Four: The Gift of Hope

Mr. Weasley, Bill, Charlie, George, and Fred turned up outside the Great Hall Friday evening to escort Ron, Ginny, Harry, and Hermione back to the Burrow. They each had a Portkey with a specific time allotted to it. Consequently, when Harry needed to go back to his trunk for something he'd forgotten, he was nearly left behind.

Mrs. Weasley greeted the travellers with open arms and her usual warm hugs. She had mugs of hot cider waiting, and Ginny could smell the pot roast which was bubbling on the stove. Dinner would be in fifteen minutes, which gave them just enough time to stow away their school bags and other belongings.

They gathered around the table, nearly all talking at once. Everyone had requests for dragon stories and questions about his travels for Charlie. He kept everyone laughing with his funny accounts of daily life on the dragon reserve, but refused to tell them anything about where he'd gone otherwise.

"It's not that I don't want to," he told them with a significant glance at his mother and father. "I've just got to be careful, that's all." He turned to George and Fred. "How are things in Diagon Alley?" George smiled and began describing their latest Wheeze.

Throughout the meal, Ginny glanced around the table, taking in the sight she hadn't seen in years. The long table was positively groaning under the weight of the many dishes spread across it, and there was not a vacant chair to be found; in fact, there was hardly any elbow room at all. As Fred began telling a story about an interesting customer who had stopped by Weasley's Wizard Wheezes the day before, Ginny peeked at the occupants of each chair. The scene was so comforting, yet slightly disturbing because of Percy's absence and Harry's reserved demeanour; she felt a pang of sorrow slide through her. Harry did look more relaxed to her, but from past experience, she knew he was usually more animated. I really hope this weekend works out for him, she thought to herself as she passed the bowl of peas to Hermione.

After dinner, Ginny and Hermione cleared the table and helped Ron with the dishes. They had sent Harry upstairs to get a chess set which gave the three of them a few minutes quick conversation.

Hermione handed a plate to Ginny as she queried, "Well, do you think this is going to work?"

"I sure hope so," Ron said. "Harry woke up again last night and didn't go back to sleep for ages. I'm thinking about putting a silencing charm on my room so everyone else can sleep through the night, even if we can't."

"He does seem more relaxed, though," Hermione said hopefully.

"Well, no matter what happens this weekend," Ginny said, "getting away from Hogwarts seems to be doing him some good. I just hope it's enough."

The others agreed as Harry came down the stairs.

"You done yet?" he asked.

"Another few minutes," Ginny answered, grinning. "We'd have been done except for a slow dish washer here."

"Hey, it's not my fault Mum made us clean up the Muggle way," Ron protested as Hermione smirked behind his back and muttered something about "restriction of underage sorcery" under her breath.

Harry must have heard her. His eyes widened and he gaped at Hermione for a second. He started to say something, but Hermione cut him off.

"We're almost done, Harry. Will it be girls against boys or Ron and me against you and Ginny?"

"Boys against girls tonight, if Ron's feeling courageous enough to take me on as his partner. I'll go set up," he said and headed for the lounge.

Raised voices brought Ron, Hermione and Ginny racing to the lounge a few minutes later, the dishes forgotten. Harry and Mad-Eye Moody were standing about an arm's length apart in the middle of the room arguing heatedly.

"… all the stupid things I've heard of kids doing, this has got to take the cake!" exclaimed Moody.

"What do you care if I fly after dark?" Harry demanded.

"I'm in charge of your security detail," roared the ex-Auror, both his magical and his normal eyes fixed on Harry. "I'm entitled to know about your activities!"

"So what!"

"So what? I'm the one who gets his head handed to him on a silver platter if you get killed, kid!"

Ginny glanced at Ron and Hermione where they stood with her in the doorway and whispered, "I don't like the sound of this at all. Why did Moody have to choose tonight to confront Harry?"

"It's probably the first opportunity he's had since school started. Secrecy of the Order, you know," Hermione said thoughtfully.

As Ron opened his mouth to comment, Harry spat back, "Why would you get in trouble? It's my decision to endanger my life by flying alone after dark if I want to."

"You're flying ALONE? Now I know you're daft. What in Merlin's name made you decide to risk being killed by pulling a stunt like that?"

"I can't tell you."

At this, Ginny gasped audibly. She alone of everyone present knew Harry's secret. "I don't like this at all," she murmured. "Please don't make him tell, Professor Moody."

Hermione and Ron stared at Ginny. "What do you know about Harry that we don't?" Ron demanded quietly, placing a hand on her shoulder and turning her to face him.

