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The Runaway Returns by HPForevermore
Chapter 23 : The Eleventh is the Twentieth
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 4


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CLANG!  CLANG!  CLANG!  CLANG!  CLANG!  CLANG!  CLANG!  CLANG!  CLANG!

“Rise and shine everyone!  Rise and shine!  Time for breakfast!” shouted Arthur from the third floor landing.  He had stolen one of Molly’s pots and a wooden spoon from the kitchen and proceeded to bang them together with all his might.  Groans of misery and pleas of cease-and-desist echoed through the Burrow.

“Come on, sleepyheads!  Your mother’s made breakfast and it’s getting cold!  Rise and shine!”

“Dad!  What the hell are you doing?” shouted Charlie.  He realised his mistake immediately.  He doubled over and clutched firmly at his ears as his own shouting caused his head to throb even more.

“It’s tradition, Charlie!” replied Arthur with an air of pseudo-indignity,  “You’re Poppy Prewitt woke your uncles and me this same way the morning after my bachelor party, and when your children have their bachelor parties, you can return the favour.”

CLANG!  CLANG!  CLANG!  CLANG!  CLANG!  CLANG!  CLANG!  CLANG!  CLANG!

“Rise and shine everyone!  Rise and shine!  Time for breakfast!”

Bedrooms throughout the home slowly emptied as their occupants dressed and crept their way to the kitchen.  By the time Ginny entered, the boys were already gathered around the table with faces in hands and speaking as softly as possible.  Hermione was still asleep in her room and Angelina continued to have a lie-down on the couch in the parlour.  

Molly wished Ginny a ‘Happy Birthday’ and guided her to a seat between Ron and Charlie.  As Neville and the brothers softly murmured birthday wishes to her as well, Charlie reached into a good-sized box on the table and extracted a vial.

“Here, Gin.  Get this in you,” whispered Charlie hoarsely.  Ginny opened the vial and downed it in one.

“Merlin, that’s bloody awful!” murmured Ginny.

“Yeah, but give it a couple of minutes.  It helps,” replied Ron softly.

“Where’d all this potion come from, anyway?” asked Percy quietly.

“Harry had an elf drop it off last night, dear,” replied Molly.

“Remind me to thank him.  Speaking of, where is he?” George asked.

“He went home to sleep in his own bed last night after he and I put you lot to bed and ran an errand.  And you, George, should be thanking him for more than that potion!  He had to clean you up last night after you mistook the coat closet for the loo.”

Laughter rang out from around the table, which was quickly truncated due to everyone’s condition.  “Dad!  Please! Don’t make us laugh!” pled Ron as loudly as possible without exacerbating is condition.

“Funny, I don’t remember getting sick last night?” George curiously asked.

“Yes, well, it wasn’t sick that Harry had to clean up,” noted Arthur soberly.

More stunted and abbreviated laughter rang out, coupled with a few shouts of “Eww!” and more pleas from Ron.

As the potion took effect, Molly began serving breakfast.  Angelina dragged herself into the kitchen and took a seat next to George.  Bill reached into the box and passed along a vial to Angelina before turning to his father.

“What time did we get in last night?” he asked.

“It was well after midnight, probably closer to one, when Aberforth threw each of you through the floo and onto the parlour floor,” replied Arthur.

“Bloody strong for an old guy, he is,” noted Charlie.

“Arthur, you said we got here close to one?  And you and Harry had to run an errand after we went to bed?  Where did you and Harry go at one in the morning?” asked Neville.

Ginny shot a quick glance at Angelina and looked down again, muttering, “Bloody hell, here we go.”

Charlie overheard her and asked loudly, “’Here we go’, Gin?  Really?  What happened at the bachelorette party?”

The young men slumped around the table straightened up considerably upon hearing Charlie’s question.  Ginny chanced an embarrassed glance at her father, who was leaning against the counter with a look that said ‘Do you want to tell them or shall I'?  Ginny looked down at her plate and shovelled a fork-full of mash in her mouth as Arthur cleared his throat.

“Well, Neville, after putting you lot to bed, Harry and I had to pick up the remainder of the bachelorette party and take them home.”

“They could have just crashed at the Leaky, Mr. Weasley.  Tom would have set them up with some rooms,” noted Neville.

