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Return After The War by fromtheashes248
Chapter 14 : Where Words Fail...
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 16

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A/N: Okay, before anything else, I have to let you guys know something. The problems with the site a while back resulted in me losing over 30 reviews from this story. I basically lost all reviews from June 30th onward, meaning all the reviews for chapters 12 and 13. But I want you all to know that I read every word and appreciated everything that was written. And I hope everyone had a lovely holiday and I’m sorry that my validation took so long, but we’re finally here, so no harm done, right? I hope not. Anyway, here’s the deal, just so no one gets confused. We’re picking up pretty much where we left off in the last chapter, but earlier, before the punch, and we’re seeing it from Dean and Ginny’s angle this time. Oh, and remember everyone, it’s still Thursday night. We clear? Good. Now, here’s what’s coming up: Do I hear the sounds of Ron and Pansy a-speaking? Hmm… we’ll see. The most convoluted sentence I think I’ve ever written; trust me, you’ll know it when you see it. Then again, a lot of my sentences have a tendency to get a bit convoluted, so let’s see if y’all can pick this one out! (Yes, I said y’all) And everyone’s going to get a good dose of Harry/Ginny, obviously. It gets a bit fluffy, and there’s some corny thrown in for good measure, but I think it’s mostly sweet. I must admit that, though under normal circumstances I consider myself more cynical than your average New Jersey girl, I’m still secretly addicted to corny romantic gestures. I hope you feel the same. Oh, also, Song Warning. And these lyrics, I’m afraid, you can’t really skip over. Why? Well because… they’re… well, it’s just… oh, you’ll see. But please don’t skip them. Trust me, it’ll be confusing otherwise, and they’re really important. Hence the chapter title; if you know the end of that quote, you’ll know what I mean. And I’ve got a couple quotes down there because I stumbled over them the other day and they just seemed to fit. Well, enough prattling from me. Enjoy, and don’t forget to review! 

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.
~Victor Hugo

Bitterness is like a cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.
~Maya Angelou 

Chapter 14: Where Words Fail…

Dean and Ginny were walking toward Gryffindor Tower in a stilted silence. Or it felt that way to Dean, at least. They hadn’t spoken more than a handful of words to each other in the past few days, and every one of them had felt forced. “Well, that was… unprecedented,” he ventured awkwardly.

“Hmm, not really,” Ginny said absently, her mind obviously elsewhere. She wasn’t looking at him. She hadn’t really looked at him in days. “I’ve seen her get like that with Ron once or twice. Rare, though.”

Dean stopped walking and Ginny only noticed when her hand was tugged backwards. It worried her that she couldn’t read his expression when she turned back to look at him. Dean was usually so even-tempered, but he didn’t look even-tempered now. He looked… well, she wasn’t quite sure how to describe it. True, she hadn’t really been paying attention to the conversation, so if he noticed then maybe… but he didn’t look angry. He looked blank. She forced a small smile and made her voice sound like she was interested. Which, she reminded herself, she should be. “Something wrong?”

He considered just shrugging it off, saying it was nothing, and finish making their way to the Common Room. The fact that he knew she would accept any flimsy excuse he gave her was a sign for why he couldn’t shrug it off. He thought about how much it would hurt to start the conversation that he knew they needed to have… and how much it would hurt if he didn’t. He slipped his hand away from hers to pull out his wand and twirl it absentmindedly through his fingers; it was a habit that always calmed him. “You tell me.”

Ginny felt a chill run down her spine, as though the careful shell she had built around herself was cracking. The smile she had crafted fell away. Folding her arms over herself to ward off the sudden cold, she said, “I don’t understand.” He just continued to look at her with that blank stare, spinning his wand slowly; the crack widened. She lied without a qualm. “I’m fine. Are you all right?”

The truth, he told himself. “No,” he said after a moment. “I’m… conflicted.”

She knew her face was clouded with confusion. The use of that word was disconcerting. “I, ah… I’m sorry, but I still don’t understand, Dean. What do you mean, you’re ‘conflicted’? What exactly are you ‘conflicted’ about?”

“Well,” the wand began to spin faster, “when you have to ask a question of someone that you really don’t want to ask, but you know you have to ask them, because wondering what the answer will be is harder than even the mere idea of hearing the answer, even when you know the answer could be the last thing you want to hear, you still have to hear it, you know? There’s just no other word for it, is there? Am I making any sense?”

“None at all, actually. Sorry.”

He cursed softly under his breath. “You don’t want to be with me anymore, Gin.”

“That’s ridiculous.” She wanted to laugh it off, wanted to believe that it was laughable. But the truth of his words swung through her brain like an axe, cutting off the ability to attempt humor.

“Come on, Ginny. Be honest.” His wand stopped spinning; he was no longer nervous. No, it was annoyance, and something akin to anger, that was coursing through him now.

“I am.” They both could hear that her voice lacked conviction.

“No, you’re not. This front that you always put up is anything but honest. Don’t get me wrong; it’s very good, very hard to see through. But I know you, Gin.” He stepped closer, pointing his finger at her knowingly. “You aren’t happy. And it’s partly because I’m not the person you want to be with.” Dean had to force himself to say the next words, and they came softly. “I think we both know who that person really is.”

“Stop it.” Ginny had to take a deep breath before continuing. He was far too close to hitting the truth. She pushed a smile to her lips and it was terrifyingly difficult to do. “I am happy, Dean. You know I care about you. And if I wanted to be with someone else, I would be.”

He still looked doubtful, but Ginny didn’t give him a chance to voice it; her mouth was on his before he could say another word. There was no other way to prove it to him. Or to herself. She moved her mouth against his desperately, urging herself to feel something – anything – more than only the pressure of his lips on hers. It wasn’t as though her words had been a complete lie. So maybe she wasn’t entirely happy with Dean at her side. But she wanted so much, maybe too much, to be happy with him. That had to count for something, didn’t it? So why the hell wasn’t it helping?

Dean wasn’t stupid; he knew exactly what she was trying to do, exactly what she was trying to make him believe. Even as he was telling himself not to be taken in, he was pulling her closer. It would only hurt worse in the end – hadn’t he told himself that a hundred times already? But he wanted so much, maybe too much, to believe what she said. And right then, in that moment, the beauty of the illusion was far less painful than the starkness of the truth. And when she parted her mouth under his and urgently deepened the kiss, it only felt more real. His fingers were tangled in her hair; her arms were wrapped around him. Didn’t that mean something?

There had to be something more here, there had to be. Ginny poured everything she had into the kiss, willing herself to feel something. That spark was still there somewhere, wasn’t it? Feelings like that didn’t just disappear, did they? She could tell that Dean could feel it, that pull. He always had, and she used to feel it too, so there had to be a simple explanation for why she wasn’t feeling it just then. (She ignored the traitorous voice in her head that pointed out that it had been a long time since she had felt that pull for Dean.) What with everything that had been going on with Hermione, and yes, her own unwilling emotions as far as Harry was concerned… well, anybody would be distracted. But it was there, it had to be. If she could just –

Dean was suddenly wrenched out of her arms and her eyes popped open in surprise. She saw Harry’s face and the look in his eyes sent a shock of fear through her. She yelled something – she wasn’t quite sure what – and knew what was coming before it happened. There was a vicious thwack – the unmistakable sound of flesh and bone slamming into flesh and bone. Another dull thunk – stone against flesh – followed. It was over in seconds. She had hardly even seen it. By the time Ginny’s vision had cleared, Dean was half-sprawled on the cold stone floor and Harry was standing over him, fists still raised with fury quickly fading from his face. A sickened sort of shock was taking its place.

“What the fuck, Potter?! Son of a bitch!” Dean yelled as pain radiated through his jaw.

“Oh God, oh God.” Ginny lowered herself to where Dean sat, cradling his face. After that first cursory glance, she didn’t bother to look at Harry, didn’t think she could bear to look at him. “Let me see.” She moved Dean’s hands away from his injured jaw herself and could already see the beginnings of what would be a horrendous bruise.

