Chapter 7 : Choosing to be Chosen
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With the help of several potions, Molly pronounced ‘Mione well, but emotionally exhausted. Ron had taken charge of ‘Mione and then tried to speak to his fiancée, to no avail. Hermione had remained locked in her room. Harry had heard some shouting and crying coming from upstairs after Ginny had ultimately forced her way in, but he didn’t dare open the link to find out what exactly was going on. He was deathly afraid of what his fiancée would find if she could feel his emotions.
But all of this was a footnote; Harry was completely detached from the melodrama playing out at Shell Cottage. He had dressed hurriedly and stolen away at the earliest opportunity. And there, next to the House Elf’s grave, he stayed.
It was Ron who ultimately found him.
“Mate, it’s a disaster in there.”
Harry didn’t respond or even acknowledge Ron’s presence.
Ron ran his fingers through his hair as he sat down next to his raven-haired brother. “We need to talk about this, Harry.”
This was met with silence.
Ron continued, “’Mione keeps muttering in her sleep. ‘Unite the Hallows.’ And that ‘time is short.’ Something about the Talisman only allowing passage between the worlds for short periods of time. That if we go there and stop Riddle, we can prevent the two realities from merging. She and…Ronnie are going to be pulled back to that godsforsaken place in a few days…”
Again, Harry didn’t respond.
“Harry, mate?” Ron’s voice was laden with concern.
“Harry?” Concern turned to frustration.
Harry didn’t move, but continued to stare off into the sea.
“Dammit, Potter. We have a major crisis here. If ‘Mione’s right, and the realities merge, we could end up with Voldemort and an army of Inferi and Death Eaters on our bloody doorstep!”
“POTTER!” Ron screamed, “LISTEN TO ME!” grabbing his best mate roughly by the shoulder.
Harry’s head snapped around as he threw Ron’s hand off. The two locked eyes. Seeing what was in Harry’s, Ron relented.
Harry turned, staring off again at the sea. They sat that way as the minutes slipped past and the sun crept further up into the blood-red sky.
Then, just when Ron thought it was hopeless, Harry broke the silence.
“Choices,” Harry said quietly. “Sometimes you get to choose; other times you get chosen. I always thought it had to be one way or the other.”
Ron shifted uncomfortably on the cold ground, peering at his brooding friend. He’d never seen him this bad before.
“No one ever asked me if I wanted to be the ‘Chosen One.’ Riddle made that decision for me. I didn’t get a say. All those years at Hogwarts were just more of the same. Riddle, Dumbledore, Sirius, the Dursleys, Crouch, Moody, McGonagall even your mother and Snape. Everyone had a say in what I would do. Everyone but me.”
Harry cast his eyes out over the crashing waves and took a deep breath, his mood lightening, ever so slightly.
“After the Battle of Hogwarts when we limped back to the Burrow, I was so damned relieved, exhausted, but relieved. Even that gods awful Month of Mourning, the funerals and the memorials…I wanted to grieve Lupin, Fred, Tonks, but deep down inside I was just so damned happy to be free, I really couldn’t mourn. I went through the motions, kept the somber face and cried on all the right shoulders but I decided I was gonna be selfish for once. I was gonna think about my happiness, my future and not the whole bloody wellbeing of this entire cursed wizarding world. I was through with being chosen; I decided I’d be the one to make the choices for once. Only thing that really stopped me from achieving real peace were those horrid nightmares.”
Ron nodded, remembering the blood curdling screams that would tear from the depths of Harry’s soul as he visited his own private hell every night.
“But, then there was Ginny. I chose her; she chose me. It drove the nightmares away, her love, our bond. Choices, Ron. It all came down to choices.” Harry fell silent again, peering off into the distance.
Ron didn’t know whether he should fill the silence, so he waited.
Harry’s voice broke the stillness again, but this time, it had a sharp but restrained anger to it. “Then the attacks started. It didn’t take long before Kingsley showed up on our doorstep.” Harry let out a disgusted laugh. “Remember it like it was yesterday. Gin and I had just made love in the orchard behind the pitch; we were heading back to the Burrow for dinner when I saw him. I almost froze to the spot. I knew what he wanted. I knew why he’d come. Back then, I didn’t have that much control over the link and Ginny felt me tense. She felt my fear, my loathing. Gods Ron, I was so afraid she’d be disappointed in me.” Harry hung his head, shaking it.
Ron, gently, rested his hand on Harry’s shoulder. Harry didn’t seem to notice the contact; he didn’t brush him off. Never meeting Ron’s eyes, Harry continued bitterly.
