A/N- I know this chapter ended up taking way too long to finally post- and after I promised to get it out quickly. It turned out that upon re-reading it for what I thought was the final time, I found parts that I still didn’t like. I started to rewrite some of it but then got hit with a bout of writer’s block and so I decided to step away for a bit. We are pretty close to coming into the home-stretch now and I do appreciate those of you who have stuck with this story. So please, read on and I hope you enjoy…
They had arrived! In just a few moments, she would at last see her parents and possibly several of her brothers. If the members of her family were even remotely as wonderful as Harry had described them, she would be beyond thrilled.
Standing very still, Ginny slowly took in the tall, crooked building which Ron had fondly referred to as ‘The Burrow’, and its surroundings. She counted six stories in all, each seemingly placed hodge-podge, one on top of the other. One could only assume the entire structure was held together by magic for it looked as if it might topple over at any moment. Numerous chickens pecked at the ground amongst old boots and cauldrons near the front door as well as throughout the rest yard that was set between the house and a small stone building; there was another small out building on the other side of the house as well.
Even though the yard looked somewhat unkempt, it offered Ginny a strong sense of welcome all the same. She could imagine a small red haired girl, grinning cheekily over her shoulder as she snuck out the door toward the building where they kept their brooms; if she was lucky and quiet enough, she might be able to ride for at least twenty minutes without anyone being the wiser. Then she imagined herself flying on her own broom in the nearby orchard. Someone was beside her and when she looked over at him, he smiled. She could read the good-natured challenge in his eyes as he began to pass her and she immediately took off after him, determined to beat him this time—
Ginny tried to hold on to the image, willing herself to see more, but the world around her suddenly lurched alarmingly and she quickly closed her eyes.
“Are you okay?” Ron asked worriedly when Ginny squeezed his hand to steady herself.
“I’m, uh… yeah,” Ginny replied vaguely, redoubling her effort to bring back more detail of what she had just envisioned. She, of course, was the small red haired girl sneaking toward the broom shed. But she was much older in the second vision, and when she looked over at the man flying beside her, she could swear that a pair of emerald-green eyes had met her own. Was it a memory of her past with Harry trying to surface? If it was, the feeling it evoked within her was certainly not one of fear, but one of fun and exhilaration.
She opened her eyes to see both Ron and Hermione looking at her worriedly.
“I’m fine,” she said, releasing her brother’s hand and forcing a smile. “I just felt a little dizzy for a moment. But I’m fine, now.”
Ron seemed to accept her words because he started walking towards the house, but Hermione was not convinced.
“Really, Hermione, I’m okay,” Ginny insisted.
Before Hermione could question her further, Ginny followed after Ron, leaving their long shadows cast by the low hanging sun behind them.
They had not taken more than a few steps before a happy shriek issued from within the house and Ginny looked up to see a plump woman with reddish hair racing towards them with her arms held wide. Three men followed right behind her; a tall, thin, older man and two younger men, both with hair nearly the same shade of red as her own.
Ginny had no time to get a good look at her mother’s face before the woman reached her and pulled her into a bone-crushing hug, sobbing uncontrollably.
“Oh, my baby! My baby!” Molly cried in Ginny’s ear, hugging her daughter ever tighter.
The feeling of her mother’s arms around her was like being wrapped in a warm blanket of pure comfort. In that moment, it did not matter to Ginny that she was unable to remember her past or her mother’s face, because every instinct was telling her that she was home at last. The weeks of fear and loneliness and worry about where she belonged melted away as Ginny reciprocated the heart-felt emotion of her mother’s embrace. What passed between mother and daughter as they held each other defied mere human words, for each was receiving exactly what she so desperately needed and wanted; Molly had her cherished daughter back, alive and in her arms, and Ginny basked in the soothing reassurance that only a mother’s unconditional love could provide.
Slowly, Ginny became aware of someone else kissing the top of her head, with his arms wrapped around both her and her mother. Ginny looked over her mother’s shoulder into the tear-filled blue eyes of her father and smiled.
“Daddy?” She asked thickly and the man nodded. Unable to utter words of his own, his embrace around his wife and daughter grew stronger.
After what could have been several moments or several hours, Ginny felt her parents’ hold loosen and her mother stepped back to cup her daughter’s face tenderly between her hands. Her eyes darted back and forth quickly, drinking in every feature of the girl before her. Ginny noticed that her mother’s tear-filled eyes were the exact same shade of brown that she saw when she scrutinized her own face in the mirror.
“You really have come back to us!” Molly whispered in wonder as Ginny, in turn, studied her mother’s slightly lined but kind, tear-streaked face.
“I have,” Ginny acknowledged and the tingling sensation behind her eyes warned that more tears of happiness were about to begin once more.
“Oh, Ginny, we’ve been blessed with such a miracle!” her mother exclaimed, hugging her again.
“Now don’t go keeping her all to yourself!” Arthur said cheerfully, wiping tears from his eyes. “A father should get to hug his daughter, too.”
He held his arms wide and Ginny immediately stepped into her father’s embrace and she heard him say fervently in a choked whisper, “Welcome home, Sunshine.”
“And what are we? Flobberworms?” One of the red heads beside her father demanded, although he was grinning widely.
“George!” Ginny exclaimed.
The two younger men exchanged bewildered expressions. “You remember us?” George asked. “But I thought Harry just told Dad—”
“Harry’s here?” Ginny asked anxiously, feeling an immediate, nervous flutter in her stomach. She quickly scanned the yard and, not seeing him, she wondered why he had not come out to greet her along with the rest of the family.
“He came by a little while ago to give us the news that he had found you,” her father said, wiping his eyes again, “but he wanted to go to the Ministry to report everything that’s happened.”
“And I must say,” Molly added, dabbing at her eyes with her apron, “I do believe that he was right to let us know first, because if he hadn’t, I would have died from shock right on the spot when I saw you coming.”
“Then I’m very thankful that he told you,” Ginny said, accepting a joyful hug from George, although her mind was still on Harry. She could not determine which was stronger: her relief that she would not have to face him quite yet, or her disappointment that she had no idea when she would get to see him again.
Taking firm control of her warring emotions, Ginny answered George’s question. “I’m sorry to say that I still can’t remember anything about my past, but I asked Harry to tell me about my family and he gave me a fairly detailed description of each of you.”
“That explains it then,” George stated smugly. “You obviously recognized me right away because he told you that I’m the best looking brother you have.”
“Yeah, something like that,” Ginny said, laughing and she turned her attention to the other redhead.
“Hello, Ginny,” he said in a tone much too formal for the circumstances.
“And I’m betting that you’re Percy,” Ginny correctly guessed, as he embraced her.
“Obviously Harry described our dear brother’s austere personality to perfection,” George said, flashing his older brother a wide, mocking grin when Percy scowled at him.
“I wonder if Harry also told her we nicknamed him Pretentious Pompous Percy,” Ron said under his breath, although everyone heard him.
“Boys!” Molly chastised her sons. “What’s your sister supposed to think when you all start up the moment she arrives?”
“She’s going to think she’s very lucky she’s part of a big wonderful family,” Ginny answered with a chuckle. Then, even though George had come close to guessing Harry’s description of Percy, she smiled at him, “It was simple deduction to figure out which brother you are, actually. I’ve already met Ron and just now, George. Your hair is short and you don’t have an earring, so you can’t be Bill, and you certainly don’t look like you have been working with dragons for several years, so you aren’t Charlie. You’re also wearing the glasses that Harry described, so therefore you can only be Percy.
“And speaking of Bill and Charlie, will I be able to meet them soon, too?” Ginny asked hopefully.
“Bill will be arriving with Fleur and Victoire any time now,” her father answered. “Unfortunately, Charlie is off somewhere helping the Norwegians track down a couple of dragons that escaped from their national preserve, but I left word for him to contact us as soon as he can.”
