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19 Years by marauder5
Chapter 17: Year 2: Unannounced visitors
Whenever one of his Muggle neighbours passed by the door that led into Harry Potter’s home, they usually thought about the boy’s lack of a doorbell, and wondered how he managed without one. Most of them came to the conclusion that he rarely had any visitors, and so he didn’t need one – after all, they had never heard a sound coming from his flat, despite the thin walls of the house. He probably didn’t get out much, either; only a handful of the other residents had ever run into the young man in the staircase or outside the building. He had become somewhat of a mystery to them, and he was the most common object of their gossip. Of course, most of his neighbours didn’t read too much into the fact that he was a private young man, but Mrs Stack, the old widow from the third floor, enjoyed telling her friends from sewing circle about the time she had spotted him through the window, carrying a dead body over his shoulder (of course, given her terrible eyesight and the fact that Harry lived on the eighth floor, it might as well have been a pile of clothes), and little Billy Shine regularly bragged to his friends from school about living in the same house as an actual werewolf.
Had Harry known about his neighbours’ conspiracy theories, he might have put up another doorbell next to the magical one that was already there, but invisible to the eyes of Muggles. However, his head was too full of other things to spare even one thought for Mrs Stack, Billy Shine or something as trivial as a doorbell – which was a bit ironic, considering the fact that within the span of sixteen hours, that certain doorbell would ring three times, and it would change the life he knew.
It was Boxing Day, and the unusually warm December winds had wiped the snow off of the streets of London along with whatever Christmas spirit had inhabited Harry’s heart while he had still been at Andromeda’s. Returning home was as dreadful as he had imagined – if he had thought that the quietness at the Tonks’ had been bad, it was nothing compared to the compact silence in his own flat, when neither Ginny nor Ron was there to disturb it.
He had only been home for a few hours, however, when the clinging sound of the doorbell disturbed that silence instead. He got up on his feet and walked into the hallway to open the door, expecting to see Hermione’s face. But much to his surprise, it was someone else – a red-haired woman with an infamous temper, whose eyes were full of tears as she smiled faintly at him.
Harry could not disguise his shock. “Mrs Weasley! What are…? I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“That’s my fault, I suppose,” answered Molly Weasley as she stepped into his flat without waiting for an invitation. “I feel horrible that it took me this long to come. I would have done it sooner, Harry, but we… I can’t help but feel like I’m betraying Ginny by seeing you.”
Harry wasn’t sure how to respond. Finally, when the terrible silence started to creep back into the flat, he cleared his throat and forced himself to speak.
“I didn’t think you’d come at all,” he said, “because I thought all of you believed the Daily Prophet.”
“The children may have jumped to conclusions, dear, but Arthur and I are not as easily convinced,” Mrs Weasley replied. “And even if it were true, I’d still worry about you. How was your Christmas? Hermione tells me you spent it with Teddy and Andy.”
“It was… different, from what I’m used to.”
“I… well… I wanted to give you this,” Mrs Weasley said.
She held out a package. The shape of it, the brown wrapping paper… Harry knew exactly what it was. Except for the year that they had been out hunting Horcruxes, he had received one every Christmas since he had started at Hogwarts. Every year since he had become friends with Ron…
“I made one for you, out of habit,” Mrs Weasley mumbled as he unwrapped the gift, “and I thought it would be a waste to just throw it away…”
Harry pulled on the sweater without answering. It was green, the exact same colour as his eyes, and the large ‘H’ on its front was written in golden thread. Little snitches circled around the letter, and Harry’s eyes filled with tears as he took a step forward to give Mrs Weasley a hug. There was nothing he could say to express his gratitude, but she probably picked up on it anyway – it was one of her many talents as a mother, the gift of always knowing what other people truly felt.
“I wanted to invite you, I really did,” said Mrs Weasley, still with her arms wrapped around him and her hand softly stroking his back, “but you know… until you and Ginny make up…”
“It doesn’t seem like we will,” answered Harry and let go of her. “I’ve told her the truth, but if she doesn’t believe me, there is nothing else I can do about it.”
He could hear the childish stubbornness in his own voice, but he chose to ignore it. Tears were gleaming in Mrs Weasley’s bright brown eyes as she took at step back from him and nodded.