“ ‘The Ministry needs you, Potter. The wizarding world is in jeopardy.’ Tripe, bollocks, bullshit. We’d done enough, hadn’t we? We’d done our part. Enough was enough. I put him off. But, then those bastards attacked that last memorial service…More blood on my hands. I didn’t have a choice; I got chosen. Again. So, off I went, dragging you with me on some crazy fool’s errand to see if the leftover Death Eaters could finally finish what Voldemort started. Bastards came close. Four years, Ron, four more bloody years. And the whole time my life, and yours, and Gin’s and Hermione’s are left on hold. Again. Your poor sister…waiting for me to do a repeat performance of saving the world before her life can start. Four years. Four shitty years…Then, by some miracle, fate manages to give us a way to round up all the renegade Death Eaters at once and, just like that, it’s over. Finally, it’s over.” A smile had threatened to creep across Harry’s face. “I finally get to be with Gin; I get my life back…”
Harry’s face fell. “And now I don’t.”
Silence descended again.
Then Harry turned to Ron, speaking quietly, somberly.
“You remember what I told you about King's Cross, when I talked to Dumbledore?"
Ron nodded slowly.
“He said I didn’t have to come back here. I could’ve left this all behind and gone beyond the Veil. Hell, I’d died. The hard part was already over. For the first time, I had a choice.” Harry’s voice was laden with contempt. “That time, I did the ‘noble thing.’ I chose to be chosen; but I really didn’t think there was another option. I was so used to having things decided for me.” Ron was deathly afraid of where this train of thought was taking his best mate.
“In that other reality, I guess that version of me saw things differently. It shouldn’t have happened. Hell, with my mother’s blood protection still running through Riddle’s veins I don’t think it even could’ve happened. That’s probably at the heart of why that reality’s so unstable…” Harry shook his head and smiled bitterly. “Doesn’t matter. The me over there had just decided enough was enough. He’d decided to make his own selfish choice for a change. He figured it out, Ron: you don’t have to be chosen if you don’t want to. Do you know how I know that, even without seeing it in ‘Mione’s memory?” Slowly, Harry turned, fixing his empty thousand-yard stare on Ron.
Ron shook his head.
“Because that’s exactly how I feel now.” Harry looked out over the sea again.
Ron was shocked. This couldn’t be happening.
But, then, Harry spoke.
“There’s only one thing stopping me. There’s only one thing that’s keeping me from shrugging my shoulders and letting the whole world go straight to hell…I can’t watch your sister die, Ron. I won’t.” Harry hung his head, as he began to sob. “I can’t let it happen. I can’t go through what ‘Mione did. Not now. Not now…” As the tears coursed down Harry’s cheeks Ron pulled Harry into his shoulder, tears streaming down his own face. For what seemed like an eternity, Harry’s sobs echoed over the cliffs.
Ron consoled him, sharing Harry’s pain. Gods, can’t you just let him rest? Sooner or later, if you keep doing this to him, to us, he’ll shatter. We’ll shatter.
Slowly, Harry began to settle. His breathing finally became steady and they both sat up. Harry took off his glasses, wiping his eyes on his robes. Seeing Harry was gradually coming back to something like normal, Ron spoke.
“It won’t be like last time.”
Harry nodded, taking a breath and regaining his focus.
Ron continued, “We go heavy. Round up the Corps, full assault. Shouldn’t take more than a few days to make the preparations.”
Ron looked a question at Harry, as his partner explained. “The Ministry’s still too weak. Can’t leave it vulnerable. Besides, if things go pear-shaped and the realities do merge, we’ll need a fighting force here for protection, and someone to lead it.”
Ron immediately saw where Harry was headed. “Not bloody likely, Potter. I’m going.”
The redhead cut him off. “Do you think I’m going to wait here for them to come for Hermione? If there’s the slimmest chance that I can keep her from even having to smell Riddle by beating him there instead of here, I have to take it. You’re not the only one that doesn’t want to see his fiancée hurt. Or worse.”
Harry nodded at his best mate with a grim smile.
Ron let his head drop. “But there is something else. I’m not quite sure if that’s my son sleeping in there or not, but he sure feels like he is. From what ‘Mione was saying, he’ll be pulled back to that horror show of a reality with her. I’m bloody well not gonna let this turn into another Children’s Crusade, like last time.”
Harry missed the reference, cocking an eyebrow at his best mate.
Ron explained, “Thousand years ago, the European Muggles kept trying to conquer the Middle East for some stupid reason. They kept failing. Then some arse got the idea that if they sent only the ‘pure’ and ‘sinless,’ they might finally win. Children Harry! The stupid gits were going to send children off on a crusade! Sound familiar? In the end, they wound up slaves. I won’t let Ronnie end up like that. Like us.”