Ginny looked at her brother, her eyes huge and pleading, an ear still cocked toward the quarrel in the lounge. "I can't tell you, Ron. Harry made me swear not to tell." She shook her head. "All I can say is that it's very personal and when Harry chooses to tell you you'll get every detail, no holds barred," she assured him and Hermione. She looked miserably back into the room as Moody's anger burst afresh over Harry.

"… now he tells me," Moody spat. "Well, you listen to me, Potter. Whatever this big secret is, it had better be good! Does it mean nothing to you, the trouble people have gone to ensure your safety? Or is it more important to flaunt whatever rules have been laid down for your protection?"

"You're beginning to sound like Snape!"

"And I'm bloody well proud of it, too. He does have a rather interesting perspective on your past activities, mind you."

"You leave Snape out of this," Harry retorted. "Whatever is between the two of us is private. And for your information, I've always brought positive results from whatever rules I've broken every time I've had occasion to do so."

"Well, you've been lucky, then. And rather foolish, too, to take things into your own hands."

Ginny heard Hermione whisper, "Professor Snape" and shook her head as Ron nudged her to get her attention.

"Sometimes taking matters into his own hands was all he could do ... regardless of what the rules were," Ron growled softly as he, too, glared at Moody. Ginny had to agree.

"Let's get some things clear," Moody said heatedly stepping closer and pointing a gnarled finger at Harry's chest, "One...no more flying alone. Two...if you must fly, take at least three other people with you, one of whom does not fly in case of attack. Three...never, never, never fly or hover alone in the dark, no matter how secure you think the area is. Wards can be broken. You make yourself an easy target and the enemy can lurk in the Forest. No matter what, CONSTANT VIGILANCE! Do-You-Understand?" The last three words were punctuated by jabs of Moody's finger.

Harry glared at his former professor. "Yes, PERFECTLY!" he snapped and pushed past Ron, Ginny and Hermione as he headed for the kitchen door.

"Oh, dear..." Hermione murmured as they watched him slam out of the house.

Ginny looked at the others. "Should we go after him?"

Ron shook his head. "Give him a few, Ginny," he said wisely. "As much as I hate to see Harry storm off like that, we don't need him angry at us as well. That would ruin our plans for the weekend for certain. Just let him get his head back together."

The girls agreed and Ron suggested playing the chess game without Harry.

"I don't think so, Ron," Ginny said. "I'm no longer in the mood. You two go ahead. I think I'll go upstairs and start my Transfiguration essay."

As she started up the stairs she heard Hermione say encouragingly, "Good for you, Ginny," which made her smile a little, despite the seriousness of the situation.

oOo

The fire was burning low in the grate as Ginny crept down the stairs. As usual, she couldn't sleep, but this night it wasn't because of nightmares. Her concern for Harry, who hadn't yet come inside when she had put out her lamp an hour ago, had driven her from her bed in search of a cup of tea; she knew she was too jittery to concentrate any more on her essay.

Ginny filled a kettle with water from the kitchen basin, turned on the stove, (unlike the rest of her family, she preferred making tea the Muggle way for some reason) and set about finding the teapot, and her favourite mug and tea in the cupboard, her thoughts awhirl. She glanced at the clock, it wasn't that late—only twelve-thirty—and wondered if Harry was still out in the garden. She had wanted to go to him earlier, but Ron had been adamant about her leaving Harry alone; there were Aurors on duty and someone was certain to be following him at a discrete distance. She just hoped that his argument with Moody hadn't been too much of a setback for him.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the kitchen door. Looking up, she saw Harry standing in the pool of light shed by the lantern hanging above the lintel. She hastened to let him in.

"Thanks, Ginny," he said taking off his wet cloak and hanging it close to the fireplace to dry. "Were you the one who sent Errol after me with my cloak?"

"That was Mum. She didn't want you to get sick again." She chuckled, "Poor Errol… you should have seen the look on his face when Mum tied your cloak to his legs. I think he thought he was going to have to fly all the way to Hogwarts with it swinging wildly underneath him. Thank goodness you hadn't gone farther than bottom of the back garden. When he came back, he wouldn't even look at Mum!" She poured hot water into the teapot. "Would you like a cup of tea? I was just about to have one."

"Yes, please. As warm as that cloak is, it's a bit chilly out there without a heavy jumper underneath. It was never meant to be worn in a downpour either."

They took their cups and the steaming teapot to the table and sat down. Ginny let several minutes go by, sipping thoughtfully, before she said quietly, "I'm sorry, Harry, that Moody had to do that to you. I hope it doesn't ruin your stay."