“Well, let’s not just stand here!” Molly exclaimed, taking Ginny by the arm to lead her toward the house. “We can all chat and catch up inside. Now, Ginny dear, I’m making all of your favorites, or at least as many as I can on such short notice. When Harry told us that he’d found you and promised us that Ron and Hermione would be bringing you home at any moment, well, there just wasn’t enough time to prepare everything.”
“You don’t have to go to so much trouble,” Ginny insisted. When her mother shooed away her protests, she added, “Really, Mum, it’s enough to get to see you and everyone and to know that I’m finally home.”
“It’s no trouble at all!” her mother replied and she gave Ginny’s arm a squeeze. “It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t celebrate your homecoming.”
When they stepped through the door into the Burrow’s kitchen, Ginny was met with the most mouth watering aroma she could have imagined. There were pots cooking on the stove, potatoes and parsnips peeling themselves near the sink and several pies sitting on the table ready to be put into the oven to bake. The kitchen itself was not very large, and much of the space was taken up by an old table, worn and scarred from many years of use by the large family. Overall, Ginny thought it had to be the most wonderful and cozy kitchen she’d ever see.
As Ginny looked around at every detail of the room, her mother could not help but give her another hug and whisper under her breath, “Oh, Ginny, thank God you’re home!”
Ginny smiled warmly at her mother, “I still can’t remember being here before, but even so, there’s something about everything that just seems… right.”
“Maybe familiar surroundings will help bring your memory back,” Hermione offered. “However, you should still keep your appointment at Saint Mungo’s tomorrow.”
“Of course we will, and thank you for setting it up for us,” Molly said, patting her daughter-in-law affectionately on the arm, then she turned to her daughter. “Would you like to go freshen up a bit? Hermione can show you where everything is.”
“That’ll be great, Mum, thanks,” Ginny replied gratefully. She was feeling rather tired already, even with the excitement of meeting her family, and a splash of cool water on her face sounded heavenly at the moment.
Hermione led her out of the kitchen and into the living room. It was not a very big room, and all of the furniture was rather shabby and the carpet covering the wood floor was threadbare. There was a wooden wireless set along one wall and a distressed wooden sideboard along the other. The furniture faced a large stone fireplace with a row of framed pictures lined up along the mantle, which she went over to examine.
The center photograph showed her entire family all waving excitedly which, judging by the pyramids in the background, had been taken in Egypt. Next to that were multiple smaller pictures which she assumed were each of the Weasley siblings when they were much younger. There was a portrait of one of her brothers in fine robes, smiling happily into the eyes of a beautiful young blond woman in a simple white gown. Ginny assumed the couple to be her brother Bill and her Veela sister-in-law, Fleur. Next to this were several smaller pictures of a very blond little girl, most likely her young niece, Victoire. Another photo was of the twins, George and Fred, dressed in identical dragon hide jackets standing in front of a shop with a bold sign overhead that read “Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes.”
Then Ginny’s heart skipped a few beats when she looked upon a photograph of herself and Harry standing cheek-to-cheek with their arms around each other, smiling happily at the camera. As she examined it, Ginny in the photograph placed her hands on both sides of Harry’s face and then planted a kiss firmly on his lips. At first, the photo-Harry seemed completely taken by surprise, but then he reciprocated and the kiss soon escalated into an extremely passionate snog. Ginny watched with raised eyebrows at what she considered a rather bold display of affection, given the photograph’s prominent location on the mantle right in her parents’ living room.
“Oh, my,” Hermione commented when she saw the zealous antics of the subjects in the photo. “I’ve never seen them act like that before, or at least they’ve never been so, uh…”
“Demonstrative?” Ginny finished, continuing to watch the couple in the picture.
“Yeah,” Hermione replied. Then she added meaningfully, “You think maybe they’re trying to tell you something?”
“Hmm,” was all Ginny would comment. Refusing to rise to her sister-in-law’s bait, she pulled her eyes away from the photo to follow Hermione up the stairs.
“The bathroom is over there, and this is your bedroom,” Hermione said, stopping on the first floor landing to open the door for Ginny to step through. “I don’t think your mum has been up to disturbing anything in here, so it still looks pretty much the same as it did before you, ah, disappeared.”
The room was small, but there was a good amount of light coming in through the lone window which, when she stepped over to look out, she saw faced the orchard. A fading poster of the musical group, The Weird Sisters, was on one wall and several various sized red and gold banners with “Gryffindor” emblazoned across them were intermixed with others from the Holyhead Harpies on another wall. There was a framed photo of herself and Harry on the desk near the window, but she purposely avoided looking at it in case its occupants decided to initiate a snogging session of their own.
The door to the room’s small closet was open and a long garment bag hung from the top of the door. Curious, Ginny unzipped it to look at the contents.
“Your wedding gown,” Hermione said unnecessarily. Ginny spread the bag open so she could see it better and she could not hold back a astonished intake of breath.
From what she could tell with the dress still on the hanger, the slim ivory-colored bodice would fit close to her form and, although it was overlaid with soft, delicate lace appliqué, it was not overly frilly. The light sleeves were made of the same sheer lace and the silk skirt was harder to see in detail, but it, too, seemed feminine without being garishly so. To her, the dress was perfect in every way and absolutely beautiful.
“It looks even more stunning on you,” Hermione said quietly from behind her.
With slightly trembling fingers, Ginny zipped the bag back up, noticing there were very few other clothes in the closet. It seemed odd that her mother chose to leave the wedding gown but had removed everything else.
Guessing the reason for her friend’s furrowed brow, Hermione said, “The rest of your things were sent to your house.”
“I have a house?” Ginny questioned, surprised by this new revelation and the fact that she had not given any thought to where she might have been living before the attack.
“Actually you and Harry have a cottage,” Hermione corrected and Ginny’s stomach clenched nervously. The fact that she lived with Harry was something she had not considered, either. “You bought it together a few months before the wedding, but you didn’t have all of your stuff sent there until a few days before you were to be married. Although I always thought that was rather silly, really.”
“Why was that?” Ginny frowned.
“It wasn’t like you were here much anyway, was it?” Hermione said with a slight laugh. “When you weren’t traveling with the Harpies, you usually stayed at your cottage with Harry. But so you could say that you weren’t officially living with him, you kept a lot of your clothes and other things here to, let’s see, how did you put it? to ‘appease your mother’s old-fashioned sense of outdated morality’. I was rather surprised you caved because you do have a stubborn streak; a common Weasley trait, by the way. But I think Harry had more to do with the arrangement than anything.”
“He did?” Ginny’s frown deepened, wondering how much influence Harry had had over the decisions she made.
“Harry’s always had the utmost respect for your parents,” Hermione replied, “and your mother made it clear that she did not approve of her daughter living outright with her fiancé before they were married. Harry didn’t want to offend her and he somehow finally convinced you to consider leaving most of your things here as compromise before war broke out between you and your mum.”
Hermione shook her head and laughed, “I still remember the look on Harry’s face when Ron and I ran out of the room and left him standing there between you and your mum yelling at each other. He was scared to death, if you can imagine it! Ron still teases him about it. There was Harry Potter, completely petrified by his future mother-in-law and his fiancée; the very man who had had the courage to stand alone before the darkest wizard of our time and put an end to—”
Hermione halted abruptly, the expression on her face much like a child who had just given away a secret that she should not have.
“Go on,” Ginny urged. “Are you talking about the one referred to as the Dark Lord?”
At the look of surprise on Hermione’s face, Ginny explained, “Draco said something about Harry being instrumental in the Dark Lord’s defeat. Is that who you meant?”
