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Not Like a Stone by Realmer06
Chapter 1 : Not Like a Stone
 
Rating: 12+Chapter Reviews: 7


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AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm back! Thank you all for being so understanding of last semester's hiatus, and now I am back and bearing fic. This was originall written for a Reviews Lounge project, but I'm not 100% sure what's happening because they appear to have shut down for reasons unknown to me. So I shall post this here and also submit it to the collaboration if and when that happens. In any case, the challenge was to incorporate a randomly selected quote; mine appears at the start of the story below.

DISCLAIMER: Neville and Ginny are not mine, though I do apparently have a fascination with the top of Gryffindor Tower and sending Ginny to brood on rooftops. Other than that, it is JK Rowling's, all of it.

WARNINGS: Alcohol consumption and language

THANKS as always to Maggie, faithful (and demanding) beta that she is.

Enjoy!


 

Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new. – Ursula K. LeGuin

Not Like a Stone

When it happened, it happened fast, and it didn’t take much, but Neville had known it wouldn’t. He sat next to Ginny for the ride back to Hogwarts after the Christmas holidays, and he didn’t need the instincts that the first half of his seventh year had honed to know that something was going to happen. Ginny was wound tighter than a watch spring, and she hadn’t spoken a single word the entire train ride. She just sat there, growing tenser and tenser with each passing moment, her tension and fury radiating off of her in waves so strong Neville was slightly surprised that no one came to investigate.

Luna had been Snatched. That’s what had started the current chapter of this that was their year at Hogwarts. Luna had been Snatched by them, and Ginny hadn’t known; she’d only found out when she’d gone to meet Luna to catch the train and found the house exploded into rubble and abandoned.

Not that she’d told Neville any of this; he’s found out from George, who, along with Fred, had accompanied her to the station, probably to keep her from hexing the next Death Eater she saw into oblivion. George had filled Neville in while Fred had calmed Ginny down as much as such a thing was possible, and, Neville was almost certain, slipped a bottle of something into her hand.

Really, Neville knew, it was that bottle that triggered everything.

“Freckle-lightening potion?” said a voice that Neville would have been quite happy never to hear again. He also could have done without the sight of Amycus Carrow’s greasy face sneering down at Ginny.

Mandatory luggage checks hadn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but that hadn’t stopped the black looks on the faces of every Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff (Slytherins were, of course, exempt), and it had only stopped the grumbles because half a year had taught them all what happened when someone questioned Snape’s methods. But that half of a year had also taught the students to communicate without speaking, and the message that had flown from student to student was clear: They’d be lucky to get done with luggage checks by midnight, and there would certainly be no Welcome Back Feast.

But then Amycus Carrow had pulled that bottle out of Ginny’s trunk and Ginny had stiffened, reaching instinctively for a wand that had been confiscated while her trunk was searched, and everything else had gone out of Neville’s head because wand or not, Ginny was clearly angry enough to case some kind of spell on the Death Eater, and that wouldn’t end well for anyone. So Neville tightened his grip on his own wand and prayed that he’d be able to stop the explosion he knew had to be coming.

Amycus looked from the bottle to Ginny and back again, his sneer growing with each moment. “Since when do you use Freckle-lightening Potion, Weasley?”

“Just something I thought I’d try, sir,” Ginny said in an oddly formal voice, staring straight ahead rather than look at him.

“Why the sudden interest in your appearance?”

“To be truthful, sir, it was a gift from my brothers.”

“How sweet,” Amycus said, leering down at her.

“Well, I’m not sure sweet is what they had in mind, sir, but I’ve learned to make the best of unpleasant situations. I believe I learned that from you.” Neville held his breath as Amycus narrowed his eyes. He prayed fervently that Ginny knew what she was doing. Amycus was an idiot, but he wasn’t completely clueless; if she kept pushing his buttons, he would eventually catch on.

“I want a straight answer out of you, Weasley,” he said.

“I was unaware I’d been giving you crooked answers, sir,” she said in a voice that would almost have been innocent if not for the edge that had begun to creep in. Neville could tell she was just waiting for Amycus to cross the line she’d drawn in her mind, and oh, but Neville was terrified to think what might happen when he finally did.

“Why such a large bottle?” he demanded.

“I have quite a few freckles, sir, as you may have noticed,” she said, and the edge was harder now, and more and more people were becoming aware of the confrontation. Amycus’s eyes narrowed further.

