Chapter 16 : Year 2: Without you
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She was convinced that her tear ducts were empty and dry by now, because she had spent some of the longest hours of her life crying herself to sleep the night before. She had wriggled around in bed, but it had seemed no position was comfortable, and nothing could keep her mind off of what had just happened. Now, she yawned as the first positive thought that day crossed her mind: at least there was no training today. At least she wouldn’t have to go to Holyhead and act her normal cheerful self in front of her teammates, like she had been forced to the day before.
However, the brief sense of relief lasted only a few seconds as she soon remembered something else: there might not be any Quidditch training today, but there was something else, something equally dreadful: a family dinner. Even though only a few days had passed since Ron had moved out, their mother insisted that she needed to see him back at the Burrow, and so, she was bringing the family together. Ginny sighed at the mere thought of facing them – didn’t they see enough of each other already? Was it really necessary to have them come over every weekend? Just the thought of having to explain to her mum why Harry wouldn’t show up made Ginny want to crawl back into her bed, hide under her covers and die.
But there was another part of her, one that didn’t grieve; part of her hated Harry to such an extent that it just wouldn’t settle for staying in bed and crying all day. It hated him, the photo of his beautiful secret mistress and the disappointment in his voice the night before. It hated the way he had turned things around to make it sound like it was her fault, when it was Harry who had… she hated him for the way he had made her feel, and for the terrible state in which she had woken up.
That second part of her wanted to get up, get dressed, and be happier than ever. It wanted to move on, to focus on Quidditch, to meet other guys and wipe the memory of Harry from her mind and every feeling she had ever had for him from her heart. It wanted a new, wonderful life to rub in his face; it wanted to win, and it wanted to see Harry as the loser.
A couple of hours later, having taken a long shower and washed away any visible signs of the night before, Ginny pulled on a pair of jeans, and a blue sweater that she knew was a lovely contrast to her red hair. She skipped down the stairs, forcing her steps to be light against the floor, and greeted her mother, who stood by the stove with her sleeves rolled up and at least ten different bowls and pots around her, with a wide smile.
“Hello, sweetheart,” Mrs Weasley answered. “Will you go and tell your father to get dressed? He’s out in the garage, as usual…”
A while later, the first guests arrived; they were Percy and Audrey, of course – those two would never dream of showing up late. Ginny welcomed them and made sure to keep the wide smile on her face as she admired Audrey’s new earrings.
“They were a gift from your brother,” Audrey said, casting a tender look at Percy. Ginny pretended to throw up and Percy raised one eyebrow at her, but before he had the chance to comment on it, George and Angelina showed up and stole everyone’s attention away.
“Bill said to tell you that they can’t make it, Mum,” George said as he brushed a couple of snowflakes out of his hair. “Vicky is ill.” When a worried expression distorted Mrs Weasley’s face, he added: “Gee, Mum, it’s not like she’s dying. She’s got a cold, that’s all!”
Mr Weasley came down after his change of clothing just as Ron and Hermione arrived. Ginny and her brothers dived into a discussion on her upcoming match against Ron’s favourite team, the Chudley Cannons.
“I’ll bet you five galleons you’ll lose!” Ron said in a triumphant voice, as if his prediction had already come true.
“I’ll take that bet,” George replied. “We might as well make it fifty galleons! I mean, have the Cannons even won one match this season? It’s just ridiculous that they’re still your favourites!”
“You’re right,” Ginny agreed with him. “Can I share the money with you when we win?”
“No gambling for money, kids,” said Mrs Weasley strictly. “Let’s talk about something else. Does anyone know why Harry is running late? It’s not like him.”
“Oh,” said Ginny, and her mouth suddenly went dry. “I wouldn’t count on him showing up at all. He, er… it would be a bit awkward, because I- I think we broke up last night.”
“You…” Hermione’s hands flew up to cover her open mouth.
“Oh dear, what are you saying?” Mrs Weasley exclaimed.
“I’m going to kill him,” Ron muttered under his breath. “I knew it was true, he’s such a bloody…”
Only one person reacted in a way that actually made Ginny feel better. Her father walked over to her, pulled her into his embrace and, like he had always done when she was younger, kissed her forehead and brushed the hair away from her face. “How are you feeling, little star?” he asked.
Ginny took a deep breath. Hearing the words he had said to her so many times throughout her childhood, she felt like she was going to break down for the first time since that morning. She bit her lip, closed her eyes and pressed her face against her father’s chest to avoid her family’s scrutinizing eyes.
Somewhere behind her, Percy cleared his throat. “Is this, er… is it because of what they said in the Daily Prophet?”