Her training was telling her to check the wound. His jaw bone could be broken; it had slammed into the ground pretty hard, and the mark on the other side from Harry’s fist was no joy either. She reached for her wand, but she could barely hold it, her hands were shaking so badly. Not from fear, she realized. If fear was enough to stop her, then she would have been no help to Hermione when she fell. No, the shaking came from anger. Hot, red, pulsating anger.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” she seethed at Harry, finally looking at him. His fists were no longer clenched, but hanging loosely at his sides. His face was the image of shock and the beginnings of shame. Ginny ignored all of this and continued to rail at him. “Have you lost your mind? You might have broken his jaw!”

“I… I… didn’t mean –”

“Save it,” Ginny growled darkly, looking away from Harry again. It was a wonder, she realized, that Dean hadn’t hexed Harry yet; his wand was still in his hand, after all. “Come on,” she said more gently to Dean. She helped him to his feet. “You need to go to the Hospital Wing.”

“Don’t think it’s broken,” Dean said disjointedly through his teeth; he was obviously trying not to move his jaw any more than was absolutely necessary.

“I think we had better let Madam Pomfrey decide that,” she said, turning away from Harry to start down the hall.

“Ginny, I –” Harry tried to begin again, but the look she sent him stopped his words.

“No,” she said, sounding pleading and despondent at the same time; it was as though she was desperate not to feel whatever it was she felt in that moment. That voice, those eyes, that emotion – they were all salt on his wounds. “I can’t, Harry. Please, I can’t.”

Ginny lead Dean away, her arm around his waist, while shame and self-disgust began to curl greasily in Harry’s stomach. He finished making his way to Gryffindor Tower, his mind slightly numb. He couldn’t – could not – think or let himself wonder or dwell. Considering the consequences seemed an impossible feat. But he couldn’t stop himself from feeling, and all that he felt… he hated himself. Not just because he had hurt Dean, a person that, when he wasn’t dating Ginny, Harry would have considered a friend. When he reached the Fat Lady’s portrait, he couldn’t make himself go in. Couldn’t face his friends, his housemates; couldn’t look them in the eye and pretend that things were fine. Knowing he would wait all night for them to get back, he slid down the wall and put his head in his hands dejectedly.

Dear God, what had he done?

Ginny was fuming. She was so mad that she couldn’t see straight. How dare he? Did he think it was his job or something to mess with her head, her heart? Did he enjoy watching her ride an emotional roller coaster with her head between her knees?

Madam Pomfrey was annoyed. When one is interrupted from her bedtime routine by two students – one of which she considered her personal protégé and knew damn well could probably fix the injury on the other student’s jaw – how was she supposed to feel? But if being the only nurse in Hogwarts had taught her anything over the years, it was to expect interruptions at the most inopportune times.

“Alright, Mr. Thomas,” she said as she examined his jaw with her wand. Dean was sitting on the side of the bed, and Ginny was off to the side watching intently. “It isn’t broken. The bone is very badly bruised on this side though.” She indicated his right, where he had hit the ground. “Not that it looks particularly good on the other side, but it’s not as bad. I’ll give you a potion for the pain and to heal the bruising. You’ll feel like new in the morning. Maybe a little sore. The potion will knock you out, however, so you’ll need to stay here tonight. Now, who hit you?”

“It was – ” Ginny began, but Dean cut her off.

“It was an accident, ma’am. I tripped over my own feet.” Ginny gaped at him, but he didn’t look at her.

“Mr. Thomas.” Madam Pomfrey stared at him with the sort of exasperated patience that one only develops from working with children and teenagers. “I have been healing for long enough to know that one doesn’t bruise both sides of one’s face by falling down. They would need considerable help to accomplish that, usually in the form of someone else’s fist. Do you honestly expect me to believe your story?”

“That’s the only story I have, Madam.”

She released an aggravated sigh. “Very well. Miss Weasley, would you care to tell me what happened?”

Ginny looked at Dean, but he wasn’t looking at her. “I, ah… if that’s what Dean says happened, then that’s what happened.” Dean shook his head the slightest bit and looked down. It made Ginny feel as though she had failed a test she hadn’t even realized she was taking.

She huffed, annoyed with both of them. “Fine. Seems rather foolish to me, protecting whoever punched you, but that’s your decision.” She stalked off to get Dean’s potion, muttering to herself.

“Dean, why – ” Ginny began as soon as Madam Pomfrey was out of earshot, but again, Dean cut her off.

“Because it makes sense somehow.”

“Are you kidding? Dean, it makes no sense at all,” she said, barely managing to keep the quaver out of her voice. More than a little unnerved by his words, she sat in the chair beside his bed.

“Gin,” he said, voice weary. He wanted to be calm and diplomatic and everything that would make her think that his world wasn’t crashing around him. “I kind of… I don’t know. I guess I understand why he did what he did. If I saw the woman I loved kissing someone else…”

“It isn’t like that, Dean.”

“Isn’t it?” He looked at her now, and his gaze was penetrating. She looked away.

“Harry’s not in love with me anymore, if he ever was to begin with.” He had never actually said it, had he? No, he bloody well hadn’t. “And I don’t love him.” She said the last part almost angrily, as though daring her heart to disagree with her again.

“Oh, please, Ginny.” He would have laughed if he didn’t feel so damn pathetic. “He’s been in love with you since we were sixteen. And when you were a first year – ”

“That’s the past – ” she began through gritted teeth.

“That’s the past, present, and future with you two. And I don’t want to fight about it when…” his voice became suddenly weary, as though they had had this conversation a hundred times before. “We both know it’s true, Gin. There’s no point in denying it any longer. Besides,” he said to himself, thinking of that last kiss, “it hurts too damn much to pretend otherwise.”

“Dean…” She knew it was true, on her end at least. She was still in love with Harry, even if she hated him for it. And Dean was right; it wasn’t fair to use him the way she was. The fact that he knew she was doing it only doubled her shame. “I never meant… you know – ”

“Don’t, Gin.” It was his turn to look away, his turn to hide the truth that he knew his face could reveal. “You should go before Pomfrey gets back.”

“Um… sure.” She stood and made to leave, but stopped. Leaning down, she placed a light kiss on the uninjured part of his cheek. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. Before he could respond, she rushed away and out the door.

“Here we are, Mr. Thomas,” Madam Pomfrey said, stepping around his curtain. “Where did Miss Weasley go?”

“Back where she belongs.”

“Oh. Well.” She cleared her throat, deciding it would be best not to comment. For all Madam Pomfrey knew of healing the body, she also knew that sometimes the best treatment for a broken heart was to leave it alone awhile. At the very least, she could offer him a dreamless sleep tonight. That would have to do for now.

But all things considered, it wasn’t hard to figure out who had delivered that punch.

Ginny couldn’t remember ever feeling as low as she did in those moments walking back to Gryffindor Tower from the Hospital Wing. Clever lies – that was all that had been keeping her with Dean in the last weeks. Hopeful delusions and clever lies. She hated herself for it. What was worse was that she wasn’t blind; she had known full well how Dean felt about her. But she had closed her eyes to it for her own selfish reasons.

It was hideous.

It was vile.

And it was about time she stopped being overly dramatic and stopped feeling sorry for herself.

Ginny wasn’t one to hold pity parties. Yes, what she had done to Dean, and to herself in a way, was wrong. And more than a little cowardly as well. But dwelling on it and thinking ‘woe-is-me’ would do absolutely nothing to make the situation any better. She had a feeling that Dean wouldn’t want to be her friend at the moment, but she hoped to get there someday. And in the meantime, she would do her best to mend her heart on her own. The way she should have from the beginning.

It didn’t surprise her in the least to see Harry sitting outside the portrait hole when she got there, but she didn’t have to be happy about it. Looking at him now, the way he was sitting cross-legged with his forehead in his heads… he looked so pathetic that she almost felt sorry for him for a second. But before those feelings could take root, she reminded herself why he was sitting like that and the almost-sympathy she felt dried up rather quickly.

