Chapter 38 : Ginny's Story
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As always, that which you recognize from the books belongs to JK Rowling.
Ginny sat on a bench in King’s Cross Station, enjoying the lovely autumn day. The sun felt warm on her cheeks and a gentle breeze carried the distant sounds of the muggles bustling around the other platforms to her ears. It was the sort of day that always put her in a good mood. She had meant to bring a book to read, but the weather was so nice that she felt completely content just to sit and relax.
It occurred to Ginny that she couldn’t really remember how long she’d been waiting. She was supposed to meet Harry to take the train to Hogsmeade for a reunion of sorts. All of their old friends were going to be there, along with many of their former teachers and classmates. It had been many years since they had all gotten together, and she was eagerly looking forward to it. Even though part of her wanted Harry to hurry up and arrive, she also didn’t want him to feel rushed. It was simply too nice of a day to get in a hurry.
Ginny had seen a lot of people pass through the station since she first sat down. Most of them stayed for only a short time before boarding a train and moving on. The trains seemed to depart fairly often, and she had lost count of how many had come and gone while she waited. At one point, she saw Neville near the far end of the platform. They exchanged a cheerful wave and he shouted that he would see her in Hogsmeade. He also seemed to be in a hurry, so she decided that his grandmother must be waiting for him, or perhaps Hannah. Regardless, he boarded the first available train and she was once again alone.
Occasionally, the Trainman would stop and say a few words to her as he ambled around the station. He appeared to be very old, with wispy, grey hair and a pale, thin face. He wore a dark uniform that looked too big for his bony frame and carried a pair of shiny, metal nippers that he used to punch the tickets of the passengers as they boarded. Nobody seemed to be taking a round trip on this particular day.
In spite of his rather grave appearance, the Trainman had kind eyes and a very pleasant manner. Aside from making small talk about the beautiful weather, he kept offering Ginny tea and biscuits from his cramped office. He said that he felt badly about the fact that she had arrived at the station so early. Ginny found it rather peculiar. It certainly wasn’t his fault that she was running ahead of schedule.
Another train departed and the platform once again fell silent. The Trainman shuffled past her on his way back to his office. “Shouldn’t be long now,” he said, giving her a warm smile. In spite of his peculiar manner, she felt grateful for his company. He entered the office and closed the door behind himself, leaving her to her thoughts.
After a time that could have been several minutes or several hours, Ginny heard footsteps in the distance. They were coming from the entrance to the platform. Leaning forward just a bit, she immediately recognized the familiar mop of unruly black hair. She felt an odd sense of longing, as though they hadn’t seen each other for a very long time. Writing it off to the wait, she decided to have a bit of fun and quickly found a hiding spot along the wall.
She watched Harry as he slowly turned and took in the platform. His confused expression made her giggle softly to herself. Finally, he sat down on a bench and just stared straight ahead. He probably thought that she was running late, as she often did. She crept out from her hiding place, grinning wickedly. They would both have a good laugh after she scared the pants off of him.
As she tiptoed silently forward, she took a long, careful look at him. The more she looked, the more she was gripped by the feeling that something wasn’t right. She tried hard to put her finger on exactly what. He certainly looked like himself. His jet black hair refused to lay in any particular fashion and he slouched forward in that careless way that she found maddeningly attractive. Nothing was different about his clothes. She came to a stop several feet from him and pondered the situation. There wasn’t anything wrong with Harry. Something was wrong with both of them. With the entire situation.
Ginny abandoned her plan to surprise him. “Hi, Harry,” she said simply. He turned with a start and then a huge smile spread across his face. He leapt up from the bench and she rushed towards him, unable to bear another moment of separation. She felt his arms wrap around her as they nearly crashed into one another. Sliding her own arms around his neck, she urgently pulled him closer. His embrace felt magical as her lips found his.
For a long, wondrous moment, there was nothing in the world beyond the two of them.
Then it all came rushing back to her in a horrifying moment of realization. The shopping trip with Octavia. The alleyway. The muggle man with the gun. She pulled back just a bit and found that his eyes were clenched tightly shut and his face was twisted into a mask of devastating pain and grief. She felt his arms tighten around her and she clung to him for dear life, burying her face in the crook of his neck. Their knees failed them and they both slid to the floor, still locked in an embrace. She peered over his shoulder through her tearful eyes and she could see the Trainman staring at them through the window of his tiny office. Ginny swore that she could see a tear slide down his gaunt cheek before he drew the blinds, leaving them in privacy.
Through all the heartbreak and loss, there was one question that tormented her. She tilted her head slightly so she could whisper into his ear. “Harry, did she make it? Is she alright?”
