Chapter 5 : Aftermath
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Chapter 5: Aftermath.
“And quite honestly, I've had enough trouble for a life time,” Harry said wearily. Ron chuckled slightly at this, and gave Harry a weak grin.
“And yet you want to be an Auror? Harry I’ve known you since I was eleven and I still understand you less than I do Hermione,” he laughed. Hermione punched him playfully on the arm as they passed the gargoyle, which was still lying unhappily on his side.
“I’m not that bad Ronald!” she said reprovingly, although a small smile flickered across her face. Harry smirked inwardly-he was fairly sure that the single Hermione wouldn't have let that slide. Apparently, in just a few hours, Ron had mellowed her.
“You are,” Harry and Ron replied simultaneously. The trio burst into laughter as they walked arm in arm down the marble staircase. Harry yawned, stretching out his arm that wasn’t wrapped around Ron’s shoulder. “Gryffindor common room for the night y’reckon?” he said sleepily.
“Might as well. Mum and Dad have…have taken Fred home tonight. I think everyone else went with them already. They’ll understand if we turn up tomorrow.” Ron said, a single tear rolling down his face. He wriggled his arm out from under Harry’s and wiped his face. “Summit in my eye…” he muttered, clearly trying to keep his sadness invisible from Hermione. Naturally, she didn’t miss a trick.
“Oh Ron…” she said sadly, and pulled him into a tight embrace, tears spilling down her face, as Ron sniffed quietly, still unwilling to show her his own tears. “He died a hero. Nobody will forget his sacrifice.” As the newly formed couple embraced, sharing their pain, Harry felt strangely alone, and incredibly awkward.
He turned his back to the stairs and pretended to be fiddling with his newly repaired wand, feigning total ignorance of the pair behind him.
Suddenly, Hermione spoke again. “Urm…Ron. It seems not all of your family went home tonight.” She said nervously. Harry was about to look over his shoulder when a yell more terrifying than anything Voldemort could muster assaulted his eardrums.
“POTTER!” for one brief, mad moment, Harry was convinced he was back in the memories of Severus Snape, and he was watching Lily Evans yell at James Potter for bullying the greasy haired potions master. In fact, as he spun round to the source of the yell, he was almost thoroughly convinced.
‘This lack of sleep is not good for me…’ he thought to himself, as a blazing redhead stormed towards him, wand drawn and her eyes flashing furiously. Suddenly, he snapped back to reality.
“Ginny…” He croaked. He didn’t know whether to be pleased to see her or terrified. He held out his arms, keeping a wary hold on his wand. “Let me explain…”
“Oh you’re going to explain alright Potter! But first I am going to hex you into a thousand pieces!” She roared, slashing her wand as she stormed towards him. Ron and Hermione looked on, wondering whether to intervene. Harry deflected the hex Ginny had thrown at him with a quick parry of the phoenix wand, and raised his arms again.
“Ginny, listen, I had too…” he began, but the furious witch cut him off again.
“I thought you were dead! My heart broke, do you realise what you put me through?” she howled, tears forming in her brown eyes as she threw herself at him and pounded her fists off his chest. ‘Merlin she’s beautiful’ thought Harry. ‘She’d probably be more beautiful if she wasn’t trying to introduce me to her bat bogey hex’ he added as an afterthought. With a fairly large effort, he forced his weary mind back to reality once more.
“Ginny, calm down” Hermione was saying. “We’re all a bit angry at Harry, but we at least need to hear him out first” she continued, with her familiar brisk tones, glancing at Harry to show she was a lot less angry then Ginny was. And of course she was-Ron and Hermione already knew the full story. Ginny spun around to Hermione; the anger in her face so obvious that both Hermione and Ron took three steps back, cowering beneath her despite being at least a head taller than her.
“Oh Hermione you have no IDEA how angry I am with him right now. I love him and he let me think he was dead! Imagine if Ron did that to you Hermione, you’d be the same!” She rounded on Harry once again, who now had tears rolling down his cheeks.
Coupled with his filthy, blood-stained face and broken glasses, he looked quite pathetic. Ginny, however, seemed too furious to care, and raised her arm once more. Harry left his own hanging limply by his side. What was the point, he asked himself. Deep down, he knew he probably deserved it. But before Ginny could cast her hex, another voice intervened.