She really, really didn’t want to speak to him, or to anyone for that matter, but especially not to him. And though she doubted he would let her walk past without speaking, she would get away as quickly as was possible.

The second Harry saw her, he jumped to his feet. Despite being able to think of nothing else for the last hour and a half, he still had no idea how he was going to apologize for what he had done. He didn’t know if it was better or worse that Ginny was alone. Worse because that meant that Dean was more badly hurt than Harry had imagined. But better because he wasn’t sure how he was going to face Dean yet, or try to excuse what he knew was inexcusable. He had to try, though.

“Where’s Dean? Is he all right?” Harry asked.

She absolutely hated that he asked about Dean straight off. It proved that he wasn’t completely evil, and it made it all the harder to hate him the way she wanted to. “He’s staying in the Hospital Wing tonight so Madam Pomfrey can keep an eye on him,” she answered in a detached voice, not looking him in the eye. “You didn’t quite manage to break his jaw, though it was a near thing,” she added nastily.

He had the grace to look deeply ashamed. “I need to talk to you.”

“What’s there to talk about? I’m well aware of what happened.” She moved to walk around him.

“Ginny.” He made to place a hand on her arm, but withdrew at the slashing glare she threw him. She did stop, though, and that was something. “I’m so sorry. I don’t know how to –”

“You know what, Harry?” she said with a cold, humorless smile. “I really don’t care what you have to say. I don’t want to hear your explanations or your excuses or whatever reasons you’ve come up with to justify planting your fist in my ex-boyfriend’s face.” Damn. She hadn’t meant to let that slip. But wasn’t it odd how much easier it was to refer to Dean as her ex-boyfriend? It was just indicative of the whole situation, she supposed.

“Ex?” Harry asked with clear surprise in his voice. He was entirely distracted now from his original purpose. “You broke up with him?”

“No, actually, he broke up with me.” Something was pulsing through her, something red and impulsive that she knew she would regret. But she couldn’t stop herself. The look on his face when she had said ex-boyfriend… Dean was right; false hopes and pretending hurt too damn much. And she was done with it. “And do you want to know why?”

“Er –”

“Because of you.” She took a step forward angrily.

“Me? Because I punched him?” Harry asked, bewildered. The fierce look in her eyes was frightening. “It’s not you’re fault that I –”

“No, not because you punched him, you stupid, blind bastard.” Ginny registered vaguely that the Fat Lady was watching them with avid interest, not even bothering to pretend otherwise. “It’s because for some inexplicable reason, I can’t get over being in love with you.”

“Wha –” he began, sincerely shocked, but she railed on, seemingly unaware that he had spoken.

“God, I hate you for it. I hate that you made me fall in love with you. You broke my heart when you left and still I waited for you. I waited for you, and I cried over you. And then you came back and you still weren’t there, and I fucking hate you for it!” She hadn’t realized that her hands were fists until one of them hit his chest. Hard. “And I hate, I hate, that you ruined my chance to be happy with someone that actually cares about me because I still love you!”

“Ginny.” His voice had softened of its own accord, and he reached up to touch her face. The only thing that had fully registered was that she was still in love with him. It only fueled her anger that he would try to touch her and she pushed him away roughly. 

“No! Aren’t you listening? I don’t want to be in love with you anymore! I want to hate you and I can’t and I hate it!” She shoved him again. “I am sick to death of getting hurt by you. You crush me without even trying and I can’t take it anymore! Stay away from me. I don’t want to talk to you or look at you or even be in the same room as you! If it’s the last thing I do on this earth, I will make myself fall out of love with you.”

The thought was terrifying to him. She turned to walk away from him and it felt as though his heart was being ripped from his chest along with her. Harry grabbed her arm desperately to hold her there. She didn’t know – how was it possible that she didn’t know? He had to make her understand, somehow. “Ginny, please –”

“Let go of me!” she said viciously, trying to wrench her arm away. She couldn’t be near him for another second, couldn’t stand to hear his consolations.

Harry only increased his grip, not thinking clearly. “Let me –”

“I said take your hands off me, you son of a bitch!” she shouted. Every ounce of anger and pain she felt centered itself in her fist. Before she knew what she was doing, her free arm was swinging around and she slammed her fist into his eye.

The Fat Lady gasped loudly as Harry stumbled back into the wall, releasing Ginny in the process. Ginny spun away from him without a sound, growled the password, and disappeared into the portrait hole.

It took Harry a moment to get his balance, but he reached the Fat Lady just as the portrait was swinging shut. “Manticore,” he snapped urgently.

“I would wait on it, dear. Miss Weasley is obviously not someone to trifle with when she’s angry –”

“Manticore!” he snapped impatiently at her.

“Fine,” she muttered darkly as she swung open. “What do I know, after all; I’m just a picture. Walk around with two black eyes; it won’t bother me in the least…”

Her voice trailed away as Harry scrambled into the crowded Common Room. Ginny was nowhere in sight. She’d obviously already disappeared into the girls’ dormitory. He knew he couldn’t follow her, and he knew she didn’t want him to.

He hadn’t noticed that the Common Room was much quieter than usual, filled as it was with curious whispers. Everyone had seen Ginny Weasley storm in, obviously in a rage, only moments before Harry Potter had. He had a fresh black eye and Dean Thomas was no where to be found.

Harry stared up the staircase dejectedly, ignoring the throbbing in his eye and cursing himself for his idiocy. After a while, he retreated to his own dorm. The only other occupied bed was Ron’s and the curtains were drawn. He fell into his own bed without bothering to undress, knowing he wouldn’t sleep.

Though Harry dodged questions from classmates the next morning about his black eye and the whereabouts of Dean Thomas the night before, there was one person that he couldn’t deny some sort of explanation to for long.

“Would someone care to tell me what the bloody hell is going on?” Ron demanded with annoyance lacing his tone. “When I fell asleep last night, everything was fine. I wake up and you have a black eye, Dean is missing, and Ginny won’t come down for breakfast.”

“Ron,” Harry began heavily as they made their way from the Common Room. Ron was right; Ginny wasn’t coming down. “You know how sometimes there are things that you just don’t want to know?”


“Trust me, mate – this is one of those times.”

“Just tell me one thing, and be honest.” Ron stopped walking and turned to face Harry. “Who was it that punched you?”

“Ginny; she had reason.”

Ron looked at him squarely for a moment. “Any reason I should punch you?”

“Maybe,” Harry answered honestly. “I’m going to fix this, Ron. I don’t know how yet, but I’ll fix it.”

They walked the rest of the way to the Great Hall in silence, both lost in their own thoughts. There were a million questions ricocheting through Ron’s brain, but he didn’t voice them. He knew that there had to be something serious going on if Harry wasn’t willing to give him the specifics.

Harry looked fruitlessly around for Ginny when they arrived, knowing before he did it that she wouldn’t be there. As expected, he didn’t see her, but there was someone else sitting alone at the end of the table that he needed to speak to.

He went with Ron to dump his bag and jumped in surprise when Hermione gasped; he hadn’t even realized she was there.

“Merlin, Harry, what happened?”

“Alright,” Draco said decisively. “Who are we going after, then?” Ron grit his teeth, annoyed that Malfoy’s words to closely mirrored his own when he had first seen Harry. Of course, that was before he had known who else was involved.

“No one. Be right back,” he answered vaguely before heading down the table.

“Ron? Any idea?” Hermione questioned.

“Not really,” he answered, sliding into his seat and watching Harry approach Dean. “All I know is that something happened between him and Ginny last night – she’s the one that punched him, by the way – and I’m guessing Dean was involved as well, as he never came back to the dorm.”

Harry felt each step he took weighed down as if his feet were encased in cement. “Dean –” he began, but he was cut off.

