Chapter 10 : Chapter 10 - Power
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“Dance with me, Harry.”
Her unexpected demand — delivered in that voice she reserved for those brief but special moments when they were alone — had taken him by surprise and elicited a response he was not prepared to face: the unfurling of the sleeping beast that had lain dormant and forlorn within his chest for what seemed an eternity.
He had been sitting alone and despondent at a corner table observing her as she danced with what seemed like every single, solitary male member of the Delacour family in attendance at Bill’s and Fleur’s engagement dinner.
She wore a grass green colored gown. It was embroidered with Chinese Fireball Dragons. The cut of the gown was ankle length and form-fitting, accentuating all her womanly curves. It was high collared with two slits on each side of her legs, ending slightly above the knees. Her fiery tresses were piled atop her head and fastened with two black lacquered chopsticks. On her ears was a pair of gold Dragon earrings matching the outfit's theme. The dress and earrings were a gift from her brother Charlie, whom Harry did not look too favorably upon at the moment.
She never wore make-up, and if she did, he never noticed anything more than a bit of gloss on her lips. In Harry’s opinion, her natural beauty had no need of further enhancements. But today she chose to go full out, going from merely beautiful in his eyes to all out, drop-dead gorgeous.
When she had first walked into the family lounge where the Weasleys, Hermione and he had gathered in preparation for the arrival of the Delacour family, Molly Weasley had been appropriately scandalized.
“Ginevra Molly Weasley” she shrieked. “You haul your bum right back up those stairs and change this instant, young lady!”
Harry had nodded his head in agreement. <i>”That’s right; you do what your Mum tells you to, Ginevra”. </i>
“But Mum,” she argued, “Charlie gave me this gown as a gift.”
Ginny looked down at herself in puzzlement. “All my bits are covered; it has a high collar, for Merlin’s sake! What’s wrong with it?” She had turned pleading eyes to Charlie.
“Mum, she looks fine. Besides it’s too late for her to change as the Delacours should be arriving any minute now.” Charlie argued her case with an amused smile on his face.
Molly huffed indignantly. “She, she looks like a - like a scarlet woman! Arthur!” She turned to her husband for support.
“Now, Molly dear, it’s not as bad as all that. She does look a bit older than her years. But you won’t let it go to your head will you Princess?” Arthur Weasley winked at his daughter, turning his head away from his wife slightly so that she would not catch him in such a blatant act of conspiracy.
<i>Was Arthur Weasley nuts?</i> Harry was horrified that he would let his only daughter, his ‘Princess’, gallivant around in that outfit all evening, sure to attract all manner of advances from the males in attendance.
Ginny beamed at her father. “Of course not, Daddy!”
“See, Molly, she’ll behave.” Arthur gave his wife a conciliatory peck on the cheek.
Molly heaved a great defeated sigh and then turned to George. She opened her mouth to pronounce her directive, but was stopped short by her son’s derisive snort. “Let me just collect the Prewett chastity belt out of storage, shall I? It will be a sight easier than me keeping my eye on her all evening. Honestly, woman,” George affected an indignant tone. “Have you no faith in your daughter's moral fortitude?”
“It’s not her moral fortitude I’m worried about, but the levels of hormones from all the French males that will be in attendance,” Molly replied.
Harry gave the equivalent of a mental nod of agreement. He knew he could count on Molly Weasley to be the voice of reason.
“No worries, Mum, I’ve got my wand with me,” Ginny replied cheekily
Harry’s eyes scanned her outfit trying to determine where on her person she could possibly be hiding her wand when Ron gave voice to his thoughts.
“Where in the bloody hell could you possibly be carrying your wand in that get-up!”
“You’ll never know and neither will the bloke that tries anything.” She smirked at Ron and then winked at Charlie who had laughed appreciatively at her comment.
Further comment on Ginny’s attire was interrupted by the arrival of the 'Delacour Delegation,’ as Harry had begun to think of them, en masse. It was a bloody French invasion, in Harry’s opinion.
As the delegation made its way towards the open yard of The Burrow, Harry could see the large, white Magical tent that had been erected in the Weasley yard, which had been provided by the Delacours, a concession made by Mr. and Mrs. Weasley in order to placate the demands of their future daughter-in-law.
Upon entering the tent, one was greeted by an elegant vestibule with an exquisitely designed parquet floor. At its center was a round mahogany table with an enormously elaborate floral arrangement made up of exotic flowers all in white, as was the French tradition. Behind and to each side of the table was a grand staircase that led to what Harry assumed would be the ballroom where the engagement party would take place.
Harry noted that each of the Weasleys were escorting one member or another of the ‘Delacour Delegation’ He had been recruited to escort Gabrielle Delacour, Fleur’s sister. She was a sweet girl, but she seemed to have acquired a bit of hero worship for Harry. She blushed and stuttered in his presence, reminding him of another girl he would much rather have clinging to his arm at the moment.
His eyes fell upon the couple that was walking slightly ahead of them in the procession to the ballroom. Vermilion locks seemed to be entangled with blond as the man with Ginny on his arm leaned over to whisper in her ear. Harry also noted that said gentleman’s hand was holding, unnecessarily so, the hand that Ginny held in the crook of his arm. Harry seethed with impotent jealousy and the beast within his chest strained against the restraints Harry had placed upon him. He struggled to ignore its growls and rumbles of frustration and the need to reclaim what it clearly thought of as its possession, its mate.
Etienne Delacour was introduced as Fleur’s first cousin from her Mum’s side of the family. Etienne had zeroed in on Ginny like a Niffler to gold. The problem was that he was not the only male member of the ‘Delacour Delegation’ to gather round the flame that was Ginny Weasley.
She had been surrounded the minute all the introductions were made. She seemed to have garnered the admiration of each of the Frenchmen from the wizened to the prepubescent.
He had been a silent observer to all these attentions as he sat alone at his corner table watching her every movement across the dance floor. Her vibrant hair that matched her personality so perfectly enthralled him, as a tendril would escape its fastening and fall like a caress upon her skin, and he wished he could be that lock of hair touching her cheek. Her infectious laughter, her luminous smile, her joy in the moment and how others were drawn to her as a moth to a flame.
And as the night wore on, Harry’s disposition became more and more stoic and sour. He should be the one holding her in his arms, his hand on the small of her back as he drew her closer to his body, her hand soft and small in his calloused and larger one as he led her across the dance floor. Her smiles should be for him and him alone. He wanted to be the one to cause her laughter, her joy. Instead he sat on the outskirts of all the revelry as he became more withdrawn as time seemed to stand still in his utter misery of the moment.