“Um, yeah,” Hermione replied reluctantly. “But I really don’t think I should…”
“But you can’t just stop there!” Ginny exclaimed in exasperation. “Earlier you said something about if I could remember everything he’s done. So why not tell me now? Don’t you think I should know more about him given the fact that we were engaged?”
“Harry didn’t tell you anything at all about himself or his past when you talked to him earlier?” Hermione asked carefully.
“Not really; just that his parents died when he was young and that he was raised by his mother’s family,” Ginny replied. “Although, I assume they are the Muggles that you told me about who were so horrible to him.”
“Yes, they were,” Hermione replied sitting on the edge of the bed. “But his parents didn’t just die; they were murdered.”
“Murdered?” Ginny sat down on the bed next to her sister-in-law, horrified. “By whom?”
“By Lord Voldemort, or the Dark Lord, as his followers, the Death Eaters, referred to him,” Hermione answered. “Before Harry was born, Voldemort had been gaining power throughout Britain and things were horrible; people lived in fear day in and day out, afraid of what Voldemort or his Death Eaters would do next. At some point, Voldemort learned of a prophecy that told of a boy who would be born at the end of July with the power to defeat him. He assumed it meant Harry, which Harry’s parents learned, so they went into hiding. Someone whom they had trusted betrayed them by telling Voldemort where they were and when Harry’s parents tried to protect him, Voldemort killed them. When he then tried to kill Harry, the curse rebounded and hit Voldemort instead. His mother’s love and sacrifice had protected him.”
Ginny listened silently, completely enraptured as Hermione continued, “Voldemort had taken precautions to ensure that he would not die, so when his own Killing Curse struck him, he didn’t; he became kind of like a spirit, but most in the Wizarding world thought him to be gone and that somehow, even though he was just a baby, Harry had destroyed him. Harry has actually been quite famous since he was a year old.”
“Voldemort ended up coming back, though?” Ginny asked, feeling a chill ran through her body.
“He did,” Hermione confirmed. “Voldemort captured Harry during our fourth year at Hogwarts to use his blood in a ritual that restored his body.”
“But obviously Harry was able to get away, otherwise…”
“He escaped, but just barely,” Hermione replied; there was a sad, far-off look in her eyes as she remembered. “Cedric Diggory wasn’t so lucky. I still remember the moment Harry appeared out of nowhere that night, clutching Cedric’s dead body. I can hardly believe that he was only fourteen at the time. He had nightmares about that night for quite a while. Ron and Harry were in the same dormitory and Ron told me that, for over a year, Harry would often wake up yelling. I don’t think Harry ever realized that some of the nights he forgot to cast a Silencing Charm, Ron heard him. I also think Harry felt guilty, even though there was no reason that he should.”
“Why would he feel guilty?” Ginny asked. “Wasn’t it a miracle that he escaped at all?”
“Well, it would be natural for Harry to feel guilty for surviving when Cedric Diggory, who was there with him, was murdered by Voldemort,” Hermione answered. “But Cedric happened to be going out with Cho Chang, who Harry fancied at the time. I think that made it worse. Although, Harry and Cho did end up together for a while the following year, but that didn’t last long.”
“Hold on!” Ginny exclaimed as one puzzle piece settled into place. “Draco told me that the boyfriend of a girl Harry fancied had been killed. He made it sound like Harry’s unstable so he may have had something to do with it.”
“That little ferret!” Hermione exclaimed indignantly. “I assure you, Harry is not unstable! On the contrary, I’d say that he’s turned out extremely well-adjusted given everything he’s gone through. The idea that Harry would be involved in murder, or that he’s unstable is completely ridiculous! Ginny…”
Hermione paused a moment as if she was trying to choose her next words carefully. “I know Draco Malfoy saved your life, and I completely understand how you could feel a sense of gratitude towards him; but you are going to have to take everything he’s told you with a grain of salt. You can’t judge Harry by anything that Malfoy has said about him. He hates Harry and, frankly, I’m surprised that he helped Harry escape instead of leaving him at the mercy of Death Eaters.”
“I don’t think he wanted to, at least not at first,” Ginny replied quietly, looking down at her hands. She wondered herself whether Draco would have ultimately left Harry to die at the hands of the Death Eaters if she had not insisted on taking him with them.
“Well that demonstrates the difference between the two of them for you,” Hermione stated, crossing her arms matter-of-factly.
“What do you mean?” Ginny asked.
“When it comes to helping others, no matter who they are, doing the right thing and just plain courage, Draco never has, nor will he ever measure up to Harry. I bet Draco didn’t tell you that Harry saved his life during the Battle of Hogwarts, did he?”
Ginny shook her head, “No, he didn’t.”
“There’s a surprise,” Hermione muttered sarcastically under her breath. “During the Battle, Ron, Harry and I, along with Draco and two of his friends were caught in a fire,” Hermione explained. “The flames were all around us, chasing us.”
At Ginny’s quizzical look, Hermione added, “One of Draco’s friends conjured Fiendfyre, a cursed fire, and sent it after Harry, Ron and me, but he didn’t know how to control it, so it went after all of us. Thankfully, the three of us found brooms, but even so, we were barely able to stay above the fire while we searched for a way out. By then we had no idea what had happened to the others. Then, just as the three of us were nearing safety, Harry spotted two of them, Draco and Gregory Goyle. Without even thinking, Harry turned around and went back, right into the middle of the fire to help them. We barely got out of there with our lives. So, even though Draco’s friends had tried to kill him, Harry still risked his life to save them.”
Then Hermione narrowed her eyes and asked, “What else did Malfoy tell you about Harry?”
“Not much, really,” Ginny said shrugging. “Just that he’s full of himself, loves publicity and believes himself to be some great gift to the Wizarding world —what’s so funny?”
“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that’s what he’d tell you,” Hermione said, her tone both amused and annoyed. “But if anything, Harry is the complete opposite of all that! He’s always hated attention of any kind, even though I suppose he’s had to get used to it since it does seem to follow him wherever he goes. But it is true that both the Wizarding and Muggle worlds owe him their gratitude.”
“Because he stopped the darkest wizard of our time?”
“Yes,” Hermione affirmed. “In the end, it all came down to just Harry against Voldemort, which was how it was always meant to be, I suppose.”
“How did he do it?” Ginny asked. “How did Harry actually stop Voldemort?”
“That’s a long and involved story,” Hermione answered slowly, “and I think it’s something that Harry should tell you himself. He doesn’t like to talk about it very much and, as far as I know, the only people he’s ever told the whole story of what happened that night are Ron, you and me. There may have been more that he eventually told you, but of course I have no way of knowing that for sure.”
Hermione stood up and headed for the door, “Your mum is going to wonder what’s taking so long, so why don’t you go and freshen up, and I’ll see you downstairs.”
Ginny wanted to beg her sister-in-law to stay because, not only did she want to hear more about Harry, she was very curious to learn how he had managed to defeat a powerful dark wizard that the rest of the world feared.
But at least she had learned something; Harry was not a murderer and he had not been responsible for Cedric Diggory’s death. Nor was he, according to Hermione anyway, unstable or a publicity-seeking git.
However, nothing that Hermione told her addressed the reason she felt the need to be wary of Harry, for it did not provide insight into to her frightening dreams. If Harry was not the dark-haired monster in her nightmares, then who was?
Pondering this question, Ginny went into the bathroom where she drew cool water into the sink and pulled out a towel from the tiny linen cabinet. Once the sink was sufficiently full, she turned off the faucet and splashed water on her face, grateful for the sudden chill that served to revive her mind and senses. After drying her face gently with the towel, she contemplated her pale reflection in the mirror, as well as the unexpected relief that settled upon her during her conversation with Hermione.