“Potter, let’s not do this, alright? I understand your reasons and I accept whatever apology you planned on making. But you’re not my favorite person at the moment and I really don’t want to talk to you.”

“Alright. I’ll just –”

“What the hell happened to your eye?” Dean interrupted when he glanced up.

“Ginny.” Dean just shook his head with the barest hint of a smile on his lips. “Listen –” 

“Don’t. Just… don’t.”

Harry walked away without another word, wondering miserably how long it would take to patch this wound.

Ginny successfully avoided Harry for the rest of the day. She ate lunch at the Ravenclaw table; she knew must look bad for Luna to have climbed out of Neville’s lap to talk with her. Not that Ginny had contributed much to the conversation; seeing the mood she was in, Luna soon turned the subject to strange and inconsequential things. It was a talent that Luna was especially proficient at, and one that Ginny was especially grateful for just then.

She avoided Hermione the one time Hermione tried to talk to her. Though that hadn’t been avoidance so much as straight-out running away. But she didn’t particularly care. Any headway she had been making at bolstering herself up had gone out the window the second she had seen Harry the night before.

And then, just to top everything off, she had seen Dean in the hallway during afternoon break. Their eyes had met briefly and she was ashamed to admit that she had looked away first. By the time she had glanced back up, he was walking away in the opposite direction, shoulders slumped.

All things considered, it hadn’t been her best day. Much as a cliché as it was, it felt as though a black cloud had been over her. Her heart felt weighed down, her insides twisted, her limbs brittle. She hadn’t felt this horrid since Harry had left her. It made her want to crawl under the covers and shut out the world.

Ginny raced into her dorm that night before Harry had the chance to grab her. She dove under the covers after changing and finally let herself cry until she felt hollowed out, until there was nothing left but stale pain, until her was pillow saturated with salt. Finally empty, she prayed for a dreamless sleep, knowing it wouldn’t come.

Harry didn’t know what to do. He hadn’t been able to get Ginny alone all day, and after stewing in the Common Room for awhile, he had to get out. He could admit to himself that he was going a bit stir crazy. The very idea that his situation with Ginny may be unfixable was chilling him to the bone with fear. It felt as though his insides were being pulled out of him.

Thinking she had moved on and was happy with someone else was one thing. That was a pain he could handle (most of the time, anyway), because at least Ginny was happy. But knowing now how she really felt about him and knowing that she also wanted nothing to do with him… that was an entirely different kind of hurt. It was bottomless and urgent and more severe than he had imagined it could be.

He couldn’t talk to Ron about it; that simply wasn’t an option if he wanted to keep their friendship intact. And even if Ron didn’t tell him to go to hell, Harry wasn’t about to put Ron between his sister and his best mate. That wouldn’t be fair to any of them.

That left Hermione, and since he knew he could tell her anything and trust that she would really hear him when he said it, he made his way to her and Draco’s dorm. It took him only moment’s debate about whether or not he wanted Draco to know what was going on; as far as Harry was concerned, it could only help him to get someone else’s view on things.

He hesitated briefly outside Sarah’s portrait. Hermione had told them all that they were welcome any time, but that was before she and Draco had gotten together. Who knew what they were doing on the other side of that wall? There were some things that Harry just didn’t want to see.

“Do you think it would be alright to go in?” he asked Sarah after a minute.

“Well, you’re welcome to knock on my frame if you wish, but I think you’ll be safe,” she answered. With a characteristically sad smile, she added, “If I remember correctly, Miss Granger and Mr. Malfoy were discussing reorganizing the prefect patrol schedule. Hardly scintillating conversation.”

“Er, right.”

“Provided you remember the password, of course.”

He remembered it, and thought sarcastically to himself that he could use some of it at the moment. “Forgiveness,” he muttered darkly.

“Right you are,” she said, swinging open.

As Sarah had predicted, Draco and Hermione were rearranging the prefects’ schedule. Draco was slouched on the couch and Hermione was standing by a large white board with her wand out. They were both turned toward the door now, though, staring at Harry with confusion and surprise on their faces.

“Is this a bad time? I’m sorry that –”

“No, no, it’s fine,” Hermione said, putting her wand down. “I’m just surprised, that’s all. Come in, sit. Do you want something to drink? I could make some tea.”

“No thanks. Er… I kind of wanted to talk to you about… about what happened last night.” He moved to the closest seat, the silver and green striped armchair.

Hermione just nodded for him to continue, taking her seat in the gold and maroon striped chair opposite him. Draco stayed where he was on the couch, though he was much more alert now. He raised his brows in a silent signal for Harry to start speaking.

“After you freaked out in the library –”

“Sorry. You freaked out in the library?” Draco cut in, turning to look at Hermione with an amused smirk.

“I did not freak out,” she answered primly. “I very clearly and decisively made my point. I just happened to get a bit loud.”


“Keep going, Harry,” Hermione prompted, aiming a glare at Draco.

“Yeah, anyway…” He told them the whole story. About Ron getting kicked out, and sulking by himself. Seeing Ginny and Dean kissing, and then seeing nothing but red. They never interrupted, though Hermione did gasp softly when he mentioned punching Dean. “I didn’t mean to do it,” he said earnestly, lowering his eyes to his knees in shame. “I didn’t even realize that I was doing it, really, until it was over.”

“I get it,” Draco told him. “I did the same thing once. Sort of.” He glanced at Hermione. “Keep going.”

He told them the rest, misery weighing his every word and making them fall despondently to the floor.

There was a thick silence when Harry was done. He was staring at his knees, the very picture of dejection. “Well?” he asked after a minute.

“Well what?” Hermione answered, perplexed.

“Well, what do you think?” He lifted his head.

“I don’t know what you want me to say, Harry.” She sat back against the chair’s cushion. “If you want the truth, I think you’ve acted like an idiot.”

“I’m well aware that my behavior last night –” he began, annoyed that she would add insult to injury, but she cut him off.

“I’m not talking about last night. Or not entirely, anyway. Honesty, Harry, do you really think you’ve handled any of this well?”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“This entire thing with Ginny. Not just the last few days, but all of it!” She didn’t remember standing, but she was suddenly on her feet. “Ever since we got back, it’s almost as it you’ve gone out of your way to screw things up.”

“I was being careful! I’d already hurt her once; I didn’t want to do it again. I didn’t want to do it the first time.” Harry got to his feet as well.

“No one is saying that you did. And I’m not saying that she’s completely blameless. But, Merlin, Harry! Think about it! You left her, and she was a mess. Then she spent over a year waiting; wondering about you, worrying over you, missing you. Meanwhile she’s trying to come to terms with why you broke things off in the first place. And when she does, she imagines that when you finally come back, you’d have this wonderful reunion. But even after the Final Battle, you barely say two words to the girl –”

“Hey, she wasn’t exactly gushing to see me either.”

“And why should she be? The last time she was open with you she got hurt. She was scared and unsure of you, and all you managed by keeping your distant was to give credit to her doubts. She figured you didn’t want her anymore. So she somehow gets over another broken heart and tries to move on. And what do you do? Instead of pulling her aside and telling her how you really feel, you keep it all bottled up until it explodes and you wind up attacking Dean. Then she tells you how she feels and you manage to botch that up as well.”

“It wasn’t all one-sided last night, you know!”

“Harry, it’s been on your side 90% of the time. All Ginny is guilty of is trying to survive that heartache. All you’ve done is try to avoid it. You’ve made more than your share of mistakes on this. So if you came looking for a pity party, you came to the wrong place,” Hermione finished harshly.

“I came looking for friendship and a little support. But apparently that’s too much to ask for,” he said scathingly.

“You came looking for a way to fix what you broke. And that’s your job to figure out, not mine.”

“I think I should go,” Harry said angrily, moving around the couch towards the door.

“Yes, I think I should.” She barely flinched when the door slammed shut behind him.