“Expelliarmus!” Ron yelled, pointing his wand at his younger sister, and catching her wand neatly. His face was contorted in fury. “Ginny, a couple of hours ago I thought I’d lost my best friend,” he growled dangerously. “If you think I’m gonna let anyone, even you, lay a finger on him while he’s like this, you don’t know me at all!” he snarled.
He took a deep, calming breath, and continued. “Go with Hermione to the common room. Our old dormitory’s empty, we can all sleep in there. I Just want a word with Harry first.” Ginny glared at him, and opened her mouth to disagree, but his facial expression warned her against it.
She folded her arms and gave her brother a filthy look, snatched her wand back and stormed off towards Gryffindor tower, Hermione hurrying to keep up with her. “Women…” he muttered and turned to his best friend, pained by what he saw.
Harry had sunk to his knees, holding his head in his hands, tears rolling down his cheeks. Ron slid down next to him and awkwardly pulled him into a rough embrace. The two of them sat there for about a minute, both crying silently. Eventually Harry brought his tortured face up and looked Ron in the eye.
“I’m so sorry Ron… about Fred,” he croaked; the pain visible in his green eyes. “It’s all my fault.” His eyes dropped to the floor. “No wonder Ginny hates me,” he lamented. Ron pulled Harry’s head onto his shoulder, and, though his hands were trembling with sorrow, his voice was steady when he spoke.
“If it wasn’t for you, Ginny wouldn’t be here. Neither would I, neither would Dad," he reminded him sternly. "She doesn’t hate you, she’s just mad. They get like that," he continued. "Remember Hermione, after I ran away, or after Lavender. I’m still scared of birds to this day actually,” he smiled. Harry chuckled half-heartedly.
Ron gripped his shoulder and continued, his voice now shaking slightly “Fred didn’t die for nothing, Harry. Neither did Remus or Tonks or Colin, or any of the others. They all died fighting for something they believed in, a future for all of us.”
He turned to face his best friend. Harry saw something he’d never seen in Ron’s eyes when he looked at him. It was pride. Ron swallowed and said “And thanks to you, none of them did. You beat him, we won. And I couldn’t have been more proud of Fred…or of you” he added, his ears turning scarlet. Harry looked at him, and suddenly pulled him into a tight embrace.
“Thanks. You… you don’t know how much that means.” Harry choked. Ron pulled back, his ears still red, and shook his head, and dropped his voice to a whisper.
“Ginny wasn’t the only one who was heart-broken to see you in Hagrid’s arms. I felt like I’d lost another brother.” The pair embraced again, allowing a few unsaid things to go between them. They were more than just best friends; they were brothers in all but blood, like James and Sirius before them. The two allowed a few more moments to pass, before they broke apart.
“We should head up there. Hopefully Ginny will have calmed down a little.” Ron said, a smile flicking across his face. Harry did not return the smile.
“I’m not getting my hopes up if I’m honest. In fact, I’m terrified. I saw her bat bogey someone last year, didn’t look pleasant.” Ron laughed, and punched Harry on the shoulder.
“Don’t worry, I’ll protect you,” Ron said in a mocking voice. “Only you would be afraid of my little sister having just defeated the most powerful dark wizard of all time.” He grinned before carrying on. “She loves you Harry. As much as it pains me to say it, being her big brother and all, you two are meant for each other. She’ll be fine when we get there, Hermione will have sorted her.” A flick of pride crossed Ron’s face. “Just promise me one thing?” he added.
“Anything.” Harry replied promptly.
“Never break her heart again,” he said, a hint of warning in his voice.
“I don’t plan on it mate.” Said Harry with a chuckle. “I think I love her.” Ron laughed.
“You sound like a prince from a fairy tale.” He said amused. Harry raised his eyebrow.
“I did rescue her from a giant snake and an evil sorcerer by stabbing the snake in the face with a sword.” Said Harry with a grin. “I think that pretty much makes it a fairy tale doesn’t it?” he said. Ron laughed.
“Fair point, I suppose. Still, don’t make a habit of being so soppy, I might vomit.” He said cheekily, laughing at Harry’s filthy glare..
“Do I need to remind you of Lavender?” said Harry warningly. Ron’s ears turned scarlet once again.
“No you really don’t. I think if Hermione hears that whole fiasco mentioned again she’ll have a break down.” He added, a smile playing across his lips.
“You have no idea.” Harry muttered under his breath. Ron chortled at that.