Up until then, she had not realized how heavily her inability to reconcile Draco’s description of Harry’s questionable character against her supposed acquiesce to marriage to him had been weighing on her mind; she could not fathom what had possessed her to consent to wedding Harry in the first place.
Gorgeous green eyes or not, if what Draco told her about Harry was true, then any girl with even a miniscule amount of common sense should have run away from him as fast as she could. On the other hand, if what Hermione said was true (and you might as well face it, she thought to herself, you want Hermione’s view on the matter to be the truth), then her own judge of character was not in question, for Draco’s portrayal of Harry was completely inaccurate.
“So, Ginny, which is it?” She whispered to the concerned woman staring back at her from the mirror. “Is Harry Potter the man of your dreams, or has he fooled nearly everyone into believing he’s something that he’s not?”
When Ginny entered the kitchen, a tall man wearing his red hair pulled back in a pony-tail walked swiftly towards her. From Harry’s description, she immediately recognized her eldest brother, but with his wide grin and eyes bright with emotion, the scars left from his encounter with a savage werewolf years earlier were barely noticeable.
“Ginny!” Bill exclaimed, halting for only a brief moment to allow his eyes to linger on her before gathering her into his arms. “I sure have missed you, baby sister!”
He lifted her completely off the ground with ease and spun her around in a circle which was not a simple feat given the lack of room available in the kitchen. “When Dad told us, I was afraid it was just a dream! But here you are!”
When at last he set her on her feet, a stunning blond woman approached them.
“Eet eez such a miracle zat you are alive!” Fleur exclaimed as tears of happiness filled her beautiful blue eyes and she, too, embraced her sister-in-law.
There was not a dry eye in the room as everyone began speaking all at once, and Ginny had to keep wiping away her own joyful tears that stubbornly refused to be stemmed. This was not a wishful dream from which she would regret waking. She was finally where she belonged and with the people who loved her; she was indeed home!
As her parents, brothers and Hermione filled Bill in on those details that they knew of Ginny and Harry’s capture and return, Fleur took the opportunity to reacquaint her young daughter with her aunt.
“Ginny, theez eez Victoire,” Fleur introduced the small blond child. “And you remember your Aunt Ginny, mon chaton, oui?”
The little girl’s blue eyes scrutinized Ginny cautiously for a moment before she burst into a huge, dimpled smile and held her arms out to her aunt.
“I’m so happy to see you, Victoire!” Ginny said, taking the girl into her arms to hug her close.
“She ‘as missed you and your visits very much,” Fleur stated, her eyes glistening brightly.
The euphoric atmosphere continued to build as the family mingled together, laughing, crying, and repeatedly hugging Ginny and each other so, at first, no one noticed the newest arrival standing motionless, watching them from the doorway.
“Harry!” Molly exclaimed and it felt to Ginny like her heart stopped beating as everyone turned toward the door.
“Come in, Harry! Come in!” Arthur said jovially, shaking Harry’s hand and pulling him into the already overcrowded kitchen.
Harry greeted the others, but his gaze remained locked solely on Ginny who was still holding Victoire in her arms. When Ginny’s eyes finally met his, the slight, hesitant smile that formed on her lips filled Harry with a deepest sense of longing. Every nerve in his body cried out in protest as he fought a hard-won battle against going straight to her and wrapping her in his arms. Instead, he swallowed with great difficulty, having to settle for merely allowing his eyes to caress her form and drink in her radiant beauty.
Ginny carefully handed Victoire back to Fleur, fearing that her suddenly weak knees were going to buckle from the intensity of Harry’s gaze. She also had to remind herself to breathe because just that simple act had somehow become a very difficult thing to do in Harry’s presence.
“H—” Harry’s mouth felt like he just swallowed a handful of sand, and he cleared his throat before he trying to speak again. “Hey, Ginny. How are you feeling?”
“Better, thank you,” Ginny replied quietly, suffering from an affliction very similar to the raven-haired man’s.
“I suppose it was too much to hope that Charlie would be able to make it,” Molly said with a sigh, her voice helping to slightly ease the nervousness between the pair. “Now that you’re here, Harry dear, I had better see about feeding you lot. George, you said Angelina may be stopping by as well?”
“If she can get out of work in time,” George confirmed. “Although, she said she’s been having to stay late too many evenings as it is and that she’d Stun her boss if he doesn’t let her leave. So I’d count on her coming.”
“Angelina?” Ginny questioned with a raised eyebrow at her brother, whose face grew slightly red at her inquiry.
“George’s girlfriend,” Bill said with a wink and George’s blush deepened.
“Ah, George, she eez a nice girl,” Fleur comforted, giving him a sisterly hug. “We like her and she eez able to put up with your, ah… humor. She eez perfect for you!”
“Well, with so many of us, we’re going to have to move dinner outside, so, you boys,” Molly indicated George and Percy, “see about helping your father set up the table and chairs in the yard. Bill, set up some lanterns so we’ll be able to see later; and you may want to consider a warming charm. It’s starting to get chilly in the evening this time of year. Fleur and Hermione, you can set the table and then help me bring everything outside when it’s ready.”
“What can I do, Mum?” Ginny asked eagerly when her mother turned to the stove without assigning her a chore.
“Yeah, I should help, too,” Harry added. He couldn’t remember the last time he had been at The Burrow when Molly doled out assignments and did not ask him to do something as well.
“I won’t hear of it!” Molly insisted, with a dismissive wave of her hand. “Not after everything you both have gone through today.” She patted Harry on the arm with a warm, cheerful smile and was unable to resist giving her daughter another hug. “You two are the guests of honor. Now shoo! Dinner won’t be ready for a half an hour or so at least.”
“Harry, why don’t you take Ginny out for a walk and show her around?” Hermione asked and she smiled innocently back at his warning glance and Ginny’s pleading expression.
“Zat eez a great idea!” Fleur added brightly and just as innocently. “Eet eez a beautiful evening for a walk, especially since zee moon should be up soon.”
“No, Mum, really, I want to do something to help,” Ginny protested. No matter what Hermione had told her, she was still struggling to resolve her own thoughts and feelings regarding Harry’s character for herself. She was not exactly prepared to go off somewhere secluded with him, even if her family was close by.
While Harry wanted nothing more than some alone time with Ginny, he could not mistake the note of panic in her voice. If Ginny’s reaction when he tried to comfort her at Andromeda’s was any indication, there was something about him that truly frightened her. The last thing he wanted, and the very last thing he thought she needed at the moment, was to be forced into a situation that made her uncomfortable or, worse, frightened.
“If Ginny doesn’t want to—”
“Let us finish setting up the table and then Hermione and I’ll come with you,” Ron offered, and if Harry had not felt immediately annoyed by his friend’s offer to accompany them, he might have laughed aloud at the look Hermione threw at her husband.
“But that won’t give them very much time if they wait for us, will it, Ron?” Hermione stated none too subtly through clenched teeth.
“Of course eet won’t,” Fleur agreed as she smiled disarmingly at Ron who immediately looked as though he had forgotten how to form words. “Go on, you two, and we’ll call for you when dinner eez ready.”
As Hermione literally shoved both Harry and Ginny through the door before either of them could protest, Harry heard her subtly whisper, “Just be yourself,” in his ear. She quickly turned back into the kitchen and shut the door.”
Harry and Ginny stood in awkward silence until Harry said, “I guess Hermione and Fleur really want us to go for a walk.”
“It would seem that way,” Ginny returned, but she made no attempt to move.
“So, er, shall we, then?” Harry said, gesturing with his hand indicating for her to go ahead of him.
“Don’t you, uh, think it will soon be a bit too dark to be out walking?” Ginny asked without looking at him.
“It will be light enough for a while,” Harry countered, ignoring the painful constriction of his heart as well as her thinly veiled excuse. It was becoming clear that Ginny wanted nothing to do with him.