“Yes,” he replied, letting a small sob escape with his answer. “She was fine. She doesn’t remember a thing. But now...”
He stopped, seemingly unable to go on. Ginny felt him shake uncontrollably as the sobs gripped him. She rocked him gently and reached up to smooth his hair soothingly. When he was calmer, she whispered softly in his ear. “It’s alright, love. I’m here. Please, tell me what’s happened.”
Harry took several long, deep breaths, trying to steady himself. “I... I don’t know what to do, Gin. She’s in danger. Mortal danger.”
Harry slowly pulled back so he could look her in the eyes. “I know there’s a reason I’m here. It’s just like before, after Tom Riddle tried to kill me in the Forbidden Forest. I’m here because I have a choice, the same choice. But it’s different this time. This time, I won’t be going back to you. You’re here. And...” He turned away, looking down the platform to where the train tracks disappeared into the distance. “And I can’t lose you again,” he whispered. Ginny was overwhelmed by the sadness in his brilliant green eyes and she pulled him close again. They both lost themselves in the comfort of one another’s embrace.
“The people we love are never truly lost, Harry,” came a gentle, deep voice from behind her. Ginny turned to find Professor Dumbledore walking slowly towards them. His long, white robes glided gracefully over the concrete platform and his eyes twinkled affectionately behind his half-moon spectacles. The rings adorning his fingers made a soft clicking noise as he touched the center of his chest. “They live on, in here.”
Ginny and Harry rose to their feet together. She felt Harry gripping her hand tightly, like he was afraid that she would slip away. “I was hoping I might find you here, Professor,” he said. “It’s good to see you.” She could hear the earnest affection in his voice, but also sadness, as though he knew that something bad was inevitably coming.
“The pleasure is all mine,” Dumbledore replied with a broad smile. “Hello, Ginevra. It’s been far too long.”
Ginny smiled back at the white-haired old man. He looked exactly as she remembered him, wizened and kindly, with just a hint of a mischief twinkling in his eyes.
“So here we are again,” Harry said, looking around the cavernous, empty station. There was no mistaking the mournful undertone of his voice. He began to slowly circle Dumbledore, pulling Ginny along with him. “I suppose my first question is why? Why do I get to choose again? There was no horcrux this time. No blood magic. She had me dead to rights. Why am I here?”
“I think, if I were to attempt to explain how you came to be here,” Dumbledore began, staring at the two of them thoughtfully, “that I would begin by asking why she was even able to cast the killing curse at you with your own wand?”
Harry grinned ruefully at Dumbledore in spite of himself. “So you’re going to answer all of my questions with questions again?”
Dumbledore smiled and bowed his head slightly. “As I’ve told you before, old friend, this is your party. You are the one who must come up with the answers. I can only help you to ask the right questions.”
“Wait a minute,” Ginny interjected, feeling slightly annoyed. “This is all inside your head again?”
“Don’t worry,” Harry replied quickly, giving her shoulders a quick squeeze. “It doesn’t make you any less real. Now, Professor, you’re suggesting that it’s my wand that’s given me the choice of whether to go back?”
“I’m suggesting,” Dumbledore continued, beginning to pace opposite Harry in a large circle, “that perhaps your wand was confused. Uncertain as to how it could best serve its master.”
“You sound like Ollivander,” Harry observed. “He always made it sound like wands could think for themselves.”
“In a sense,” Dumbledore replied, continuing to pace. “A wand that has formed a strong bond with a wizard will respond intuitively to its master’s wishes. The core of your wand is a phoenix feather, plucked from the most loyal creature I ever knew.”
Ginny tried hard to process what she was hearing. There was no denying that Harry’s wand behaved like a part of him. Other people found it difficult to use. If it had allowed another person to cast the killing curse at him... Ginny gasped and turned to stare directly into her husband’s eyes, but Harry was looking at the floor. His voice sounded shaky and miserable. “So my wand thinks that I want to die?”
“Do you?” Ginny voiced the question with a mix of disapproval and horror while Dumbledore asked it rather matter-of-factly at the same moment.
“No!” Harry answered a little too quickly, trying to give Ginny a brave look. She put her hands on her hips and stared at him. “I mean, maybe. I...” His voice fell to a whisper. “I don’t know any more.” Ginny stared at Harry and felt her heart ache as her arms fell to her sides. It tore her apart inside to see him so sad and broken.
“I’m afraid that I’ve have done all I can to help you Harry,” Dumbledore said. “Once again, you have a difficult decision to make, one that has consequences for you and for the ones you love.” He took a step closer, laying his weathered hands on Harry and Ginny’s shoulders. “Take care, both of you. Until we meet again.” Then he turned and began to walk toward the entrance to the platform. He gave them one last smile and he was gone.