“Are you trying to be clever, Weasley?” he asked in a dangerous tone that Ginny ignored.

“Never really had to try, sir.”

“Are you certain that this potion doesn’t have any other properties?” Amycus suggested pointedly, and Neville held his breath once more because he didn’t just think there were other properties to whatever was in that bottle, he was certain of it. Terrified but refusing to show it, he glanced at Ginny, thinking fast, but Ginny didn’t even blink at the not-quite-veiled accusation, and she didn’t yield an inch of ground.

“Well, personally, sir, I haven’t tested the alternate properties of Freckle-lightening Potion, but I could set up a study with Professor Slughorn if you’re that interested in knowing.”

“So you’re telling me that your brothers gave you this thoughtful gift, and you, despite never having used anything like this before, decide to bring it back to school with you?”

“Well, sir, I’m afraid I might have spattergroit, sir,” Ginny all but spat, “and clearing up my freckles is the only way to check.”

Now she’d done it, Neville thought, if the purpling of Amycus’s face was any indication. He knew what would happen if Amycus got mad. He’d thought Ginny did, too, but she’d apparently forgotten. Or more likely doesn’t care, he realized with a certain amount of chagrin.

“I don’t like your tone, Weasley,” Amycus growled.

“Terribly sorry to hear that, sir,” Ginny said in a tight voice just barely in control, dashing any hopes Neville might have had that she’d wise up and walk away. “One would have thought you’d have gotten used to it after five months, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that your learning curve is longer than that.”

The sound of the back of Amycus’s hand hitting Ginny’s face echoed around the entry hall, and the room feel eerily silent as everyone caught their breath. Neville froze, half-stepping toward her, wand almost out of his pocket and he waited to see what Ginny would do next.

The force of the blow had turned Ginny sideways, and she hadn’t straightened. Neville kept his eyes on her, and he saw that she was shaking, and he didn’t need to see her face to know it was with fury.

“You will learn to keep a civil tongue in your head when you speak to me,” Amycus said in a low and dangerous voice, “or I will cut it out. Do you understand me, Weasley?”

There was a long moment where no one in the room moved, and then Ginny straightened very slowly, until she was looking Amycus straight in the eye. Neville’s heart leapt into his throat as he watched. But with one venomous, hissed, “Yes, sir,” Ginny slammed her trunk shut, retrieved her wand and potion, and with set jaw and shoulders, left the entry hall.

The collective sigh of relief was almost audible. But Neville was not relieved. Neville had come to know Ginny too well to think that this was truly the end of the matter. She’d learned to pick her battles, and she’d very clearly let this one slide by, but that fact did not make Neville’s worry disappear – it intensified it.

Neville was so anxious over the mess with Ginny that his responses to Amycus’s questions were distracted and perfectly respectful, much to the Death Eater’s obvious disappointment, and as clothing and textbooks were the only things to be found in his trunk, there was nothing Amycus could really use to goad him into a fight, though he clearly longed to. Neville snatched his wand when Amycus reluctantly handed it over only a few minutes later, and hurried after Ginny.

She was not in the Common Room, though a couple of glum-looking first years told him they’d seen her head up to her dorm not long before. Neville settled himself onto a couch in case she decided to reappear, hoping for a chance to talk to her (and, the voice in the back of his mind whispered, keep her from trying to sneak out and do anything stupid). When curfew was called and Professor McGonagall sealed the Common Room, Neville waited in the darkness for a half hour more or so then heaved a sigh and headed for his room. It was almost midnight, and he needed sleep. He could only hope that Ginny had sense enough not to make trouble their first night back.

His dorm was painfully empty, had been painfully empty since the beginning of the year, but knowing that didn’t stop the pang he felt as he entered, trunk in tow, to see the three dusty, unused beds separating him and Seamus, who now shared the room alone. Seamus was waiting up for him, perched tensely on the edge of his bed.

“You were looking for Ginny?” he asked by way of greeting. Neville felt a muscle twitch in his temple as he nodded.

“You know where she is?” he asked. Seamus didn’t answer; he merely inclined his head toward the tower window. Slightly confused, as the window of the girls’ tower was not really visible from the boys’, Neville turned, following Seamus’s line of indication, and what he saw made his heart sink. “Oh, Godric,” he muttered under his breath.

