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19 Years by marauder5
Chapter 24: Year 3: Reconciliation
Friends laughing. Was there, to be honest, a lovelier sound to be heard in this world? Hermione certainly couldn't think of one when she let her gaze wander between Harry and Ron's smiling faces as they tried to tell her the story of Justin Finch-Fletchley's disastrous duel with another boy at Auror Training the day before. They were talking loudly, both of them eager to get to the punch line, and every now and then they would make a pause in the storytelling to bend over the table in fists of laughter.
It was a moment like a million others the three of them had shared before, and yet, Hermione couldn't remember ever having felt such joy in it any of those times. How she had missed this, this friendship that could not be replaced by spending afternoon's at Harry's flat or days of enjoying alone time with Ron. There had been a couple of periods throughout the years, since the day that they all met for the first time on the Hogwarts Express, that they had been apart. There had been that time in the beginning of the Triwizard Tournament when Ron had refused to speak to Harry. Hermione and Ron had been angry at each other after the Yule Ball that same year – not to mention those weeks during sixth year when Ron had been with Lavender Brown and Hermione had, reluctantly, spent time with Cormac McLaggen to get back at him. And then there were those winter days during the Horcrux hunt when Ron had left them… If there was one thing that all of those periods had in common, it was how wrong it had felt. It didn't matter if Hermione had been on speaking terms with both Harry and Ron, or how much she appreciated being alone with either of them sometimes; she needed moments like this one too – moments when they were all together, just like they had always been.
"... you should have seen the look on his face, Hermione!"
"Yeah, it was worse than the time Ron accidentally hexed himself and started spitting slugs!" Harry grinned. "He had lost all control over his wand..."
"And that's a bloke who's supposed to have our back out in the field in a year!" Ron added, and the two of them howled with laughter at the mere thought of it.
Hermione smiled and shook her head at them. She had been too occupied with her own thoughts to pay attention, and so she didn't know exactly what poor Justin had done, but she didn't mind. She was just happy that they were all reunited, and that things had slowly begun to go back to normal. Frankly, she hadn't believed it when Ron had come home from work a couple of weeks before and announced that he thought that he and Harry might be friends again. But here they were now, in hers and Ron's flat, having lunch together – all three of them – and it was wonderful.
"Well," Harry said a while later, once they had all finished their food and Ron had "done the dishes" (Hermione thought that expression was a bit too laudatory, considering all he did was flick his wand, and then they were clean). "Thank you so much for this, it was delicious. I supposed I should let you two leave for Holyhead now."
Hermione studied his face; still, it seemed as though he couldn't think of Ginny without that sadness showing in his eyes, or that yearning taking over his features. She walked over to him and gave him a hug. "Harry, I-"
"I hope they win," Harry interrupted her. "I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
"And you're absolutely sure you don't want to come?"
"Yes, I am." Harry took a step back from her and smiled, waved at Ron and walked over to the fireplace to head homewards.
As soon as he was gone, Ron hurried across the room towards Hermione and wrapped his arms around her waist. "Have I ever told you how much I love the food you cook?"
Hermione grinned. "I've guessed it... I mean, considering the amount of it that you shovel down your throat every day..."
She was interrupted when he bent his head down to kiss her. Then he said:
"And did I tell you how much I love living with you? I mean, it's not just the food..."
When he lifted her shirt, she grabbed his arms to stop him. "It's not that I don't enjoy that part as well," she said, "but we really must get going. The match starts in twenty five minutes!"
Holyhead Harpies' arena wasn't the biggest one in the league, but its bleachers were close to the pitch, which created a sense of intimacy, and there were barely any seats from which the sight was limited. The fact that it was surrounded by the stunning beauty of the Welsh nature didn't hurt either, Hermione thought as she followed Ron through the rows of seats with her eyes fixed on the treetops that perked up behind the stadium and swayed in the heat that seemed to have decided to linger in Great Britain for a for weeks longer than most years.
"Here they are!" said Ron and stopped so suddenly that Hermione nearly walked straight into him. "Wow. They must really like Ginny, to give her tickets to these seats!"