Ginny lifted her head. “Among other things,” she said quietly. “Like the fact that I apparently am ‘just like everyone else’. And what was it? Oh, that’s right – ‘a huge disappointment’.”
“Just wait until I get my hands on the-“ Ron began, but he was cut off by Mrs Weasley’s sharp voice:
Ginny looked around at her family members. She wasn’t sure if she would be able to bear seeing the sympathy on Hermione and Audrey’s faces, the confused wrinkle on George’s forehead or her mother on the verge of tears for another second. Therefore, she let go of her dad, walked over to the table and took away one plate, fork, knife and glass – the ones that Harry would have used if…
If he had really loved her. If he hadn’t cheated on her.
“Can we just eat?” she pleaded. “Please, I really don’t want to talk about it.”
And without a word of protest, everyone began moving. A few minutes later they were all sitting at the table, chatting to each other and laughing, as if nothing had happened.
Later that night, Hermione and Ron lay in their bed, in silence, just staring up at the white ceiling. Hermione could still not get it into her head. She had been as sure that Harry and Ginny were made for each other as she was sure that she and Ron were. She couldn’t believe that Harry would cheat on Ginny – in fact, she didn’t believe it. There must be thousands of girls, she thought, who would want to split Harry and Ginny up and have him for themselves. The fact that they seemed to have succeeded made her want to cry. She had spotted the tears in the corners of Mrs Weasley’s eyes after Ginny’s announcement, and Hermione knew what she must have thought: this would change everything. Harry had become part of the family, and that wouldn’t work anymore. He wouldn’t be able to attend the weekly family dinners. Another thought crept into Hermione’s mind – Christmas was just a couple of weeks away. If Harry and Ginny hadn’t made up by then, he wouldn’t be able to celebrate Christmas with them. But the worst part of everything that had happened that day was Ron’s reaction to it all. He seemed to have completely forgotten that Harry was his best friend; he had spent all afternoon spitting out nasty comments and taunts. Hermione glanced at him where he lay next to her, his eyes determinedly fixed on the ceiling. Why couldn’t he realize that Harry loved Ginny, that there was no guy in the world who was better for her?
“I don’t believe the rumour,” Hermione said. “I don’t think he did it.”
Ron snorted, turned his head and met her eyes. “Of course you don’t,” he said. “I am aware of the fact that Harry can do nothing wrong in your eyes. But these things don’t just happen – the photo, the lie about him never having met her…”
“I believe his explanation.”
“Yeah, because he’s your friend!” Ron snubbed.
“My friend? Last time I checked, Ronald, he was your friend too!” said Hermione, who was starting to get worked up. “You have been best friends for nine years, and you’re going to throw it away over some stupid rumour? If you weren’t so insanely narrow-minded, you would see that he’s been telling the truth all along! He makes no mistakes for years, and as soon as one little thing appears, you're going to throw him to the wolves without hesitating?”
“Little thing? This isn’t just a little thing, Hermione!” Ron had raised his voice, and he was now pushing himself up on his elbows. “This is about him cheating! And the reason that I never really liked the fact that my best friend was dating my sister was because if it would ever come down to this, having to choose between the two of them, it will always be Ginny. Every time! And didn’t you hear the things he called her? ‘A huge disappointment’? No one has the right to talk to her like that!”
Hermione sat up, folded the covers and rose to her feet. As she walked over to the wardrobe to put on a pair of jeans and a sweater, she said: “I’m going to Harry’s. I assume that you won’t come with me?”
“Right now? Hermione, it’s 1 a.m.!” Ron said. When she ignored him and walked over to the bedroom door, he muttered: “I can’t believe that you’re choosing him over me again.”
Hermione span around, and her eyes narrowed as they fixed on his face. She could have sworn that they had gone from brown to pitch black, and that the blood was boiling in her veins.
“Just shut your bloody mouth, Ronald!” she yelled. “This is not about you, and you know it! This is about the fact that Harry is my friend, and that everyone seems to have forgotten that he’s probably hurting too! And it’s about the fact that I’m not going to judge him based on something that I’ve read in the same newspaper that also called him a liar and Dumbledore mad when they said that Voldemort had returned after our forth year at Hogwarts!”
She slammed the door as she left, tramped her way out into the hallway and shut the front door with such power that it echoed through the staircase. Then she ran the few quarters that separated Harry’s flat from theirs, both because it was freezing, and she had left her coat upstairs in her haste, and because she wanted to put as much distance as possible between herself and Ron.
When she reached Harry’s place, she banged on the door for what must have been several minutes, before he finally opened. His eyes widened in surprise when he saw her. “Hermione?”