Ginny was sitting on the roof between the two dormitory towers, Freckle-lightning Potion in her hand and a stormy expression on her face. Even as Neville watched, she raised the bottle to her lips and took a long swig. Neville sighed heavily. “Thank you, Seamus,” he said without taking his eyes off Ginny. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Seamus nod without a word and slip quietly from the room. He spared a moment of worry for his roommate, who looked as drawn and tired as he himself felt. Then he crossed to the window and, with a tap of his wand, opened it.

“Not sure that’s meant to be taken internally,” he called to her.

“Internally’s the only place it’s gonna do any good,” she called back as if she’d been expecting him. She didn’t look at him, nor did she move at all, except to raise the bottle to her lips again. It was already half empty. Neville sighed once more, bolstering his courage before climbing out onto the roof and making his slow, careful way toward her. He shivered as he went – it was cold. About five feet away from her, though, the temperature changed dramatically, and Neville had to smile to himself. At least she’d remembered to cast the warming spell before she’d started drinking whatever was in that bottle. “Well, look at you,” she said, glancing at him sideways as he sat beside her on the roof. “Wouldn’t have done that a year ago. Finally earning your place in Gryffindor?” Neville gave a brief indulgent smile, but otherwise ignored the jab.

“So, what’s in the bottle, Gin?” he asked instead, and received an exaggerated shake of the head from Ginny.

“Nope,” she said, pointing one finger of the hand wrapped around the neck of the bottle at him. “Sorry, so close. But it’s not gin.”

“And how’d you managed to get alcohol of any kind past the Carrows?” he asked. She shrugged.

“Fred and George. I’ve learned not to ask a lot of questions,” she told him, still not looking at him. Neville followed her gaze and let the silence settle over them as he took in what should have been a beautiful sight – the Hogwarts’ grounds at night as snow settled gently over everything except a three-meter circle on the roof of Gryffindor Tower – but it was forbidding, not majestic, and cold and dim instead of bright and clear. It should have been beautiful, but the beauty was a lie, and Neville hated to look at it. So he looked instead at Ginny.

“May I ask what it is that has driven you to find solace in the bottom of a bottle?”

She turned to him slowly, a look of utter incredulity on her face. There was a brief moment before she answered. “Well, Neville,” she finally said. “Let me see. I just found out this morning that one of my best friends got Snatched off the train by the Death Eaters who have taken over my school and Ministry because her father has dared to speak out against them. I don’t know where she is or even if she’s alive. And yeah, you heard that correctly. Death Eaters have taken over my school and they’ve pretty much made it their business to make my life and the lives of my friends living hells as they pick us off one by one. The Ministry isn’t doing anything about it, and that would be because, as previously mentioned, the Ministry has also been taken over by Death Eaters, but then again, even if it hadn’t, judging by past performance, I still don’t know that it would have done much of anything. My family is under constant supervision by the government, all of them, and to give you a sense of exactly what that means, the brother who spends every day of his life working with wild dragons is probably the safest of all of us. My mother has always been a worrier, but this has just increased it tenfold, and she tries not to let us see, but we all know anyway. My father and oldest brother have to work in that Death Eater infested Ministry, along with another brother who still won’t speak to us, even though it’s been fairly obvious for quite some time now that we were, in fact, in the right all along. My oldest brother is married to a woman I can’t stand, and I didn’t get to see him once over Christmas – Christmas was just me and the twins, and if you know my mother at all, you’ll understand what that meant the holiday was like. Mt twins brothers spend their lives constantly pushing against the Death Eaters in ways that they are both aware and not aware of, and while I’m proud as hell of them for it, I am also scared as hell for them. My last brother has spattergroit, and we both know all about that particular situation, but we are reaching a somewhat critical point because after a certain length of time, spattergroit is, you know, fatal, so pretty soon, someone’s going to notice something, I’m thinking. I haven’t heard from one of my best friends or my boyfriend in five months, not since Death Eaters attacked my brother’s wedding, and the only tiny consolation is that I think if they were dead, it would be shouted from every rooftop. So I can say that they’re probably not dead. Probably. Oh, and that boyfriend I mentioned? Not actually my boyfriend anymore. He broke up with me, and you want to know why? Because he thought I would be safer.”

She spat the last word as bitterly as Neville had ever heard her. He glanced at her sideways. She didn’t look drunk and she wasn’t really acting drunk, but he’d never heard her say so much so brokenly at one time, and he knew part of it had to be the alcohol. “Is that enough reason, Neville, for trying to ‘find solace at the bottom of a bottle,’” she asked him after his silence had gone on for a moment or two, “or do you need more? ‘Cause I can keep doing this all night.”

