A/N: No I have not abandoned the story. Sorry for the long wait. Right Now it is in the process of being beta'd by amazing jack63kids and I am going through and reposting the chapters that are already posted. Chapter 20 is finished! AND Chapter 21 is already half way done! So once she is done fixing all my errors and american-isms, I will be handing over Chapter 20 and hopefully Chapter 21 to her so I can get those posted ASAP!
To everyone who is still following my story... Thank you. I really means a lot that I receive pms asking about my next chapter. And sorry for the psych out that went to your emails saying that I had updated. Not yet... but soon. Promise. =)
To everyone who is a new reader... I hope you enjoy and ignore the mistakes in Chapters 2-19 until the improved version is updated. =)
2 May 199
Harry shuffled down the spiral staircase, eyes heavy, yawning. The adrenaline was almost entirely gone from his body now, and he was starting to feel exactly how much he ached. His four poster bed in the Gryffindor tower was calling to him so strongly, it was all he could manage to keep moving towards it.
But before he could vocalise his thoughts, Ron expressed, to no one in particular, "Right then... shall we head back to the Great Hall? I'm starving."
Harry smirked as he saw the familiar look that Hermione was giving him. He knew that an argument wasn't too far off and honestly didn't have the energy for it. "You can Ron, but I'm exhausted. I could sleep for a week if I can just make it up to my old bed."
Ron seemed to think about this for a moment before he said "I could do the same mate, but I need to be with my family right now. I know Mum is..."
Hermione grabbed his hand and said very quietly "We all are. He was like a brother to me and Harry as well. I know it's not the same thing, but we miss him too."
At this, he grabbed Hermione up into a tight hug and Harry stepped forward to wrap his arms around the both of them. He wanted to take a moment to mourn the loss of Fred, just between the three of them. But then Harry heard footsteps and he was immediately alert.
'Everyone should be in the Great Hall,' he thought to himself. 'Who is wandering these halls?' And with that he pulled away from Ron and Hermione and walked slowly toward the footsteps. He grabbed hold of his wand, just in case it was a death eater. But before he could do anything further, he heard a voice call out. Her voice call out.
"Oi! RON!" And then more quietly to herself, "Where did that bloody git run off to."
"Ginny!" Hermione exclaimed. Whether it was at the shock of her suddenly being there or at her choice of words, Harry did not know. Nor did he care. She had just come into view and he could not take his eyes off of her. He was looking at her, really looking at her, for the first time in what felt like centuries. Her red hair was longer than he remembered and her curves appeared to have become slightly more pronounced, more womanly. But the biggest changes were discovered when he looked into her beautiful brown eyes. And they said it all. All that she had been through the past year, all that she had seen, all that she had lost. But behind the maturity, he saw her hope. At this he couldn't help but smile.
"Ginny. Why aren't you with Mum?" asked Ron.
Their eye contact broke as she turned to look at her brother, who was still tightly holding onto Hermione. Annoyance filling her voice. "Because she started looking around for you and couldn't find you. She started to panic Ron."
Guilt crashed over Harry. He hadn't thought about how Mrs. Weasley would react when she realized Ron was no longer in the Great Hall. They had already been gone for quite some time, and then she only saw him briefly before the fighting broke out. The fighting that cost her the life of a son... Fred.
"So then she started looking around for you two," Ginny looked at Hermione and Harry as she spoke, "and couldn't find you all either. She figured you three were together and calmed down a bit, but I know she is still worried."
Still looking at Ginny, Harry spoke up, "Dumbledore. I needed them to come with me. To see Dumbledore. "
Ginny looked him dead in the eyes and after a moment asked very quietly, "Does this mean... are you finished? Are you going to come back now?" That same look of hope filled her eyes and Harry knew that she wasn't referring to the Great Hall.
Ron finally pulled away from Hermione, but not letting go of her hand, and said, "We just finished. Harry is going to catch some sleep, but I'm coming back. 'Mione? What about you?"
Not blind to the true meaning of the question, and acutely aware of the silent exchange still going on between Harry and Ginny, she spoke to Ron and started pulling him towards the Great Hall. "I would like to spend some time with your family as well. Lets go shall we?"
"But what about Ginny? Shouldn't we wait for her?"
"No Ronald," Exasperation filling her voice. "We absolutely should not wait for Ginny."
Ron's response was lost as they traveled out of hearing range. Not that Ginny and Harry even noticed, as they were both still standing there. Staring at each other. Harry knew he should say something, he wanted to say something. But he didn't know what to say, where to begin, or how to explain. He wanted to move forward and hold her, never letting her go. How many cold, lonely nights had he thought about Ginny. Looking at the Marauder's map as he sat watch. He had thought about what it would be like to see her again, if he survived the war. He had not known whether she would still want him. But in this moment, he knew the truth. Any doubt he had left him as he closed the few steps between them. He grabbed her up into his arms holding onto her as if his life depended on it. She let out a sigh of relief and clasped her arms around his neck, standing on her tiptoes in order to reach.
And then Harry spoke, knowing exactly what he needed to say. "Yes. I'm finished. I'm coming back." He pulled away slightly and looked Ginny in the eyes. "I've missed you Gin. More than anything."
Ginny smirked. "I've missed you too Harry, but... right now you look and smell ghastly. How long has it been since you had a shower? Or perhaps a haircut?" Ginny lifted a lock of his, now shoulder length, hair with a finger.
Harry laughed. Ginny always did know how to make him laugh. At this, he relaxed his hold on her and answered her with a smile. "Quite a while actually, but right now I just want to sleep."