He looked terrible. His hair was even messier than usual, and he was dressed in a shabby t-shirt and boxers. His cheeks were covered in stubble, his glasses sat askew and his eyes were red. Hermione didn’t know if the latter was a result of crying or drinking alcohol. Perhaps it was a combination, she thought when she glanced over his shoulder and spotted the bottle of Firewhiskey that stood on his coffee table. An almost overwhelming sense of compassion grabbed her, and she stepped forward and threw her arms around his neck, completely ignoring the fact that he smelled of sweat and whiskey and mumbled:
“Oh Harry, I’m so sorry…”
His face was expressionless when they let go of each other. “So, let me guess – the entire family hates me, right? Ron refused to talk to me yesterday.”
He stumbled towards the couch, sank into it and hid his face in his hands.
“Harry, how much have you had to drink?” asked Hermione worriedly as her eyes swept between the bottle, the glass and his shrunken figure. “As for the family… they will come around. Ginny too. I know you didn’t cheat on her. And Mrs Weasley was sad, rather than angry, because she doesn’t want to see the two of you fight…”
Harry lifted his head. A single tear fell over the edge under his eye that his eyelashes created; it made its way down his cheek and fell off his chin as if in slow motion. Then he cleared his throat, wiped his face with the back of his hand and adjusted his glasses.
“It’s just… it’s just that I had a family,” he mumbled. “For the first time in my life. And Ginny…”
“Harry,” Hermione said, straightening her back as she leaned towards him. “You still have a family. This is just a silly thing – it will pass. They’ll realize that you’re telling the truth and… and it will be okay.”
Last Christmas, Ginny had woken up to Harry’s kisses. As the sounds of steps in the stairs pulled her from her dreams, that was the first thought that crossed her mind. She stroked her fingertips across her neck, her cheeks, the places where his lips had once brushed against her skin. Weeks had passed since their fight, and they still hadn’t talked to each other – it had been a few of the worst weeks of her life. It seemed like every corner of the Burrow held a special memory of him - even the sight of the laundry basket could make her heart ache, because it reminded her of how she had taught him how to fold laundry with magic a few nights before he had moved out. She couldn’t resist looking into Ron’s room every time she passed it; his bed was still there. She wondered how long it would be before someone would remove it.
And now, Christmas had come. Ginny could still recall the Christmas she had spent in this house when Harry had been out hunting Horcruxes with Ron and Hermione. That whole year had been an awful mixture of worries, pain, and missing him, but Christmas had been worse than the other days. She had got used to having him there for the holidays, but that time, she hadn’t even known if he was still alive.
She knew that he was alive now, but she also knew something else, something that hurt even more than the worry she had felt back then. She knew that he didn’t love her. She knew that he had went to someone else, and she couldn’t help but wonder if he was spending Christmas with her, the breath-taking beauty who “put poor Miss Weasley in the shade without even making an effort.”
The steps in the stairs had got closer. There was a knock on the door, and a few seconds later, it opened.
“Wait, what is this? Is my favourite little sister still sleeping, even though I told her I’d come before breakfast?”
Ginny flew out of her bed and threw herself into her brother’s arms. “Charlie! I’ve missed you so much!”
And as he pressed her against his chest, she couldn’t hold it in any longer; she burst into tears and cried so violently that her entire body was shaking, but not a sound escaped her lips.
Charlie patted her back. “Hey, sis… he’s not worth it.”
Ginny lifted her head and met his eyes. “This is Harry we’re talking about,” she said in a shaky voice. “Of course he’s worth it.”
“I know that we all thought that you would end up together,” Charlie answered. “But a guy who cheats on you – even if it is Harry Potter – doesn’t deserve you. It’s as simple as that.”
Harry was sitting on the floor, his arms wrapped around his legs and his back leaned against the wall. If he’d lean forwards, only a few inches, the branches of the Christmas tree would hit his face. His gaze was fixed on Teddy, who was standing in front of him, ripping dark red wrapping paper in a million pieces in his efforts to unwrap his gift. For the sake of his godson, Harry had tried to keep his mood up all night. However, even if Teddy was his normal, happy self, Harry was sure that the others could sense his misery. How could he not be miserable, when he seemed to have lost everything that mattered to him? His girlfriend, his best mate, the closest thing he had had to a family… The only ones who were left were the three people in the room with him – Andromeda, Remus’ father Mr Lupin, and Teddy. And Hermione, he reminded himself. She had been over a few times to keep him company the last couple of weeks, but it upset Ron, and Harry could tell that it took its toll on her.