Draco rubbed the back of his neck thoughtfully; it felt as though he’d been watching a bloody Muggle tennis match. “I think I’ve got whiplash,” he muttered to himself. It was only when he looked up to see tears slipping down Hermione’s cheeks that he rose. “It’s alright, love,” he murmured, folding her into his arms. “He’ll have calmed down by tomorrow.”

Half of her wanted to burrow into him. The other, stronger half wanted to be alone. She decided to go with the latter. “I know,” she answered quietly, pulling gently out of his embrace. “These are mostly temper tears, anyway. I think I’m just going to go to bed, though. Thanks,” she added, pressing a soft kiss to his shoulder before padding silently to his bedroom.

Once the door was shut, he sat back down on the couch and rubbed the back of his neck again. “Well,” he muttered sarcastically to himself. “It’s been a lovely day.”

Draco didn’t plan on waking up early Saturday morning, especially with all the fun from the night before, but it seemed Hermione had other ideas on the matter. She woke up before eight and made her way to the bathroom with a scowl on her face. He only woke up because he reached for her and she wasn’t there. By the time he stumbled out of his bed to find her, she was standing in the doorway of the kitchen with what had to be her second cup of tea, since she usually inhaled the first cup of the day. And she was still snarling.

“Are you alright?” he asked her tentatively. He hoped she wasn’t still upset about fighting with Harry, that Harry had hurt her somehow, because then he would be honor-bound to kick Harry’s ass, which would be a damn shame since they were starting to become good mates.

“Do I look alright?”

He waited a second before answering. “Is that a trick question?”

She ignored him and continued. “Do you have any idea how much work we have to do? We haven’t finished the patrol schedule for January, or our latest report on the prefects’ progress. We need to start completing the list from Dumbledore with our responsibilities for the Ball – which is less than two weeks away. Have you looked at that list yet? It’s nearly a meter long! It’ll be a miracle if we get it all done in time. That huge Potions project is due next Monday and I’ve only done a minimum of research for it. I haven’t double-checked my Charms essay yet. Not to mention that N.E.W.T.’s are just around the corner – I’ve only done a couple of practice exams! I’ve barely scratched the surface of everything that we’ll be tested on! And at some point, I’m going to have to buy a dress, though Merlin knows when I’ll fit that in!”

Draco waited until she was through; after living with her for a few months, he knew that when Hermione needed to vent, it was best to just let her go. He also knew that she knew that everything would get done on time; sometimes, she just needed to – as Harry had put it the night before – freak out a little. It just one of the many little things that made him love her – she wasn’t perfect.

When she was finished, he looked her over and arched a brow. She had bundled her hair haphazardly on top of her head and several tendrils and curls were hanging around her face. She was wearing an incredibly old pair of jeans and his old, baggy sweatshirt. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes a bit wild. All-in-all, he thought, not a bad look. “You know, you’re pretty sexy when you’re stressed.”

She let out a surprised half-laugh and put down her tea, grateful that he could make her laugh when she really felt like ripping her hair out. “If that’s the case, then you must want to rip my clothes off right now.”

“Granger,” he smirked, “I always want to rip your clothes off.”

She blushed and it charmed him. “Hmm. Yes, well.” He stood and walked toward her. “What are you about?”

“It’s still relatively early in the morning, you know,” he said as he reached her. Draco pulled her close and slid his hands up her back until she was pressed flush against his chest. “We could go back to bed.” He dipped his head and brushed his lips against the shell of her ear. “I know a great way to relax.”

“I… We have a lot of work to do,” she protested softly, but she tilted her head to offer him better access.

“I’ll be quick.”

“You’re never quick,” she chuckled huskily.

She could feel him smirking against her throat. “Alright, then. I’ll be slow.” He traced her jaw with his lips and kissed the side of her mouth sensuously. “Very slow, very thorough. Just my fingers, until I can feel your skin humming. And then my mouth, until you’re –”

A loud knock sounded from outside.

“Great timing,” Hermione joked with a breathless laugh. She was weak in the knees.

“I’m going to hex whoever that is,” Draco vowed, resting his forehead against hers.

She pulled away reluctantly and looked him over with a smile tugging at her lips. “Down boy,” she murmured before going to answer the door.

“Damn it,” he muttered under his breath. He sat and pulled a pillow casually onto his lap. Hopefully, whoever it was would go away. Quickly.

“Harry? It’s half-past eight in the morning,” Draco heard her say, and he twisted around in his seat to see.

“I know; I’m sorry. I wasn’t sure if you’d be up, but…” Harry swallowed uncomfortably, looking as though he hadn’t slept well. If he had slept at all. “You were right. I need to talk to you.”

She looked closely at him for a moment. “Come in; I’ll put on more tea.”

Ron was making his way to the Great Hall slowly, seeing no reason to hurry into a day that would be spent primarily in the library. When he’d woken up, Harry had already been gone. He still didn’t quite know what going on between his best mate and his sister, and he figured that, all-in-all, it was just as well. They had an unspoken understanding that, as long as Ron didn’t ask about the details of Harry and Ginny’s relationship, Harry would never tell him. Everyone was more comfortable that way.

But still, it meant that he was on his own until they sorted it out. And he was in no rush to go knocking on Hermione’s door for company. She was undoubtedly spending a cozy morning with Draco. Bloody Slytherin bastard, Ron thought nastily to himself as he sat down at the sparsely occupied Gryffindor table and began filling his plate.

It was abundantly clear to Ron, and anyone else that cared to look, that Malfoy was in love with Hermione. Not that Ron could really blame him there; being in love with Hermione himself, he understood the draw. But it didn’t mean he had to be happy about it. He had selfishly hoped that their fighting Thursday night would have driven them apart a bit. But oh no, of course it hadn’t. If anything, they seemed closer than before. Holding hands and laughing. And did he have to kiss her good-bye for so bloody long? It was revolting. For the first time, Ron was glad they had had a test in Potions; at least he hadn’t had to watch them work together, heads close, over a hot cauldron.

The thing of it was, she still felt like she was his, and Malfoy had taken her. Who’s to say what would have happened if Malfoy hadn’t swooped in? Ron could be lying next to her right now, instead of eating scrambled eggs and kippers by himself.

Finishing his breakfast, his made his way out of the Great Hall. Might as well just make his way up to the library, he figured. What else was there to do but finish his essay? He could go flying, get a bit of practice in, but that left entirely too much time for thinking more dark thoughts, and he wasn’t in the mood to brood. And he should look on the bright side – at least he wouldn’t be worrying about it at the last minute Sunday night. With Hermione in a different dormitory now, it was a bit difficult to get last minute help.

He looked over and saw Pansy Parkinson coming up from the Slytherin dungeons carrying her book bag over one shoulder. Maybe he wouldn’t be entirely on his own, then. “Hey, Pansy.”

When she looked around to see who had called her name, she heart jumped into her throat. It was Ron Weasley, his hair a bit disheveled as though he had just gotten off his broom. He was wearing jeans and a sweater of bright blue that looked charmingly as though it was home-made. It was all-together too tempting for her taste. “Oh, hi, Ron,” she said nervously. The last time they had spoken, it had gotten a little too… cozy. She wasn’t sure how to proceed.

“Heading to the library?” he asked, indicating with a bob of his head the bag she was carrying.

If he could be casual, then so could she. Besides, nothing had really happened anyway; he had just played with her fingers for a minute. She was just making a big deal out of nothing. “Yes. You?”

“Yeah, I have to start that Charms essay,” he said casually as they began walking up the stairs together. He was trying not to stare at her hands. The long fingers were tapping the strap of her bag absently. There was just something about her hands…

“It’s due Monday and you haven’t even started it yet?” she gaped at him.

“I take it you have, then? Probably finished it already, too.” He sighed dramatically and made her smile.

“Just about. I actually want to get started on that Potions project. It’s going to be a nasty one.”

“You can say that again.” He shook his head. “I don’t know how you and Hermione do it. Why jump head-first into something that you know is going to be unpleasant? I mean, Hermione’s got this weird thing where she actually enjoys schoolwork. But I thought you were normal enough.”