“I’m sorry that I won’t be able to see you as much,” she said in a shaky voice. “I just hope you know that… you can always come to me. Whatever happens. No matter what might be going on between you and Ginny, you can write to me, or stop by when she’s in Holyhead.”
Harry met her eyes and fought to hold back his tears. “Thanks, Mrs Weasley,” he mumbled. “Thank you so much for everything.”
The second time the doorbell rang was later in the afternoon, when the sun had begun to set and silence had, once again, taken over Harry’s flat. Time seemed to stand still, and he couldn’t help but feel bitter over the fact that the Auror Office was going to be closed all weekend. The Head Auror, Gawain Robards, had returned to England about a week before Christmas, having spent a year and a half hunting Death Eaters all over the world since the defeat of Voldemort. His first decision when he came back into the department had been to give everyone time off to spend Christmas with their families, completely unaware of the nightmare the that holidays would be for Harry.
Harry was thankful to be disturbed again and rushed over to open the door. Seamus Finnigan and Neville Longbottom was standing on the other side of it, both of them grinning from ear to ear at the sight of him.
“Harry, ol’ mate!” Seamus said. “We just couldn’t stand being away from you all Christmas, so well… here we are!”
“Come on in, then”, Harry grinned. “It’s always nice to, er… have some company.”
The smile faded from his face, and Neville placed a heavy hand on his shoulder as he stepped over the threshold.
“Hermione told us what happened,” he said seriously. “We thought we’d stop by and try to cheer you up a bit. And, well… truth to be told, I could use some cheering up myself. You know how Luna and I finally started going out?” He waited for Harry to nod before he continued: “Well, that’s over now. She left with her dad to explore nature life in the rainforests…”’
“For how long?” Harry asked, but Neville only shrugged.
“Either way,” Seamus continued, “we shouldn’t just sit around and be depressed about it. There’s a brand new Wizarding bar just a few quarters away from here. Do you want to check it out?”
“Actually, that sounds absolutely perfect,” Harry said.
After washing up and getting dressed for a night out, the three friends put on their winter coats and headed out into the night. Even for three young men who were used to magical means of transportation as swift as lightning, the walk didn’t feel very long. The bar was situated on the corner of an old, grand multi-storey house. The light from the windows looked warm and welcoming, and when the door opened, a cloud of wonderful scents hit them – freshly baked pies, roasted pumpkin seeds and butterbeer. They barely had time to look around before a young wizard approached them; a towel hung over one of his arms, and he instantly showed them to a table in the corner of the bar.
“Can we offer you anything to drink?”
“I’ll have a butterbeer, please,” Neville said, and Harry was just about to say: “Me too!” when Seamus snorted and shook his head.
“Oh, come on, Longbottom! Weren’t you two going to drown your sorrows?” he said. “We’ll have three glasses of Firewhiskey, please.”
About a minute later, when the wizard returned to their table with their drinks, the redness on their cheeks had begun to fade, and most people in the bar had become aware of the fact that Harry Potter himself was sitting among them. Harry had only swallowed his first sip of Firewhiskey when two girls walked up to their table. They looked like they were about the same age as Harry and his friends, possibly a couple of years older, and they were both very beautiful. One of them had long, dark hair that seemed to shine in the dim lighting, and the other one had thick, blonde curls that framed her mischievous, smiling face in the most perfect way.
“Hello,” said the dark-haired one and smiled at Harry while twisting a lock of her hair around her fingers. “I read in Witch Weekly that you’re back on the market.” She winked at him, and Harry cleared his throat.
“Not quite,” he said. “Officially, yes, but no… I’m not looking for anything right now.”
“Oh, but neither am I,” answered the girl. “At least not anything else than a night of fun. What do you think?”
“I’m flattered,” Harry said. “But no thanks. I’m still… she… I just can’t.”
“Whatever you say,” the girl shrugged. “Let me know if you change your mind.”
Nearly sixteen hours after her mother, Ginny rang Harry’s magical doorbell. She had trouble breathing – normally, her pulse would bolt when she was nervous, but now it felt like her heart had almost stopped entirely. She had decided to listen to Hermione – she was there to listen to Harry’s explanation. She had even decided to apologize to him for doubting him. Admitting that she was wrong didn’t seem that difficult when she thought of the reward: they would be together again. She wouldn’t have to miss him for another second.
There was a clicking sound as the door unlocked. Then it opened; Harry’s eyes widened in shock when he peeked out at her. “Ginny?”