Harry, who had been stoic at best from the moment he had set foot at The Burrow that first week in August, was rapidly deteriorating into depression and misery as he witnessed the male admirers she seemed to gather so effortlessly.
He was not quite sure what he had expected Ginny’s attitude towards him would be upon his arrival at the Burrow, with Hermione and Ron in tow. It was something he had brooded about quite a bit while awaiting his coming of age at the Dursley’s.
At night when he was alone and in bed, she plagued his unconscious thoughts as she visited him in his dreams with nightly regularity, tormenting him with their sweetness. When it became impossible for him to excise her from his mind, he would finally allow himself to indulge in remembering every detail of her face and body, or he would remember with as much clarity as his aching heart could muster, every moment they had spent together those few glorious weeks last spring. His mind would chronicle and map the most miniscule detail. That one freckle that would drive him crazy with longing, the one that was on the corner of her left upper lip and how he would nibble and caress it with his own mouth and tongue. Her hands, her delicate soft hands as they caressed his cheek or lay on his chest where he was sure she could feel the erratic beating of his heart at her innocent touch. Those cat-like eyes that had always shown with love for him. Her skin so soft and pliant underneath his fingertips. Her hair, that glorious mane the color of the sun on fire, the wonderful feel of it between his fingertips as he would kiss her or hold her in his arms. And even though the memory of her brought him to his knees with longing, he could not stop himself from thinking of her, hoping for her, loving her.
His first glimpse of her was like a punch to the stomach. He tried to suppress the absolute satisfaction he felt at the very sight of her. It was as if the memory of her was a mere specter to the radiant reality that raced towards them. Her hair a living breathing entity as it flowed and moved behind her. Her body with its supple womanly curves — he had clenched his hands into fists in an effort to stave of the compelling desire to remap her body with his hands, to reclaim what he had once thought of as his province to touch, to caress, to hold. It took all his force of will to remain immovable to the force of nature that was his Ginny. No! Not his Ginny any longer, she was forbidden to him.
She had run up to Ron first and given him a Molly Weasley hug, the likes of which Harry had never been witness to. By her own admission to Harry, she and Ron had mended the rift in their relationship, but he had never seen her so effusive towards her brother. She was genuinely pleased to see him and that delighted Harry to no end. She then turned to Hermione and greeted her warmly, smiling and chattering away like a magpie. And then with the same sisterly affection she had bestowed on her brother and Hermione she turned to Harry and greeted him with a warm smile and a “How are you Harry?” and without waiting for an answer, she linked arms with Hermione and proceeded towards the Burrow.
Angry Ginny, depressed Ginny, cold and unforgiving Ginny he had expected. What he had not expected was Ginny’s cheerful greeting, as if his heart was not breaking at the sight of her. As if her heart was not breaking at the sight of him. But this jovial, happy facade was not what he had anticipated. It hurt at first and then it angered him and finally, it terrified him.
During his stay at the Burrow, she did not ignore him altogether, but she did not go out of her way to seek him out either. She did not give him sidelong mischievous glances or smile at him as she used to. It was as if they had returned to being casual acquaintances and she had been relegated to the status of Ron’s baby sister. She acted as if he was nothing more to her than someone she passed in the halls at Hogwarts, a familiar face but a stranger otherwise.
Did she hate him now? Was this her act of rebellion? That she would not allow him to see the hurt he had inflicted? None of the reasons that his mind conjured gave him peace. Rejection, regret, rebellion, hatred, pride, a love deferred — they all brought a sense of grief to his burdened heart.
Perhaps she did not love him as she had professed? But that thought was devastating to Harry and he tried not to dwell on that possibility. Ginny was not disingenuous. Yet he thought, when it came to her feelings for him she had set them aside in the past, hidden them from all too knowing eyes. Her pride, her inner strength and her fear of being controlled through her emotions could be the impetuous for her current jovial demeanor. It was an act of stubborn rebellion, against her own emotions.
He knew that she felt her love for him had been her weakness, a power that he had wielded over her. Now she seemed determined to channel that love into a superficial friendship. The mere thought that perhaps she had reverted to the Ginny that hid her feelings from him, made his heart clench in his chest. He had promised her and himself that he would never willingly be the cause of her pain again, yet mere weeks later he had cast her aside. He now realized how truly naïve that promise had been.
Before his arrival a part of him had secretly fantasized that she would call forth all the powers of her feminine wiles to entice him, persuade him, and prove to him that he had made a mistake, that he was wrong to push her away. That she would remind him of the desolation that was his life before her. She would tempt him with the knowledge that he was an empty shell without her, that he did not need to lead this barren existence in order to fulfill his destiny. She would cross the chasms he had laid before her and bring down the walls of the fortress he had tried to erect around his heart.
His mind, his heart, and his conscience were at war as each fought for dominance within him as he agonized over his choices.
Did he follow what logic dictated as the best course of action in an effort to keep Ginny out of harm’s way?
Did he listen to his heart, a heart that told him he was weaker without her?
Did he give in to the conscience that advised him to do what was best for Ginny, regardless of the pain it caused him and the overwhelming need to give in to his heart’s desire?
The weight of his choice was heavy on his heart. The regret that he felt from the moment he walked away from her at Dumbledore’s funeral had festered within him with each passing day during their separation. Her rejection whether real or imagined, upon his arrival, had wounded him beyond any pain he had ever been subjected to in his life. Because this pain, this unbearable feeling of having his heart torn from his body, was inflicted by someone who had professed to love him.
The feelings he had previously alluded to her, he would also have to claim as his own. His thoughts traversed the same path over and over again. Rebellion and pride traveled hand in hand, for if she no longer loved him, then he could damn well do without her. But self-loathing always followed those thoughts, and he could only despise himself. He could not bring himself to hate her for her supposed rejection. How could he? He had cast her aside. He had no right to revile her for the choices he had made. He also suffered the torment of a love deferred, to deny his love and live with the very real possibility of losing her love forever.
There was a part in the deep recesses of his mind and heart that expected her outward reflection of a broken heart, some proof that she was as miserable without him as he was without her, because those feelings had frightened and hurt him beyond what words could possibly express. For he knew that with all his strengths, gifts and abilities that the one thing he needed above all these things to survive this duty that was laid before him was the certainty of Ginny’s love
And now she stood before him, her hand outstretched, demanding that he dance with her, the fierce look of determination in her eyes that he had come to love so completely.