Harry stared at his cup. "It's all right, Ginny. I probably had it coming. Like I told you back at school, I've done some really stupid things this term that I'm now being called to account for," he said with a sigh. "It's time I get my act together… in more ways than one."

Ginny smiled at him over her mug. "You'll get through this, Harry. I know you will. Mum always says that owning up to your mistakes is half the battle and the hardest part, usually."

Harry drained his cup. "She's a wise lady, your Mum," he said with a yawn and stood up. "Thanks for the tea and company, Ginny. I'd better get to bed. Oh, could you put a pot of tea outside for my minder, please. Whoever it was got quite a workout tonight."

"Of course, Harry. See you in the morning."

Five minutes later Ginny opened the kitchen door and summoned a small table from the collection of yard furniture stacked under the eves of the house. She carefully set a carafe of tea, several mugs and a waterproof tin of biscuits on the table and called quietly into the night, "Harry requested that I leave some tea for his minders. He sends his thanks as well."

A cloaked figure emerged from the rainy darkness and identified itself as Tonks. Ginny greeted the older witch who said, "Blimey, that boy can run! He's almost as fast on foot as he's supposed to be on a broom! Thanks for the tea, Ginny. Mind if I take it around to the others?"

Shaking her head, Ginny smiled as she answered, "Do you need more mugs? I'll make a second pot and leave it here on the table. We'll collect the lot in the morning. Have a quiet night."

"Thanks," Tonks replied. "It will be if this bloody downpour ever lets up."

With the second pot of tea brewed and set out for the Aurors, Ginny made her way back up the stairs to bed, thinking of Harry.

oOo

Everyone was up early on Saturday morning. There would be no excuses for sleeping in; today was decorating day and Mrs. Weasley had a "To Do" list for everyone in the house. Cleaning chores were a priority and she would be bustling around The Burrow supervising the picking up, dusting and general straightening of every room as soon as breakfast was over.

"How did you two sleep?" Hermione whispered to Ron as he and the two girls descended the stairs to the kitchen. Harry had gone downstairs several minutes ahead of them.

"'Bout average. Harry was awake most of the night as unusual," he replied stifling a yawn. "I have a suspicion he had George cast a silencing charm over his bed, though. Fred and George came in to talk after Harry got back and Fred tried to distract me while George pointed his wand at Harry's bed."

"Do you think he was still brooding over the argument he had with Moody?" Ginny asked.

"I don't know," Ron told her. "But I wouldn't put it past him."

They entered the kitchen and took their places at the table. Ginny picked up the list of chores beside her plate and joined in the general grumbling over what her mother had assigned her to do. There were only three items on the list; one easy (keeping Harry company after her other chores were completed) and two hard. The hard ones were that way only because she couldn't use magic. Cleaning the Muggle way, it seemed, was how Mrs. Weasley wanted the house readied for decorating this year

Around mid-morning, Ginny, who was working in the back garden, caught Harry grinning behind her mother's back as Mrs. Weasley instructed her daughter on the finer points of how to beat the dust out of the lounge rug.

"What's so funny?" Ginny hissed as her mother went into the house to find someone else to harass. She swung her rug beater in a wide arch; it made contact with the rug and engulfed both her and Harry in a cloud of dust.

Harry sneezed and put down the stack of decoration boxes Mrs. Weasley had given him to take outside. "It just crossed my mind that your Mum sounds suspiciously like my Aunt Petunia today. Is she always this picky about house cleaning?"

"Only just before Christmas. She has this thing about not covering up a mess with the decorations. I think she got in trouble as a child for superficially cleaning her room and then using Christmas decorations to hide what she hadn't put away properly." Ginny told him matter-of-factly. She stopped to ponder something before chuckling, "Aunt Petunia, huh? Mum had better not hear you comparing them or you'll get an earful."

Harry grinned sheepishly and replied, "I wouldn't want that. Getting scolded by Aunt Petunia is bad enough, but your Mum can out-shout her any day. I shudder every time I think of that Howler she sent Ron a few years ago."

Ginny cringed at the memory. "I think you get the picture," she said and turned back to her rugs as Harry hoisted the boxes and left to find Bill on the other side of the house. Oh, if I could only use a cleaning charm! Blast that Underage Sorcery restriction! I hate cleaning like a Muggle! she thought savagely and began swinging her beater with renewed vigour.