“Watch out, coming through!” George called, opening the kitchen door as he and Percy levitated a number of chairs past the couple. They were followed closely by their father and the kitchen table, which had been shrunk to half its size so it would fit through the doorway.
“I thought Hermione said you two were going for a walk?” George asked. He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively and Harry groaned inwardly to himself; that was certainly not going to help his cause with Ginny in the least!
“She did,” Bill said coming through the door with two more chairs. “What are you two waiting for? Don’t worry; you won’t miss out on dinner. Mum’s not about to let the rest of us start eating without you.”
“Come on,” Harry said half-heartedly. He shoved his hands in his pockets as his mind raced to formulate some kind of a plan to get Ginny to trust him.
Ginny followed but she came to a halt once they were out of earshot of her father and brothers.
“They’re trying to set us up!” She said without trying to hide her annoyance and looking at Harry accusingly.
“I had nothing to do with it,” Harry replied defensively.
Ginny raised one eyebrow suspiciously. “So they always meddle in others people’s affairs?”
“Only when they think it’s for the best,” Harry said. “So why don’t we take advantage of it? Trust me; I doubt there will be another time that your mum doesn’t put us to work along with everyone else.”
He read the wariness in her eyes and sighed deeply. “I’m not about to drag you off and do something horrible to you. And if my word isn’t enough to convince you, consider how long I’d survive with your father, not to mention four of your rather large brothers nearby to do me in if I tried something? You don’t have to be afraid of me.”
“I’m not afraid of you!” Ginny shot back, setting her jaw; she wasn’t about to admit it aloud, anyway.
“Yes, you are.” Despite the situation, Harry smiled at the expression on her face that he had come to know so well. “You’re just too stubborn to admit it.”
“I am not!” Ginny replied indignantly. “I just think that it’s prudent for me to be cautious.”
“Maybe this will make you feel safer to be around me.” Ginny took a nervous step backward when he reached to pull a wand from his back pocket. She was surprised when he handed it to her, keeping the tip pointed straight back at himself.
“You’re giving me your wand?” she asked, eyebrows raised. The moment that she touched it, a warm, pleasant sensation traveled up her arm.
“No, it’s your wand,” he corrected as he gazed off into the distance. “I found it washed up on the shore while we were searching for you. We searched for weeks but it’s all I found...”
As Ginny studied his profile, she thought that he looked despairingly sad recalling his futile hunt for her. Then she reasoned that if he was planning to harm her it was unlikely he would provide her with a means of defense by giving her wand back to her.
Harry contemplated her continued apprehension and then he handed another object to her. “If this is what it will take, then here.”
“You are giving me your wand?” She asked in amazement.
“I’m letting you hold it while you’re alone with me,” Harry replied with a shrug. “I doubt it’s really necessary, though, because you’d probably kick my arse, whether I have my wand or not.”
“Yeah, right,” Ginny scoffed with a roll of her eyes, but she took him up on his offer. It certainly couldn’t hurt, and she would feel better knowing that he was not armed. “I doubt that.”
“You can be very scary when angered, Miss Weasley,” Harry said, hearing Hermione’s advice urging him to be himself in the back of his mind. He grinned and added, “I’ve seen every one of your brothers, well, except for Bill, cower like frightened schoolboys in front of you when your temper was up. Even Charlie, and he works with dragons for a living.”
“You’re comparing me to a dragon?” Ginny demanded. She sounded so offended that Harry feared he had inadvertently made her angry until he saw the corners of her mouth twitch. “Why on earth did you ever want to marry me, then?”
“I eventually learned you have enough good qualities that overshadow the scary ones,” he replied and he turned to walk in a direction away from the house. “And I still do.”
“You still do what?” Ginny asked as she started to walk with him.
“Want to marry you.”
Ginny stopped in her tracks, her mouth forming a small oh, as many conflicting thoughts raced through her head all at once.
She should have been prepared for him to bring up the topic of their pending marriage. After all, his memories and his feelings for her were still intact; he remembered everything they had shared and done together. It was just not a subject she felt prepared to deal with yet.
Oh, be honest with yourself! The little voice in her head chastised. Hasn’t the idea of a relationship with Harry already taken root somewhere in that mangled, messed up brain of yours? She could not forget the warm feelings that ran through her when Harry admitted to Teddy that he was still in love with her. Nor was it easy to ignore the fact that whenever Harry looked directly at her, it felt like someone had hit her with a Jelly Leg jinx. But no matter; she still did not know him or what he might be capable of. She had to maintain a tight rein on her heart and take it very slow when it came to Harry Potter.
As Harry continued his slow walk away from The Burrow, he worked hard to remain outwardly nonchalant and calm when, in fact, his stomach felt like Death Eaters were using him for a punching bag again. He silently prayed that his declaration had not just frightened Ginny even more.
Before arriving, he had decided he would make his intentions towards her known, especially given the things Malfoy alluded to happening between them. Even though Harry understood that until Ginny regained her memory they could not continue where they left off, he still hoped that somehow they could still have something like the future they had originally planned together.
The very idea that he was competing against Malfoy for Ginny’s affection rankled, to put it extremely mildly. He, Harry, was the one she had been engaged to and, in his mind, she still was. Until she told him outright that she wanted Malfoy over him, he would not give her up.
“How’s your back feeling?” Ginny asked quietly from beside him and, as relief ran through him, Harry sent up a silent thank you that his prayer was answered; he had not frightened her away by alluding to their marriage.
“A lot better,” Harry answered continuing to walk slowly, facing straight ahead. If she wanted to ignore his comment about wanting to marry her, then he’d drop the subject for now. “I stopped home to change before I came over and Kreacher performed some of his magic. It will still take a while to heal completely, but at least it doesn’t hurt as much.” He glanced sideways at her. “I never thanked you for doing what you could to patch me up earlier. Kreacher also said he thought it was a big help that someone thought to apply Dittany to it so quickly, so thank you.”
“Oh, um, you’re welcome.” The embarrassed flush she felt was not due to Harry’s thanks but rather the reminder of her long perusal of his half-naked form while he was unconscious. She thought a slight change in subject was in order. “So, who’s Kreacher?”
“A house elf I inherited from my godfather,” Harry replied wondering why Ginny suddenly seemed so flustered. Shrugging it off, he went on, “He’s really ancient, but whatever healing magic he used on my back helped a lot. He was completely thrilled when I told him that we’d found you alive, by the way. I don’t think I’ve seen him that happy about something since I gave him an old locket that used to belong to one of his former masters. He totally adores you and I don’t think it has anything to do with you coming from a pureblood family.”
“Why would being from a pureblood family matter to him?” Ginny asked.
“He used to belong to dark wizards who taught him that only purebloods are worth anything,” Harry explained with a note of disgust in his voice.
“Sirius, my godfather, was the last descendant of his family, but he wasn’t like the rest of them; he hated Dark Magic and the Dark Arts. Kreacher didn’t come around to a different way of thinking until after Sirius died and I inherited him. I even offered to free him once, but he wouldn’t have it. He started beating himself over the head with a frying pan because he thought that I was unhappy with his work. Took me over an hour to calm him down.” Then Harry chucked, “and another frustratingly long hour after that to get it across to Hermione that Kreacher didn’t want to be freed.”
By now they had crossed through the orchard and come to a pond. As Harry gazed out across the small body of water, he could not help thinking back to the many enjoyable summer afternoons spent swimming with Ron, Hermione and Ginny; not to mention a few other glorious occasions when he and Ginny managed to sneak off by themselves.
“Now there’s a sure cure for insomnia if you ever need one,” Harry continued, trying to keep his voice steady. Unfortunately, his mind was refusing to relinquish one particular memory of Ginny lying on a towel, wet and warm beneath him after their swim; her brown eyes shined with love and desire as his fingers traveled tenderly along her bare skin, connecting dots of glistening water droplets…
“What is?” Ginny asked, glancing at him curiously due to his sudden silence.