“No, that sounds like plenty,” Neville told her.

“They took her, Neville,” Ginny said softly then.

“I know,” he said quietly.

“Luna was one of the best of us, and they took her. Just like they’ve taken so many others. Look around! We started the year with barely three-quarters of us, and they’ve been picking us off one by one ever since. How many didn’t come back today?” When he didn’t answer, she pushed him. “I’m not kidding, Neville, how many?” she demanded. He couldn’t meet her eye.

“Eighteen,” he said with a sigh, running a hand through his hair.

“Eighteen,” she repeated with a nod, sitting back and raising the bottle. “So here’s what I want to know,” she said, her voice a little louder. “Safer than what, Harry? Safer than what?” She took a long drink then, and coughed, and went on in a slightly quieter voice, though the edge was still very much present. “It’s my own damn fault, though, in the end, isn’t it? I mean, I could have fallen in love with an ordinary boy, one who’d be involved in the war because it’s happening and he has to stand up for what’s right, but no. I went and fell in love with Harry freakin’ Potter, Subject of Prophecy, and the Wizarding World’s own personal savior.”

“You can’t control who you fall in love with, Gin,” Neville pointed out quietly. He was met with a derisive snort.

“I could have tried a little harder,” Ginny assured him. He opened his mouth to protest, but she cut him off. “No, Neville, I don’t think you understand, so I’ll explain it to you. There’s a story my dad likes to tell, well, not anymore for reasons that will become obvious once you’ve heard the story, but when I was younger, he asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said I wanted to be Harry Potter’s shadow so that I could follow him around and always be with him and go on all his adventures. Know how old I was? Four. I was four. So, basically, I have been in love with Harry Potter for twelve years. A full three-fourths of my life. Six years before I even met the guy. Trust me, I could have tried a little harder.”

“Maybe,” Neville conceded, but Ginny didn’t seem to hear him.

“My most often dreamed daydream was that Harry would one day swoop down in front of my house on his broom, saying that he had come in search of a companion, the one he needed to accompany him on all his adventures, someone to help him save the world. And all my brothers would be clamoring for his attention, saying ‘Pick me, Harry! Pick me!’ But he would just walk past all of them without even a glance until he’d be standing right in front of me, and he’d say, ‘It’s you, Ginny. You’re the one I need. Only you can save the world with me.’ And in front of all my brothers, he’d put me on the back of his broomstick and we’d ride away together, go have adventures and save the world.” For a long moment, Ginny was still, staring out at the landscape with an unreadable look on her face. “He picked Ron,” she finally said. “In real life. He picked Ron, and when they went and saved the world, I was there. I was the one who needed saving.” She gave a tight smile at that, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “That’s what they remember, you know,” she said to Neville, still not looking at him, and there was an edge in her voice. “That Harry Potter came and saved me. That I was rescued. Not that I fought that bastard’s pull for a year. Not that I was down in that Chamber for hours before anyone showed up to save me. Not that I fought him off longer than any eleven-year-old should have been able to. No, they remember the damsel in distress, and so does Harry.”

She took another long drink then, and Neville didn’t need to see the lowering level of the liquid in the bottle to know that the alcohol was definitely affecting her. In all the years he’d known Ginny, he’d never heard her speak of the Chamber or the events of her first year. To hear her do so now, uninhibited . . . his brow furrowed as he tried to figure out a way to get that bottle out of Ginny’s hand.

“Most of the time,” she was continuing, “most of the time he sees me as an equal, but there’s that part of him that looks at me and sees that eleven-year-old lying on the Chamber floor, helpless, weak. In need of rescue, of protection. It drives me mad, that part of him. And yet – I don’t know how not to be in love with him, Neville. I’ve tried, but I can’t seem to manage it. And the worst part in all of it is . . . I don’t even want to. I don’t even want to not be in love with him. I just want to want that. Because I know how much easier my life would be. I’ve left broken hearts in my wake, trying to pretend I don’t love Harry, I know I have. Colin, for one. Not Michael, ‘cause he didn’t have a heart to break, but I shattered Dean, I know I did. And you, for all I know. At the Yule Ball. ‘Cause I only went because I knew Harry wouldn’t ask me, and —” She turned to him then, looking perfectly distraught, and Neville was in shock as to the ridiculous ideas coming out of her mouth. “Just tell me I didn’t break your heart, too, Neville,” she pleaded with him, “Please, because I don’t think I could stand it if I had, and I –”

“Okay,” Neville said, finally finding his voice in the face of the ridiculous turn the conversation had taken. “Give me the bottle,” he said, holding out his hand. She was immediately defensive and clutched it to her chest.