“Right.  Well, that’s probably what would have happened if they were still at the Leaky Cauldron at the time.”

“Oh, really? And where were they?” asked Percy with a lopsided grin.

Arthur looked at Ginny’s bowed head before continuing, “They were at the Ministry… in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement to be precise.”

It took some moments before it dawned on Neville and the brothers where Ginny and the rest of the bachelorette party had spent the night.

“You… you mean they were ARRESTED?” shouted Ron.  Arthur merely nodded before the men assembled around the kitchen table burst with laughter again.  Ginny and Angelina were thoroughly embarrassed, and Molly stood there with arms crossed and an agitated expression.

“I went to the wrong party!  Well done, witches!” shouted George to more laughter and a few words of agreement from a couple of the others.
 

"George!  That's NOT funny!" screamed Molly.

“What in bloody hell did they get arrested for?” asked Ron.

“I’d like to know that myself, but we are going to wait until Hermione comes back to life and then your mother and I will be sitting with the three of them.  I would like you boys to leave this to your mother and me.  Understood?”  warned Arthur.

“Come on, Dad, you know us better than that.  Damn, I don’t even know what happened yet and already this story is a classic!” cried George.

“Happy bloody birthday to me,” muttered Ginny.

~~~

Bill and Percy were busy setting up tables and chairs in the side garden of the Burrow in preparation for Ginny’s birthday celebration later in the day.  George sat under a tree nearby, shouting instructions to the two while watching the sky.  The heat that had gripped Britain for a fortnight had broken, leaving a comfortably warm and brilliantly sunny morning.

“You could get off your arse and help us, you know!” shouted Bill.

“As much as I’d like to help, big brother, I’m on a mission!” replied George.

“What sort of mission? “ asked Percy.

“You’ll see,” said George as he continued to scan the sky.

A half hour later, George saw it.  An owl was carrying a long scroll of some sort.  George ran to the outside of the kitchen window and intercepted the bird.  After paying the owl five knuts, George walked to the newly situated tables in the side garden and unfurled the Daily Prophet, rifling through the pages hastily.

“Is that what you’ve been waiting for?  That was your mission?  Waiting for the Prophet?  You could have been helping all this time!” cried Percy crossly.

“Ah, but if the bird made it through the window before I could intercept it, then we might not have had the opportunity to read this!” noted George.

George extracted a section of the Daily Prophet and began to read.  Bill and Percy walked up behind him and also began to read over his shoulder.  It was not front page news, but it was the lead story in the entertainment section.

Witches Gone Wild!
One of the most anticipated bachelorette parties in recent memory got out of hand at the Leaky Cauldron last night.  The party, held in honour of Miss Hermione Granger, War Hero and Solicitor for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, apparently devolved into a drunken hex-fest, affecting significant damage to one of the pub’s private rooms and requiring the intervention of several Aurors and Department of Magical Law Enforcement officers.   The entire party was arrested and detained by the MLE.  Embarrassingly for Ms. Granger, she spent the rest of her evening in a drunken stupor in one of her very own cells. 

While the exact cause of the hex-fest remained uncertain, sources informed the Daily Prophet that Ms. Granger’s close friend and Maid of Honour, Holyhead Harpies chaser Ginerva Weasley, had strong words with Cora Abbott, part-time waitress at the Leaky Cauldron, over Ms. Abbott’s current flame and Ms. Weasley’s former love interest, Harry ‘the Hermit’ Potter.

And as embarrassed as Ms. Granger may be with her overnight stay in one of her own cells, Ms. Weasley experienced even greater insult to her injured heart.  Ministry sources confirmed that when Special Assistant to the Minister Arthur Weasley arrived at the Department of Magical Law Enforcement at one-forty-five in morning to escort his daughter and some others home, he elicited the help of none other than ‘the Hermit’ himself.  Perhaps that was Mr. Weasley’s way of showing his displeasure over the fact that his daughter has repeatedly passed on Britain’s most eligible bachelor.

“Crikey, this is the second story about Harry dating Hannah Abbott’s cousin.  Do you think there’s any merit to it?” asked George.

“I doubt it.  This is the Prophet we’re reading, remember?” noted Bill.

“All the same, no one really knows how Harry spends all of his free time, do they?  He could be dating this Cora Abbott and no one would really know, would they?” asked George.

“According to Ron and Hermione, he’s not, and I would think that they would know better than anyone.  I think if Harry were dating someone, he would have told them,” Percy explained.

“Well, I hope he’s not dating her, considering how George gave him permission to marry Ginny last night!” chuckled Bill.

“You what?” exclaimed Percy.

“Hold on, you agreed with me!” shouted George to Bill.

“Agreed with you about what?” asked Angelina as she strolled around the corner of the house and into the side garden.

“Well, well, well!  If it isn’t one of the ‘Witches Gone Wild’!” exclaimed George with a huge smile.

“What did you just call me?” asked Angelina threateningly.

“I didn’t call you that, love.  The Prophet called you that!”  George guided his girlfriend to a seat at the table before sliding the entertainment section of the newspaper in front of her.  Angelina looked at the headline and muttered a few choice expletives.  She then spent the next few minutes reading the article, her head shaking repeatedly.

“So, is it true, Ang?” asked Bill.

“Pretty much, yeah,” she replied.

“Really?  Potter’s dating Cora Abbott?” asked Percy in surprise.

