stunning red hair was spotlighted by the slowly dying fire.
Her jeans were covered in dust and there was a gaping cut up her right leg. Her body clinging t-shirt was torn in the shoulder and there was a smudge of blood on the hem that, Harry presumed, came from the cuts on her lip and cheek. Her bare arms were covered in burn marks and bruises that made Harry want to scoop Ginny, who he knew was a tough and resilient person, up in his arms.
Harry lightly placed his burnt, bruised and cut hand on Ginny's seemingly unhurt leg and held his breath. Ginny's eyes snapped open and her hand fell down from her mouth. She stared emptily into Harry's eyes and a fresh set of tears escaped her puffy eyes. A gasping noise leaked through her tear licked lips. Harry raised his hand to wipe away the tears falling quickly but before his thumb touched Ginny's soft cheeks she had clambered backwards on the couch away from Harry's searching hand.
"Ginny…" Harry whispered.
She began shaking her head frantically, her red hair whipping back and forth across her face and her eyes shut wilfully. Harry stood and watched helplessly as Ginny struggled to open her eyes and face him.
Slowly, she opened her deep brown eyes and forced herself to look at Harry. However instead of his face, she fixed her stare on Harry's kneecaps, too afraid to look anywhere else. Again, Harry reached out for her, and this time she did not draw back but let him place a wary finger underneath her chin.
At his touch Ginny let out a mutated whimper, saturated with tears and agony. She extended her trembling hand out and grasped onto Harry's arm, electricity racing through every vein in her body. Her grip was weak and her body was rocked and heaved as she gasped for air. Harry began to tenderly lift her head upwards so that he could see her face.
As her chin became more aloft she exhaled a sound audible only to Harry. "Hold me," she breathed, "please."
Without pause, Harry lifted Ginny into his arms, turned and fell backwards onto the worn, leather couch.
"Harry." Ginny sobbed. "You were dead…gone…" Harry felt her grip around him tense slightly and responded by placing a wary kiss on her battered forehead. She shuddered in his arms and soundlessly continued to weep tears on Harry's shirt. Harry pulled her closer to his racing heart, leaving his lips pressed against the heat of her temple.
"I am so sorry Ginny. I am so sorry for everything that happened tonight and for the past year. I'm sorry. It killed me to leave you."
Ginny looked up at him through glassy eyes and sniffled back her tears. "Kind of ironic you say that isn't it?" She placed a firm hand on Harry's chest, looking over his whole body. "Since I thought he really had killed you."
"I had no choice Ginny. Believe me, it was all I could do not to run back to the castle and hide. It was hard, but I didn't." As Harry spoke these words the whole journey came back to him. "I had no idea whether I was coming back or not," Harry swallowed back the aching lump in throat, "yet I kept walking. I knew that I had to do something and this was that something."
Ginny shook her head in an attempt to muffle a moan that had escaped her lips. Harry could now see how much this had hurt her. If it had been her carried up to the castle he would have acted exactly the same way Ginny was and had. Harry, cautiously, reached his hand out and tucked a clump of hair behind Ginny's ears so that he could see her face. A gust of air whipped through the windows and draped around them. Harry let his throbbing body slide off the couch and landed softly on the carpeted floor with back leaning against the couch and Ginny in his lap.
Ginny cleared her throat and spoke in a thick voice, "I waited for almost a year to even catch a glimpse of you to reassure myself that you were alive." Ginny grabbed Harry's hand tenderly even though she was speaking as if she was mad at him. "And then I see you for what, five minutes? Just to watch you go into battle and maybe never come back."
"I wish I hadn't had to do that Ginny, if I could of I would have stayed in the Room of Requirement with you. It pained me to leave you in that room." Harry shut his eyes remembering something from the battle. "But it upset me even more to see you out in the battle risking your life. I wanted to step in front of you every time someone aimed their wand at you."
Ginny pounded her fist weakly into Harry's chest in frustration. Harry heard shuffling from the rooms above them. "Now you know how I feel! You've been risking your life since the day I met you. I've wished you to be safe more times than I've wished myself away from my family!" Ginny rolled off of Harry's lap and distanced herself from him in sudden anger.
"I had to do it Ginny." Harry didn't know what else to say.
Ginny's hands clenched into fists and her eyes lit up with anger. "You had to do it? You were just doing it to keep me safe? God Dammit Harry! I hate you for being so bloody noble!"
"Ginny, you still had the trace on you and I just couldn't let you risk your life without thinking it over." Harry pleaded.
"I had plenty of time to think it over and if I hadn't still had the trace on me I would have found someway to be with you." Ginny's expression changed as something else came into her mind. She shifted her position so that she was facing directly into the fire, its rays dancing brilliantly across her cheeks. "And what about Ron and Hermione? They just get to come along no matter what?"