Ginny felt herself reeling from Harry’s answer. He was still staring at his shoes, looking utterly defeated. She turned to him and slipped her hand underneath his chin, lifting his face so she could see his sad, green eyes. “Is it true?” He closed his eyes and nodded his head slightly.
“Oh, Harry,” she cried, wrapping her arms around him and pulling him towards her. His body felt almost leaden, and she could feel tears falling onto the top of her head. She took his hand and led him back to the bench where they both took a seat. It was some time before he finally spoke.
“I can’t even start to explain it, Gin. After you died, I never knew that anything could hurt so bad. Whenever I closed my eyes, all I could see was your face. You were scared and hurt and...” His voice dropped to a whisper. “And you couldn’t understand why I wasn’t there to save you. It was just like in my nightmares, Gin. The ones I used to have after the war. But it was real. And I couldn’t make it stop. No matter what I did, it wouldn’t stop.”
Ginny pulled him closer as fresh sobs threatened to overtake him. But he pushed her face slightly away so he could look at her. In spite of his anguish, she realized that there was more he needed to say. “Eventually, I just got numb. I didn’t want to stop feeling, but it was the only way I could function.” He stared into her eyes, begging her to understand. “I tried so hard to be happy, Gin. It was important for the kids and I knew that’s what you would have wanted. But I missed you too much. Every time I tried to open up and let myself feel something, the hurt came right back. Eventually, I just stopped trying.“
He looked down toward the tracks, clearly humiliated. “I’m a failure, Gin. People think I’m so bloody strong. They think I’m a hero.” He snorted disgustedly. “They should see me now. I can’t face my own feelings. I’ve totally given up. You were everything in the world to me and I let you die. Alone. I’m pathetic, and I don’t deserve you, but I can’t live without you anymore. I just hope that you don’t leave, now that you know the truth.”
His words were like a knife through Ginny’s chest. She just sat with Harry for a few moments, trying to gather her thoughts. It tore her apart inside to see her Harry -- her hero -- so miserable and broken. Finally, she decided what to say.
“Harry, do you want to see how I really died?”
He looked at her miserably. “Does it matter?”
“Yes, love. I think it does.”
Harry took a deep breath and looked around the platform. “We don’t have a pensieve.”
“This is your party, Harry. Make it happen somehow.”
He seemed confused for a moment, then thoughtful. Finally he mumbled, “Well, I suppose there’s no harm in trying.” Harry stared into her eyes, and she let herself slip away into those beautiful, emerald pools. The train platform faded away, and she felt herself falling. After a few harrowing moments, her feet came to rest on hard pavement. She recognized the deserted muggle street next to the alley where it all ended. Harry was standing next to her, and she felt him shudder as he pulled her close.
Sixty-year-old Ginny came from around the corner, carrying little Octavia on her hip. Her deep, auburn hair was pulled into a ponytail, showing an occasional streak of grey. A bag full of clothes and nappies and toys hung from her shoulder and Harry could see her wand lying on top of the jumble of Octavia’s things. Based on the position of the sun in the sky, it was late in the afternoon. Ginny made her way toward the alley while Octavia stared into the bag with wonder in her eyes.
Ginny saw Harry grimace when he noticed Edwin Stoops standing on the far side of the street. Next to him stood a blond woman in a black, hooded cloak. He began to walk purposefully toward Ginny and Octavia in the memory. She felt Harry’s grip on her shoulder tighten and she heard his breathing quicken. Stoops was walking somewhat stiffly, but quickly. He never took his eyes off of his targets as he walked.
In the memory, Ginny turned into the alley, craning her neck to make sure that no muggles were around. She didn’t notice Octavia grab her wand from the top of the bag and clutch it to her chest. Nor did she see Stoops stalking toward her. Ginny clutched Harry’s hand tightly as Stoops pulled a small revolver from his coat pocket. The soft click of the hammer being cocked seemed to echo off of the surrounding buildings. Ginny in the memory turned her head just in time to see the Stoops take aim. She spun to face him, shielding Octavia with her body as she allowed the little girl to slide down her leg to the pavement. Her free hand frantically searched for her wand in the bag on her shoulder.
“No!” Ginny heard Harry yelp involuntarily as the first shot rang out. The Ginny in the memory was struck in the shoulder and she fell to the ground on her side. Octavia shrieked in alarm and began to cry. She clutched at Ginny’s legs, wailing pitiably. Watching the horrifying scene play out in front of her, Ginny clutched Harry even more tightly. She knew what was coming next. They watched as Stoops adjusted his aim, pointing the gun directly at Octavia. Ginny in the memory saw it too, and she hauled herself up and pulled Octavia behind her body just as two more shots rang out. Both bullets caught her squarely in the chest, and she crumpled to the ground.