“Huh?” For the life of him, Harry could not remember what had he been talking about.
“What’s the cure for insomnia?”
“Oh, er, just ask Hermione about S.P.E.W. sometime.” Focus, Potter! He chastised himself. She already thinks you’re a nutter without you getting lost in the middle of a simple conversation!
“Would you like to sit for a while?” He asked, indicating a large patch of grass by the edge of the pond.
“Sure, but I think I’ll pass on asking about spew,” Ginny replied and she sat down next to him. “It sounds kind of disgusting.”
She wrinkled her pert nose in a way that made Harry yearn to lean over and plant a kiss upon it.
Instead he laughed, “No, not spew, S-P-E-W; Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare. Hermione’s had a thing for freeing house elves since we were in school. But I couldn’t do that to Kreacher if it’s not what he really wanted, could I?”
“No, of course not,” Ginny reassured.
“Anyway,” Harry continued, “Kreacher is looking forward to seeing you again.”
They lapsed into a surprisingly comfortable silence for a moment, listening to the steadily rising melody of frogs and peepers calling out to one another from around the pond.
“Why don’t you tell me something about yourself,” Ginny said finally. “After all, you know everything about me, so it’s only fair.”
“I wouldn’t say that I know everything about you,” Harry countered, but he was already thinking about where to start and what she might like to know; although he did not feel it was yet time to get into too much detail about some things in his past. “I’ve told you that I was raised by my Muggle aunt and uncle. I didn’t find out that I’m a wizard until I was eleven because they hated anything having to do with magic, most especially me.”
“Hermione mentioned that they didn’t treat you very well,” Ginny replied sympathetically.
“No, they didn’t,” Harry acknowledged. “Neither did my cousin. I don’t think I can count the number of times he and his friends beat me up, or at least tried to. I was too young when my parents died to remember how things were when I lived with them, so the memories of my early childhood aren’t great ones. Things got a lot better once I went to Hogwarts because that was the first time I remember feeling like I really belonged somewhere. That first day I met Ron on the Hogwarts Express was probably one of the luckiest days of my life. Your family has been wonderful to me and they’ve always done everything they can to make me feel right at home.
“So… let’s see… what can I tell you about myself that will impress you the most?” Harry contemplated aloud, rolling his eyes upward and tapping his chin theatrically with his finger.
“You think that you have to impress me?” Ginny smiled at his over-dramatic antics.
“It can’t hurt, can it?” Harry asked.
“No, I suppose not,” Ginny surmised. “As long as it’s the truth.”
“Okay, how’s this for impressive…” Harry paused for effect. “You ready?”
“Definitely; impress away,” Ginny answered, fully expecting him to tell her about the time he saved Draco, how he defeated Voldemort, or about some other heroic feat he may have performed since becoming an Auror.
Harry puffed out his chest and said with an air of exaggerated pride, “I was asked to play Seeker for Gryffindor, that’s the house we both belonged to at Hogwarts, in my first year.”
“That’s it?” Ginny asked completely taken aback. “That’s what you thought would impress me the most?”
“You mean you’re not?” Harry replied, looking indignant, disappointed and, she had to admit, much too adorable all at the same time. “I was the youngest Seeker Hogwarts had seen in over a century!”
“No… I mean, yes! That is impressive,” Ginny said quickly. “I just assumed…” She assumed that he was going to act like the arrogant, egotistical, publicity seeking git that Draco had described.
“What did you assume?” Harry asked, watching her curiously. Then he felt like someone threw a bucket of cold water at him. “Oh.”
She already heard or knew something about his history; the question was, was she thinking about something Malfoy told her, which he’d bet every Galleon he had would be far from flattering. Or had she heard something from someone else?
“Seeker your first year, wow!” Ginny exclaimed in an attempt to continue their light banter, but it was too late. All humor and playfulness was gone from Harry’s face making her wish that she had tried to conceal her surprise.
“Ginny, if there’s something specific you want to know, all you have to do is ask me,” Harry said quietly.
There were so many things that she did want to know, especially whether he had tortured and abused her in the past. But how could she just come out and ask him something like that? If he hadn’t he would likely be quite offended, and if he had, well, who knew what he might do when confronted.
“Okay,” she said. “What’s your favorite dessert?”
It was now Harry’s turn to look surprised, “That’s the thing you want to know most? What my favorite dessert is?”
“I figured it’s a safe place to start,” she replied with a small shrug.
“At least it’s an easy question to answer,” Harry said. “It’s treacle tart. Yours is peach cobbler, or do you remember things like that about yourself?”
Ginny thought for a moment, but she came up completely blank regarding her own likes and dislikes, at least when it came to food anyway. “I don’t seem to be able to.”
“Actually, you love peach anything; peach cobbler, pie, ice cream, you name it. Your other favorite is a tie between roast beef, roast chicken and steak and kidney pie. I tend to agree with you on all three there.”
“Mmm, sounds scrumptious,” Ginny replied. “Good thing Mum said we’d be eating soon.”
“And you’re in luck,” Harry said and Ginny was glad to see that he his good humor was returning. “When I stopped by earlier to tell your parents that we’d found you, your Mum said something about making all your favorites tonight. So what else would you like to know?”
Ginny thought for a moment and then asked, “What’s your favorite color and why?”
“Red,” Harry responded without hesitation, “and the reason is pretty apparent, yeah?”
Ginny felt heat rise in her cheeks and she bowed her head, hoping to at least partially hide her face behind the veil of her hair.
“I have no idea…” she replied in a quiet voice. “Why don’t you tell me?”
“Red is Gryffindor House’s color,” Harry answered casually. “Why did you think it’s my favorite color?”
She looked back at him and caught the mischievous gleam in his eyes.
“I didn’t think anything,” Ginny lied unconvincingly and to her horror, she felt her face flame even brighter. Damn her pale complexion!
“I’ve liked red for awhile,” he said softly, leaning slightly toward her. She was suddenly aware that she was sitting much too close to him, for their arms were only a few inches apart; surely he could feel the heat radiating from her face and body.
“Although,” Harry continued and he reached to feel a lock of her hair gently between his fingers, “I did find another reason to like red even more in my sixth year.”
“Oh?” Ginny replied, much chagrinned that her response came out as something somewhere between a croak and squeak.
“And it nearly killed me, too,” Harry said with a chuckle and she felt a wave of disappointment when he pulled his hand back to wrap his arms around his knees.
At her puzzled frown, Harry explained, “We were both on the Gryffindor Quidditch team and there were several times that I nearly fell off my broom or got smacked in the head with a Bludger because I was watching you instead of paying attention to what I should have been.”
“Serves you right,” Ginny sniffed. She dug up the courage to look into his eyes, which only resulted in making her stomach feel like a swarm of butterflies were furiously beating their wings in a desperate attempt to escape. “The captain should have kicked you off the team with an attention span that bad.”
“I was the captain,” Harry replied. “It was really your fault, you know.”
“How was it my fault?” Ginny demanded.
“You left your hair lose during practice— a lot,” he answered, “and I liked to watch you fly. What’s a poor bloke to do?”
“A bloke should keep his mind on the game!” Ginny said, but her tone was light and amused. “So we started going out in your sixth year?” .
“That’s right, and it was your fifth year.”
“If you were friends with Ron, then we must have known each other for a while before that, though, right?”
“Yeah,” Harry replied. “But you didn’t really talk to me very much until your fourth year. Actually up until then, you’d usually run out of the room whenever I showed up.”
“Why?” Ginny asked, puzzled that she would react in such a way. “Were you horrible to me? Did you and Ron tease me or something?”