And it wasn't so strange that they did – from their spectacular seats with perfect view over both sides of the field, Ron and Hermione cheered loudly as they watched Ginny defend her team against the league favourites, Wigtown Wanderers, and managing brilliantly over the following hour.
"Will you look at that?" shouted the speaker after another one of her feats. "Weasley literally drags the Quaffle out of Wigtown’s hands; Smith doesn't seem to know what just hit him! Of course, the visiting team is in the lead still, but let's see what Weasley has to say about that... she passes to Turkowski... back to Weasley... and she scores! Watch out, Wigtown, because this match is not over yet!"
"Almost," Ron said and turned towards Hermione. "Do you see that? Holyhead's Seeker has spotted the Snitch!"
He pointed at the dark-haired player dressed in green, who was diving down towards the ground on her broomstick, aiming for a spot near the opposite bleacher from the one where Ron and Hermione were sitting; something golden glittered in the sunlight just a couple of feet above the grass there.
"I can't watch this!" Hermione covered her eyes with her hands as the Seeker got closer and closer to the ground. She was going to crash, Hermione was sure of it...
"And Katzenberger has caught the Snitch!" the speaker called out. "Holyhead Harpies maintain their home field winning streak; perhaps they'll even be a speculator on the league title. Look at that – Wigtown Wanderers and Montrose Magpies are going to have to step up their game if they want to keep Holyhead Harpies be-"
The cheering of the audience as Katzenberger stretched her gloved right hand into the air drowned out the rest of his sentence. When squinting, Hermione could just barely distinguish a pair of golden wings fluttering between her fingers.
"Ginny would never shut up about it if they won," Ron said. "Holyhead Harpies have never won the league. Wouldn't it be typical if they did this year, the same year that Ginny started playing for them?"
"Typical? I think it would be fantastic, actually. She's an incredible player, Ron, even I can tell that. You should be proud of her." Hermione shot her boyfriend an admonishing look, and he burst into laughter.
"Okay, okay, Mum!" He dodged Hermione's playful punch and grinned.
"Well, I think we should go down and congratulate Ginny!" Hermione said as the people around them stood up and began moving towards the exits.
They followed the flow of people down the stairs, but instead of walking through the gates on their left they turned right and headed towards an opening in the fence that separated the bleachers from the pitch. By all appearances, the large, muscular man who guarded it seemed to recognize them, because he actually blushed as he stepped aside to let them in, which Ron, of course, found hilarious. He giggled as Hermione dragged him out of earshot of the poor man.
"He had me a bit worried there, for a second!" Ron said. "A scary bloke, that's what I thought... until he blushed! Talk about ruining one's image!"
"You're one to talk," said a familiar voice, making both him and Hermione turn their heads to the left. "You blush all the time. Of course, you don't look scary to start with, so I suppose it's not quite the same thing..."
"Ginny!" Hermione said. "You were brilliant! Congratulations!"
"Thanks, Hermione! I'm so glad that you both came," Ginny said, beaming with joy. "Ron, what did you think of that free throw that gave them the lead?"
"Looks to me like the Wigtown Wanderers go to acting classes after training," Ron said. "It was ridiculous – your keeper barely touched him!"
"I know," Ginny said. "I didn't think that you'd come," she then continued, as they began moving towards the dressing rooms. "Mum said you had plans for today. She was being very secretive about it, for some reason..."
"We had Harry over for lunch," Ron explained. "But I said we'd come, didn't I?"
Ginny ignored the little leap that her heart took at hearing Harry's name and cleared her throat. "So everything is back to normal between the two of you now?"
"I know that you still haven't talked to him," Ron said. "But you know what I told you about that girl – Eleanor. And you can't really expect me to be angry with him after that."
"I don't," Ginny said. "In fact, I don't think I am either. Not anymore. I've… he was right all along, wasn't he? When he lashed out at me for not trusting him – he had every right to do that, because I should have trusted him. I can't... how is he doing? Is he alright?"
"He's doing better than before," Hermione said. "But I think he still misses you."