“Still, I’ve made up for it now haven’t I?” he asked. Harry clapped him on the shoulder.
“You two were made for each other as well. For one thing only you too could put up with each other” Harry laughed, ducking under Ron’s playful punch. “I could tell you know. Ever since second year, you got far too jealous over her outlining Lockhart’s lessons with little hearts,” said Harry playfully, roaring with laughter at the confused expression on Ron’s face.
“I didn’t even know then! I only realised in fourth year. How could I have been so thick?” Ron exclaimed, slapping his forehead, as Harry continued to laugh, weakly holding his sides. Ron soon joined in, and the two of them laughed all the way up to the portrait of the Fat Lady.
“Didn’t you see what he looked like?” growled Hermione angrily as Ginny stalked ahead of her. She was not happy at Ginny's treatment of her best friend, especially after what he'd just been through. Ginny stopped for a moment, taking a breather.
“Yeah,” she said shortly. “Yeah, I did.”
“Ginny, you know as well as I do Harry will blame himself for everything,” Hermione sighed as they entered the common room. “It’s his bloody nature.”
“I know,” said Ginny quietly. “He looked terrible…he seems so weak,” she confessed, tears threatening to bubble from her eyes. Hermione grabbed her by the shoulder, spinning the younger girl to face her.
“Damn right he looks weak!” she snapped. “He gave everything to beat Voldemort-oh stop it!” she growled as Ginny flinched violently at the name. “He lost so much, don’t make him lose you too,” said Hermione, breathing deeply as she tried to calm down.
“He’s broken, Hermione,” Ginny whispered. “His eyes…they look haunted. And he looks like he’s been savaged. I’ve never seen him so down,” she admitted, looking heart broken.
“He loves you,” said Hermione simply. “It broke his heart to finish you, you know that. He needs you, Ginny. He won’t have it easy for a while.” She said sadly. “Love him. It’s all I ask. He’s like my brother, I can’t stand to see him like this either. The two girls looked at each other for a moment, before spontaneously bursting into tears and throwing themselves at each other, collapsing on the couch.
“Password?” asked the Fat Lady distractedly, not looking at the two men standing in front of them. They glanced at each other, panicked.
“Ermmm…” Harry began, but at this point the Fat Lady looked at him, and exclaimed loudly “Oh it’s you two! Headmistress Mcgonagall said you were allowed up, even without a password! Well done on yesterday, you’ve done Gryffindor proud!” she said cheerily, and swung forward to admit them.
The common room was empty, apart from two girls curled up on a sofa, talking quietly. As Harry and Ron stepped in, they turned round. Ginny’s eyes were red and blotchy; she’d been crying. She stood up, and Harry tensed apprehensively.
Ron, however, caught a look from Hermione, and pushed Harry forward, before going to sit with Hermione, giving the couple some privacy. She walked over to him, and looked him in the eye.
“Hi.” She whispered croakily. She took a step closer to him. His normally bright green eyes seemed dark, and gloomy. “We talked.” She added, nodding at Hermione. “I’m so sor-” she began, but Harry shushed her, placing a finger on her lips. She looked surprised, and shook her head. “No, Harry, I shouldn’t have acted like that…you don’t deserve it.” She whispered, tears forming in her eyes.
“Many people would say I don’t deserve you.” He replied, a spark of bright green in his forlorn eyes, and he pulled her into him, and kissed her, lifting her off her feet. His heart soared, she was his again.
And nothing could bring them apart. As the beast in his chest roared in triumph once again, Harry realised that he was finally free. After what seemed like just seconds, but was probably more likely minutes, he set her down and cuddled her, her head resting on his chest. She stood on her tiptoes, and whispered in his ear.
“You’re mine now, Potter,” she said with a little giggle, and resumed nestling him. He scooped her into his arms and set her down on the sofa opposite Ron and Hermione, who beamed at him. As they snuggled, Ginny spoke again. “Just one question, Harry…why did Hagrid have to carry you in this morning?” she asked apprehensively. Harry sighed, and she twisted her head around to look at him. What little resolve he had broke at this point-if he was to have a happy life with Ginny, he’d have to tell her, so why not sooner rather than later? He sighed again.
“She deserves to know, Harry,” said Hermione quietly, her normally so steady voice quivering slightly. Harry had heard her scream that morning, he knew how she’d felt. He shook his head and gave in.