Ginny gave him a knowing smile. "Then go. I'll still be in the castle when you wake up. Mum won't leave without you." She gave him a wink. "I won't let her." And with that she turned to walk away.
"I'll see you when I wake up then?" Harry asked as he reached out and took her hand. His voice heavy and serious.
Ginny stopped and gave his hand an affectionate squeeze. "Yes Harry, I'll see you when you wake up. Just come find me." Harry seemed to relax at this. But he still felt like it was wrong to let her go, even if it was for a short time. They had already been separated long enough. Then Ginny continued, "...After you've showered."
"What?" Harry asked slightly confused. Did he miss something?
"Come and find me... after you've had a shower." She flashed him a brilliant smile and with another wink, she left him there.
Harry let out a low chuckle as he watched her walk back towards the Great Hall. Once she was out of view. He turned and walked towards the Gryffindor tower. On the way there he couldn't help but notice that the castle was in utter disarray. It pained him to see his old home that way. What frames remained on the wall were empty of their occupants, the suits of armor were scattered and broken along the floor, and the tapestries that once lined the ceilings of the halls weren't anywhere to be seen. He finally reached the landing where the portrait of the Fat Lady hung, only to find the door to the Gryffindor common room open. As an extra precaution he kept his wand at the ready, and slowly made his climb up the tallest tower, to the top room, and to the bed he used to call his. Once he got there, he barely managed to take off his glasses before he passed out.
4 May 1998
Harry woke up suddenly. He reached for his glasses, feeling disoriented and slightly confused. He also desperately needed to go to the loo. Once his glasses were pushed onto his face, and he had taken in his surroundings, Harry relaxed. He was in his old dorm room. To his left, Ron was fast asleep, as was Neville on his right. He picked up Neville's watch to look at the time. 3:02 am. Had he been asleep for almost 15 hours? Or was it some odd 40 hours instead? He set the watch back down and quietly got up to head for the bathroom. On his way out he happened to catch a glimpse of himself in the mirror. Ginny was right, he did look awful. He decided it would be easier to get cleaned up now, when he could be left alone, than during the day, when he was sure he would not. He gave a quick look around hoping to spot a towel. No such luck. 'Kreacher!' Harry suddenly thought to himself, 'Maybe Kreacher would bring me a towel, oh maybe some clean clothes as well.'
"Kreacher?" Harry called, in more of a question than a demand.
*Crack!* and then Kreacher was there. "Master called for Kreacher?"
"Yes umm, Kreacher, could you bring me a fresh towel? I would like to get washed and there aren't any here. Oh and maybe some fresh clothes as well?"
"Of course Master." Kreacher sounded delighted to serve him. "Might Kreacher make a suggestion Master?"
"Uhh, sure, why not?"
"Might Kreacher also bring back Master a plate of food? Mr. Weasley did inform me that Master has not eaten in some time."
"Thank you Kreacher. That is a very kind thing to suggest and I would like that very much."
Kreacher gave a low bow, clearly please at Harry's comment and happy to do whatever he asked. *Crack!* Kreacher was gone.
Harry walked over to the shower and started the water. He quickly undressed and got into the hot water. For a while Harry just stood there. Letting the water envelope him as he slowly felt the dirt, debris, sweat, and blood wash off of him. This had to be one of the most exhilarating experiences he had ever had. He started stretching, allowing his muscles to relax under the water, hoping that some of the aching was better by tomorrow. Then he stuck his head under the water, washing out whatever was caught in his hair. It was the longest it had ever been, and he wondered if Ginny would cut it for him later today. 'Ginny.' He thought to himself, and instantly wished he hadn't. She was somewhere asleep in this castle, probably in the girls dormitory in this very tower. And he was standing here, stark naked, thinking about her. Even though he was all alone, what happened when he thought about her, and thought about what could happen between him and her, was slightly embarrassing. He didn't like to admit it, but she had a hold over him. Both physical and emotional. He quickly changed his thoughts to other things, things he knew he would have to face. 'Who will become the official minister of magic? Will the castle be able to be repaired? Were all the Death Eaters either killed or captured?' and most importantly, 'What now?' Harry started to feel sleepy again and, after standing under some cold water for a little while, he put his glasses back on and got out of the shower feeling much better.
Well, he felt better until he saw his body for the first time in a mirror. There was a new scar, there were many new scars. The most prominent was the one in the center of his chest, where Hermione had used a severing charm to remove the locket. He also had a scar of the bite marks Nagini had made when she attacked him in Godric's Hollow. Then there were fresh slashes up his arms and across his torso and legs, and he knew many of these would scar as well. He was also bruised over almost his entire body. No wonder he ached so badly. But what stood out the most, what really caught Harry's eyes, was not the biggest scar or the still fresh injuries. It was the new lightning shape scar over his heart. A testament that someone had once again killed him, or at least made an attempt to. Over all, he was quite frightening to look at without any clothes on. Not being able to look at himself anymore he noticed what he had not noticed before. There beside the shower was a towel and some fresh clothes. Internally thanking Kreacher, he pulled on the clean shorts and vest first, followed by a shirt and pajama bottoms. And finally the jumper and socks that Mrs. Weasley had made for him the Christmas before last.
As he passed through the common room Harry noticed a serving tray on an end table by the fire. Harry walked over to it and opened it. Roast beef, roast potatoes, gravy, and for dessert... treacle tart. There was also a bottle of Butterbeer. Harry quickly ate the food. He couldn't remember anything ever looking, and tasting, so delicious in his entire life. After his stomach had been filled, Harry really started to feel his sleepiness take a hold of him. He fumbled back up the stairs to his room and laid down on his bed once more. Just before sleep took him, he glanced at Neville's watch. 5:17am.