“Why?”

“Give me the bottle,” Neville said again, and reluctantly, she handed it over. He Vanished it with a single wave of his wand and, ignoring her feeble protests, turned and Summoned a vial through his still open dorm window. Uncorking it, he held it out to her. “Drink this,” he said firmly. She leaned away from the vial, looking at it warily.

“What’s it going to do to me?” she asked.

“Nothing that you don’t need done,” Neville told her flatly. “Now, drink.”

She took it from him, but she didn’t look happy about it. Looking thoroughly unsure, she sniffed the contents distastefully, but after a stern look from Neville, she took a deep breath and drained the vial.

Immediately, she began to cough. “God!” she said when she could speak, clutching her head. “Forget Crucio, just give that to the Carrows!”

“Yeah, Sobering Potion’s not pleasant, and it leaves you with a cruel hangover,” Neville said conversationally. “Probably worse than you’d have had tomorrow morning after downing a full bottle of Firewhisky.” Ginny groaned, and pulled from her pocket a vial of what Neville presumed to be a hangover remedy. She shuddered as the liquid coursed through her.

She became as terse then as she’d been talkative under the Firewhisky’s influence. She refused to look at Neville, and so he spoke himself after a moment or two, to fill the silence. “For the record, by the way, no. You did not break my heart. I am not in love with you, Ginny, and I never have been. I asked you to the Yule Ball because Hermione suggested it, and I didn’t want to go alone.” He started to say more, but Ginny held up a hand and stopped him.

“Sorry about that,” she mumbled. “I usually hold my liquor better than that.” Neville frowned at that remark, wondering how often things like this happened. After a moment, it occurred to him to hide his reaction, but by then, it was too late. Ginny had seen. “You don’t need to worry,” she said softly. “I don’t make a habit of getting drunk. Just once, at Bill’s wedding, trying to forget that he’d married the French Flower. And I drank Fred and George under the table, by the way, and no one else in my family was any the wiser. I haven’t been as foolish as you think I have, Neville,” she said softly. “There’s a reason I was drinking alone at midnight on the top of the tower with a hangover cure in my pocket. I know I have to walk into the Great Hall tomorrow as spirited and defiant as ever, that nothing of tonight can show. I know how important it is for them to have hope, and I know that they look to us to supply it. And I’m more than happy to provide. Because every moment that I’m standing up to them and they’re attacking me, it means they’re not attacking someone else. And I know the same is true for you, for Seamus, for Lavender, for all the original DA. We haven’t broken yet, which gives everyone else hope that we can all get through this in the end. But it’s a lot to carry on my shoulders, Neville. And with Luna gone, it’s that much more. And knowing this was waiting for me up here was the only thing that kept me from clawing Amycus’ eyes out with my bare hands.” Neville gave a faint smile at that, and searched for something even remotely comforting to say.

“We’ll get through this,” he said. “And when Harry comes back –” he started, trying to bolster her, but he was cut off by a sharp, humorless laugh.

“Harry’s not coming back, Neville,” she said, and he could tell she believed it. “Why would he? He’s off on his grand quest, saving the world. Unless that quest brings him here, he’s not coming back. He has no reason to. He has no idea what life has become here. In his mind, Hogwarts is the same as it ever was because he thinks if he’s not here, everyone’s safe. Because he doesn’t realize that I spend every day of my life surrounded by people who want nothing more than to see me bleeding on the ground, hurting at their hand, and that none of them want that because I was once Harry Potter’s girlfriend. He doesn’t get that. There’s a disconnect, Neville, between him and us, between him and me, one that gets wider and wider every day that we live this hell, and I am running out of ways to close that gap. And I don’t know what happens when it becomes insurmountable, but I know that I can’t spend the rest of my life as the thing Harry Potter has to protect. I can’t. I’ve been through too much to let that be my life. We all have. He doesn’t get that. He thinks we’re safe if he’s not here. So he’s not coming back. Keep them believing that if you think it’ll give them the strength to get through another day, but at the end of the day, you know what I know. There’s no hope. Not really. Not for us.”