“Promise me you won’t think anything less of me?" he said in a low, shaky voice. His fear was obvious. Ginny urged him on silently. So Harry launched into his story, starting with a brief explanation of the Deathly Hallows for Ginny, before continuing the story from when he had left Ron and Hermione at the great hall and gone into the pensieve.
It was agony, seeing the look on Ginny's face as his tale unfolded. But then he got to the part where he entered the forest, and found he couldn't go on.
“You gave yourself up didn’t you?” Ginny whispered in a small voice. Harry looked at her, and saw the tears rolling down her face, as she cuddled into him, his hands stroking her hair, while tears also rolled down his face. Harry nodded, swallowing the lump in his throat. He felt Ginny’s hand tighten around his own and heard her sniff. “How!? Why!? Oh Harry!” she cried, gently stroking the back of his neck. Harry smiled inwardly at this; it had given him the strength to go on.
“I had too Ginny," he said simply. "I was a horcrux…it was the only way. I had to give everyone, including you three, a future,” he said sadly. Ginny opened her mouth to speak, but thought better of it and allowed Harry to continue with his narration.
He explained how he had found the reserection stone, how it had given him the strength to face Voldemort, how he had been hit with the killing curse, and survived once again. He mentioned seeing Dumbledore but glossed over much of the conversation-that was private being Harry and his mentor.
“And you know the rest,” Harry concluded. “Hagrid carried me up to the castle, and all hell broke loose.” He finished with a twisted grin. Hermione smiled slightly and hiccoughed, causing Ron to chuckle lightly.
“Always happens to us three doesn’t it. Nothing ever goes to plan,” she said with a yawn, and stretched, then looked at Ron. “Is your old dormitory free then?” she asked, hinting at her tiredness.
“Yeah,” Ron replied indifferently. “Seamus went home so his mother knew he was alive, Dean hasn’t seen his family since he went on the run last year and Neville was I think dragged home by his Grandmother. At least she seems more proud of him, I suppose,” he added thoughtfully. Hermione smiled, then yawned again and tugged his sleeve.
“Come on you, bedtime. I haven’t slept since Bill and Fleur’s and my eyelids feel like they weigh as much as a hippogriff.” She said, smiling, and together they trotted off up the stairs to the dormitory, arm in arm, leaving Ginny and Harry alone on the sofa.
“About time isn’t it. When did that happen, when you were on the run?” Asked Ginny softly, running her hands through Harry’s untidy black hair. Harry smiled, almost closing his eyes.
Being with Ginny felt so right, even after all this time. ‘Always’ he thought, remembering Snape’s words about another red-head. ‘Must be the colour…’ Harry thought, before snapping himself back to reality once more. Some sleep was needed soon. He cuddled Ginny in tighter.
“Actually, no, in fact, it was just a few hours ago, after they destroyed the cup.” Harry replied, chuckling to himself. Ginny looked at him confused.
“Cup? What cup? Was it another…horcrax? Whatever you were.” She asked. Harry cursed; Ginny didn’t know the whole story about the horcruxes. Now there was a long story.
“I’ll explain tomorrow Gin, I’d never make it through tonight, I’m exhausted. But it’s horcrux. It’s where a dark wizard hides part of his soul in an object, so if his body dies he doesn’t.” he explained. Ginny looked at him, a mixture of curiosity and realisation in her eyes.
“So…part of him was…part of you.” She said. It wasn’t a question. It was a statement. Harry nodded. “But he destroyed it when he hit you with the curse?” she asked. Harry nodded again. She smiled and snuggled into his chest. “Good, now you’re all mine.” She said, her eyes glinting mischievously. Harry laughed and stroked her hair.
“Thanks for not seeing me any different Gin.” he said quietly. He remembered the first time he’d felt the strange feeling in his chest…
It was the end of fifth year, the day after the battle of the department of mysteries. Harry, unwilling to speak to Ron and Hermione, or anyone at all really, had found himself alone out by the lake, where he’d saved Sirius’s life two years previous. He sat by the old, towering Beech tree, staring absently at the initials carved into its bark. His parents’ names were there- A J.P and a L.E, along with a rather cheekily scrawled S.B. Harry smiled at the thought of his Godfather carving his name to irritate James and Lily, and then was hit by the familiar pang-that Sirius was gone, never again would he create mischief like that.