“Well, no, not that part, but the rest of it is.  Cora told us herself she wasn’t, but she was riding Ginny pretty hard over the fact that she’s pretty much ruined him for every other witch in Britain, and now she won’t even give him the time of day.  The party almost ended before it got started when Cora called Ginny a ‘stupid cow’, but Hannah interceded and broke up the imminent fight.  Then, later on, when everybody was good and pissed, Cora started up again.  Ginny finally lost it and that’s when things really got out of hand.”

“What do you mean, ‘ruined him for every other witch in Britain’?” asked Bill.

“Really, Bill?  Just how far out of touch are you?  Harry could have any witch he wants with a snap of his fingers, but he has no desire to date anyone, does he?  Never has.  Not since seventh year, or I should say his sixth, at least” explained Angelina.

“Are you saying Harry doesn’t like witches?” asked Percy.

“You know, Percy, for being a former Big-Head Boy, you really are dense!” joked George.

“Of course, Harry likes witches, Percy, but there’s only one witch he will even consider dating, and that’s what Cora Abbott meant by ‘ruining him for others’.  According to Cora, there are literally scores of young, single witches who would love nothing better than to bag Harry Potter, even if it is for one night only.  But he won’t even look at another witch.”

“So, you’re saying Harry would rather remain celibate than date anyone other than Ginny?” asked George.

“Get your mind out of the gutter, George, this is not about sex.  It’s deeper than that,” said Angelina with a scowl.

“How so?” asked Bill.

“I’m sure I don’t need to remind you of what Neville told us.  To Harry, love is nothing short of total and complete sacrifice.”

“Right, but…,” replied Bill before Angelina cut him short.



“Let me ask you this, Bill.  Would you sacrifice your life for Fleur?”

“Of, course!  Without question!”  Bill replied indignantly.

“And how would you feel if you truly believed that Fleur didn’t feel the same way about you, that she would not also give her life for you?  Be honest,” urged Angelina.

Bill simply nodded as he took a deep breath and looked away from Angelina and his brothers.  He was beginning to see Harry’s predicament.   “It would hurt.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’d still be willing to give my life for her, but, yeah, if the shoe were on the other foot and I knew she wouldn’t, well, it would hurt… loads.”

“Loads?  A lot more than loads, I bet,” said Angelina.

Bill looked down at his feet and nodded again.

“Nah, I don’t believe it,” George said with a shrug of his shoulders.  “I think if Voldemort showed up at our door and threatened to kill Harry, Ginny would be more than willing to put herself on the line to save him.  Deep down, she really does love him that much.”

“But it doesn’t matter whether you or Ginny thinks she would sacrifice herself, it’s what Harry thinks she would or wouldn’t do, and ever since his return, she’s given him nothing to think she would be that committed to him,” said Percy.

“Exactly, Percy,” concurred Angelina.

“Neither have we,” said Bill dolefully.  “Sure, Mum and Dad have, and Ron and Hermione, but not the rest of us.”

George barked out a laugh.  “Speak for yourself, big brother!  I gave him permission to marry Ginny last night, remember?”

“Hold on, I agreed with you, remember?” sniggered Bill.

“You WHAT?” shouted Angelina.

“That’s what I said!” shouted Percy.

“It was just the drink talkin’, love,” said George.

“And what did Harry say when you told him this?” demanded Angelina of George.

“I don’t remember.  Bill?”

“I think he said something like, ‘Thanks, let’s sleep on it’, because I seem to remember saying something about sleeping sounded like a good idea.  Besides, I think Harry’s okay with us now.  He shared some deep shite last night.”

“Like what?” asked Angelina.

Between Percy, George, and Bill, Angelina was given a detailed, although slightly convoluted, version of Harry’s struggles during his three years away.  She, in turn, explained Hermione’s suspicions that Harry still battled those same demons and of how Harry still tended to run after his confrontations with Ginny.  Angelina also relayed to the brothers the events of Harry’s sleepover visit to the Burrow some weeks back.  She did not hold anything back.  Angelina explained the details of Harry’s nightmares as relayed to her from Mrs. Weasley, of how the nightmares that drove him to drink in the first place still plagued him, and of how only Ginny was able to soothe him and keep the nightmares at bay when he did not have the benefit of Poppy Pomfrey’s dreamless sleep potion.

“I feel like a heel.  We should have known better,” muttered Bill.

“You and me both,” replied Percy.

“Speak for yourselves!  I saved his life over and over again!” cried George cheekily.

“So, he never said why he came back?” asked Angelina.

“No.  Neville knows why, or I should say he says he suspects why, but he’s not talking.  He said if Harry’s not saying why he came back, then he’s not saying why Harry came back, either,” George told his girlfriend. 

“Well, there’s more than one way to skin a dragon.  But on a more positive note, it appears the Ginny is ready to give it another go with Harry.  Trouble is, Harry’s never around.  He’s always out of the country when he’s not around and he avoids her like spattergroit when he is.  She can’t get any alone time with him.  Not to mention, she’s nervous as hell just to talk to him again.  It’s like she’s a first-year around him all over again,” explained Angelina.

“Yeah, well, that might be the least of her problems, love,” George said sadly.  “He’s pretty much told a few people, me included, that after the wedding he’s moving on.  He terribly upset at how Ginny’s treated him since he came back…”

Bill cut across George, “He said if he wanted to be treated the way Ginny’s been treating him, he could just as easily go to Azkaban and visit Lucius Malfoy.”

“Ouch!  Really?”

Bill nodded.  “I think her biggest challenge won’t be finding the pluck to speak with him, it’ll be getting him to believe her after all this time.” 