When the house at last was clean to Mrs. Weasley's satisfaction, Harry, Bill, Ron, Charlie, and the twins brought the last of the boxes down from the attic. Mr. Weasley brought in the Christmas tree and the decorating began in earnest. As the wireless played in the background, Harry and Ron scaled ladders and hung garlands over the doors and windows while Ginny and Hermione supervised.

"Hermione," Ron complained, "are you ever going to be satisfied?" He shifted the garland he was holding above a window a little to his right.

"No, Ron, not until both ends of that garland are perfectly even."

"But you've had me re-hang this bloody thing four times all ready!"

"Language, Ron! Just be quiet and straighten the garland again… that's it… a little more to the left… stop! Now you can secure it."

"Thank goodness!"

Harry and Ginny glanced at each other and Harry rolled his eyes as Ginny stifled a giggle. They both remembered how Ron had complained about hanging decorations at Hogwarts the previous year as part of his Prefect's duties. This year would probably be no exception.

They finished with the garlands a few minutes later. Ron and Hermione went to join Mrs. Weasley in the kitchen, arguing incessantly, while Ginny took Harry into the lounge to unpack ornaments.

"Have you ever done this, Harry?" Ginny asked cautiously as she began sifting through a box. She took out several tissue-wrapped ornaments and put them on the coffee table.

"Not that I can remember," he replied opening another box. "Aunt Petunia never let me help with the decorating. She shut me in my cupboard most of the time during the holidays. I suppose I was easier to deal with that way."

Ginny frowned. "I don't suppose I'll ever get used to how horribly they treat you, Harry. Some of my fondest memories of Christmas are from the days we decorate. I'm not saying I like doing all that cleaning, but afterwards has always been filled with family fun and tradition." She paused to glance at Harry who was looking at her sadly.

"You've missed so much, haven't you, Harry?" When he nodded she continued more quietly, a hint of emotion strangling her voice, "I find it heart-wrenching that you've not had the opportunity to form memories around silly little objects you get out only once a year." She gestured toward the boxes in front of them. "Did you know that every ornament that's in these boxes has a story behind it?"

Harry shook his head and pulled an odd, multi-coloured plush reindeer out of the box in front of him. "What's the story behind this one?" he asked, an expression of curiosity and melancholy clouding his handsome face.

Ginny giggled. "That's Ron's. It used to be brown until Fred and George got hold of it. Mum gave each of us our own special ornament to hang on the tree when we turned three. Anyway, one year, I think Ron was six, Fred and George took the reindeer off the tree, I think they were mad at him for something, and decided to do one of their experiments on it. They thought they had a bleaching solution down pat and decided to turn it white. Ron found them just as they were dunking his ornament in their cauldron. Something was wrong with their potion and instead of turning white, the reindeer turned black. You should have heard Ron's yell of frustrated anger. It made the ghoul upstairs go quiet for a week. Well, no matter how many times Mum bleached it, she could not get the reindeer to turn brown again. The colours didn't want to blend together and finally Mum told Ron he had to live with it. Ron got Fred and George back, though. He found their ornaments on the tree and took them out to the pigsty. Not even Mum's strongest soap could get rid of the stench and eventually, we had to take the tree down so that we could breathe easier."

"No wonder you remember that story," Harry said with a grin as Ron, Hermione and the rest of the Weasley family came to help with the decorating. Soon everyone was picking up their favourite ornaments and sharing stories about past Christmases. Finally, Fred and George coaxed a host of live fairies onto the tree and Mr. Weasley levitated the star to its very top. Everyone stood back to admire their handiwork. The tree glowed softly in the fairy light, casting a warm radiance over everything in the room.

"It's beautiful," breathed Hermione.

"Almost as good as Hogwarts!" offered Ron.

"So many memories…" murmured Mrs. Weasley as she turned a well-worn teddy bear ornament over and over in her hands before placing it lovingly on the tree.

Ginny whispered, "Percy's" to Harry who nodded in understanding. She jumped a little as he slipped his hand into hers.

"Happy Christmas a little early, Ginny," he said, smiling. "This was fun! Thanks for inviting me to come."

She glanced down at their entwined fingers as Harry gave her hand a squeeze. "Happy early Christmas to you, Harry. May this one hold nothing but happy memories."

A shadow crossed his face. "I hope you're right, Ginny. I'll let you know if your wish comes true."

Just then, Fred yelled, "Is anybody hungry? How 'bout lunch?"