“Harry?” a small voice came from behind him. He’d turned, to see Ginny standing there, her ankle bandaged tightly. A brief, fleeting notion flew threw his head- she was quite attractive... he shook his head-this was Ron’s sister, he couldn’t think that. “I thought you’d like some company,” she explained. Now that she mentioned it, he could use someone to talk to. He was unsure at what changed his mind, but he patted the grass beside him, and she sat down, pulling him into a cuddle and resting her head on his shoulder. It felt so…right. Much more right than being with Cho, the leaky tap she'd been.
“Hey Gin,” he’d said quietly. She’d looked into his eyes, the familiar blazing look he was now so used to in her eyes.
“It wasn’t your fault Harry.” She’d said comfortingly, although a little sternly. “You must remember that. Come talk to us, we’re worried about you” she urged. Harry looked away.
“I’m talking now aren’t I?” he’d snapped, immediately regretting it. “Sorry…” he’d murmured. “I-it is my fault. All of it.” She shook her head.
“He’d have done the same for you,” she whispered gently, before kissing him gently on the cheek. He’d looked at her in surprise, and their eyes met…just for a few seconds, then they both looked away, blushing “Come on, inside. Ron and Hermione are worried about you, you should talk to them too.” She’d said briskly, still blushing slightly. She stood up, helping to his feet, and after a seconds pause linked his arm. Harry had felt a strange purring in his chest…
He dragged himself back to reality once more. A pause, then;
“You said you died so that we could have a future?” she asked softly. Harry looked at her for a moment, and then nodded. Her throat seemed to tighten with emotion. “But didn’t you think, what kind of a future would I have if I didn’t have you?” she asked, her hand tightening around his again. She didn’t look at him, but he knew she was on the verge of tears again. Harry shook his head.
“I thought you would be better off with someone else and no Voldemort than with me running from him all your life.” He paused, and then continued. “Do you know what I thought of as he was about to kill me?” He asked. She shook her head, and sniffed.
“I thought of you,” he whispered. “I thought of us. I saw us with a family, I saw us putting them on the train to school, in a safe world, free from Voldemort, free from danger. We were happy. And I knew you deserved that, even if it couldn’t be with me. I did it for you, Gin,” he confessed. She turned to him, her eyes shining with tears, and slowly pulled his face to hers.
“I don’t think I’d ever have been happy without you,” she murmured softly. And she was kissing him again, only this time it was unreal, fantastic. The world seemed to melt away until it was just her. Ginny, her warmth, her love.
Harry almost lost himself in a pool of ecstasy and sheer happiness. It was better than the kiss they’d shared in her bedroom, better than the one in the common room after the previous year’s quidditch final.
After an eternity, they broke apart, and snuggled together. “I love you, Harry” she mumbled as she stroked his chest. Harry’s heart did a backflip. As far as he could remember, nobody had ever said that to him before. He didn’t let her see his tears.
“I love you too, Ginny” He whispered, delight coursing through him. This was certainly better than being hexed. He tried to stifle a yawn, and failed miserably.
“You haven’t slept in days!” She gasped, suddenly seeming so like her mother. “Come on, up to bed. No excuses.” She ordered. Harry smiled, and turned to her.
“I won’t make any…just stay with me?” he asked, grinning. She winked at him cheekily.
“If you can catch me.” She said, and darted up the stairs before him. Harry entered the old dormitory, and suddenly felt at home. The room had been his home for 6 years, more so than anywhere else. Ron and Hermione were curled up on Ron’s bed, which they’d magically enlarged to comfortably fit them both.
They snored, Hermione barely making a sound and Ron akin to an elephant with a cold. Harry drew his wand and enlarged his own bed, flopping down on the right side and patting for Ginny to sit with him. She giggled.
“You expect me to sleep with you, Potter?” she asked, a wry smile creeping onto her face. Harry raised his eyebrows, and in seconds Ginny was next to him. “Couldn’t resist, damn” she whispered in his ear, giggling again. Harry smiled, and removed his glasses.
“Caught you.” He whispered, and she giggled, punching him playfully. “Night Gin” he yawned. “I love you.” She smiled at him.
“I love you too.” She said, curling up next to him, and he settled down comfortably, her head on his chest. Tomorrow would be a busy day. If any of them even woke up, Harry was asleep before his head hit the pillow. And for the first time in months, Harry's dreams were untroubled, visited only by a beautiful red haired girl...not for the first time, Harry was exceptionally glad Ron couldn't perform legilimancy.
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