She refused to admit that he might be flirting with her a little bit. But he was smiling at her, so she smiled back. “Maybe I just like to avoid making it more unpleasant by leaving it to the last minute.” She let out a small laugh when he winced – she couldn’t help it – and Ron was surprised to find himself attracted to the little giggle. There was a small dimple in her left cheek that he never noticed before; he checked the urge to trace his finger over it. “And I don’t know, I guess there is something satisfying and enjoyable in sitting back when you’re done and knowing that you’ve done a good job.”

“I can understand that,” he answered with a nod. When she quirked an amused brow at him, as if to say ‘oh really?’ he elaborated with a grin. “Okay, so maybe not in the homework department, but it’s like after a really great Quidditch practice. You’re sweaty and tired, but you know that you gave everything you could and that you’re team can count on you. It’s kind of like that, I guess. Maybe.”

“Hmm,” she said by way of agreement. She was trying not to picture him all sweaty in his Quidditch kit – it was an unnecessary distraction at the moment. Although it might be worth considering later… preferably when she wasn’t walking next to him.

“I didn’t leave it to the last minute on purpose, you know,” he said after a tense silence. It wasn’t angry tension, or awkward tension; just… tension. “I tried to start it Thursday night. But I needed the library and, er… Pince thought it would be best if I continued my academic pursuits elsewhere for the evening.”

“She kicked you out, you mean,” she grinned at him, amused by his careful phrasing.

“Well… yeah, I guess you could say that.” Ron was grinning too. He liked seeing her smile more than he should. That dimple… how had he never noticed it before?

“So that was Thursday. Why couldn’t you work on it last night?”

“Last night was Friday night,” he answered as though that would explain everything.


“You can’t do homework on a Friday night. It’s just… wrong. It’s practically sacrilegious.”

Pansy laughed. “I wouldn’t go quite that far. So, when you got kicked out… it wouldn’t have had anything to do with Hermione’s little, er, outburst, would it?”

“Heard about that, did you?”

Glancing at him apologetically, she answered, “I don’t think there’s a person left in the school that hasn’t heard about it, to be honest.”

“Can’t say I’m surprised.”

“I’m kind of sorry I missed it, actually. It must have been entertaining… as long as you’re not on the receiving end of it, that is.”

“We’ll have to re-enact it for you sometime,” he said dryly as they approached the library doors. He was surprised they were already there. Where had the time gone? He opened the door for her – he figured she was used to guys opening doors for her and there was something old-fashioned about her that made him want to be chivalrous – and aimed what he hoped was a charming smile at her. “So, your Charms essay is almost done, eh?”

It took her a moment to get her breath back and she had to look away. That damn crooked smile; it did her in every time. “Almost,” she agreed with a smile of her own. “And no, you aren’t copying. Hermione told me all about you and Harry,” she added before he had the chance to argue. But he just grinned at her; he was caught and they both knew it.

“Hey, you can’t blame a guy for trying. But if you could find it in your heart to point me towards the right books, I’d be very appreciative.” He dumped his books at the same table as she did.

Another charming smile. Okay, so maybe he had been flirting with her… a little. And if he was, then she might as well join in. “How appreciative?”

He glanced around conspiratorially and leaned across the table. She leaned in too. “I have direct access to the kitchens,” he whispered secretively.

“Oh, really?”

“Oh yeah; I’ve got friends in high places,” he responded, thinking of Dobby. “I can get you anything you want, food wise. I’ll buy you lunch there.”

“That’s very tempting,” she whispered, her dimple winking at him. Ron would have to agree that it was. “I think that’s a fair trade. Provided they have éclairs, of course.”

“Oh, they will,” he assured her seriously.

“Well, let’s get you some books, then, shall we?”

“She’s got completely the wrong idea about everything. She actually thinks that I don’t care about her anymore. That’s mostly my fault, of course. But it couldn’t be further from the truth. She’s everything, you know? She’s the center of… just everything.”

“So tell her, then,” Draco interjected.

“I tried. She won’t even look at me, much less talk to me. Not that I blame her, really, after everything. If I could just get her alone, explain things to her…” He let out a somewhat hopeless sigh. “I couldn’t have fucked this up more if I tried.”

“I could always ask her to meet me in the Room of Requirement tonight,” Hermione suggested off-handedly, not quite looking at him. “And if you were already there…”

“Okay… But how would you get her there?”

She sent him a disparaging look. “I think I’ll manage to figure something out. But then you’re on your own. At least you’ll be alone with her and able to say what you need to say. Whether she chooses to listen to you is another matter entirely. I’ll get her there for you. Your job will be worrying about how to tell her. Though you might want to stop feeling sorry for yourself first. There’s the tea,” she said when the kettle whistled shrilly from the kitchen. She stood and walked off to deal with it without looking at Harry again.

“She’s still pissed off at me, isn’t she?” Harry asked after a moment of silence.

“I think she’s just frustrated with both of you.” He decided to leave it at that. It was odd of Hermione to suggest something as sneaky as luring a friend somewhere under false pretenses. But if she had something up her sleeve, he was going to let her leave it there until the time was right; these two were going to need all the help they could get. “Any idea what you’re going to say?”

“No. I’m not particularly good with words; that’s always been Hermione’s department. I don’t want it to sound rehearsed or forced, because then she won’t believe me and the whole thing will be pointless.”

“Okay… But I don’t think that, er, ‘winging’ it is the best course of action here, mate.”

“If you’ve a better idea, I’m all ears. I just… I wish there was a way telling her how I feel without actually having to say it, you know? Because I’m bound to get nervous and say the wrong thing and wind up fucking it up even worse.”

“Well let’s think for a minute, yeah? I think I have an idea that might work.” He told Harry what he was thinking. It was really more of a vague outline than a fully formed idea, and it needed to be built upon, obviously. But it was something. “Well?” he asked after a minute of silence from Harry.

“I think it’s pretty fucking cheesy, to be honest. And I’d feel like a prat.”

“When did you get so fond of saying ‘fuck’?”

“When I realized that my life had become a giant pile of shit.”

“Right. Well, firstly, it won’t be cheesy if you do it right. It’ll come off as romantic, or hopefully it will. Besides, sometimes corny works. And it’ll definitely get the point across. I think Ginny will go for it, don’t you?”

When Draco described it like that, it sounded a lot better. “Yeah. Yeah, she might.”

“And second, don’t be afraid to feel like a prat, or look like one. She’s worth it to you, right? Ginny’s pretty observant too, so chance’s are she’ll be able to tell that you’re embarrassed. And she’ll think, ‘Look, he’s uncomfortable as hell and he’s doing it for me.’ She’ll be more likely to listen if you make a big gesture, put yourself out on a limb. You know, risk something.”

“Ginny should know that I would risk my life for her,” Harry interjected.

“Well, she might know that, yeah. But she also knows – we all know – that you would risk your life for a stranger on the street too. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, mate, but it doesn’t prove anything to her. You need to put yourself out there in a totally different way, something that has nothing to do with life-and-limb, but with heart-and-soul.”

Harry thought it all over for a minute, and then nodded. At least it was something, and certainly better than anything he would have come up with; he was no good with the whole romance thing. “Okay. Let’s do it.”

“First things first, then. Ah, perfect timing, love,” he said when Hermione came in carrying the tea and some of the cake she had made on a tray. It might’ve been a little early in the day for chocolate cake, but considering the situation, she thought it was fitting; from Dementor attacks to broken hearts, chocolate made everyone feel better. And Harry had always been fond of her cake.

“Oh?” She cocked an eyebrow at him as she set the tray in the table. “Sorted it out, have you?”

“Just about. But we need to borrow your computer.”

Ginny was not happy. She wasn’t usually one for brooding, but she had been doing a fine job of it until Hermione had marched into her dorm room and demanded to know what was going on.