"Neither Ron nor Hermione had the trace on them. And I did everything I could to convince them not to come. However they've had it in their minds since first year that they were coming with me wherever I went." Harry tried his best to explain it fairly. "But the truth is even if you hadn't had the trace on you I would have locked you up and got your mother to watch you."
"It's because I'm inadequate and because Hermione is smarter and Ron is braver, right?" Ginny spat.
Harry dragged himself across the rugged carpet so that he was closer to Ginny. "No. Not because I know you can't hold your own ground, but because I couldn't bear to put you in harm's way. Look what happened to Fred because of me, I can't comprehend what I would have done if that had happened to you."
Now Ginny sprung to her feet, holding a pillow murderously. "There you go again being noble! Taking the blame for something you didn't do. If I had died in the battle," A horrendous picture flew through Harry's mind of Ginny distorted body, spread-eagled on the cold stone floor in a lonely corridor, "it would have been knowing fully well of what I was getting into and you wouldn't be allowed to blame yourself. It is not your fault that anyone on our side died. It's because of you that Voldemort and half his army are dead; it's due to your bloody righteous actions that we can live freely now."
Harry suddenly realized how hard this must be for Ginny. To talk about her brother who was never coming back, but she showed no sign of breaking down. Harry recalled that this was one of the things that had attracted him to Ginny. How strong she was had always surprised him. She cried once and then it was done, no more tears.
"I am so sorry… I am so, so sorry Ginny, for everything." Harry thought now that she had calmed down it would be safe to approach her. He reached upwards for her hand and without resistance pulled her gently back down into him. She curled up into his chest and then tilted her head up so she was looking directly into his eyes.
"Never do that again, Harry. You scared me out of mind. I lost purpose when I saw you dead in Hagrid's arms. I hate you for that." Ginny said it so sadly that he hardly believed it.
"I heard you," a scream rang through Harry's memories, "when we got to the steps. I heard you, McGonagall, Ron and Hermione. I so badly wanted to jump out of Hagrid's arms and tell you I was ok. But I couldn't because the only way to make it better for you and everyone else was to stay like that." The pain and guilt etched across Harry's face faded as Ginny smiled feebly at him. "What?"
Ginny shook her head faintly "Even after I thought you were dead and even after you tried to blame yourself for all of this, after you defeated…You-Know-Who," Harry interrupted her. "You can say his name, he's gone." She continued nervously. "Even after all of that, you are still a better person and more humble than anyone else I know."
Harry's lips lifted into a solemn smile and kissed Ginny on the forehead. Ginny trembled at the touch of Harry's lips on her forehead and even though her forehead was already warm from the fire and the humid air outside she felt a certain heat spread over her body.
Ginny let her head fall into the crook of Harry's neck; the exhaustion was beginning to catch up to her. She felt for Harry's hand and entwined her fingers with his. Harry ran his thumb along the silk like back of Ginny's hand.
Harry and Ginny sat in silence for a few moments, both individually contemplating the rush of thoughts and accompanying emotions left after such a tumultuous day. Every time Harry let his mind wander to far, he would land on the face of baby Teddy, now an orphan just like Harry. Ginny's thoughts we consistently focused on her brother; a swirl of memories threatening to break her into a million pieces.
"What are you thinking about?" Harry ventured into the silence.
Ginny chuckled gently and turned to face Harry. "Just thinking about a birthday of mine where Fred and George decided it would be a good idea to hide a newt in the cake. Needless to say, Mum was far from impressed."
Harry squeezed Ginny's hand comfortingly and watched as the smile fell from her face. Harry waited for her to say something but when the pain became tangible, he spoke. "What's wrong?"
Ginny's eyes snapped up to Harry's and she gazed into them looking for a guarantee that she was safe. "I don't know, I guess I just feel like I shouldn't be up here while the rest of my family is downstairs mourning." Ginny mumbled and her head fell back onto Harry's shoulder.
Harry placed his thumb underneath her chin and tilted her face upwards. He let the corners of his mouth tug up reassuringly. "I think after everything we deserve some alone time together."
Ginny nodded weakly but continued on. "It feels right to be here with you, at least for a couple minutes." She paused. "But then I think about Fred again and I can't believe I am even daring to smile when he's gone."
Harry cautiously spun himself so that he was facing Ginny, his hands on her bent knees. "I'm sure Fred wouldn't mind a few smiles. In fact, I'm sure he would be encouraging them." Harry took a breath in, steeling himself. "Ginny, I can't begin to imagine how you are dealing with this. But I think Fred would want us to remember him in a good light and with a smile on our-"
Ginny cut him off, "Don't give me that 'Fred would want this, Fred would want that,' load of bullshit. If I want to be sad, mad or whatever while experiencing this loss I will be. And I'll do it whether Fred likes it or not. Because I loved Fred and it's going to take a lot more than a smile to get me over this."