Hearing her words, Neville felt an overwhelming sadness, for Ginny, for himself, for the truth in what she was saying but also for the lie he had to keep believing was in there, too. “You know what Luna would say to that if she was here,” he said quietly, trying to change the tide of the conversation. It didn’t work.

“But she’s not here, Neville!” Ginny cried, her calm composure disappearing. “She’s gone! They took her! And I couldn’t help her! Dean’s gone, I couldn’t help him. And Colin. And Dennis. Justin. Maggie. Euan, Stewart, Mandy –”

“Stop, Ginny,” Neville said, holding up his hand against the stream of names, but there was no stopping her.

“– the Patils, Anthony, Eleanor, Luna. I couldn’t help any of them, Neville, not when it mattered. I couldn’t do anything for any of them. I can’t help my mother sleep at night. I can’t make Percy talk to us, I can’t keep the Ministry from finding out about Potterwatch, and I can’t help Harry and Ron and Hermione find whatever the hell it is they’re looking for! ” She turned away from him, abruptly, blinking rapidly against the sudden brightness in her eyes. “I’m eleven years old again, and I’m helpless, and . . .” What she said next was so quiet Neville had to lean forward to catch it, “ . . . I’m scared.”

A single tear escaped her control then, dropping down her cheek, and Neville knew he had to do something. He had no experience in things like this, but he could feel her despair, because he fought it every day, too. So he reached out, and placed a hand on her shoulder, to show her that she wasn’t alone, that he was there, that he understood. He didn’t know if it was possible to convey all those things with a single touch, but he knew he had to try.

She didn’t respond for a long moment, but then her hand came up and grasped his, her grip vicelike and desperate. She didn’t break down and she didn’t cry because she was Ginny, and Ginny wouldn’t let herself do those things. But she clung to his hand as tightly as she could because, he knew, she needed to feel that someone else was there.

He had no idea how long they sat there like that, hands clasped tightly between them, but eventually, her grip loosened, and she took a deep, shuddering breath and regained the iron-hard control of herself that he’d come to expect from her.

“We’re going to get through this, Ginny,” he said quietly.

“Not all of us,” she replied, not bitter or jaded or cynical, but just a simple, unarguable truth.

“No,” Neville agreed softly. “But if you and I, and Seamus and Lavender, and everyone else that they look to do our jobs, then more of us will. If that’s all we can do, Ginny, then that’s what we do. What we can. No one ever said it would be easy. But it’s right. And that’s what matters.”

“Do you think Luna will be all right?” Ginny asked softly then. Neville managed to smile.

“I think,” he said slowly, “that the Death Eaters have no idea what they got themselves into when they took Luna.” Ginny’s small smile almost reached her eyes. “It’s late,” he said then, standing carefully. “And tomorrow will be a long day, like all of them are. And since I don’t think Lavender would much appreciate you climbing in through her window . . .” He held his hand out to her. With a more genuine smile, she took it, and they climbed carefully back into the seventh-year boys’ dorm.

She was halfway to the door when he called her back, deciding his own awkwardness was less important than giving her the advice she needed but didn’t know how to ask for. “I’m certainly not one to offer advice on matters of the heart,” he started out, “but . . . as far as closing the gap goes . . . you need to tell him,” Neville said softly.“You need to tell Harry exactly what you told me tonight. If you love him, truly love him as you say you do, then he deserves to know the truth. And if he can’t accept that truth . . . then he doesn’t deserve your love.” He watched Ginny carefully, but she was focused on the floor, a small frown between her eyes. “Love can’t be like a stone, Ginny,” he continued. “It can’t be hard and unyielding. It has to be able to be remade, made new. It has to be able to change and grow. Yours has. It’s his turn now.”

Slowly, she met his eyes. “That’s assuming we both make it through this war,” she said softly.

“You will,” he said, with a conviction and confidence that he actually felt. “And when you do, whatever his reply, come meet me at the Leaky Cauldron. I’ll buy you a drink.”

Her smile reached her eyes this time, and it warmed Neville’s heart to see it. “You’re a good friend, Neville,” she said. “Thank you, for everything.” With one more quick smile, she slipped from the room. Neville looked out the window, to the circle on the roof where they had sat, just starting to fill in with snow as the warming spell dissipated. By morning, no one would be able to tell anything had happened on the roof in the night.

He looked to the sky, still heavy with snow clouds. But as he watched, a small crack appeared in the grey, and if he looked very closely, he could see the stars.




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