He knew the moment he took her hand in his that he had made a grave error. She had beckoned to him like the sirens of mythology and much like the sailors of legend, he crashed his ship upon the rocks, laying his fate at her feet — without regret.
He stood and took a step closer to her. He could feel the heat of her body, palpable and radiating from her as if she had touched him. Her heady, unique scent enveloped and embraced him. He looked into her catlike eyes that were his doorway to heaven — he saw eternity in her eyes. How could he have doubted for one instant the purity of her heart? When all he had to do was spend an eternal moment lost in the language of her eyes. Eyes that held a thousand promises unspoken, a love undiminished, unwavering, constant yet ever changing. Eyes that told him that she would love him in this life and the next. In her eyes he saw his future.
They stood there for the span of a heartbeat, eternity held within the palms of their hands. He saw his unborn children, his life in the span of a moment, his life with her. They did not need words to impart the emotions that seemed to charge the very air they breathed. His heart spoke to hers - words were meaningless, empty, worthless things.
He led her to the dance floor bringing her into the circle of his arms. She was his treasure, his heart. Wherever Ginevra was, there was his home.
He could feel the blood running through his veins again, his heart pounding in his chest, the hum of his breathing within his body. He felt alive again, as he had not felt since he had walked away from her that bleak summer day. He realized that he had been going through the motions of living, like an automaton, bereft and devoid of emotions. They held each other close, fiercely, desperately, knowing that their time together would end all too soon. How long they danced he did not know, whether it be an hour or an instant.
As the last strains of the music hung in the air, he felt her hand slide from around his neck to his shoulder, to travel slowly down his arm. She took his much larger hand in hers, her eyes never wavering from his, her gaze intent and determined. She turned, guiding him from the dance floor. Not a word was spoken between them, and yet it seemed as if their eyes had spoken volumes.
They left the tent and walked in silent agreement towards the River Otter. It was a moonlit night and they had no need of wand light to guide them. They walked in silence, their arms wrapped around each other’s waists, their steps in sync. She brought him to the base of a gnarled tree on the river’s edge. A long sturdy branch lay across the river like a hammock.
Harry summoned a blanket and laid it on the lush, soft grass at their feet. She sat on it and lifted her hand towards him; her eyes were luminous in the moon’s glow. He could not refuse her entreaty any more than he could ask his heart to stop beating.
He removed his dress robes, placing it across her shoulders as he sat beside her. Lifting his hands to her hair he removed the chopsticks that held her hair in place, allowing it to fall about her shoulders like a fiery waterfall. Then he lay back on the blanket, lifting his arms to her. “Come here, Baby, lie down next to me.”
A sob escaped her lips at the beloved endearment as she came willingly into his arms. He held her as she cried, silent tears soaking his white dress shirt. Harry felt every sob and hitch in her breathing as a stab to his heart. He could feel the sting of tears behind his eyes at the sound of the grief he had caused her.
As her tears began to fade away and her breathing returned to normal, the tightness in his chest abated as the sound of her pain receded. He stroked her hair, delighting as he always did in the feel of the silken strands as they ran through his fingers. He took pleasure in these precious moments that had been given to them, in the sounds that surrounded them, the whisper of the wind through the trees, the crickets in the thicket. The fireflies danced and the insects buzzed as they flit about. He could see the stars as they would come and go into his line of vision with the swaying of the tree’s branches in the wind. And yet in none of these things did he take as much joy as the feel of her in his arms once again, her flowery scent enveloping him in its sweetness.
“Harry?” Her soft voice broke the silence between them.
“You said that you loved me.”
He hesitated for a moment before answering “Yes.”
“You love me still.” Not a question so much as an affirmation.
Again, a heartbeat's hesitation. “Yes.”
She nodded her head against his chest.
“I, I know you’re leaving soon, with Ron and Hermione,” she said hesitantly.
He gave a start. How could she know that with such certainty?
“I overheard you, Ron and Hermione talking in Ron’s room. If you hope to be successful in this Horcrux hunt — whatever that may be - you’re going to have to learn to be more careful and put up silencing charms.” There was a teasing lilt to her voice and something more he could not pinpoint.
He lifted her chin with the crook of his finger. “Ginny, this is very serious. That knowledge is very dangerous. Your being aware of what we’ll be doing puts you in danger,” he chastised.
“I’m aware of that, Harry. But I see that it’s all right for Ron and Hermione to be privy to this knowledge. They’re strong enough, worthy enough, trusted enough to be privileged with the knowledge of your secrets.” There was a bitter edge to her voice.
“Ginny, love, please understand. Hermione, Ron and I have been through so much together…”
She stiffened in his arms and then put her hands to his chest as she tried to push herself away from him. But he held fast to her.
“Let go of me, Harry,” she whispered fiercely.
“No, Ginny, please — I didn’t…”
“Let go of me Harry — I don’t want you to touch me right now.” She continued to struggle in his arms, but he held onto her desperately, fearfully. Her rejection of his touch set off a wave of fear in the pit of his stomach that spread throughout his body and clenched at his heart.
"Please, let go.” The tone of her voice was, desperate, wounded on the verge of — he knew not what.
He let her go.
She went limp in his arms and then pushed off him and stood, walking quickly to the river's edge. She placed a shaky hand against the low branch of the willow tree, the other covered her mouth.
He sat up on the blanket, his arms resting on his upturned knees, hands clasped tightly together. He watched her shaking form as she stood there taking deep breaths into her lungs. He knew he had hurt her — deeply.
His mind raced to find the right words that would tell her he was sorry, that he did not mean that the way it sounded. To tell her that he placed her above all others, loved her, trusted her, and needed her above all others.
“Ginny, I, I didn’t mean that the way it sounded, please let me…”
“Don’t.” Her breath hitched in her chest.
She took steadying breath her voice much firmer. “Just — just — don’t.”
How could so few words convey such hurt and anger? But even more painful to him was the fact that they spoke of disappointment, her disappointment in him. It left him bereft and confused as to how to make it right, how to explain that he had not meant that Ron and Hermione were more important to him than she was. He had a great and abiding affection for them; they were his first and dearest friends. But the platonic love he felt for them paled in comparison to the fierce emotions that his love for her evoked.
