The following week passed quickly. Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny spent most of their time at Hogwarts either poring over books, or aiding in the reconstruction work. The rest of the Weasleys spent their time alternating between Fred’s bedside and preparing for the journey at the Burrow. By the time Saturday rolled around, Harry was sore and aching but starting to feel normal again. The physical repair work had been perfect to take his mind off things, and he’d often left Hermione to her reading to enjoy the mentally consuming physicality of it. Progress had been rapid and now most of the damage had been cleared and all that remained was the long process of actually rebuilding and decorating the place. Though with the large amount of volunteers flocking to the effort of rebuilding what was seen as such a symbolic place, not only for the future, but of Voldemort’s final defeat, it was hoped that it would be completely finished by the next school year. Before that happened though, the castle had to be purged of dark magic by trained Ministry wizards.
All of this meant that Harry and the others were no longer needed and had been sent back to the Burrow. Hermione had extracted all that she could from the library, not that it had been much, and passed on the information to the Weasley brothers. Enjoying a lazy breakfast at the kitchen table, Harry had to marvel at the change that had come over everyone. Since finding out that Fred was still hanging on, everyone had gained a new lease on life. Even George, though not up to his mischievous ways, had an air of steely determination about him. Harry said as much to Ron as they sat in the shade of a tree outside later while Hermione and Ginny gave Mrs Weasley a hand with the washing.
“Yeah, I know what you mean. It’s good for him. It’s good for all of us I mean,” he added quickly. “I just couldn’t imagine life without him. And for poor George it was like he’d lost half of himself.”
Harry briefly thought about the fact that there was a long way to go to saving Fred yet, not to mention everything that could go wrong with the revival but couldn’t bring himself to say anything. He suspected that Ron knew the problems just as much as he did.
“You know how I offered to go with George and the others last week?” Harry began. “When they turned me down, well, I feel really guilty but I was glad that I couldn’t go in the end.”
He looked quickly across at Ron who was staring at nothing in particular. This had been bothering him all week and he needed to speak of it to someone. If anyone would be able to help him work it out, it’d be Ron.
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” he replied after a while. “I feel kinda bad that I’m not helping either. But let’s face it, they know far more about magic and international cultures than I do. And I agreed I’d help Hermione find her parents.”
Harry felt immensely relieved that Ron didn’t blame him at all and grasped at the opportunity to lighten the conversation.
“Ah yes, you and Hermione. All alone together on a noble quest to restore freedom. Gives a whole new meaning to meeting the parents.”
He smirked across at Ron who blushed and quickly changed topic.
“Yeah, speaking of dazzling romances, what’s happened with you and Ginny?”
Harry’s lightened mood evaporated instantly. Ginny. The only thing that he hadn’t come to terms with. The truth was, he had no idea where they stood. Sure she’d been there for him after the battle, but was that only as a friend? Did she still have feelings for him?
Ron cut across Harry’s thoughts.
“Blimey mate, have you seriously not worked things out with her?”
His eyes darkened as he locked them on Harry’s.
“You better not mess her around. I know you care deeply for her, and I’d rather it was you than some other guy, but you can’t play with her feelings. If you hurt her, I don’t care what our history is, you’ll have me to answer to.”
Harry sighed and rubbed his temple.
“I know Ron, it’s not that I want to mess her around. But I don’t know where things are between us and there hasn’t been much time to sort things out since then. I mean, I haven’t exactly spent any real time alone with her to discuss it.”
“Well, no time like the present,” smirked Ron with a nod towards the approaching forms of Hermione and Ginny. “I’ll leave you to it.”
And he got up and walked over to Hermione, taking her hand and motioning that they should take a walk further down the garden. Ginny, looking slightly sickened, hurried away from them and over to Harry.
Harry quickly attempted to regain his composure. That had been uncharacteristically subtle of Ron. Why did he have to finally learn these new life skills at such inopportune moments? And he definitely didn’t like the wink Hermione had just sent him. Scowling at his ‘friends’ he almost forgot the cause of his concern until it spoke.
“Hey Harry,” Ginny said. “Mind if I join you? I just don’t much fancy watching my brother attempting his love struck puppy impersonation.”
He smirked and motioned to the vacated space beside him. He couldn’t help it, whatever his apprehensions about speaking to her, she just made him feel so relaxed.
“So how are you on this lovely day?” she tried, with maybe a hint of nervousness behind her words.
“Oh pretty good. You know me.” He attempted a smile, while his stomach, obviously discontent at his outward peacefulness started a conga line. “And yourself?”
“Fine. Perfectly fine.”
And they lapsed back into silence. Harry knew he had to speak, to explain, to try and work things out. Now was the perfect opportunity. But it was so daunting! What if she was over him? He’d made her wait twice for him now, was she really crazy enough about him that she’d wait that long?
“Harry, we haven’t had much of a chance to talk. About anything, about us...” her voice trailed off, as if unsure.
Harry knew that was as good a lead in as he was ever going to get. Steeling himself, he turned to face her, hands scrunched tightly on his knees.
“You’re right and I’m sorry. I haven’t been avoiding you, but I haven’t been trying to talk to you either. It’s just that... Well to be honest, I’m just unsure because I don’t know where we are. I mean, I fell pretty hard for you last year and it was absolutely amazing. Some of the best memories of my life. But then I ended it for your safety. I’ve often thought about whether that was the right thing to do, but you were more important to me than my happiness. I thought about you constantly while I was away. What you were doing, what you were feeling. I checked on you every night using the Marauder’s Map until you left. Ginny, I never stopped loving you. But I can understand if you’ve moved on...”
The last part had been said looking down at his hands and Harry finally forced his gaze up to meet her eyes. She was smiling at him.
“Harry James Potter, I have waited seven years for you, I’m not about to suddenly ‘move on’ as you put it.”
Harry blushed as hope blossomed inside him.
“But Harry, one thing. No more. Don’t leave me again.”
Harry nodded rapidly under her hard stare, rather reminiscent of her mother. And then suddenly she was smiling again and moving forward to close the gap, the faint breeze teasing her hair. Their lips met and melted against each other.