Previously: "And Harry files this information for further consideration when he's less busy sorting out his entire life."
[outtake –– Harry James Potter –– continued]
He takes a deep breath, standing outside the Burrow. He reminds himself that he's made his decision, reminds himself that his indecisiveness is to the point of cruel.
He knocks on the door.
Ginny opens it, and her immediate shock is evident in her eyes. "Harry?"
Harry rubs the back of his neck. "Er, hello, Ginny."
She's dressed up a bit, and her fiery hair is pulled back, only a few loose curls tumbling down. She blushes a bit, and then steps back. "Come on in."
Harry nods, stepping inside. "Look, Ginny, I wanted to talk to you," he says, at precisely the same time Ginny says,
"Harry, I actually wanted a word with you."
Both of them laugh, but it's slightly awkward, stilted, and Harry fervently misses the days when Ginny was easy and effortless to talk to. "Go ahead," he says.
"You could go first, if you like." It's less an offer and more a hope, but Harry shakes his head.
"Go ahead, Ginny."
She bites her bottom lip and says instead, "Maybe we ought to sit?"
Harry nods, sitting on the couch in the living room. She sits on the chair, bracing her elbows on her knees, leaning toward him. She sighs.
"Harry, look. I love you. I will never stop loving you. You were my first crush, the one I thought I would wait forever for, but…" she trails off. "Some things aren't meant to last forever," she says carefully. "And that first fairytale prince is so rarely the one in the end. Life doesn't work that way. And I… I can't keep waiting forever."
"I know, Ginny, and I'm so sorry. I had… a lot of things to sort out, and a lot of things to think about."
"I know you did. And I get that. But, Harry, look… It's just…" she sighs again. "There's not an easy way to say this, so I suppose forward is best. Harry, I… I met someone. And I like him. And he's not keeping me in limbo."
And Harry smiles softly. "Good," he says. "I'm happy for you."
Her eyes snap up to meet his. "You aren't… upset?"
Harry laughs. "No, I'm not upset. I couldn't expect you to wait for me forever. Besides–" he shrugs "–that was what I wanted to talk to you about. I've been thinking about it, and, well… I love you, I do. Just… you're like a little sister to me."
Ginny nods. "I think some part of me has always known that." She grins cheekily. "Besides, I read the papers. I've seen the rumours."
Harry frowns. He hasn't bothered to properly read a Prophet since his training properly started. "What rumours?"
Her eyes sparkle with mirth — mirth he's glad he hasn't quenched. "You mean you don't know?"
Harry shakes his head. "What?"
She giggles. "The papers can't seem to decide whether you and Malfoy are shagging or likely to throttle one another at any moment. Either way, they're awfully concerned about your private life, as usual." Ginny grins. "That's something I can't say I'll miss."
"Ginny, you play Quidditch for a living. They're just as much in your personal life as mine," Harry points out.
She shrugs, then counters, "Not just as much. Never just as much. You're the Slayer of Voldemort — anything you do is front page news."
Harry sighs. "Don't I know it best of all."
"Oh, don't play dumb with me, Harry Potter! So? So what's really going on between you and Malfoy? Ron's been fuming about it, so I know you haven't offed the man, but what's the scoop?"
Harry can feel his face heating up, and he curses it as Ginny squeals. "That's a blush! That is a definite blush! So there is something there!"
"No!" Harry says, but even to himself it sounds too defensive. "I mean, no. It's not… no, Ginny. It's not like that."
She looks at him piercingly. "I said it before, and I'll say it again. You're happier. And it's not being an Auror that does that. You've always had a purpose. No." She leans even farther forward. "It's not like that, but you want it to be, don't you?"
Harry takes her question as seriously as she means it. He thinks about Draco, thinks about the way he feels around the man — thinks about wanting to make everything better, about wanting to pull the blonde into his arms and shield him from the world, and really, doesn't that answer it already? He thinks about the perfect mask Draco has built to keep everyone else out, the way, when the mask slips, Harry sees Draco at his most vulnerable and thinks that it's then that he's most beautiful.
"I don't dare mess anything up," he says softly. "Not when I've worked so hard to get where I am. I sometimes feel like I'm building with spun glass. One wrong move, Ginny, just one, and the whole thing will shatter."
"No one ever said love was supposed to be easy, Harry. They just said it would be worth it."
He looks up at her, sees her looking at him warmly, and he says, "God, Ginny, you're fantastic, do you know that?"
She grins. "'Course I do. Took you a bit to figure out, though, didn't it?"
He laughs, but then he sobers. "Er, Ginny, is there any way you could, er, not tell Ron just yet? Only… he sort of… blew up when I told him Draco was a decent enough bloke, and I think perhaps it's just best to… ease him into these sorts of things."
Ginny winces, and then pats Harry's shoulder sympathetically. "Of course. Consider my lips sealed."
Harry breathes a sigh of relief. "You're a wonder."
Ginny laughs. "Realising that a bit late, aren't you, Harry?"
Harry chuckles. "Ah, c'mon. I've always known that."
She smiles and ducks her head, the few loose strands of her hair swinging front of her face. Mostly relieved that the awkwardness is over, Harry makes a joke and then asks about Ginny's new interest. She beams and talks about some fellow Quidditch player that Harry's never heard of — a last minute replacement Seeker for a team that'd lost their starter when she broke seven bones in her hand and tore up the muscle too badly to be mended. Ginny's cheer when she talks about how the delicate process of mending precision muscles takes time leaves Harry caught halfway between horror and amusement, but he smiles.
She's happy. It's exactly like she says about him; she's happy. She's smiling freely and talking animatedly and her tone of voices speaks almost more than her words do.
And he's glad for it. He cares about her enough that he truly does want her to be happy, and he's glad that she can be happy without him.
She is a phase of his life. She is his best friend's little sister, his ex-girlfriend, and she will never not matter. But she doesn't matter as much as she used to, and he is just glad that he doesn't matter as much to her as he used to, because it is precisely when people don't matter equally that people get hurt. And he doesn't want to hurt her — not least because she has six brothers that could probably destroy him, if she'd let them.
She asks about his case and he talks too much about Draco and not enough about the case and the knowing look in her eyes makes him duck his head to hide the blush he knows is growing. Molly comes in the room when Harry is laughing harder than he has in a long time at something Ginny's said and she smiles at them, and Ginny shakes her head and Molly smiles and without anything else being said they all know she knows.
"Harry, dear, you'll stay for dinner, won't you?" is all she says. "You're so thin."
Harry grins, laughs. "Of course I will, Mrs. Weasley. He doesn't mention that he's spent his whole life sliding just inside the line for unhealthily underweight for his height group, and he's finally just now approaching normal. He never mentions that, because Mrs. Weasley is never truly happy unless she's telling someone he's too thin.
So he stays for dinner and he watches the darkness in George's eyes and makes a note to visit the shop sometime. He watches Ron and Hermione laugh quietly with each other at things no one else can hear and he smiles, because he has always known they were meant to be. He watches Ginny laugh, watches Mrs. Weasley watch her children laugh and smile fondly, watches Mr. Weasley watch Mrs. Weasley watching everyone else laughing and smile himself. And Harry knows that the Weasleys will always be his family, no matter what the law or the bloodlines say, and he doesn't need to be with Ginny for that to be true. He feels at home here. Always.