With a laugh, everyone wandered into the kitchen where they found the table laden with enough sandwiches, crisps and sweets to feed a troupe of house-elves.

oOo

Late in the afternoon Ginny found herself alone in the lounge with Harry and the Christmas tree. The others had scattered throughout the house; Mrs. Weasley was making dinner in the kitchen while George had retired to his old room to work on his business accounts (Fred had gone back to the shop). Ron and Hermione had put on their cloaks and wandered out to Mr. Weasley's shed to see the latest addition to his plug collection, the blown outlet from Hermione's house. Ginny, herself, had curled up on the sofa with her Transfiguration book and her half-finished essay while Harry had stretched out on the rug in front of the fire and had soon fallen asleep. Ginny watched him over the top of her book, smiling at how relaxed he looked for once. She hoped he'd get an hour or two's good nap before dinner.

Suddenly, Harry began to mumble in his sleep. His face tensed and his body began to twitch as if fighting something. Ginny could see sweat beginning to bead up on his forehead as Harry's breathing grew more rapid until it was coming in great ragged gasps. The dream became more vicious; she watched in horror as Harry drew his legs up to his chest and his face contorted into a silent scream.

Ginny was off the couch and at his side in an instant. Careful to avoid Harry's violently twitching body, she knelt on the rug with his head cradled on her knees and began gently stroking his forehead and whispering soothing words in his ear. It took a long time before Harry's breathing began to slow and his body to relax. Ginny stayed with him until she was sure the nightmare was gone and he was again asleep. Then, she grabbed her book and a pillow and settled down next to him until he stirred and looked over at her.

"Ginny?"

"Hmm?"

"What are you doing down here? I thought you were on the couch."

"I was, until you began to dream," she said simply.

"Oh."

"Was it very bad?"

Harry seemed reluctant to tell her about it. "Yes and no."

"What do you mean? Did it have anything to do with…" Ginny hesitated.

"With Sirius? No. Nothing like that."

"That's good, I think," Ginny offered. "Do you mind telling me how it started?"

Harry sighed and hugged his knees as he said, "It started out just like all the others these days, but it changed toward the end."

"It did? Do you remember it?"

"Yes, but I really don't think you want to know," he said rubbing his forehead. "Some of it was pretty awful. Then it… it just seemed to fade away. It was weird; nothing like that has ever happened before."

"I'd like to hear about it," Ginny encouraged him quietly. Maybe if he talks about it he'll feel better.

Harry shook his head, remembering. "We were in the Department of Mysteries. Hermione, Neville and I had just run into that circular room for the third or fourth time. We asked for the exit, but the room would only spin while an eerie voice chanted 'no way out' over and over. Finally, we burst through the door to the veil room and were immediately surrounded by Death Eaters. We tried to fight them off, but it wasn't any use. There were too many of them. In the struggle the sphere broke and as retaliation Bellatrix Lestrange hit me with the Cruciatus Curse. I don't know how it happened, but the dream changed. The curse lifted and I had my wand in my hand again. I started throwing curses and hexes at anyone in a black hood. Another spell hit me from behind and I felt someone levitate me away from the room just as Sirius fell through the veil. I yelled for them to take me back but whoever it was, refused. I was taken to the Atrium where someone, not Dumbledore, took me back to school. Whoever it was stayed with me and kept telling me not to be afraid, that I was safe, and that it was only a dream. Then the dream was gone and I could sleep again."

"Oh, Harry, I'm so glad."

Something in her voice made Harry look inquiringly at her. "Did… did you have anything to do with making it stop?"

Ginny toyed with the pillow's fringe as she admitted, "Yes. That's why I'm down here." She glanced at Harry before continuing, "As soon as the dream seemed to be its worst I tried to calm you. I wanted to try to make it go away somehow. It was so hard for me to just sit and watch you dream. I… I hope you don't mind."

Harry was silent for a while before he said, "Thanks, Ginny. You did help."

Ginny smiled at him. "You're welcome, Harry. I...I wish I could help you more often."

Again, he paused, staring into the firelight. "May I ask you something?"

"Sure. Go ahead."

"This is a little embarrassing to admit, but I have to know. Are you the one who joins me at the Quidditch pitch most evenings?"

"Yes, it's me, Harry. Why do you ask?"

"Well, when you're there I don't feel as if the world is falling in on me."

"It is peaceful out there," Ginny admitted. "I hope you don't mind."

"I did at first, but realized how much I missed you when you didn't come for several days. I think I figured it out it was you when you went to Hermione's that weekend and my nightmares came back worse than they'd been in a while. I decided I liked having you near me. I'm more... at peace when you're there," Harry admitted.

"At peace," Ginny murmured, smiling. "Yes, I've been sending you peaceful thoughts and hoping you'd let me be there for you if you ever decided to talk with someone." She stopped and took a deep breath before murmuring, "I think I understand what's happening to you more than Ron or Hermione."