Harry nodded. “The girls aren’t coming with us.”
“But, Ron, you’re not gonna have an easy time making peace with Hermione over this. She won’t be thrilled about you going back with ‘Mione.”
Ron sighed. “I know. Choices, huh? I made a smashing one when I comforted ‘Mione instead of my fiancée. Bollocks!”
“If it had been Ginny and not ‘Mione…” Harry shuddered at the thought, “I would’ve done the same thing. You have to make her see that.” Harry grimaced as he said it; making Hermione see anything when it came to her Ron was a Herculean task.
Harry stood up, hesitated, and looked down on Dobby’s grave. “No more, Ron. No more.”
Ron nodded as he rose. “Are you ready?”
“Riddle, again? Merlin, Harry…Choices…I don’t like the ones we have, either.”
Harry managed a half-smile. “Let’s go face the girls.”
“That’s supposed to be easier than Riddle?”
As Harry’s half-smile finally became a full one, Ron at last felt that his best mate had come back from the brink. “Think of it as practice.”
As they approached the cottage, a simultaneous flick of their wands repaired the damage that the dueling Hermione’s had inflicted on the kitchen walls. They exchanged a smile at their timing and then noticed that someone else had already repaired all of the broken windows.
When they walked through the door, they made their way into the sitting room. They looked around, amazed at what they saw. The girls had been busy. It seemed they had already Apparated back to Grimmauld Place and Ron and Hermione’s flat, the Auror Ready Room and gods knew where else. A pile of provisions, body armor, books and whatnot were piled in the middle of the floor. ‘Mione and Ronnie were gone, but they thought they heard Hermione rummaging around in the attic. Just then, Ginny walked briskly into the sitting room and crossed the distance to the two Aurors.
“What…” Harry never finished the sentence before Ginny smacked him. Hard.
“That was for shutting me out! Harry James, if you ever do that again, you’ll be lucky if smacking you is all I do!”
Her wand came up fast as lightning, pointing in his face, daring him to say another word. Then she spoke to her brother. “Ron, you have to go talk to Hermione.”
Ron stared at her, dumbfounded.
Ron shook his head apologetically at Harry and bounded up the stairs.
Ginny’s blazing eyes never left Harry’s, but she waited until she heard the attic door close before she resumed. “Do you remember what you said when you proposed to me?”
“Potter, you said you wanted us to be together forever, even though you knew the Death Eater troubles weren’t over yet. You damn well better remember that.”
Ginny lowered her wand. “‘Mione’s at Mum’s with Ronnie. She’s trying to suss out a way to leave him here where he’ll be safe while we go back with her. I said we, Harry. We. You left me behind during the Horcrux hunt. I didn’t like it, but I understood why. I’m not an Auror, so I’ve never given you any grief about tagging along on your missions. But this, this is different. And don’t even think Hermione and I didn’t know you two geniuses were thinking about doing this on your own. We’re coming with you.”
“No, Harry. This isn’t a debate. Did you ever stop and think what would happen to us if we were separated like that? What would happen to us because of the link?”
Harry’s head spun. “It would sever.”
“It would kill us.”
“Gin, you can’t know that…”
She cut him off. “Hermione does. We talked about it this morning.”
Harry was struggling to get the words out. “Gin, I can’t lose you, I can’t bear the thought of anything happening to you!” His emotions were still raw from the overload the Chain Legilimens had caused him. Facing an irate Ginny just wasn’t within his abilities right now. He looked at her abjectly.
She sighed, relaxing now that she saw she was getting through to her fiancé, her poor, overtaxed, love. “Harry,” she almost whispered, “I’m sorry I slapped you. I really shouldn’t have. But that’s what it felt like when you slammed the link shut. It was emotional and physical. You really hurt me doing that. I know why. I get it. But that’s not how it works between us. Not anymore. It’s time for you to realize that.”
“Gin, I can’t put you in harms way.”
“You’re not the one doing it, love. Riddle hasn’t left us any choice, no good ones anyway. Even a reality away that bastard can still bollocks things up…It comes down to choices, Harry. A lesser of evils.”
She knows? “How did you…”
“Do you really think you could go through an emotional upheaval like that and completely shut me out? If I was truly determined to feel you, to make sure you were safe?”
“How much did you feel?” Panic and worry filled Harry’s voice.
She slid into his arms, pulling him into a warm embrace. “Enough, love. Enough. I didn’t want to violate your privacy, but I had to know you were okay. I could feel your pain, but I could also tell you weren’t going to do anything…stupid. That’s all I was worried about.”