Harry was taken aback at this outburst. But it wasn't because he disagreed or that he was surprised, it was because he realized that he felt the exact same way. Thinking back to Sirius's death and following Dumbledore's death everyone had tried to convince him that they wouldn't want him to mourn and sulk. But nothing that anyone said could have made him less devastated over their deaths.
Harry pondered back on the summers after Cedric, Sirius and Dumbledore and he realized that in four years he hadn't had a summer that wasn't subsequent to a loved one's death. This summer would be different only in the fact that this year would be the last time. From now on he wouldn't have to worry about a Death Eater around the corner and he wouldn't spend his night's tossing and turning agonizing over the fate of his friends.
Ginny stayed focused intently on Harry waiting for him to say something calming, hoping he would have some rebuttal; some way to make her feel even a little bit more at peace.
"We can go downstairs if you'd like." Harry suggested. Ginny's shoulders sunk, knowing it would take more than Harry to get her through this. She genuinely needed her family.
Harry stood up and held out his hand to Ginny. Just as Ginny stood up Ron and Hermione came down the stairs hand in hand. Hermione's cheeks were spread with fresh tears and her eyes with puffy and red.
"Going down to the Hall?" Ron asked somberly.
"I think that's where we need to be right now." Harry replied as he and Ginny walked towards the portrait hole.
Ron and Hermione nodded in agreement and followed.
Harry stepped through the hole behind the Fat Lady and then turned around to help Ginny through. It was a peaceful silence as Ron and Hermione climbed through and the four friends walked gingerly through the halls in the direction of the stairs.
Harry knew that at the bottom of the stairs the atmosphere would change noticeably. He could already feel the dismal floating up to meet them. The three others seemed to be noticing the same thing at the same time so Harry pulled Ginny off to the side of the hall and let Ron and Hermione go ahead. They were so absorbed in making sure the other was alright that they were barely aware of the retreating couple.
"I thought," Harry began but Ginny wasn't going to wait for Harry to work up the nerve to say it.
"You thought that since quite possibly for the next few days we won't have any time alone, you would like to kiss me at least once." Ginny said it with confidence but Harry saw many things betrayed in her eyes. She was not only nervous but it was also extremely hard for her to even be talking about kissing someone when her brother was gone.
Harry laughed at Ginny's inept ability to read his thoughts. "Are you sure?" Harry cautioned.
Ginny nodded with an air of utter sadness and then she had placed her uneasy yet convincing lips on his lips and tangled her hand into his hair. She moulded her lips to his as Harry placed his strong hand on the small of her back. And even though the kiss only lasted for a short time, it made up for the months they had spent apart yearning for each other's touch.
Ron interrupted from the bottom of the staircase. "You coming?"
Harry and Ginny pulled apart and reluctantly headed downstairs. When they pushed open the doors to the Great Hall, Harry was hit with an overwhelming gust of despair and grief. Though the loss of family members was over a day old and the joyous realization that Voldemort was gone had sunk in for some, most of the population of the Hall was disconsolate and confused. He pulled Ginny closer and he saw Ron do the same with Hermione. They walked forwards to where the Weasley clan was situated at what had been the Ravenclaw table and Mrs. Weasley looked up. She beckoned them near and the four stepped closer. But the distraught looks that passed between the members of the family made Harry feel as if he was intruding. Hermione must have felt the same way because when Ginny and Ron squeezed in on the wooden bench she and Harry stood behind.
Harry reached for Hermione's hand she moved closer to him. "Thank you." Harry whispered. Hermione nodded understandingly.
Mrs. Weasley looked up at them and smiled warmly. "Come sit, you two. There is no reason for you to stay standing."
Harry and Hermione circled around to the other side of the table and sat next to Bill and Fleur, who for once were not showing outward signs of affection except for holding each other's hand in between their place settings.
Mr. Weasley cleared his throat and spoke to Harry. "Harry, I don't know what to say." Harry was about to interject with an apology, when Arthur continued. "I guess we all owe you a thank you."
Harry shifted in his seat awkwardly. "You're welcome sir, but-"
"No buts, Harry. Just thank you. From all of us."
It caused Harry a twinge of regret to think that all of them didn't include Fred now. As if Bill had read his mind he spoke to Harry from beside him. "Fred would be thanking you too." He clapped Harry on the back strongly even though Harry could see moisture brimming in his eyes.
And as Harry sat at the long wooden table, he realized that this was a beginning. And even though it was a beginning after a sad end, it was a fresh start nonetheless and he was not going to waste it.
Thank you so much again! I hope you enjoyed and I would love any feeback you have (constructive criticism is the best!).
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