He watched her from his position on the blanket, wanting to approach her, to gather her in his arms and soothe away the hurt he had so unthinkingly inflicted. But the language of her body was stiff and unapproachable. He feared that whatever action he took, whatever words he spoke, might cause her more anger or pain. Her wounded, fractured heart, the one he so unthinkingly injured, stood between them. Her pain was like a living entity, radiating heat, resentment and pain. An emotional hydra he dared not approach, for as he faced one emotion he feared another would grow in its place.
A sudden fear overtook him, leaving him vulnerable and insecure. Would she give up on him? What had her love for him brought her except feelings of rejection, insecurity and loss? He told her he loved her, but his actions showed her otherwise. He took the precious gift that was her love and then carelessly tossed it aside. His reasons were noble but his actions unpardonable. And yes, while her well-being was his objective, he could not deny that on some level it was self-serving. He could not deal with her loss - He needed the security of her safety, - He was willing sacrifice her happiness becuase ultimately it was for her protection.
He was an arse.
Yes! He was an unmitigated arse and while he felt he might not deserve it, he hoped and prayed she would not give up on him. He would make her see that their love was worth fighting for, worth the struggles, pain and separation that was to follow.
“I won’t do it, Harry.” Her words broke into his thoughts. He was caught off guard by her sudden declaration. Given the direction of his thoughts he was disoriented by her statement.
“I won’t — I will not be that girl pining away for you. I will not be second or third in your affections or your regard. I don’t deserve that.” She didn’t turn around as she spoke, but kept her back to him.
“I don’t expect — you’re not…” he stuttered, trying to explain, trying to tell her he was sorry.
But she continued on as if he had not spoken “I won’t be that little girl again, Harry. I love you, more than words can ever convey. But I will never again allow my sense of self to be dictated by your value of my worth or lack thereof in your life.”
She turned to face him — her face was in shadow and he could not see her expression. But her eyes — he could see her eyes — they shone bright and fierce, unyielding.
“You promised me that you would not ask me to be what I was not. You say you love me, yet you made this decision about us without consulting me — you took my choices from me. Where is your regard and respect for me, Harry, that you could choose to leave me behind, the consequences and effects of your actions in my life be damned.” She stared him down for a long moment; it seemed as if she was contemplating what she would say next, weighing the words in her mind.
“I never took you for a coward, Harry.”
Harry’s temper flared at her comment. He was upon her in a few quick strides, gripping her arms. “If wanting to keep you safe makes me a coward — then I’m a coward!” He hissed.
“Except you’re not doing it for my safety, Harry — your wanting to keep me safe is a selfish thing.” Harry was shaken by her perceptiveness, as if she could read into his heart, his mind, his fears. But he did not have a moment to dwell on these things as she continued her frustration with him palpable.
“But that’s not the crux of what I’m trying to convey to you!” she raised her voice in exasperation.
“Do you love me, Harry?” she demanded.
“Yes, damn it, you know I love you,” he shot back.
She laughed at that. “Your love shouldn’t be prefaced with a curse, Harry.”
Merlin she was exasperating! “This isn’t funny, damn it!”
“No, no it’s not,” she sighed, her countenance which had up to that moment been a bitter, angry scowl, softened as if silently pleading with him for understanding, her voice entreating.
“Harry, you cannot declare your love for me in one breath and then push me away and keep me from the important things in your life. It doesn’t work that way. Love cannot survive on secrets and emotional distance. If you love me as you say you do, I need to be a part of every aspect of your life.”
“No, Ginny!” His voice shook with anger. “You’re not coming with us! Tthat is not up for discussion here.”
“I am not asking to go with you. I know that I would be a liability to you. I’m underage; I cannot use my wand outside of Hogwarts without detection nor Apparate without a license. I’m aware of that; that’s not what I am asking.”
He was disarmed by her last declaration, his sudden burst of anger fading away. “What do you want? If it’s within my power to grant it, I will. But not at the cost of your safety, don’t ask that of me,” he pleaded, willing her to understand.
She sighed, suddenly looking so very tired. She gently placed her hands on his cheeks, her fingers a gentle caress on his skin. “Harry, what is it that you fear?”
“I — I don’t understand?” He looked deeply into her eyes, as if he could find the answers to her question there. What did he fear? His mind was reeling from the question. No one had ever asked him that.
“What is keeping you from being open with me about what you must do? What fear allows you to break your promise to me?”
Her eyes, her beautiful insightful eyes, searched his, seeming to pierce his very soul. Weighing, judging, measuring him until he felt as if he was naked before her. He felt as if he could see within the depths of her eyes his fear, his weakness, and the wretched despair he felt at the very real possibility of failure. A failure that could very well cost her life, the life of her family and all those who were known supporters of the Light. But the fear that brought him to his knees, what he feared above all things, was to win this war but lose what he treasured the most.
“You can’t keep me safe, Harry.” She spoke so softly that he had to strain to hear her, but when the words penetrated into his thoughts he felt as if she had physically hit him.
“There is nothing you can do that can guarantee my safety.” She caressed his face softly, tenderly, her eyes filled with compassion and understanding. “I’m a Weasley, we’re known blood-traitors, regardless of our association, <i>my</i> association with you. We’re targets. Nothing that could happen to us, to me, would be because of something you did or failed to do.”
“Ginny,” he began, but he found that he could not continue for the lump that seemed to have formed in his throat, blocking the words.
“We’re at war and none of us is guaranteed tomorrow. The only thing I can promise you is that I won’t be foolish; I’ll go to back to Hogwarts when term begins. I’ll try not to balk at all the restrictions in the name of my protection that my parents and brothers will thrust upon me. I’ll pretend that you mean nothing to me and that I am nothing to you other than my brother’s sister. I’ll stay safe for you, because I know that is the one thing you need from me. I won’t like it, I’ll hate it in fact, but I will do whatever it takes to give you peace of mind, so that you can do whatever you need to do and not worry about me in the process.”
A moment of such clarity washed over him as he looked upon her precious face as if for the first time. Before him stood the one person that had been created for him, there was no other. That she was willing to go against her very nature to give him what he needed most, humbled him beyond measure. Her love was selfless and self-sacrificing. She loved him beyond herself; she loved him enough to let him go, even though he knew it was killing her inside, even though it meant suppressing her spirit. He had told her he loved her, but he never truly understood the meaning of those words until this moment. Their love was deathless, boundless, constant, without time or space to hinder its full measure. Love was patient, love was selfless and giving, love was strong in its weakness and understanding in the face of conflict. She taught him this and he would do whatever was in his power to be worthy of that love, to honor her sacrifice, to come back to her. To love her with the same ferocious spirit that beat in her heart.