This was why he envied Ron and Hermione and all of the Weasleys from the bottom of his heart, why bitterness poisoned his mind at the mere thought of them: they had a real family. No matter what happened between Ron and Hermione, they would both always have their families to rely on, their parents’ arms to fall back into. They would never end up alone, like Harry. More than ever, he wanted to go back to the Forbidden Forest, find the resurrection stone and surround himself with the people who would love him no matter what; it seemed like everyone who had fallen under that category had seen their last days on earth.
It was too quiet for it to feel like Christmas; Harry recalled the many Christmases he had spent at the Burrow with the Weasleys that had always been full of noise: the clinging of cookware bumping into each other in the ever so busy area around the stove and on the kitchen counter, loud voices, each one trying to drown out the other, Celestina Warbeck’s never-ending collection of seasonal music, and laughter. Here, in the quietness of Andromeda’s home, Harry tried but failed to feel at home. The only sounds that could be heard in the little living room were the cracking of the fire, Teddy’s occasional babbling and Andromeda’s and Mr Lupin’s subdued humming from over at the dinner table:
“It’s the most magical season of all…”
A shout of joy from Teddy woke Harry from his thoughts: the little boy, whose hair was as green as the fir needles that lay scattered on the floor below the Christmas tree, had finally finished unwrapping his gift from Harry. He began swinging the little toy broomstick around, forcing Harry to leap forwards and catch one of the ornaments before it fell off its branch and broke into a million pieces. However, Harry still couldn’t help but smile at the excited look on his godson’s face – he had remembered what his godfather had given him when he was around Teddy’s age, and had thought it appropriate to do the same thing. You’re all I have now, Harry thought as he grabbed Teddy around the waist to keep him from falling backwards. And I’m going to be the best godfather the world has seen. I’ll never let you end up in a situation like the one I’m in – without a family. You’ll always have me.
He closed his eyes as Teddy climbed up onto his lap. I’ll always be here, with you, he thought. Ginny’s face appeared in his mind. But I’ll be without you, he sighed and imagined her wonderful laugh spreading through the beautifully decorated, lovely-smelling rooms of the Burrow.
“Ginny? Can I have a word?”
Hermione stuck her head into the living room, where Ginny, George and Mr Weasley had gathered around the table to admire the new Quidditch gloves that Charlie had given her.
“Of course!” said Ginny and jumped to her feet.
She followed Hermione through the kitchen, where Angelina, Percy and Hermione’s parents were helping Mrs Weasley lay the table, Charlie was sitting on the floor, playing with his goddaughter and niece, and Bill and Fleur were cutting the turkey. Hermione didn’t stop until they reached Ginny’s bedroom on the top floor.
“Okay,” she said as she sat down on her friend’s bed. “We have to talk about Harry. He’s a wreck, Ginny. The only reason that he’s not begging on his knees right now for you to forgive him is because he doesn’t deserve to be doubted to start with. I know that he didn’t cheat on you. That’s why he’s so angry! Should he really have to lose you, Ron and all your family over this, when it’s not even true? You just have to realize that because… because what you and Harry have is rare. Once you’ve found something like that, you’d be foolish to just throw it away.”
Ginny sat down next to her. “But it’s not just about this rumour,” she said. “You should have seen the way he looked at me… I really don’t think he wants to be with such a disappointment like myself.”
Her last words came out snappishly, in true Ginny-spirit – she would never accept being treated unfairly. Normally, Hermione admired her for it, but now, she protested:
“Can you really blame him? Someone is always questioning him, and it’s even worse when it’s you, and Ron, and your family! He never gets any credit from your brothers. Of course, he shouldn’t have taken it all out on you, but haven’t you punished him enough? Don’t you miss him too?”
Ginny lowered her head. “Yes, I do.”
“So, just give him a chance, then,” Hermione insisted. “There’s no point in continuing this fight, when what you both really want is to make up and be together. Just go to his place, talk to him, let him explain himself…”
Ginny nodded. “Okay,” she said and got up on her feet. “I will.”
Hermione reached out a hand and stopped her. “He’s not home today," she said with a smile. “He’s spending Christmas with Teddy and Andromeda. He’ll be home again by Boxing Day. Besides, your mum would kill you if you missed dinner after all the hard work she has put into it…”
A/N: Thank you again for being such wonderful readers and for brightening my days by taking the time to leave a review and letting me know what you think. If you do have time, please do that - it doesn't have to be very long, but it would make me very happy.
So, Harry and Ginny might not have officially broken up in the last chapter, but Ginny saw it that way because she thought he didn't want her anymore. Now they're basically just being very stubborn and feeling very sorry for themselves. Thank God for Hermione, right?
DISCLAIMER: The song that Andromeda and Mr Lupin were singing is based on "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year", written by Edward Pola and George Wyle, and originally performed by Andy Williams.
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