“I gave you space yesterday because you seemed to need it. And I figured that you would tell me at some point. But damn it, Gin, you haven’t come down all day and I’m worried about you. So you’re going to tell me what happened the other night or I’m going to beat it out of you.”

But luckily for Ginny, Romilda Vane had decided at that moment to retrieve her scarf from the room. And when she saw Hermione and Ginny staring each other down, it hadn’t taken her long to find something to keep her there. Apparently, the potential for fresh gossip was too great a lure to make her leave, even when Ginny glared lethally at her. But since it simply wasn’t an option to talk with Romilda in attendance, Hermione relented and told Ginny to meet her in the Room of Requirement at seven. “If you don’t show up, I’ll come back up here and drag you out kicking and screaming if necessary, regardless of who might be watching. And you had better get dressed at some point, too.”

So at half-past six, Ginny took a shower and brushed her teeth – she wasn’t so depressed that she would forgo basic hygiene – pulled on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt for fear of Hermione’s wrath, and made her way to the Room of Requirement. She wasn’t quite sure why Hermione wanted to meet her there – weren’t there places in the castle that were more convenient than a hidden room behind a giant tapestry of ballet dancing trolls?

She didn’t know that Hermione had charmed Romilda into thinking that she needed her scarf just then, thereby allowing Hermione to demand that Ginny meet her later.

All Ginny knew was that she wasn’t sure how she felt about talking to Hermione. On the one hand, Hermione was right – her wallowing was self-indulgent and not at all like her. If she had been at it much longer, self-indulgence would have slid into self-loathing, and no good ever came from that. And Ginny knew that if she was going to talk to anybody about it, it would be Hermione.

But that was the thing. She wasn’t sure she wanted to talk about it just yet. She was deeply ashamed of the way she had treated Dean; she didn’t particularly want Hermione to know that she had been so coldly selfish.

And as far as the situation with Harry went, she was quite certain that she never wanted anyone to know about it. She had known – hadn’t she told herself? – that she would regret it. She had told him everything that she had never wanted him, or anyone else, to know.

And then she punched him.

Not that she particularly regretted that. After all, she had already told him, in very clear terms, to let her go. He had refused. What was she supposed to do? She bet he was sorry that he’d taught her how to throw a solid right hook, though.

It was all still too fresh, too raw. And Hermione would understand that she wasn’t ready to go into it. She would just say that she and Harry fought over something, and leave it at that.

She walked into the Room of Requirement – Hermione had told her that she would leave it open – and looked around in surprise. The door shut behind her as she moved farther into the room. It was a simple setting. Ginny had seen this room during DA meetings be at least five times bigger than it was now; she hadn’t known that it changed size as well as contents as per the needs of the user. It wasn’t necessarily what she would call small, but it was by no means large. There was no furniture to speak of. The floor was bare, no rugs. But there were dozens of candles scattered all over the floor, except for a large empty circle in the middle of the space. Hermione’s Muggle music box… a ceedee player she thought it was called… was sitting at the edge of the circle. What the hell?

“Hermione?” she called, and waited a beat. No response. “Fantastic. She browbeats me into coming and she’s late.”

“She isn’t late,” Harry’s voice sounded from behind her.

Ginny barely stifled a scream as she spun around, her hand at her throat. The first thing she noticed was that his eye was still blackened; why hadn’t he gotten that taken care of? The second was that he looked terribly nervous. She told herself that she shouldn’t care about either one. “God damn it!”

“I didn’t mean to scare you. I was just –”

“Creeping around in the shadows?”

“No, I –”

“Where’s Hermione?” she asked harshly. She didn’t want to talk to him anymore than was strictly necessary.

He drew a deep breath and stepped closer. She immediately stepped back; she didn’t want to be any closer than was absolutely necessary either. “She’s not coming. I needed to talk to you, so –”

“Damn it, I am going to kill her.” She spun away towards the door.

“Please don’t leave, Ginny.” She could hear Harry behind her, but he wisely kept his hands to himself this time. “Let me explain.”

“I thought I made myself clear, Potter. I don’t want to speak to you.” She pulled at the door handle, hoping to make a sweeping and very final exit, only to find that it wouldn’t budge. She tugged it several times to no avail before turning back around. “Why is the door locked?” she said in a dangerously low voice.

“What?” he said, clearly thrown off course. “What do you mean, it’s locked? It must be jammed or something.”

She scoffed at him. “Please. Did you really think that locking me in here with you would make me any keener on listening to what you have to say?”

“I didn’t lock the door, Gin, I swear.”

He sounded earnest but she didn’t believe him. Didn’t want to. And her anger was quickly tilting toward panic at the idea of being alone with him. “Let me out now, Harry, or I swear to God –”

“He didn’t lock it,” Hermione’s muffled voice came from the other side of the door. “I did.”

“What?!” Harry and Ginny said in unison.

“Hermione, that wasn’t part of the plan. You were just supposed to ask her to come, not force her to stay!”

“Oh, Harry,” Hermione’s voice sounded indulgent. “Did you honestly expect her to stay unless she was forced?”

“Let me out of here, Hermione!”

“No,” came the very clear answer from the hallway.

Ginny bared her teeth and practically growled. “Hermione –”

“No. You two need to sort this out. You’re both miserable without each other and I’m sick of waiting for you to realize it. Stop being so stubborn, Ginny, and let the boy talk. The door will open when you do.”

“I am never going to forgive you for this.”

There was a nervous pause from Hermione’s side, and then, “Yes you will. I just want you both to be happy.” The sound of footsteps walking away signaled her swift departure.

“Ginny –”

“Just shut up.” Ginny walked to the far side of the open circle. She couldn’t do this again, not now, not so soon. She couldn’t listen to why he had broken her heart or hear him say that he was sorry for hurting her. And she absolutely couldn’t let him see her cry over him again. But it seemed that she didn’t really have a choice in the matter, did she? Hermione was wrong – Ginny was never going to forgive her.

“Just say whatever you need to say, so that I can get out of here. Please,” she said quietly, all the fight having gone out of her. Her head fell into her hands; she felt utterly defeated.

“I want to apologize,” he began after a moment, but he stopped when she shook her head.

“You already have,” she said wearily, too emotionally drained to hear it again.

“Not really. And not for the right things. And I’m not sure I can honestly apologize for doing whatever I could to keep you safe last year. Because your safety was more important than anybody else’s, than anything else, Ginny.” He waited until she lifted her face to look at him. It was clear by her measuring gaze that he wasn’t saying what she had expected to hear. He didn’t dare move closer though, not yet. “But it was wrong of me to leave the way I did, without you knowing the truth. I need to apologize for not telling you, every day since I’ve come back, that I want you, and I need you. And I love you, Ginny, more than anything else in the world.” Her lips were parted slightly in surprise, and her eyes went wide. “I know I’ve never told you before, but I do love you. So much. More than I can tell you with words.”

A tear slid down her cheek, and now he did move forward to wipe it away. Ginny’s eyes closed at his touch. He placed his cheek against hers, and she checked the urge to snuggle into him and never let go.

There was suddenly music – a lone guitar – he must have turned on Hermione’s Muggle music box somehow – she had almost forgotten it was there.

“Dance with me?” he asked her quietly. It was a request, a plea almost, but she took a step back with her head down.

“Harry…” she whispered his name with a slight shake of her head. There was so much at risk here; did he know what he was asking her?

Harry placed a finger under her chin and lifted her gaze to his. “Please, Ginny.” Helpless against her own heart’s wishes, she went into his arms. Their cheeks met again, and when the singing began, Harry whispered every word into her ear. Tears slid silently down her cheeks, but she hardly noticed.