Harry thought for a moment. "You're talking about the nightmares you have about the Chamber?"

"Yes, I am."

"Do they really bother you as much as I think they do?"

"Sometimes. When I haven't properly relaxed before bed. Then I see Tom Riddle and relive what happened during my first year at Hogwarts or that night at the Department of Mysteries."

Harry studied his hands as he said, "I know we've talked about this before, but… are they very bad?"

"They were that first summer. I terrorized the whole family a few times before realizing I needed to cast a privacy charm on my room every night. Mum and Dad found out and made me talk to them." Images of her parents storming into her room holding the letter from Mafalda Hopkirk filled her mind. She shuddered thinking about the row that had ensued.

"I had no idea. How did you get over the dreams?"

"I don't ever think I'll be completely over what Riddle did to me, Harry," Ginny told him truthfully. "I've just learned how to cope with it. I know what to do now if I wake up from one of those nightmares feeling helpless and scared."

"How's that?"

Ginny stood up. "I'll show you. Stay right there. I'll get something from my room."

A few minutes later Ginny came downstairs carrying two carved wooden boxes. She set them before Harry and opened one. In the firelight Harry could see a small stone basin filled with a thick silvery substance. As she took it out of the box, careful not to spill the contents, Harry recognized the basin as something he'd peered into only three times before; a Pensieve.

In answer to his unspoken question Ginny said, "That summer after you rescued me and Mum and Dad found out about my dreams they gave me this. Dad showed me how to use it and the nightmares began to come less and less frequently. Lately, I've been using it almost like a diary, but it has many other uses, too. At times when I'm confused or worried I pull out thoughts and examine them later when I'm more clear-headed. Or when I need cheering up I find a happy memory to look at. Want me to show you?"

Harry nodded and watched as Ginny pulled a thought from her temple with her wand and set it in the Pensieve. The silvery substance swirled and suddenly he saw himself and the rest of his third year Quidditch team shimmer into focus on the surface. The team was standing in the middle of the Quidditch pitch next to Professor Dumbledore. Oliver Wood was hoisting the big, silver Quidditch cup high in the air. He could see the Snitch still clutched in his own fist. Harry remembered he hadn't wanted to give it back to Madam Hooch just yet. In the surrounding crowd the second year Gryffindors who had been sitting with Ginny were jumping and cheering like crazy. Harry looked up at Ginny, grinning.

"That's really something. I remember that day well," he said, "but what does your Pensieve have to do with me?"

Ginny put her Pensieve back in its box, leaving the top off, and gently pushed the second box toward Harry. "This is yours. You left it with Ron after Remus Lupin gave it to you for your birthday last summer. It's been in Ron's room ever since. It didn't have a proper carrying case, so I think you asked Mum if you could store it here for safe keeping."

Harry sighed. "I did. I'd forgotten about it."

"I thought so. Did Remus show you how to use it?"

"No, he never had time. At least, not before we left for school. You know, Restriction of Underage Magic and his work with the Order." Harry frowned. "I'm still a little confused as to why he gave me one. I'm not sure I want to see what my thoughts really look like."

"You don't have to look at the disturbing images right away, Harry. Use your Pensieve to calm yourself before you go to sleep each night; get rid of angry thoughts or ones that are certain to keep you awake floating 'round and 'round in your head. That's how Dad had me start, too. It helps to clear the mind and allow happier images to dwell longer in the subconscious; it keeps the nightmares at bay a little longer each night. Ron said you needed one last year, that Professor Snape had wanted you to clear your mind when he was giving you those Occlumency lessons. He also said you weren't trying very hard though," Ginny explained. Harry looked at the floor, a guilty look plastered all over his face.

"You're sure about this, aren't you?" he queried pensively.

"Yes, Harry. I am. Voldemort's tried to enter my mind a few times in the last year, too, and knowing how to fight back is worth it. No, I'm not studying Occlumency. It's not something Dumbledore feels I need," Ginny sighed when she saw the guarded expression in Harry's eyes. Ploughing ahead she asked, "Would you like me to teach you how to transfer thoughts? We'd only recall happy memories at first. Then, when you're ready, either Dumbledore or I could show you the more advanced techniques."

Harry nodded. "I'd like that. Do we have time now?"

"I think so." She lifted Harry's Pensieve out of its box and set it on the hearth rug. "OK. You'll need your wand for this."