Did he really? Could he really miss her, after what she had done to him? Ginny had been trying to supress her own guilt ever since Ron had told her what had really happened between Harry and that girl, but it was getting more and more difficult every day. She had avoided seeing Oliver for nearly two weeks – how would she manage to even look at him now? She had been able to justify being with him to herself with one simple argument: he's been good to me, Harry hasn't. It had been her way of denying her own feelings for months now, but since learning the truth about Harry she had also realized something else. The only reason that she wasn't with Harry anymore was because of her own blindness, her own stubbornness. It had nothing to do with some mistake that Harry had made or Oliver being so sweet and understanding. It was her own fault and no one else's.
"Ginny," Hermione said. "I'm sorry for asking, but I have to know... do you really want to be with Oliver? I mean..."
Ginny met her eyes, and then she shook her head slowly. "No, I don't think I do. I've been trying to make it feel the same, but he's not... It doesn't matter what I do, if I'm still in love with Harry. And I am."
Hermione and Ron exchanged a look and smiled at each other, as if they had been cooking up a plan that would eventually lead to this very moment: her admitting her feelings out loud. Finally.
Then, a figure behind Ron and Hermione caught Ginny's eyes, and her heart sank into the bottom of her chest; his facial expression said it all; he had heard what she had said, maybe even their entire conversation.
Ginny's heart beat loudly and nervously as she, a couple of minutes later, walked through one of the narrow corridors inside the arena, heading for the Broomstick Servicing room - or, as Darren Weinhold called it, Oliver's office.
Oliver hadn't turned around once; he was walking a few steps in front of her, quickly, determinedly. She wished that she could read his mind, and yet, she didn't want to know what he really thought of her now. What was she supposed to tell him? Didn't he deserve a real explanation? She wasn't sure that she'd be able to give him one. But didn't everything he had done for her count for anything?
As soon as Ginny had stepped over the threshold into his office, Oliver closed the door behind her. She met his eyes, took a deep breath and prepared herself for explaining what couldn't quite be explained, but Oliver opened his mouth first.
"You don't have to say anything," he said. Much to Ginny's surprise, he was almost smiling when he stepped forwards and grabbed her hand. "I think I've known all along. That Harry is always going to be the one you really want, I mean."
"You have?" Ginny said. "Because honestly, I didn't know it myself. I don't want you to feel like I've been trying to lead you on..."
Now, Oliver smiled – faintly, but it was still a smile. "I know you haven't. And even if I think I'm in love with you, and you've enjoyed my company, there are some things that we can't change. Harry being the love of your life, for example."
The love of her life? Was he?
Yes, a voice inside Ginny's mind answered. Because if he weren't, she would have got over him, she would have fallen for Oliver and moved on from him. If he weren't, he wouldn't have missed her anymore, not after she had let him down like that.
"I do like you, Oliver," she said. "I just..."
"You just don't love me like you love him," Oliver said. "I know. I'll get over it. I might be down for a while, and you're going to have to forgive me if I don't want to talk to you... but give me some time, and then we can be friends again."
Ginny wanted him to yell at her, to cry and tell her to get the hell out of his office (which wasn't really his office, but she would have gladly let that one pass). The fact that he was being so nice about it only made it harder – did he have to be such a good guy?
"Just tell me what to do," she said, "and I'll do it."
Oliver smiled again and pulled her into a hug. "Okay, here's what you're going to do," he mumbled. "You're going to take a shower, and then you're going to pay Harry a visit. You two really need to talk. And tomorrow, you're going to rest, because Darren has been talking about your training on Monday... and let's just say that I'm quite glad that I can't play anymore, after I heard what he's going to put you through."
Ginny smiled. "And you're comfortable with still working with the team?"
Oliver nodded. "I already lost my girlfriend today," he said. "You're not going to make me quit my job too, are you?" He walked over to the door and held it open for her. "I'll see you around, Ginny."
She nodded. "I'll see you around."
For a moment, Harry was convinced that he was dreaming. He rubbed his eyes multiple times, closed them and opened them up again, but she didn't disappear. She was really there, outside his door.