Suddenly he felt overrun with emotions, she wasn’t close enough, he needed to feel her, he needed to feel as if she were under his very skin, a part of him that he could always carry around. Grabbing her arms he pulled her into a tight embrace and they clung to each other fiercely, desperately. As he held her, his mind and heart racing with the desperate need to face the fear of losing her, or else his worries over her safety would be debilitating and consequently disastrous. Not only in his search for the Horcruxes, but to his responsibility for Ron’s and Hermione’s safety as well. And ultimately when the time came to finally face Voldemort.
She was right, no man was guaranteed tomorrow, especially not during times of war. They could not promise each other tomorrow, but they could have these moments. He would take whatever time was allotted to him and keep them close to his heart as treasured memories to store away for a time when he would be burdened with the weight of his responsibilities, to remind him what he was fighting for.
He pulled away from the embrace and looked down at her beloved face, his hand came up to cup her cheek. She closed her eyes and rubbed her cheek against his palm, a smile of contentment upon her lips.
Harry just stared at her. He loved her, really loved her. Beyond reason, beyond understanding, beyond all the tomorrows they may or may not have. He loved her. And he wanted to spend whatever was left of his life as her possession, belonging solely to her and no other.
Could it really be that simple? He shook his head to clear it from the fog that seemed to be clearing from his mind with each passing moment.
And then he grinned. He knew that if he allowed her to apply her feminine wiles and her Weasley powers of persuasion that she would wiggle herself back into his life and his arms.
And then he laughed. Throwing his head back and letting go the most heartfelt, joyful laughter that he had ever experienced in his young life. This witch would be the death of him and he would die with a happy smile on his lips and laughter in his heart.
He picked her up and swung her around as she laughed with him unrestrainedly.
He sobered quickly as a thought struck him; he voiced his concern to her as he settled his arms around her tightly. “We need to continue the pretense of our break up, Gin. That can't change, nor will I compromise on this point. Do you understand?”
Harry was surprised to see her smiling at him. “I know that Harry, I understand. I was expecting that as part of our compromise.”
“Gin, nothing's changed, not really. You still can’t come with me, we — we'll still be parted soon. No one can know that we love each other, we need to still keep up the deception that we’ve gone our separate ways.”
She nodded her head to acknowledge his concession.
“There is so much I need to tell you, Gin, and so little time. Lay back down with me on the blanket?” He asked tentatively.
She gave him a warm smile and nodded her assent.
They settled down on the blanket again and he sighed in contentment as he once again held her in his arms. He did not want these moments with her to end and yet they would be over too soon. When he spoke it was in a hushed whisper, just enough to be heard over the sounds of the night that surrounded them.
“There is so much I need to tell you. But I don’t want to waste these precious moments with you on such things.”
“Then don’t. There will be plenty of time for explanations. I don’t need to know at this very moment what it is you will be setting out to do. I am happy in the knowledge that you aren’t going to freeze me out of your life and the things that are important to you. I can’t bear the thought that you have so little regard for me, for the place I hold in your life, in your affections.”
“Oh Merlin, Ginny, Can’t you see how much you mean to me? Are you really so insecure about how much I love you? You’re the most important person in the world to me. Can’t you feel how much I love you when I kiss you, when I touch you? That I place you above all others? I know I don’t say it often enough. I’m…well, I’m just not used to saying it, but I do love you, so much.”
His eyes roamed across her face. Taking in all the features that made his heart beat just a little more rapidly within his chest, the face that could awaken the beast and make it purr in contentment and joy. It was amazing to him that someone so beautiful and good, whose outer beauty paled in comparison to her beauty of spirit, could love him in return. He took her small hand and placed it upon his chest, so that she could feel its rapid beating, and because he did not have the words to express how much he truly loved her, he willed her to understand that his heart beat in his chest with love for her.
He was miserly with his words and affections in general. Having been raised in a loveless, abusive home, he had no frame of reference for the expression of affection. Having spent so many years in introspective thought and lack of physical, emotional and verbal contact, he was unaccustomed to these forms of expressions.
But with Ginny, the emotions just seemed to flow out of him, as if he was born to love her. The prophecy, his fate, was as nothing compared to this feeling of purpose and completeness. If given the choice between Ginny and fulfilling the prophecy — well, there could be no choice.
More the reason to keep her safe. He could not do what needed to be done if his energies were expended in agonizing about her safety.
“Ginny, I may be a prat at times. I will do things occasionally that will hurt you or anger you. I know that you’re capable and strong. I don’t doubt your abilities; quite frankly I’m in awe of them at times.” He took a deep breath, he could feel his heart beating rapidly in his chest and he wondered if the hand that still lay on his chest could feel the change in its rhythm.
“Gin, what I am about to say will probably anger you, but I want you to understand my reasoning before you fly off the handle. Will you promise to listen to all I have to say?”
She nodded her head against his chest. “Yes, I promise.”
“Even if you were of age and could Apparate, I wouldn’t take you with me.” He felt her stiffen in his arms for a moment and then relax, letting out a breath. He waited for a moment, testing her promise to him, before continuing.
“It’s not because I don’t trust you, I know you would be a great help to me. But I would be a wreck worrying about you. One of my greatest assets in a fight is my ability to think on my feet. If you were in harm’s way or if I had to choose between you and this mission, I would choose you. I would rather give up my right arm than be parted from you now. Being with you has been like a dream, for a brief moment in time I was just Harry, a hormonal teenage boy in love with a beautiful teenage girl. I wasn’t Harry Potter ‘The Chosen One’; I was just me in love with you.”
“I don’t want to leave you behind. I don’t want to do this, but I have to. I may not survive him, Gin. I may die trying, but I have to try. But for the first time in my miserable life, I have a reason to live, a reason to fight. And that reason is you.”
He could feel the warm, wet tears, and it pained him that he was the cause of it. He lifted her face, kissing away her tears, tasting the salt of her pain on his lips. “Don’t cry Ginny-love, please don’t cry.”
“I just — I love you so much. I don’t want you to leave, I don’t want to lose you,” she choked out, and then what came next shocked him as he listened to her pour out all her anger, fears and frustrations.
“And, and…I hate the fact that Ron and Hermione have a part of you that I will never have, a part of you that I’ve been shut out of. I hate that I feel jealous and resentful towards them. I hate this self-doubt that tells me you don’t trust me or trust my ability to take care of myself, this doubt that tells me you don’t love me the way I love you. When you said earlier that you’d been through so much together, that more than anything told me that they have an importance in your life that I will never have. They have a place in your life you will never allow me to be a part of.”
