The Hardest Wait
Disclaimer: Any people, objects, places and so on that you recognise belong to JK Rowling. I'm just having fun playing in her sandbox for a while.
Author's Note: This story follows Chapter Twenty: A New Dawnof Hogwarts Rebellion and runs parallel to Chapter Six: Harry Potter and the Nervous Reunion of Observations.
Ginny made her way through the messy castle and up to the Gryffindor common room. She had no doubt that this would be the first place that she would see Harry and she just needed to see him now. She may have waited almost an entire year but this day seemed to be the longest and the hardest wait that she had. All sense and reason told her that after waiting so long then surely one more day was nothing but she was barely listening to reason right now, not with the state every other part of her was in. Now it was possible to see him but his being kept away, no matter for what reason, was just so hard, but despite what everyone had said, she could wait to see him.
So it was in that state of mind that she left the Great Hall, neglecting even to get her injuries treated or even to clean the dried blood out her hair, and hobbled up to the common room; they could all be fixed later.
She had been amazed to see the common room looked just the same. Unlike the rest of the school, something seemed to have protected the tower, left it as a sanctuary, somewhere for the battle's heroes to rest their heads, just as Harry had done. It was really quiet poetic when you looked at it. It just seemed right and it was that good despite everything some things still felt right. There was no real dust or rubble littering the floor nor were there upturned chairs or desks. Instead the big armchairs were still by the fireplace, just as they had been for so many years.
Ginny settled into one of them, curling her body up in a protective hold and waited. Her eyes were fixed on the entrance to the boys' dormitories, not moving or shifting.
Hours passed but they dragged. Even with the slow passing of time this year, this really was the longest. The hours felt like days, refusing to speed up for her, just as they had done so many times this year. And those hours started to take their toll as the sun both fully rose in the window and then sank again. She would have given anything to give in to the sense of tiredness that was washing over her but instead she stayed alert, focused on that entrance, to where Harry would finally, God willing, come back to her. She had stayed up and alert through worse than this; if she had toughed it out in the dungeons then she could do this.
Overwhelming and complex feelings filled every part of her body and sent her stomach into turmoil. She really was not quite sure how to feel now that it was all finished. It had taken so much to get to this point, and against all the odds they had won; the damn war was finally over. It was what she had prayed for, dared to hope for, for so long, so surely she should be feeling happy but the best she could manage was relief. It was a relief that was filled with other emotions and tainted with misery because they hadn't all made it.
Fred hadn't made it.
He, like so many others, was never coming back and every second she thought them, she could barely contain the tears that overcame her. Then there was that deep feeling of apprehension, she was so nervous to see Harry again.
She had waited so long, had run this moment through her head so much that she was not sure how to feel, even with Ron's hints in the Room of Requirement. Ron was so often wrong about things like this. She couldn't let herself get her hopes up.
She knew that she still saw Harry as her boyfriend, knew that maybe she even thought that she loved him but she didn't know how he felt. What if things had changed since he had been gone, his year must have been so hard. What if he wasn't ready for her yet? What if he had moved on and just saw her as some school girl relationship? After all she had been through, she very much doubted that she could be the same person he had left. What if he didn't want her? What if he wanted the pre-war Ginny, the one that had not been tainted by all this, the one that did not give him daily reminders of the pain?
Even if all was good, even if they could work all this out and get back to what they'd had, was what she was feeling even right? Surely she should be mourning right now, and a large part of her felt like collapsing every time the thought of Fred's body even crossed her mind, not wondering if Harry loved her.
This was all just so hard.
Finally, Harry made his way down the stairs from his old dormitory room to the common room. He looked around the room and very slowly he saw her. Their eyes met for the briefest of moments before they both looked away.
He looked a mess, still unkempt, still with cuts and as if he needed much more sleep despite the hours that he had. He also looked nervous and worried, not triumphant as he should have and that was what troubled her the most. Surely now all the pain and worry should be gone from those brilliant green eyes. He deserved that surely after everything that he had done.
As he walked towards her, she unknotted herself and stood up. The closer he got the easier it was to see his face. He was not happy, not the hero the world painted him out to be, just an ordinary person who had been forced to do extraordinary things. He was suffering with the losses and the whirlwind of events that had overtaken them as much as she was.
She had wanted to rush to him in the Great Hall. She had wanted to hold him, as she had wanted to actually hold him when that final spell had been cast and she had given in to her basic instincts, ignored everything and ran over to him as soon as Voldemort had fallen, touching him just seconds after Ron and Hermione. She would give anything to have him hold her, tell her that everything was going to be okay but something held her back. She was not ready for that yet and everything wouldn't be okay; too much had changed. Things were not going to be okay any time soon. They both had been forced to change so much. She could not give in to her heart; if she let herself focus on what her heart was feeling surely the pain of everything else was going to cripple every part of her.