This time, this place
Misused, mistakes.
Too long, too late –
Who was I to make you wait?
Just one chance, just one breath
Just in case there’s just one left
Cause you know,
You know,
You know

That I love you,
I have loved you all along.
I miss you
Been far away for far too long.
I keep dreaming
You’ll be with me and you’ll never go
Stop breathing if I don’t see you anymore

She trembled against him. There was such sincerity in his voice, but she was afraid to believe in it. Afraid to take that risk again and feel her heart fall apart again; she didn’t know if she could survive it again.

On my knees I’ll ask
Last chance for one last dance
Cause with you, I’d withstand
All of hell just to hold your hand.

His fingers slid into hers and she bit her lip. It was so familiar and so foreign at the same time.

I’d give it all, I’d give for us;
Give anything, but I won’t give up
Cause you know,
You know,
You know

That I love you,
I have loved you all along.
I miss you
Been far away for far too long.
I keep dreaming
You’ll be with me and you’ll never go
Stop breathing if I don’t see you anymore

Harry turned his face into her hair and breathed deep. He knew this was his last chance, and if she said no, he wanted as much of her as he could get.

(So far away) So far away
Been far away for far too long
(So far away) So far away
Been far away for far too long
But you know,
You know,
You know 

The truth in his voice rang so clear for the rest of the song that Ginny had to stop dancing to take it all in. Something was opening inside her again, something was filling her up and pushing her pain to the side. There was no need for it any longer, not if what he said was true. And somehow, it was impossible to not believe in him.

I wanted, I wanted you to stay
Cause I needed, I need to hear you say
“I love you (I love you)
I have loved you all along.
And I forgive you (I forgive you)
For being away for far too long”

So keep breathing
Cause I’m not leaving you anymore
Believe it
Hold on to me and never let me go
Keep breathing
Cause I’m not leaving you anymore
Believe it
Hold on to me and never let me go

(Keep breathing) Hold on to me and never let me go
(Keep breathing) Hold on to me and never let me go 

When the song was over, something else came on, something soft and melodic with no words to it, but Ginny barely registered the sound. They had stopped moving, were simply standing, holding each other as she had longed for him to hold her for so long. The song’s words, and Harry’s voice as he spoke them, kept echoing in her head. Never let me go, he said. And she couldn’t let go, not yet. Because everything made sense now and she never wanted the fullness in her heart to lessen.

She dropped her head to his shoulder, listened to him breathe in her ear, his heart racing with nerves against hers. Her heart was finally steady, finally healed. “Harry –” she began softly, not sure how to say it, but he stopped her with a shake of his head.

“I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t forgive me for everything that I’ve done, all the ways that I’ve screwed up. And I’ll understand if you need time to sort things through. But I refuse to give up on us, Gin. I love you too much. I’m tired of doing the honorable thing and stepping back. I can’t step back from you anymore. And I won’t let you step back from me either. I’ll fight for you this time, the way I should have from the start. I want to be with you, Ginny, and only you for the rest of my life. And I know that –”

“Jesus, Harry, will you shut up two seconds?” she said with a laugh and pulled back enough to look at his face. She loved that his arms tightened around her, as though he didn’t intend to let her go. He was finally saying all the things that she had wanted to hear for months, but she hardly needed to hear them anymore, because she could feel the truth curled tight inside the both of them, binding them. They had both been so stupid, so stubborn and blind. Her most of all. But she was done with that now. His eyes were bright behind his glasses, the nerves in them clear. She slid her hand to his cheek and sighed. “I don’t need time, Harry. You’re the only person I want to spend my life with. I love you, too.”

She didn’t get any farther than that. Harry’s mouth was on hers almost before the words left it. The hand she had on his cheek slid back into his hair, pulling him as close as possible. To feel the silk of his hair between her fingers again, to feel his hands on her back, in her hair, to taste his breath as it mixed with hers. There were no words to describe the joy that coursed through her. Here was the spark she had been searching for, here was the pull that had never been as strong with anyone else. And then she gasped as her feet left the floor and the angle of their kissed changed. She had almost forgotten that he used to lift her sometimes. She hadn’t realized until that moment how much she had missed the feeling of being held up in his arms.

There was a feeling of completeness in him that Harry didn’t have the words to describe. Her mouth under his, the mint flavor of her soft tongue against his, the catch of her breath when he lifted her. The scent of wildflowers enveloped him inside and out. He was finally home again. Home was something he had always needed and been denied. But with Ginny, home wasn’t a place. It was her. She was his peace, his excitement, his warmth, and his love. His soul. He would never let her go again, never be so stupid as to chance the miracle that was Ginny in his arms again.

When they finally broke apart and her feet were back on the ground, she was breathless with joy. But there was one last thing she needed to tell him, one last thing that she knew it would help him to hear. “I forgive you,” she whispered.

Something tightened in his chest, and it caught in his throat as he lowered his forehead to hers and held her face in his hands. “Ginny,” he breathed.

“I’ve missed you,” she told him, her voice catching slightly. And then she laughed a little as she registered the words of the song playing in the background.

I’ve done a lot of foolish things,
That I really didn’t mean. Heeeey!
Yeah, yeah. Didn’t I?
Oh, baby! 

“What is this?” she asked, still laughing.

“Dunno,” he answered, smiling. “Some Muggle bloke. I picked it off Hermione’s computer. I thought it fit.”

Oh, and then you set my soul on fire –
That’s why I know you’re my one and only desire
Oh, baby! Here I am,
Signed, sealed, delivered – I’m yours
Heeey! Here I am, baby!
Signed, sealed, delivered – I’m yours 

“You’re mine, eh?” she asked teasingly, running her fingers down the side of his throat.

“Always,” he answered, lowering his mouth to hers. But he stopped. “Er… Ginny?”

“Hmm?” she hummed, skimming her mouth along his jaw and reveling in the flavor of his skin, hers to taste and touch again.

“Were you thinking about something in particular? Because there’s, ah… a bed over there now, and I didn’t think of –”

“I did,” she answered softly with a slight smile. Hers eyes met his fiercely. “Be with me, Harry. Touch me, take me. Make me yours again.”

He didn’t speak, didn’t need to; his eyes told her everything she needed to know. His mouth fell to hers again, softly, tenderly, but with such an intensity of passion that it left her staggered. Harry lifted her again and her legs wrapped immediately around his waist as he covered the short distance to the bed.

They rolled together over the silken white sheets, both trembling. Clothes melted away. Hands searching, rediscovering, relearning. The way the flavor of her skin deepened at the curve of her jaw. The way his whole body would quiver when she scraped her nails lightly down his side. The back of her left knee, the hollow of his throat. All the things she had tried to forget were remembered in a rush of sensation that had her crying out.

Then Harry was with her, part of her again, and his hands searched for hers. The beauty of it all flew through her and left her stunned. As Harry’s fingers tightened in hers, she felt their love pulse through her skin, through every fiber, and tumbled with him over the edge.

A/N: God, I feel like that song was just written for them, you know? It just fit too perfectly, I couldn’t pass it up. I was originally going to use something else, but then I heard this on the radio a couple months ago and I knew that I had to change it. The first song is “Far Away” by Nickelback – great band – and the second song was just a few lines from “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours” by Stevie Wonder. I’m sure everyone has heard that song at some time or another. I couldn’t resist throwing it in, hehe. As far as the information about what happened to Zabini, I tried, but I just could not find a place for it in this chapter. It would have felt completely out of place no matter where I put it, so it’ll have to wait until next time. I’ve already written the conversation, I just have to stick it somewhere. Anyway, sorry for the lack of Draco/Hermione action on this chapter everybody, but Harry and Ginny really needed to sort things out. And I thought I’d give Ron and Pansy a chance to talk. How does everyone feel those two are getting on, by the way? Am I out of my mind here? Well, I’ve got plans for them, so if you aren’t on board yet, hopefully you’ll get there in the end. Anyway, that’s it for me for the moment. Please leave me a review and let me know what you think about all this! I’d really appreciate the feedback. Oh, and keep an eye out for some new stuff in the near future; I’ve been working on some new pieces that I hope you’ll like. Thanks for reading!!! ~Meghan

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