“I’m not the hearth and home type, Harry, to wait upon the return of the man I love from the war. Wringing my hands in misery wondering if you will return to me. Do you have any idea the misery my life will be in your absence, wondering and worrying for your safety? Do you have a place to lay your head at night, have you eaten properly, are you warm enough, cool enough? What torment I will suffer every night wondering if you’re hurt somewhere, calling out for me, needing me and there I’ll be like a Princess from those Muggle fairy-tales locked away in some castle tower awaiting her Prince Charming to come and rescue her.”
“Ginny-love, don’t you think I have the same worries. I think of my life without you in it, and it tears me apart. Just the thought of giving up my greatest comfort, my source of strength, leaves me feeling empty inside. It frightens me sometimes how much I need you. I need to know that you will be safe, that your family will watch over you and that you will be secure within the walls of the castle.”
“I know, Harry,” she whispered miserably. “I’ve given this a great deal of thought. I know that staying out of harm's way is the best way to help you. I know this, but it goes against the grain, against everything I am. I understand these things logically, but my heart, my heart, Harry, rails against it. I hate that Ron and Hermione have a part of you that I never have. There is the niggling fear that this need to protect me will never be abated that I will always be kept like a china doll upon a shelf. Sheltered, yes, but untouched, unloved, segregated from reality. You need to come to terms with your fear because this will be the one and only time that I will accept being kept separate and apart from you and what is important in your life. I will excise you from my life, it will be like living with half my soul, but I will live a half-life without you than accept a half-life with you. I want all of you or nothing at all.”
Harry had never seen such fire and determination in her gaze. These were not mere words, a threat or an ultimatum, her words were truthful and honest.
Harry looked down on her tear stained face, the face he loved beyond reason, beyond comprehension. That his thoughtless words, his fears and inattention had caused her so much sorrow, so much uncertainty. The pads of his thumbs wiped one tear only to have it replaced by another and then another. He bent his head and kissed each one that fell from the corners of her eyes, tasting the salt of her grief.
“Forgive me.” He kissed another tear.
“Forgive me,” he begged.
“Forgive me the pain I have caused.” He kissed the tears on her lips, wishing away the grief.
“Forgive me for making promises and breaking each in turn. For asking you to be what you are not. For taking your choices from you. I’ve been so stupid, so blind.” As her tears abated he kissed the corners of her mouth, her cheeks, her temple. Tasting the salt of her pain upon his lips.
“I love you, Baby, so much. Your place in my heart, in my life rivals all others. I trust you more than anyone, anyone,” he repeated fiercely willing her to absorb his words as truth, “I know you can take care of yourself, but I — I don’t want you to, I want to take care of you. Please don’t be angry with me - it breaks my heart…and yes Ron and Hermione have been a part of my life that you’ve not shared in and I’m sorry for that, I was a blind fool. But you have all of my heart, I give that to you and no other.”
He kissed her tenderly, sweetly. Begging her to forgive his many faults and the pains he’d caused her. “Please, Baby, please forgive me.” He looked into her eyes openly and honorably as he sought her absolution and the tender mercy that was her love.
She returned his stare as openly and honestly as he so that he would not doubt the truth in the benediction of her mercy. And because she knew he needed the words he heard her say, “I forgive you Harry.”
He understood in that moment that he could not earn her love, it was a gift freely given. He closed his eyes overwhelmed with wonder and gratitude of so precious a gift.
He opened his eyes at the whisper-like caress of her fingertips upon his temple, pushing away the fringe from his forehead tracing the lightning-bolt scar that only she had ever touched and his heart ached at her tender caress.
‘You need to promise me something, Harry. You need to promise me that this will be the last time you leave me behind. No more secrets, no more noble acts of sacrifice. After this we will never be separated again, our hearts, our lives will be open and free to love each other without reservations and without fear.”
He marveled at her strength and determination and at her perception of his character. She knew him better than he knew himself. She had searched his soul and found his darkest fears, brought them into the light and banished them as the morning mist dissipates in the presence of the sun. She was his sun and he would conquer his fear and her love would be his strength. He would give her this promise; he would live it, without reservation or fear.
“I promise.” And as if a benediction to his covenant with her, he kissed her, sweetly, tenderly with all the love he felt in his heart. He felt as if his heart had expanded, as if it needed to make room for the love for her that seemed to burst forth from him in waves.
“I love you,” he whispered as he kissed her temple, “I love you,” her cheek, “I love you,” her lips.
And with each tender kiss to her beloved face, he whispered the litany of his love for her. The invocation falling from his lips an unrestrained prayer. He wanted her to know that he belonged to her with every breath he took and with each beating of his heart. He wanted them to be tied by bonds that nothing on this earth or the demons below or heavenly hosts above could sever.
“Marry me,” he whispered, smiling down on her awed expression.
“I love you. I want you to belong to me; I want to belong to you. I know we’re young and that others may not understand. All I know is that I will love you until the day I die and nothing can ever change that. Marry me, be my wife. ”
His searched her face seeking the answer in her eyes, her silence constricting his chest painfully. Oh, Merlin, were she to reject him his heart would neatly split in two. “Marry me Ginny, please — please marry me,” he whispered urgently.
“…’But we loved with a love that was more than love’,” was her whispered response.
And through her tears she gave him such a beatific smile that Harry was sure his heart would burst in his chest from the overwhelming joy that seemed to permeate his very skin.
“I need the words love, give me the words,” he asked her desperation in his voice.
“Yes, Harry,” she answered, him her breath hitching with the effort to keep her tears at bay. “I will marry you.”
He whooped with joy and, quickly standing, picked her up and swung her around as she laughed at his exuberance.
He stopped suddenly, lowering her feet to the ground, his eyes roaming her face intently. “I don’t want to wait; I want to marry you now. Where do wizards marry, Gin? We need to do this now before you change your mind.” he laughed. He was so happy; he could not contain the smile that seemed to split his face in two.
She laughed with him. “We’d have to go to the Ministry, Harry and that doesn’t open until nine tomorrow morning. And then she sobered as a thought seemed to flit across her features making her frown. “And besides I can’t get married without my parents' consent — I’m underage and I just don’t see them giving their consent.”