And what if he rejected her again just as he had done with the shake of his head in the Room of Requirement? He had crushed almost every part of her then. She could not let herself be floored like that again, she was barely holding on as it was.
"I'm sorry," he finally said as he got closer.
"What for?" Ginny asked softly as she forced the smallest of smiles at him. "You just saved the whole of Britain, potentially the whole of Europe and possibly the world." Ginny continued in a dry emotionless tone, she could not let her emotions, her pain get the better of her. Harry did not need that. "You're the hero; you have nothing to be sorry for."
She walked closer to him and watched as he made a start, reached as if for his wand but then stopped himself. Confusion flooded through her. Why had he stopped? Didn't he care? Had she been wrong about him? What did he want his wand for?
There were just so many questions she was not anywhere nearer to working out. She was going to need hours if not days to understand the whole of this. After all, they had nearly a year to make up for and a very eventful year at that.
Ginny pushed down a gulp of fear as she made her way reasonably close to him before she stopped, keeping about an arm's reach from him. There was still a barrier between them, neither of them willing to get closer, scared of those last few steps. It felt like forever since they were both on this spot, facing each other. It was hard to believe that that kiss had taken place just a little under a year ago, so much had happened since then.
Brown eyes met green.
"Are you hurt?" he asked, reaching his hand out to take hers before instantly pulling back away.
Again he had pulled back stopped himself from getting close. The marked distance filled the air. Despite the fact that she kept telling herself that this should be the easy part, the tension was growing. This reunion was proving to be anything but easy.
"No, not really," she replied softly.
"Your leg," he said as he touched her face, "your cheek."
"It's nothing." She was not sure why but she backed away slightly. Her actions didn't make any sense of reason to her, but then so few things had made any sense or reason to her today. "I just banged it when Mum knocked me out of the way." Her voice shook as she relived the moment; she had been so close to not standing here, so close to dying, it had been a single inch. If Harry hadn't made that trip down to the Forbidden Forest would she even be standing here? A shudder ran down her spine again before she forced herself to regain her composure. "It will be okay." Her brown eyes met his showing him a hint of what she was feeling and those bright brown eyes were glistening with yet more tears and she thought that she had already shed bucket loads of them in the last few hours. "There's a hell of a lot of people worse off. At least I'm still standing."
"I was so scared," he said, and his words were just packed with emotions that pulled against her every heartstring, "when I saw you fighting Bellatrix, especially after I'd seen what she'd done to those Snatchers at Malfoy Manor." He gulped and looked frightened even as if he was reliving that moment. "I knew right then I would do anything for you. I wouldn't have been able to stand it if anything had happened to you and she was so capable and willing to kill," he looked directly into those deep brown eyes, "I almost went after her myself until I saw your mum."
"I think..." she paused, the ghost of a smile on her lips, "I think Mum had a lot to work through against Bellatrix."
"Yeah," he forced a smile onto his own lips, "remind me never to get on the bad side of her."
"Okay," her smile grew briefly and this was the smile that was not forced. Harry had said he still wanted her, that he would do anything for her and even joked in a fashion as he had before all this mess had exploded, eleven months ago. "We'll just have to watch for swearing and then as soon as we hear her utter one of those words we stop because that was some impressive magic. I didn't know she had it in her; I guess we all underestimated Mum."
"She was scared too, and you can do some stuff that you had never dreamed of when you're scared and just acting on instinct." Harry paused again. "I—we couldn't have coped if you hadn't made it out of this." He took her hand in his. "When I saw that green light flash just by you..."
She looked directly into his eyes and spoke in a voice that was dripping in emotion as she interrupted him, he needed to know just how much that had hurt to see him dead, to hear Voldemort rejoice in Harry's defeat, how it had torn her apart. Just as he couldn't have coped if Bellatrix had got her way, she couldn't have coped without him. Especially after everything that had already happened.
If they stood a chance, any chance of getting back to what they had, she had to be honest now. There was no point in hiding anything. It would only hurt later, hurt so much more later. She knew from so many experiences this year that temporarily numbing pain just did not work.
No, Harry needed to know how it had felt.
"Almost like when I saw Hagrid carrying you out of the forest."
"I'm sorry." He squeezed her hand. "But you know why I had to do that."