“You could always hold your own against Ron,” Harry replied, “and I never teased you. You kidding? After knowing what it was like to deal with a bully cousin, I wasn’t about to turn around and do the same thing to someone else. No, you, er,” he looked down sheepishly at the ground in front of him, “you kind of had a crush on me.”
“I did, huh?” Ginny mumbled, and she remembered Hermione’s comment that she had been in love with Harry for most of her life.
“I didn’t start to notice you, or at least I couldn’t admit to myself that I thought of you as more than my best mate’s little sister, until well into my sixth year,” Harry explained. “Of course I was too much of a coward to tell Ron. He’s always been overprotective of you, and I assumed he’d kill me. But at that point, it didn’t matter anyway because you were seeing someone else most of that year.”
“How did we finally get together, then?”
“It was our final Quidditch match,” Harry replied looking reminiscently into the distance, “and Gryffindor was playing against Ravenclaw for the Quidditch Cup. Unfortunately, or now maybe I should say fortunately, I couldn’t play because I got myself stuck in detention, so you played Seeker in my place. It drove me crazy not being able to play and I didn’t find out we’d won the game until I walked in on the celebration in our common room. The first thing I remember, after realizing we’d won the cup, was seeing you standing there in the middle of the crowd, still in your Quidditch uniform with your hair all windblown.”
Harry looked straight into her eyes and the smile he gave her was so genuine and heartfelt that Ginny was certain she was in danger of melting into a hot puddle of goo right on the spot. “There was this expression on your face and this look in your eyes; you were… beautiful. And before I knew it, you kissed me.”
“I kissed you? Right there in front of all those people?” Ginny said, rather startled that she would display such boldness.
“Well, we have debated a bit over who kissed whom,” Harry laughed, “but it never really mattered to me because that was when I learned that you fancied me, too.”
“What did you do that put you in detention?” Ginny asked. “It must have been pretty bad to make you miss an important Quidditch game.”
“It was,” Harry replied, sobering instantly. This was not where he wanted their conversation to lead so soon; straight to Draco Malfoy and their animosity toward each other.
“I, er, got into a duel with someone and I hurt him; badly. I hit him with a curse that I had no business using because at the time, I didn’t know what it would do. I had read it somewhere but I didn’t realize that it was Dark Magic and I nearly killed the guy. Thank God the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor showed up in time to save him. I honestly never intended to hurt him, not like that, anyway.”
Harry looked into her eyes with such regret that she did, truly, believe him.
“I’m sure that you didn’t” she assured him, but instead of seeming relieved, Harry looked even more troubled.
“Harry,” Ginny hesitated a moment before placing her hand gently over his as her need to reassure him grew inexplicably stronger. “If you say you did not intend to hurt him that badly, then I believe you.”
Harry’s skin tingled pleasantly where she touched him, but he was unable to bask in the glorious sensation. In a very short time, he thought she had become more at ease with him and he loathed telling her anything that would destroy what he hoped was a budding trust in him.
“And if I tell you that the guy was Draco Malfoy,” Harry said quietly, tearing his eyes miserably away from hers to gaze across the pond at nothing in particular. He hated riding this emotional rollercoaster; one moment he was on top of the world, thinking that he was making progress in regaining Ginny’s trust, and then the next he was falling into a deep pit of despair, fearing that he might be on the verge of losing her forever. “Will you still believe it?”
Ginny pulled back from him and clasped her hands in her lap. Should she believe him, now that she knew it was Draco he had been talking about wounding? When Harry attacked Draco at his mother’s cottage, the feral look in his eyes when he turned on her was truly frightening. Now, based on what she had learned about him so far just this evening, did she still think him capable of attempting to kill Draco when they were in school, and then even more recently at the cottage?
“Yes,” Ginny heard herself answer earnestly, although if asked she would not be able to put into words why. Even with doubts regarding her relationship with him and what he may have done to her, she believed his regret was sincere. “I believe it.”
“You do, huh?” Harry’s eyes traveled quickly to the wands in her hand before he looked away from her again with a shake of his head.
“You can have it back.” Ginny held his wand out to him.
“Are you sure?” Harry questioned, making no move to take it. “There’s not much chance of a Death Eater attack here, so I don’t really need it at the moment.”
“I’m sure,” Ginny replied, continuing to offer the wand. Thoughts of her nightmares ran briefly through her mind, but she quickly pushed them away. He was not a murderer. Nor could it be Harry who played the role of the sadistic villain in her dreams; that had to be someone else; more significantly, she wanted that monster to be someone else, anyone but him.
Then a realization struck Ginny like a bolt of lightning—she was already falling for him! Harry was essentially still a stranger to her, for she could not remember him any better now than she could when she first found him hanging half dead in Draco’s carriage house. But there was something about him that was working its magic on her; perhaps it was his gorgeous green eyes, his warm smile, the underlying confidence he exuded, or maybe it was simply his presence beside her that… thrilled her? Made her feel... alive? Safe? Whole again?
All of the above.
Finally, Harry took his wand from her and slowly pocketed it, bringing Ginny out of her reverie. “Come on, they’ll probably be calling us for dinner any time now.”
He got to his feet and, when he held out his hand to help her up, her heart beat a little faster as she accepted his assistance. How could she thrill to his touch and enjoy the feel of his hand closing around hers if he was the one who had tortured her in the past?
“Thank you,” Ginny said, looking up at him.
“You’re very welcome,” Harry replied smiling back at her, losing himself in the warmth of her brown eyes.
“I, um, also should thank you for understanding and for your willingness to give me your wand until I felt more comfortable with you,” Ginny said, biting her bottom lip nervously. “I know this can’t be easy, my not being able to remember you or… or us. But if you’ll be patient with me and give me time to get to know you again…”
As her voice trailed off, Harry gave her hand a gentle squeeze, “I’ll give you as much time as you need.” He wondered if it was possible that she had grown even more beautiful during the time she had been missing.
Harry’s entire being fed greedily upon the presence and the radiance of the woman before him, marveled by her exquisite features that, not long ago, he thought he would never see again. He admired the shape of her eyes, he adored each and every beautiful freckle sprinkled along the bridge of her nose and rosy cheeks, and he was captivated by her soft, full lips that he had not kissed for what seemed like more than a millennium.
Caught in the moment, and not completely conscious that he was doing it, Harry slowly bent his head down, closing the gap between them.
His lips brushed over Ginny’s ever so lightly but enough that he could feel her trembling. He pulled back, just enough to see her face and to gauge her reaction. Her eyes were closed, but when they slowly opened, their burning intensity reignited emotions within him that he thought had been extinguished forever the night he watched her fall over the cliff.
Heartened by the fact that she had not pulled away nor tried to hex him, he lowered his head again and, this time, he captured her lips gently, but more firmly, with his.
The initial, tender touch of Harry’s lips took Ginny by surprise, setting her heart beating against the inside of her chest so hard it felt like it was about to break free and fly away. The cool evening breeze along with the peeper-song quickly faded into the background, leaving her aware of nothing but the tantalizing promise Harry’s feather-light kiss conveyed and the alluring, masculine scent that clung to him which was new and, yet, so very, very familiar.
When Harry pulled away, she stifled a whimper of disappointment. She felt like he had given her only the tiniest sample of a decadently sweet treat that she had been craving her entire life and she wanted more! Harry obliged and the pressure of his lips gradually increased, becoming more demanding as they took possession of hers. Ginny hesitated but only for a moment before she began to respond in kind. She placed her arms around his neck, careful to avoid hurting his wounds, as she sought to quench the burning need that was rapidly spreading throughout her entire body.