The smile disappeared from his face at her pronouncement. “I - we can’t have anyone knowing we’re married anyway.” An expletive burst from his lips in anger.
“There — there is a way Harry, if — if you’re serious about marrying me now.” She looked up at him apprehensively.
“What is it Ginny-love? I’ll do it.”
“There is a spell we could cast. It is archaic, very old-magic. It was used up until the nineteenth century, it’s a betrothal spell. It would bind us — but it’s an unbreakable magical contract, so you need to be sure this is what you really want. We would still require the final marriage bonding ceremony, but we would be to all intents and purposes married.”
“That’s perfect Ginny, but why are you so apprehensive about it? You seem hesitant to use it.”
She bit her lip, looking away from him before she answered. “It’s an Unbreakable Vow, Harry. You need to be certain this is what you really want. Even though it’s a betrothal vow it would bind you to me for life even if we were never to finalize the marriage bond, I would still be your wife. If you change your mind, the vow could not be severed.”
He took her chin between thumb and forefinger turning her face towards him a gentle smile on his face.
“Until the day I die, Ginevra. I will love you until the day I die.” His words were a whispered vow.
“Until the day I die, Harry. I will love you until the day I die,” she returned his vow to him.
Ginny bent over and lifted the hem of her dress to expose her thigh. Attached by a garter on the inside of her thigh was her wand.
“Ginevra!” Harry exclaimed in shock and not a bit of humor and then he leered at her. “I wondered where you were keeping your wand!”
She looked up at him as she rose from her bent position and gave him a seductive smile. A smile Harry was sure was as old as Eve.
“Well, being as you’re the only boy I’d ever allow to find out…” she trailed off as she smiled at him again.
Harry growled. “You have no idea how much I love and hate this dress,” he said as he ran his hands over her curves, luxuriating in the silky feel of the material beneath his hands. “I could have killed Charlie for giving it to you.”
Ginny blushed, a guilty look crossing her face — her nose crinkling and her mouth pouting in that way he knew that she was trying not to get caught at some mischief she had created.
“What have you done, Ginevra?” he inquired sternly.
She turned to look at him the blush still very much present on her face. “Umm — well you see, it's like this — I asked Charlie to help me….” she stammered in response and then her courage seemed to falter.
“Mmm hmmm, go on Ginevra.”
“Well — I asked Charlie to help me in plotting operation ‘Get Harry Potter’, which then turned into operation ‘Find Dress to Make Harry Drool” — that was fun let me tell you - you have no idea how embarrassing it can be shopping for a sexy dress with your older brother. A dress, mind you, that would make your eyes bug out of your head but wouldn’t overly scandalize my Mum into hexing Charlie and me into next week. Covering your bits while showing them off could be a bit tricky — the things I do for you, Harry Potter.”
“He even made me buy a pair of matching silk knickers. He argued that it would make me feel beautiful. And I hate to admit it, but he was right. You have no idea just how much a pretty pair of silky knickers can improve a girl’s outlook regarding her own feminine self-image.”
“It was all worth it, just to see your jaw drop to your chest and the gobsmacked expression on your face.”
Harry shook his head to clear it and blinked owlishly at her a few times. And then he tipped his head back and roared with laughter. Gathering her in his arms he hugged her to him fiercely. Oh, yes his little Ginevra knew how to ply her feminine powers of persuasion to perfection.
“What are you laughing at, it worked, didn’t it?” she pouted at him.
He smiled down at her tenderly. “Yes, Ginny-love, it worked.” And then he scowled darkly. “It worked a little too well. I wasn’t the only one gobsmacked tonight. That Frenchy Etienne was all over you like a cheap robe.”
“Were you jealous? You shouldn’t be. He’s a handsome bloke, no doubt, quite charming and attentive…”
Harry growled jealously along with the beast in his chest as Ginny laughed and then looked at him tenderly, beseechingly.
“But he doesn’t have raven-black messy hair,” she paused to run her fingers through his hair, making him shiver in response. “… Or these piercing green eyes that make me go weak at the knees.”
She traced his scar with a delicate finger and then rose up on the tips of her toes to place a kiss there. “Or this scar that you see as a deformity, a curse that has brought you nothing but pain, but I love it because it is also a part of who you are.”
She took his much larger hands into her own and placed a kiss on each palm. “Or these hands, these hands that give me such pleasure and make me feel so safe.” She then placed the palm of his hand against her cheek stroking his hand across its silken smoothness.
“I dated boys Harry; a few brave boys even stole a kiss or two without my permission. But even as they kissed me, Harry, my heart would be wishing it was your lips on mine. I belonged to you from the first moment I met you, all I see - all I will ever see is you.”
“Marry me, Ginny-love? Marry me, Baby, please?” He knew the smile had returned to his face. He was so giddy in his anticipation that he missed what she was saying to him.
"Your wand, Harry." She smiled at him indulgently.
"Huh?" was his inarticulate response.
"You're going to need your wand if you want to perform this spell, Harry."
"Oh yeah, my wand, right." He watched her as she took in their surroundings a misty smile upon her face.
"This is one of my favorite places. I would come here to think and brood." She laughed. "I've spent many an hour daydreaming about you in this very spot, laying on my stomach on that branch," she pointed to the low hanging branch over the river. "I think it's appropriate we should pledge our vows here.”
"Yes, yes it is. It's perfect." She was perfect, he thought.
"Ready?" He nodded his head in response to her query.
"You begin the ritual by saying the incantation ‘Ego Iuro’ — ‘I Swear’. Then I repeat it, we each in turn pledge our vows at the end of which you say ‘Esto Perptua’ —‘Let it be Forever’," she explained. “There is a physical manifestation that the spell has taken affect, since it is different for each couple, we won’t know what that is until it occurs, then you will finish the ceremony with the words ‘Finis Est’ — ‘It is Finished’ “
“Ginny, I…well, I don’t know what to say for my vows, I’ve never been to a wedding. What should I say?” He felt so stupid not knowing what to say.
"Why don’t you let me say my vows first, you can take your cue from me. But you need to begin and end the incantations - it's a patriarchal spell so I assume that is what determines who the caster is." She smiled at him ruefully.
"How do you know all this, Ginny?" Harry asked, quite curious as to her knowledge of what she had termed archaic and old magic.
He watched a blush suffuse her face. "I - well, see uh - I found it in a book about Wizarding marriages my first year at Hogwarts”
A broad, leering smile crossed his lips. "Researching our wedding already, were you? Did you have your wedding dress picked out, the color of the flowers, the design for your bridesmaid’s dresses?" he teased her.