When Harry was ready she said, "Clear your mind of all thoughts except one that makes you really happy, like that Quidditch cup memory we shared earlier. When you have your thought, gently tap your wand on your temple and then pull it slowly away from your head. That's it. Harry, open your eyes. You've captured your first thought."

Harry opened his eyes and looked at the silvery strand dangling from his wand. He smiled as he touched the strand to his Pensieve and watched as it briefly swirled around. "How do I see my thought if I want to look at it?"

"Look directly into the basin or prod the surface with your wand. When you're finished, poke it again."

Harry did and Ginny saw the image of her younger self and those of her mum, Ron, Fred, and George rise slowly from the depths of the basin. Her likeness asked, "Mummy, may I board the train and see Harry Potter?" Mrs. Weasley refused, telling her that Harry wasn't something to be gawked at in a zoo. The picture changed slightly; the Hogwarts Express left the platform and Ginny watched as little Ginny began chasing after it. As the train gathered speed the girl fell back and waved after it, before sliding back down into the bowl.

"You chose that one? Why?"

Harry smiled. "It's the first memory I have of you. You've been part of my trips to Hogwarts every year beginning with that first time when I didn't know how to get onto Platform 9 3/4. Why shouldn't I include you in one of my happiest memories?"

"If you put it that way, I'm flattered."

"Give me a moment. There's more." Harry added several more thoughts to the Pensieve, then poked the surface with his wand. Once again an image flickered into focus, this time from high above the Quidditch pitch. Ginny saw herself sitting in the tower stand reading a book and glancing up every now and then. "Thanks for coming, Ginny. I'm calmer now. You have no idea what your presence does for me," she heard him say. Harry prodded the basin again and the Room of Requirement swam into focus. Ginny saw herself glancing around the room looking for something. A small bag suddenly appeared on the bedside table as Harry's voice pleaded, "Stay with me, Ginny. I don't want to be alone. I need you...NO! Don't go!" The room swayedand the memory suddenly faded. Harry prodded the Pensieve one last time and said simply, "Now you know."

Ginny smiled as she felt hot tears course down her cheeks. Unable to control herself she drew Harry into an embrace and whispered, "I'm always there for you, any time you need me," before pulling back and saying, "Thanks for sharing this with me."

Then, to her surprise, Harry reached for her hand and gave it a squeeze. "I'll remember that," he said with a smile. He didn't let go. With his other hand, Harry pushed the Pensieve aside and picked up the box it came in. "Can you tell me about this? It looks custom made."

Ginny smiled. "It is. I had it carved in Diagon Alley when I went to Hermione's," she explained as she settled herself into a more comfortable position, still keeping her hand in Harry's. She turned her gaze back to the box in Harry's other hand. "The wizard who did the carving on it decorated the box for my Pensieve. They're both one-of-a-kind. But before you examine it too closely, I need to explain a few things. I put a lot of personal feelings into its design and I don't want you to jump to the wrong conclusions."

She glanced up to see Harry waiting expectantly for her to continue.

"You've always known I had a crush on you. You know about the elbow in the butter dish incident as well as several others and I'm not embarrassed by them in the least now," Ginny began, gazing into the fire. "During the first month I was at Hogwarts I realized that if I really wanted your friendship I'd have to start acting less like a giggling little girl and more like a friend. There was just one hitch; the diary. I was highly embarrassed by what I'd written in it to Tom Riddle before I learned who he really was. You know the rest of that story.

"It was right after you rescued me that I realized I owed my life to you, Harry; that somehow our destinies were intertwined and it changed everything about how I thought about you. I stayed out of your way the next two years for the most part because I didn't want you to feel smothered. But deep inside me something stronger than friendship began to grow and when it was obvious you were having problems this year I made up my mind to help you. I won't call what I feel for you 'love'; it's more of a deep-seated devotion, a gift of myself and my heart." Ginny sighed, "Just so you know, I've tried to share both with Michael and Dean, but the devotion didn't feel the way it does when you're around." She reached for both parts of the Pensieve box unable to meet his eyes. "I know this is all very new and unexpected. I don't expect you to return any of the feelings I'm talking about. It wouldn't be fair to you. I know I should give you time to respond to what I've just said. But that doesn't explain the box design." She passed the lid to him to examine.

"The outside is pretty straight forward. Your monogram is here on the lid surrounded by a vine, representing life, which continues, unbroken, around the entire box. Each of the 'fruits' is an interpretation of some character of your personality: bravery, nobility (she saw Harry shudder at the word), courage, generosity, humility, perseverance, patience, wisdom, loyalty. All the reasons you were Sorted into Gryffindor House." She slipped her hand from Harry's, picked up the main part of the box and pointed to each carving as she explained it. "These four are aspects of your life I know are important to you: the three figures represent family; here are Prongs, Padfoot, and Moony; a cake with eleven candles and a wand for the day you discovered you were a wizard; and finally, the Gryffindor House crest." She paused again to take back the lid. As she did so, her hand brushed his. She glanced up involuntarily at the contact.