He looked as scrubby as Hermione had described him – his eyelids hang heavily over his green irises, his hair would have horrified Ginny’s mother, and his skin was pale and almost see-through. Ginny swallowed before taking a deep breath.
“Hi,” she said. “Can I come in?”
Harry leaned against the doorframe. “Now is not a very good time,” he mumbled.
So he’s still angry, Ginny thought. He’s still hurt and he doesn’t want to talk to me. Had he shown up at her doorsteps a few weeks earlier, she probably would have reacted the same way. And yet, she had imagined something entirely different on her way there – she had thought that he would drop everything, lift her up in his arms and spin her around, like something from the world of fairy tales. But even though his reaction was nothing like that, she wasn’t going to give up on it just yet.
“You have to give me a chance,” she said, and she squeezed herself past him and stopped in the hallway. He closed the door slowly and she walked over and grabbed his hands. “I can tell that you’re in the same state as I am… only I didn’t pour alcohol down my throat last night.”
Harry lowered his eyes and opened his mouth to reply, but she continued before he had the chance:
“And it seems so silly that we should both walk around and be miserable… if you told the truth all along, and nothing happened between you and that girl.”
“It didn’t,” Harry said, “but Ginny, can we please meet in a little while? I could come to the Burrow in an hour, or we could meet at the Leaky Cauldron…”
Ginny paid his words no attention. “And in that case, I’m sorry for not trusting you. If you’ll tell me again that nothing happened between you, I’ll believe you. You said it yourself; you’ve never given me any reason not to trust you. And I love you.”
Harry took a deep breath. “I love you too Gin, I really do…”
“But nothing,” Harry said. “It’s just that I’m not feeling well. I want to talk about this, I want to make up, but I can’t right now… Just let me… I’ll take a shower, and then I’ll come by the Burrow, okay?”
Ginny was just about to nod and turn around when she saw her. She was standing in the doorway that led into the kitchen, wearing her long, dark hair in a loose braid. She was dressed in nothing but a bright blue, worn-out jeans shirt. Harry’s bright blue, worn-out jeans shirt. After the war, Ginny cried with her face pressed against it countless of times. Harry had worn it to Fred and George’s birthday in April. And her it was now, on a tall, slim, beautiful girl, in Harry’s flat at 9 a.m.
He had asked Ginny to come back later. To leave before she would discover that he had lied to her all along; that she hadn’t doubted him for nothing. There was a girl there with him.
And Ginny, she had thought that he had broken her heart once. But he had only scratched its surface; perhaps he had ripped it up in some places. This time it was different, because now it was clear to her that it wasn’t some silly fight, that it wouldn’t pass, that they couldn’t leave it behind. Now, her heart fell apart, it broke into pieces, because she knew that the rest of her life would be without him.
Harry turned his head. Realizing that he had been busted, his grip around her hands tightened. “Ginny, please,” he said desperately, “I really love you, I do…” She tried to wriggle out of his grip, but he clung onto her. “Please, don’t do this. Don’t go. This isn’t… I love you.”
But Ginny pulled her hands out of his and walked out the door. She could have sworn that she heard him burst into tears before she slammed it and ran down the stairs, but it didn’t change anything. He could have told her a million times that he loved her, but it didn’t make it true. Ginny knew what it was to love someone, because there was nothing on the face of the earth that could have put her in that situation. There was nothing that could have made Harry have to see her standing in some other guy’s flat, dressed in nothing but his worn-out jeans shirt. That was the difference between them; she loved him, and he didn’t love her back.
As the weeks passed by, Harry put all his attention to work. He had spent the first couple of days after Boxing Day questioning Seamus and Neville about their night at the bar, because for the life of him, he couldn’t remember how that girl had ended up in his bed. Their three hazy memories combined came to the conclusion that they simply had been drunk out of their minds. Harry, however, had a hard time accepting that he would bring another girl home in any state at all. But since no one could figure out another explanation, he had no choice but to believe it.
Meanwhile, Ginny fully dedicated herself to Quidditch – she practised her shots every day at home in the orchard, she stayed for hours after trainings just to improve her flying, and she even invited Gwenog Jones to dinner to get her advice. Finally, after weeks of hard work, the coach called her into his office after another late training in the beginning of February.