"Yes, but I'm your prat." He bent his head to place a kiss on the crook of her neck; she shivered and then laughed. He smiled against her neck at her response.
"We cross our wands,” she continued as he began to place small wet kisses on her neck and the bit of shoulder that was exposed by the dress she wore.
“Harry, concentrate,” she admonished.
“Oh but I am Ginevra,” he said as he bit her neck gently then laved the spot with his tongue. She moaned and he smiled again at the reaction he had evoked.
“You — um yes — you start us off with the spell. Our wands should glow red to indicate that we — um oh my — evoked the spell properly and then I — oh, oh — then I repeat it. You pledge your vow and then I pledge mine — oh Harry don’t! I can’t think when you do that!”
He had gone from placing soft tender kisses on her neck to that spot just below her ear that never failed to make her shiver in his arms. Her scent, her beautiful, glorious scent was intoxicating; she moaned again when he nipped at her ear tenderly and then placed a soothing kiss on her lobe.
“Oh Merlin, Harry” she breathed out and then valiantly proceeded to finish he explanation. “Then, uh, then you say the final incantation and you complete it — mmmm — you complete it — oh Harry.” She sighed as his mouth began to explore the tender skin from her jaw and slowly making his way to her mouth as he began soft nibbling wet kisses on her full lower lip pulling on it with his teeth and then soothing it with his tongue. His lips and tongue coaxed her mouth to part, his tongue seeking entrance into her sweet mouth and then he kissed her fiercely, passionately, pouring all his love, all his strength into her through his kiss.
He lifted his head, looking down upon her face. Her lips were swollen and wet from his kiss, her eyes closed a smile of contentment upon her lips. “I love you.”
Her eyes fluttered slowly open and Harry marveled at the love that shown in their depths.
Without another word spoken between them they lifted their wands and crossed them, never breaking eye contact, determination and love shining from their eyes.
Harry began the incantation.
“Ego Iuro.” As expected Harry’s wand glowed a bright red. Ginny repeated the incantation and her wand shown just as brightly.
“I, Ginevra Molly Weasley, take thee Harry James Potter to love and honor, from this moment forward. Entreat me not to leave you, or to return from following after you. For wherever you go there will I go. Wherever you live, there will I live. May your ways be my ways. When the fates take you from me, may I also be carried away with you and where you are buried there also will I be buried. Let my magic be taken from me and more also, if nothing but death part you and me. For I will love you until the day I die”
Humbled by the intensity of her vow, Harry stood in silence as her words passed through him, suffusing his mind, his body and his heart with the warmth of her love. He could do no less than return her vows to her and hope that the intent and power of her words be made truth by the strength of his own determination to see them through.
“I, Harry James Potter, take thee Ginevra Molly Weasley to love, honor and protect from this moment forward. I will love you with all my heart and all my soul in this life and the next. Entreat me not to leave you, or to return from following after you. For wherever you go there will I go. Wherever you live, there will I live. May your ways be my ways. When the fates take you from me, may I also be carried away with you and where you are buried there also will I be buried. Let my magic be taken from me and more also, if nothing but death part you and me. For I will love you until the day I die”
“Esto Perpetua,” he whispered reverently and the warmth that engulfed his body was as nothing to the heat radiating from their bodies. He felt such a sense of intense love throughout his whole being that it took him a moment to realize it was not his love for Ginny that he was experiencing but her love for him spreading to every fiber of his being. Healing the wounds of his past and giving him strength to face his uncertain future. The same love and awe that he was sure was reflected in his eyes was being returned to him, there was wonder and joy there and if he were honest, a little fear for what the future would hold for them, but strength and determination to see it through no matter what tomorrow would hold for them.
“Finis Est,” he whispered and felt the heat slowly ebb away and yet the feelings of love still lingered and surrounded them as a warm embrace. Without conscious thought he lowered his head and kissed her lips with reverence. His wife, his love, his future.
Harry knew without a single doubt that his life-force and Ginny’s was now indivisible, that the words they spoke so carelessly yet so honestly and reverently had forged a bond that only death and omnipotence could sever. If he were to die fighting Voldemort his Ginny would soon follow and while this knowledge struck fear in his heart it, also engendered a fierce determination that he could not allow that to happen. Above all things his Ginny would live and with the vows that now bound them he added another. I will win, I will return to her, I will love her in this life and the next.
She would be his greatest source of comfort, that he would turn to again and again when he felt he could not go on, when the war and the responsibility wore heavy on his shoulders. He would think of her and her love and the vow that bound them for eternity. The power the Dark Lord knows not was held in the palms of a girl too young to carry the burden, yet strong enough to see it through.
‘We see as through a glass darkly’, he remembered Dumbledore once saying to him. The future was not yet written; the prophecy was only the portent of what could be. He could choose to be the captain of his destiny, only he could see it through to the end. Whatever the outcome, he had the strength, he had the determination and will.
And now he had the power.
He had her love.
The vows are paraphrased from the Book of Ruth in the Bible and are one of my many favorite passages...
Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee. For whither thou goest, I will go. Whither thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people and thy God my God. Whither thou diest, I will die and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.
I’ve a few people to thank, so be patient.
Rubysquill – Ruby, thank you for your generosity and grace in the face of my artistic temper tantrums and for being so gentle with my fragile ego. I think I've learned my lesson...next time I'll just give in from the get go and save us both a lot of grief. Nah! It's too much fun my way.
Fake a Smile – Matt, thank you for the philosophical debates and playing devils advocate on more than one occasion. And for your patience in the face of my stubborn, hard-headed, and annoyingly rebellious arguments.
Kschneyer – Ken, for your inadvertent comment which changed the tone and scope of this chapter. And for recognizing the quote from Edgar Allen Poe’s poem Annabel Lee... from one voracious reader to another that was quite impressive. ’But we loved with a love that was more than love’
Intromit - Brant, for your asking every so often "...so how's the chapter coming along?", your lovely review and your words of encouragement...I give thee thanks.
Cwarbeck – Cel, for the unenviable task of editing my grammar, - thanks!. And for editing this chapter so quickly, even after having dropped off the radar for so long.
Chreechree – Christine, for your encouragement, kind words and your generosity of spirit.
Tyler – Last but most assuredly not least...thank you for your expertise in the art of Latin translation.
I feel a very unusual sensation - if it is not indigestion, I think it must be gratitude. ~Benjamin Disraeli
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