Her long hair was wet, as if she had just stepped out of the shower - drops of water fell off its ends and coiled down her shirt, leaving dark trails behind them in an uneven pattern across her chest. Had she always had streams of gold in her eyes? Harry wasn't sure. Her facial expression was probably the splitting image of his own - blank, her eyes widened, as if she couldn't believe it either. Finally, after what might have been an hour or perhaps just a minute, she said:
"Can I come in?"
Harry stepped to the side to let her in, and then he closed the door behind her before turning towards her again. "How... how did the match go?" he asked.
"We won," Ginny said. Her lips curled into a smile, and a wave of happiness rushed through Harry's body. He wondered if her smile would ever lose that effect on him.
Ginny walked over the bureau in the hall and picked up a frame that she hadn't seen before. She studied the photo, still with a smile on her face. It had been a birthday present to Harry from Teddy and Andromeda - an image of himself with his godson on his shoulders. Both of them were laughing at something that happened outside the photo – Harry was pretty sure that it had been Mr Lupin's silly dance moves – and Teddy's hair was a wonderful mixture of bright colours: turquoise, orange and green.
"He's so big now," Ginny said. "I thought of that when I saw him at the wedding. I was surprised that he remembered me."
"He talked about you after that," Harry told her. "I think he was happy to see you again."
Ginny put the frame back in its spot and turned towards him. Pulling her fingers through her hair, which sent a bunch of new drops of water coiling down her neck and onto the grey fabric of her shirt, she breathed in, as if to brace herself for what was to come, and said:
"I'm not here to make small talk. I'm here because I want to tell you how I feel."
Harry nodded. He went to sit down on the armrest of the couch, and Ginny sank into the chair across from him.
"Ron told me," she said. "What that girl did. And it shouldn't have mattered that she did it, because you had told me the truth all along. I don't know why I didn't believe you."
"To be fair," Harry answered, "I started to think I had slept with her too. I couldn't remember that I hadn't, so-"
"Yes, but even before that," Ginny interrupted him. "Remember when you told me that trusting someone means that you believe them even when there's no proof? I should have listened to that. Instead I tried to make myself forget my feelings for you, I tried to make myself fall in love with Oliver..."
Harry nodded again and waited for her to continue; she suspected that he hadn't even blinked yet.
"But it didn't go away," she said. "What I felt for you, I mean. And I think that there might be a reason for that. I think that I still feel miserable over being away from you because... because we aren't meant to be apart. Because I'll never find what we had with someone else."
Harry cleared his throat. "Are you saying that you haven't found it with Wood?"
"Yes. And it shouldn't have taken me this long to figure it out... I shouldn't have needed to hear that from Ron to be able to finally get my head around it. But I think I knew it before too. Oliver and I broke up," she continued, "and I don't know if it's true, but Hermione thinks that you miss me too."
Harry stood up. "I do."
Ginny nodded. "So what do you think about all this?"
He walked over to her, reached out his hands and grabbed hers. Then he pulled her to her feet. "I think that it's going to be hard," he said. "And I think that it will take a little time before we get back to where we were. But I also think..."
And he kissed her. Ginny closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around her neck, and when they broke apart, she leaned her head against his and kept her eyes shut; that was how it was supposed to feel. Harry really was the only one for her. And she planned on doing everything it took to become someone who deserved to have him again.
A/N: I hope that all of you Harry/Ginny fans are happy now... :) At first, I considered holding this off for a few more chapters - after all, Harry and Ron reconciled in the last one, and I didn't want it all to happen at once... but Ginny's been doubting her feelings for Oliver for quite some time now, so I thought it was time for her to put an end to it. As for Harry, it might seem like he forgave her too easily, but it's like he said: they've got some things to work on, but he does love her and I think he's just really happy to get her back, despite of everything.
Logging onto the site after posting a new chapter is just wonderful! A heap of new reviews, checking how many people have read it, a few more added it to their favourites... I wish I could post a new chapter every day, since you are being so lovely to me and I just want to give back as much as I can. Since that's impossible for me, however, I'll just thank you again, from the bottom of my heart, and try to keep the updates as frequent as I can, and hope that you know that the support you are giving me really means the world to me. Thank you so much. I'd love to know your thoughts on this chapter too. :)