Darren Weinhold was sitting at his desk when she stepped in through the door. Much to her surprise, he wasn’t alone – Oliver Wood stood leaned against the wall across from him, and he smiled widely at Ginny as she wrinkled her eyebrows at the sight of his broad, muscular figure.
“Hi there,” he said cheerfully. “How are you?”
“Fine, I suppose,” she answered. “And you? I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Of course you didn’t,” Weinhold said. “Do you know why I’ve called you here?” When Ginny shook her head, he continued: “You’ve impressed me lately, Miss Weasley. You’ve played better than ever, and I’m the first one to notice. I want to see you play against Caerphilly Catapults next Saturday.”
Ginny let out a shriek and began jumping up and down. Since Oliver was the one standing the closest to her, she threw her arms around him and laughed. “Thank you so, so much! I won’t make you regret it, I promise!”
"It wasn't my call, you know," Oliver grinned.
Weinhold smiled. “I have no trouble believing what you're saying, Miss Weasley.”
“But that doesn’t explain why you’re here,” Ginny said and let go of Oliver, who was still smiling at her overjoyed reaction to the coach’s news.
“You know how I had to leave Puddlemere United, right?” Oliver asked. “Well, I wasn’t unemployed for very long – I am now working for Quality Quidditch Supplies – we’re one of Holyhead Harpies’ sponsors.”
“Right…” Ginny mumbled – she still couldn’t see any connection.
“And now that you’re going to be playing in the league, that broomstick of yours won’t do,” said Weinhold. “Mr Wood is here to help you find a new one.”
“We’re working with a new manufacturer,” Oliver explained. “They’ve got a different approach towards broomsticks, and we actually think it’s the future of the business – instead of making one that’s just really fast, they develop different ones for different players – for example, a Keeper doesn’t need a very fast one – just one with good precision and balance. You, as a Chaser, should definitely look into the x10 Chase model…”
Ginny and Oliver left the office together an hour later, having decided that he would stop by again next week with a few sample broomsticks to help her make her decision. Ginny had spent the last ten minutes thanking Weinhold, over and over, for believing in her, until he finally shoved them out of his office and kindly asked Oliver to get her out of his sight. Oliver had laughingly accepted the challenge, and he was now dragging her by the arm across the Quidditch pitch and towards the fireplace from which she would make her way back to the Burrow.
“I watched your training today,” he said. “You really deserve this. I always thought that defence was your team’s weakness, but it’s one of your strengths. They’re lucky to have you.”
Ginny smiled proudly. “Thank you! That makes me so happy!” Studying the ambiguous look on his face, she added: “Is it hard for you? To watch us play, knowing that you can’t do that anymore?”
“It’s not as bad as I thought,” Oliver answered. “I mean, sure, I’m still young, and had it not been for the head injury I might have still had a couple of years in me. But this way, I can still be part of the whole Quidditch world, right? I’m sure I’ll miss it sometimes, but it is what it is.”
Ginny smiled. “How very mature of you. I would have been so bitter…”
They had reached their goal, and they both stopped in front of the fireplace. “Ladies first,” Oliver said, making a gesture towards the bowl with Floo powder.
“I’ll see you next week, then,” Ginny said.
“Yeah. Say hello to Harry for me.”
Ginny cleared her throat. “Didn’t you hear? We broke up.”
“Really? So the Daily Prophet…? I thought it was just a rumour,” Oliver mumbled.
“It turned out to be more than that,” Ginny answered. Oliver looked uncomfortable, so in order to save him the awkwardness, she grabbed a pinch of powder and threw it into the fire. As it turned green, she turned her head towards him and said: “I’ll see you soon, then!” and then she stepped into the flames.
A/N: As I'm writing this, 75 people have added this story to their favourites, and I have received 147 reviews of helpful advice and wonderful compliments. I just want to thank each one of you so much, as well as those who have contributed to the fact that the story has nearly twenty thousand reads. It blows my mind! I don't know how to express my grattitude, but I guess I'll just say thank you for the millionth time and hope that you know how much it means to me.
I know that the main focus has been on Harry and Ginny lately, and I'm sorry about that, but the drama has been between the two of them, while Ron and Hermione are quite happy together in their new flat. However, something big will happen for some other people than Harry and GInny in the next chapter, and I'm so exited to share it with you!
Oh, and I realise that this author's note is too long already, but if you have any comments at all about this chapter, please let me know! It would mean the world to me! :)