Ginny’s warmth pressing lightly against him combined with the sweet, heady taste of her mouth to send Harry’s senses reeling. The agonizing months spent in grief and loneliness when he believed her to be dead melted away, for this was no teasing dream from which he would wake to find nothing but unbearable emptiness beside him and within his heart; this was Ginny standing before him, flesh and blood, responding to him, and very much alive. It became too much for him to hold back any longer and his arms encircled her small form, crushing her body to his. She did not protest and their kiss intensified, as each drank in the other; Harry aching to again experience all they had once shared and Ginny seeking to realize what the future might hold.
Eventually and with great effort, Harry reigned in his ever building need, for he feared if he did not slow things down, he was soon going to be very hard pressed to stop himself from conjuring a blanket and throwing both of them upon it. He started to spread smaller, lighter kisses along Ginny’s jaw and throat, eliciting a contented sigh from her lips, until he planted a final kiss on the tip of her nose and then rested his forehead against hers.
“I’ve missed you so much,” Harry whispered fervently.
Ginny was thankful for Harry’s continued arms around her for, not only did she feel she was exactly where she wanted to be, but if he released her, she seriously doubted that her legs would be steady enough to support her full weight. Draco’s kiss had certainly not left her feeling like this!
“And I want to remember you,” Ginny replied earnestly. “Especially when you kiss me like that. It makes me wonder what else I’ve forgotten.”
Harry smiled and placed his finger under her chin, “Then maybe I should keep kissing you to see if we can jog your memory.” And he did, but he was careful to keep it shorter and chaster this time.
“Mmm, I like that plan,” Ginny breathed when his lips left hers. At that moment it was hard to imagine Harry was the one she kept dreaming of doing horrible things to her in the past.
But what if he had and she was letting her guard down too soon?
Ginny pushed the thought away as Harry led her back towards the house. She was not going to let herself think about it now. She was finally home where a wonderful time with her family and Harry lay ahead and that was what she was going to focus on tonight.
Dinner at The Burrow was the merriest it had been in many months, and Ginny found herself often laughing so hard that she was brought to tears. Each of her brothers tried to out-do each other by regaling her with family stories, often at one another’s or Harry’s expense. Charlie arrived mid-way through the meal and, after yet another joyful reunion, he soon joined in on the fun.
As the evening wore on, Ginny wondered how it was possible that she had lost every single memory of such a warm and loving family, as well as of Harry. She was seated next to him and even with moving the table out to the yard, there were so many people gathered closely around it, either her arm, leg or foot was constantly coming into contact with him. Every touch or unintentional bump shot a pleasurable tingle throughout her body, bringing to mind their too brief time spent by the pond earlier.
“It’s getting late,” Harry said reluctantly when he noticed Ginny unsuccessfully stifle a yawn for the third time. The day’s events were catching up with him as well, and not only was he starting to feel very tired, but the wounds on his back were starting to throb painfully again. While he considered it a small price to pay to spend time with Ginny, part of him was looking forward to more of Kreacher’s pain relieving ministration. He looked pointedly at Ron, “Some of us also have to be in the office early tomorrow.”
“’Mione, have I mentioned that my new boss at the Ministry is a tyrant?” Ron whispered loudly to his wife.
“Hmm, I have heard rumors like that about him,” Hermione grinned.
“I’ve also heard that he gets exceptionally cranky when one of his team doesn’t show up alert and ready to work,” Harry warned sternly as he stood up, but there was a glimmer of humor in his eyes.
“Yeah, yeah,” Ron responded in mock annoyance, also rising from the table.
“Plus, Ginny, don’t forget you have an early morning appointment at Saint Mungo’s,” Hermione added.
“How could I forget?” Ginny replied. “With any luck, they’ll find a way to bring my memory back and by this time tomorrow I’ll be as good as new.”
“Ginny, why don’t you see Harry to the Apparition point?” Arthur suggested and Harry hoped that he was able to read the silent thank you in his eyes.
They strolled companionably through the yard, not touching but both very aware of the other as they laughed and recalled some of the funnier stories told that evening. It wasn’t until they reached the gate that Ginny said worriedly, “I just hope there really is something the Healers can do to help me.”
“I’m sure they’ll be able to sort it out,” Harry replied as he turned to face her, taking her hands into his.
“But…” she said hesitantly, unable to keep from expressing her concern, “what if the Healers can’t figure out what’s wrong and my memories never come back?”
Harry cast his eyes downward for a moment as a shadow crossed over his face, but when he looked at her again, whatever she thought she had read in his expression was gone.
“Then you have a lot of people right here who will be more than happy to help you make wonderful new memories.” He gently squeezed her hands and gave her a tired, but encouraging smile. “I’ll see you soon.”
Harry started to turn away, but he hesitated as if he was trying to make up his mind about something. His eyes locked briefly on hers and then Ginny’s heart gave a thrilled leap as he brushed her lips with a fleeting kiss before disappearing with a quiet pop.
“You have to calm down!” Joddy exclaimed glancing nervously at the bodies lying at his friend’s feet.
“Calm down?” his masked friend snapped angrily, turning on him. “I have been calm! Do you know what it took to remain calm when I saw Potter alive and perfectly well at the Ministry? Now not only has he slipped through my fingers for the moment, but I’ve lost the Weasley girl as well! And why? All because of incompetence! And not just theirs!” He motioned irately at the dead forms of Malcolm Baddock and Markus Flint, each with several daggers protruding from their bloody chests. “But my own as well!”
He paced irately back a forth and the two Death Eaters who had discovered Harry gone and Baddock and Flint unconscious in the carriage house cowered fearfully against the wall each time the man in the gold mask passed close to them.
“I should have gotten rid of Draco Malfoy the moment I learned of his initial betrayal!” He continued furiously. “I never thought he’d be brave enough, or stupid enough to help Potter escape!”
“Well, he did and there’s nothing you can do about it now,” Joddy replied. “You don’t even know where Malfoy is.”
“Bah! He’s of no concern to me any longer!” the man returned. “My only dealings with him from here on will be killing him if I get my hands on him before I finally finish off Potter. After that, I won’t really care.”
“And when exactly will that be?” Joddy asked crossing his arms. “Finishing off Potter, I mean. It’s not like you don’t have the opportunity nearly every day. Don’t you think it’s about time to be done with it?”
“I told you I want him to suffer!” Golden Mask snapped. “And he’s going to!”
“You’re still planning to go after the girl?” Joddy asked in surprise. “How? Potter’ll be even more protective of her now than he was before. You don’t expect him to think you’ve given up on going after her, do you?”
“No, and I’m counting on it,” the man said, balling his hands into tight fists and taking a deep breath.
“Of course he’ll want to protect her,” Golden Mask stated; “but he won’t be able to do it by himself. He’ll need help and he’ll seek it from the people he thinks he can trust.”
“And you think he’ll trust you?”
Golden Mask shrugged. “That remains to be seen, doesn’t it?”
Golden Mask turned on the two cowering Death Eaters who looked like they wanted to melt into the wall and disappear.
“You saw what happened to these two?” he asked, pointing to Baddock and Flint.
The men nodded and, looking up at him fearfully, they pushed themselves back even harder against the wall.
“That’s what will happen to you and anyone else who does not do exactly as I ask of them,” Golden Mask said menacingly. “Is that understood?”
When they both nodded again he hissed, “I asked if that is understood?”
“Y-yes, my lord!” They both answered in unison.
“Good,” the man replied. “I want you to spread the word to our colleagues that I do understand Potter can identify many of them now and that he and the Ministry will be looking for them. Tell them that if they have the misfortune of being captured, they will say nothing about me or any of the others. If they do, I will know and they will have lived their last day.”
“Furthermore,” Golden Mask continued, “no one is to touch Potter. From here on, he is mine and mine alone, as is Ginny Weasley.” As the man turned to leave they heard him add, “I’m through playing with him.”