"Harry, the box is magical, just like the object it is meant to protect. On the inside of the lid are three song titles." She giggled at the look of horror on Harry's face. "No, the box doesn't sing like that Valentine dwarf someone sent you during Lockhart's love fest, nor does it screech like the get-well card I charmed. I wouldn't do that to a friend I have come to value so fiercely." She picked up her wand. "I heard these songs at Hermione's and copied them down. They made me think of you and I admit to weeping when I heard them. It was Hermione's idea to fuse the lyrics to the box. I'm glad she thought of it. She even helped me with the spell to enchant the song titles. When you want to read the lyrics, tap the title twice with your wand and they will appear; tap it once to make them vanish. I selected three I really loved: 'Let me Fall' a song about growing and taking chances, 'To Where You Are' which might help you embrace your past, and the song which means the most to me, 'You're Still You'. I think you'll understand once you've heard them." Ginny tapped a title and instantly the words appeared just above the surface of the lid. She closed her eyes and began to sing softly in a clear, melodious soprano:

Through the darkness
I can see your light
And you will always shine
And I can feel your heart in mine
Your face I've memorized
I idolize just you.

I look up to everything you are
In my eyes you do no wrong.
I've loved you for so long
And after all is said and done
You're still you
After all
You're still you.

You walk past me I can feel your pain
Time changes everything
One truth always stays the same
You're still you
After all
You're still you.

I look up to
Everything you are
In my eyes you do no wrong
And I believe in you
Although you never asked me to
I will remember you
And what life put you through.

And in this cruel and lonely world
I found one love
You're still you
After all
You're still you.

Ginny opened her eyes to find Harry staring at her. His emerald eyes seemed to be mirroring his inner struggle with the sentiments of the song. Before he could speak she said, "You are not alone, Harry. There are people in this house, at school, in London, who love you for who you are inside. We know the real you, not just the legend. We don't blame you for the troubles Voldemort's caused recently. Remember that. No matter what happens, you don't have to shoulder the weight of the world all by yourself."

She gazed at Harry who was now looking intently at the box in his hands. After a while he whispered shakily, "I… I had no idea. You accept me for who I am… just… Harry… just Harry. You have no idea what that means." He stood up still clutching the box and stared unseeingly into the fire. When at last he spoke again his voice was stronger. "Thank you, Ginny. I had no idea you knew me so well." He began to pace. "I don't know how soon I can repay this extraordinary gift you've given me. I mean, you've showed me so much today, my head and heart are so full just now. I… you've given me… hope… which is something I haven't had for a long time."

Ginny stood as well. Harry turned and hugged her fiercely. When they parted she looked into his eyes saying, "Take your time discovering the box, Harry. It is meant to hold something precious and to help you heal your weary soul. Use it well." With that, she gently took the box from him, packed away his Pensieve and replaced it in his waiting hands. "Go upstairs, Harry. Lock yourself in Ron's room. I'll tell Mum not to hold dinner for you and explain to Ron why he can't get into his room for a while. He'll understand, I'm sure." She gave him one last hug and walked with him to the stairwell. As Harry disappeared up the stairs, Ginny's eyes followed him and she quietly began humming the song.

Five minutes later, George found her there and called her to dinner.

-Finis-

A/N: Thank you Aggiebelle for supporting my writing efforts by reading and commenting throughout this piece. Your efforts have made the story better and I appreciate the time you both invested in this project.

I have been promising to give full credit for the song "You're Still You" at the end of previous chapters. The story did not start out as a songfic, which is why the song doesn't appear until the last chapter. It began as my first efforts at a piece of fan fiction and didn't have a title until I heard the song. The lyrics inspired me and gave me a goal to aim for, a way to pull my ideas together. The song is sung by the artist Josh Groban on his first album, "Josh Groban", with music by Ennio Morricone and lyrics by Linda Thompson. By the way, in Chapter Three, Ginny tells Harry, "I believe in you, although you never asked me to" which is taken directly from stanza four. The words fit her speech perfectly and now must be given full acknowledgement.

Thank you, too, to those of you who reviewed this story. Your words are encouraging and helped me decide to continue the story in the sequel, "New Year, New Hope."