"Yes," she said softly. She'd been resigned to what he might do for so long that she was not angry, not really, despite the words she spoke. "I know why you went down there; I understand that. I'd expect nothing less and wouldn't want you to do anything less even if we had to relive that moment over and over again."
She paused as she braced herself for what she had to say. This was going to be so hard, hard to say and hard to hear but he had to hear the words. "What I don't get is when you passed me wearing that Cloak—I knew you were there; I kind of sensed you when I was helping…" She stopped herself unable to say Beth's name; saying names made everything seem so real and she could not bear for them to be real. "…that girl." She finally gulped out. "Did you know that she was only four months older than me and she died of her injuries? She was crying for her mum and she died in my arms." The tone in her voice had changed; it was crisper, sharper and accusing. "Why didn't you take ten seconds to talk to me?"
Tears were forming in her eyes and, damn them, she couldn't stop them. She wasn't even sure if she would ever feel like she would stop crying. "There's only so much that you can throw at me." Her voice finally broke. "My brother is killed, my whole world is falling apart and you disappear to die without a word. I can't deal with all that."
"Because I couldn't." His own voice was breaking.
When was she ever going to learn?
Maybe this was something that could have waited; he had already been through so much but then again, she was going to have to say all this later and surely if she had hidden stuff from him it was going to hurt even more. Why couldn't things just be easy?
Why couldn't they just be like any other sixteen- and seventeen-year-old?
"I couldn't face dying if I spoke to you and saw everything that living could offer, the happiness that being with you would bring." Harry had paused, letting her focus on his words. That was why. They were so different to others their age. They had been through much more and maybe, just maybe, felt more for each other than other people of their age. "You showed me everything worth living for and I couldn't face death if I let that cross my mind." He dropped his voice to barely above a whisper. "You were the last person I thought about."
That was deep, really deep and a hell of a lot of pressure.
Surely it meant he felt the same way she did.
Surely it meant that he loved her.
They looked straight into each other's eyes and as brown made contact with green so many unspoken emotions were felt. "If I've worked something out over the last year, it's that I love you," he said quietly.
"I love you, too, Harry." She paused again. "I was thinking about you every minute of the last year, wondering where you were, praying that you would be okay and daring to dream that we would stand facing each other when everything pointed to disaster. And here we are, back here." She took his hand and led him to the exact spot where they had kissed three hundred and forty-eight days ago. "But so many other things I hadn't thought about have changed when all I could focus on was you living. The whole world is a mess, my whole family's a mess, I'm a mess, Fred died." Emotion was ringing in her words. "It doesn't feel right to be falling in love."
"It doesn't feel right not to be falling in love." Harry smiled at her weakly. "I mean, I know it hurts. Dumbledore used to say that these were the feelings that made us human and I get that it's going to take time but we've got that, right?" His smile grew slightly. "But if we shut ourselves down then even though he's dead, Voldemort's won."
She moved closer to him, closing the gap, finally the barriers were starting drop between them. "When did you grow so wise?"
"I've had a lot of time to think." She smiled back at him as he spoke. "All I knew was if I made it out of this I wanted to be with you."
"That sounds good, but can you do one thing for me?"
"Hold me," she said looking up at him, her eyes conveying a million emotions, "hold me and don't let go."
Harry wrapped his arms around her back as she rested her head against his chest. Her arms slipped softly round his back. She had wanted, needed this for so so long: just to be back in his arms again and to have that level of protection. To know that she was safe and that she didn't need to worry about her whole world coming crashing down on her. They could stand like this forever. There was something very simple about standing there. It was no great gesture. They were not chasing each other on brooms, not bursting out in laughter as they fell into the Hogwarts lake, no passionate kiss that sent his heart racing, but she was happier than she had been in so long, despite everything and the pain that was still tearing her insides. Maybe she was happier than she'd ever been.
He loved her.
She loved him.
And now they had time. Time to hold onto each other. Time to recover. Time to slowly let all the pain heal—together. That was so much more than she could have asked for even just two days ago.
"Everything is going to be okay now, I promise," he whispered gently.
"I know. It's just going to take some time," came the soft reply. She waited before looking up from his shoulder and into his eyes, that hint of mischief shining in her brown ones, as she attempted to lighten the mood even just a little. "But, Harry, there is one thing you should know that would stop things being okay."
"What is it?"
"If you ever side with my mother over me again," her voice was deadly serious, "you won't need to worry about Dark wizards trying to kill you as I will have already done it."
Harry laughed nervously. "I promise, I'll always be on your side from now on."
~ Fin ~