Ginny felt Harry turn away, and she realized that she didn’t care to see any more, either. Just as the memory began to fade, a muggle man emerged from the building across the street and bumped into the hooded woman. Then everything lost focus.
When Ginny opened her eyes again, Harry’s head was buried under her chin. She clutched him for a few minutes until his back ceased to shake. When he raised his head to look at her, his red, swollen eyes were filled with love and awe. “You threw yourself in front of her. You saved her.”
Ginny looked at him seriously. “I didn’t die for nothing, Harry. You of all people understand what it means to give up your life to protect somebody you love. You are not responsible for what happened to me.” Harry nodded slowly. The love in his eyes warmed her sad heart. “Please make it worth my while. Don’t keep torturing yourself like this. Live your life. Be happy. I will always love you, Harry. And when your time comes, I’ll be waiting right here for you. You hear me, I love you now and forever, Harry James Potter. You gave me everything I ever dreamed I could have and more. And if I had it all to do over again, I would never change a thing.”
She flung herself into Harry’s arms and felt him bury his face in her hair. She heard him whisper, “I love you more than anything, Ginny. Now and forever. I know it’s going to be hard, but I’m going to try. For you, I’m going to try.”
“No, Harry,” she said, suddenly pulling away from his embrace. “Not for me, for you. For you and for the kids and the grandkids and Ron and Hermione and everybody else. What was it that Dumbledore told you? Don’t pity the dead? Well I’m dead, Harry. You can’t change that, but you can change your life. Do it for the people who are still alive. I know you love them, Harry, and they all love you dearly. Don’t wall yourself off from them.”
Harry nodded slowly. “I’m still going to miss you more than anything.”
“I know,” Ginny replied softly. “I’m going to miss you, too. But when it's time -- when your time really comes -- I’ll be here.”
The soft sound of a man clearing his throat shook them out of their private moment. The Trainman was standing at the door to his office, staring at them with an apologetic look on his drawn features. “I’m very sorry to interrupt, but there’s a train departing shortly. I was wondering whether the two of you were planning to be on it.”
Ginny looked at Harry and found him staring into her eyes. She could still see the traces of sadness and doubt. She gave him a warm, encouraging smile and squeezed his forearm gently.
Harry finally turned to face the Trainman. “No,” he said softly. The sorrow in his voice was palpable, but there was also a strength that Ginny knew well. A renewed sense of resolve. “We won’t be taking this one.”
“Somehow, I didn’t think so, Mr. Potter,” the Trainman replied with a friendly smile.
Harry stared back at him with a quizzical look. “I’m terribly sorry, but do we know each other from somewhere?”
The Trainman looked vaguely amused. “Not really. But I know of you, of course. You see, you still have my cloak.” Then he nodded toward them and returned to his office.
Harry turned back to Ginny. He looked confused and she noticed that his mouth was hanging slightly open. She didn’t realize that she must have had the same face until he smiled and gently closed her jaw with his fingertips.
“I guess that’s my cue,” he said. He was forcing himself to smile, but the sadness in his eyes was unmistakable. Ginny found his bravery heartwarming and heartbreaking. She reached out and wiped a leftover tear away from his jaw.
“Promise me you’ll take care of yourself, Harry?”
“I promise,” he replied lovingly. “Will you wait here for me?”
“For as long as it takes. And please don’t be in any hurry. It’s a lovely, sunny day and the company’s not so terrible.” She nodded toward the Trainman’s office with a small grin.
In the distance, Ginny heard the sound of a train approaching. Several new figures appeared on the platform, waiting to depart.
“I love you, Ginevra Molly Weasley,” Harry whispered, wrapping his arms around her. “Forever.”
“And I love you, Harry James Potter,” she replied. “Always. No matter what.”
He kissed her softly, letting the moment linger for as long as either one of them dared. The sound of the approaching train had grown louder and its steam whistle rang out. He finally pulled away and gave her a sad, crooked smile. I’ll be back, he mouthed. Then he turned and left the station.
I've been writing this chapter in bits and pieces for many months now. It was simply too much to try to write it all at once. Too many emotions. From the beginning, I've said that not having Ginny be part of the story was the hardest decision I made. That decision feels worth it now.
Thanks, as always, to my amazing beta reader, sophie_hatter. And a heart-felt thank you to all of my loyal readers. You make it all worthwhile.
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