Harry rested his head on hers, breathing in the scent of her hair. The scent that always drove the nightmares away. “Gin, I’m sorry, love. I just want to protect you.”
“And you have. You always have. But this time, we’ll just have to protect each other.” She pulled him into a gentle kiss that continued to deepen. As the bond opened fully, Ginny’s love poured through. Harry felt the weight of two worlds lift off his shoulders.
Ron closed the door behind him. Hermione continued to organize her books on the bed, her beaded bag off to the side. She didn’t turn around when she heard him come in.
Ron felt like he was back at school, the immature git that could never get it right. He’d thought that he’d left that version of himself in the Chamber of Secrets during the Battle of Hogwarts. But now he feared the old Ron had managed to escape. Steady, Weasley. You can do this. “We need to talk.”
She stopped packing; her shoulders slumped as she let out a breath.
Ron tried to keep the stammer out of his voice. “I thought she was you.”
Hermione stiffened. She still hadn't turned to face him. “That’s what hurt the most.”
He took a deep breath and charged on. “When she first got here, and I saw her standing in the doorway, the only thing I saw was my Hermione, crushed by…something. I was so worried when I saw the look on your face. Dammit! Her face. I couldn’t think of anything but comforting her. You.”
Slowly, Hermione turned around. “Do you have any idea how that makes me feel?” A single tear slid down her cheek. “That you couldn’t tell her from me?”
“I think I do.”
Hermione arched an eyebrow at him. She hadn’t expected that answer.
“You’re thinking that, if I think she’s that much like you, that I can’t tell you apart, I’ll think she needs me more because of what she’s been through. That I’ll leave you for her.”
Hermione felt her legs give, as she sat on the bed.
“And you’re feeling horrible about forcing your way into her mind. Trying to figure out if you did it to hurt her, or to protect me by finding out what she was hiding. You still don’t know why you really did it.”
Had I ever really accused this man of having the emotional range of a teaspoon?
“You’re hurt because I went to her after we saw that horrible memory. But you’re also mad at yourself for being jealous about it. Deep down, you know that actually being there had to be worse than just reliving it through Legilimens. You feel sorry for her. But you really don’t want to. You really want to hate her.” Ron took another breath. “But I think you’re most worried that Weasley family loyalty will overcome us, what we have, because ‘Mione has a son by me. By the me in the other reality, anyway. You’re worried that, if for no other reason, I’ll eventually go with her because of Ronnie. And you can’t think of a single way in hell that I could prove to you that I won’t.”
Ron moved slowly to her. Kneeling in front of her, he looked up into her chocolate eyes, seeing the worry that was only now becoming infused with hope. He took both of her hands in his as he continued. “Love, that’s got me stumped too. I can’t prove it. If you can’t figure out a way, the brightest witch of our age, how’s a simple git like me supposed to?”
Her breath caught. She didn’t know what to say.
Ron dove in. “But, some part of you has to know that I love you. You’re the one I’ve been crazy about for eleven years. You’re the one I nearly tore a cell apart for, trying to reach you when we were locked up in Malfoy Manor. You’re the one that kissed me at the Battle of Hogwarts. And most importantly, you’re the one I asked to marry me.”
Hermione smiled through her tears.
“I’ll be protective of the other Hermione. I don’t think I can help it.” Ron sighed. “But the reason for that, is because I love you.”
She hugged him, and breathed into his ear, “Love, I’ll never be alright with this. We’ll just have to work through it.”
“I understand.” They broke their embrace. “But, Hermione, you and Gin…This is something Harry and I have to do alone.”
Then, she smacked him. Hard.
When the slap resonated down the stairwell to the sitting room, Harry stopped rummaging through their provisions. “You told her to do that, didn’t you?”
“Yep.” Ginny, never looked up as she continued to sort through their supplies.
In the attic, Ron was at a loss. Damn, that was going so well…
Hermione’s voice was cold as a Dementor’s. “Ronald Bilius Weasley, if you think for even one minute that I’m going to let you go anywhere with her and leave me behind, you are twice the git you were at Hogwarts.”
“No. Not a git anymore, love.”
“Good." Hermione smiled. "Now, prove it.” She ran her fingers through his hair, pulling him toward her.
Downstairs . . .
“Don’t those two ever use Muffliato?” Harry shook his head at the all too familiar sounds that were coming down the stairwell.
Ginny just smirked at him. “Hey. Why didn’t we get to have makeup sex?”
Harry didn’t have to be asked twice.
AN: I do not own Harry Potter. The toys belong to JKR; she just lets us play with them.
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