~~~

“Hey!  Granger!  Why the hell were we not invited to your hen party last night?” shouted Bertha Bustaman as she and several other Harpies arrived for Ginny’s party.

“Yeah, because Bertha would have made sure we were all arrested long before you were!” cried Henrietta Bailey.

“Stow it, you!” replied Bertha to the Harpies keeper.  “Happy Birthday, Ginger!”

“Who’s that?” asked Charlie.  He was standing across the garden with Bill and Ron, pointing to the five Harpies players who had just arrived.

“The big mouth?  That’s Bertha Bustaman, the beater that was suspended for attacking Harry in Hogsmeade,” said Ron.

“Not her, the tall one!  Never saw her before,” said Charlie.

“Oh, that’s the reserve beater… the one taking Bertha’s place.  Oh, what is her name?” wondered Ron to no one in particular.

“Why do you ask, Charlie?  Interested?” inquired Bill with raised eyebrows and a smirk.

“Could be, Bill, could be,” winked Charlie in reply.

Ron snapped his fingers.  “Something Dixon… Jamaican… Kendra or something like that…”

“Thanks, Ronniekins!  You’re loads of help!” Charlie said sarcastically. 

Ginny greeted her teammates as they gathered around her and wished her a ‘Happy Birthday’.  As Gesine Averthorpe was relaying Gwenog Jones’ apology and explaining why the team captain could not come to the party, Kadeisha Dixon surveyed the gathering.  Her eye caught a trio of redheads across the garden, one of whom was looking in her direction with an avid glare.  Kadeisha gave him a seductive little smile before turning her back on him.

Once a break in the discussion occurred, she asked, “Ginny-girl, who dat hansome mon wid all dose muscles behind me?”

Charlie was still staring in the direction of the Harpies.  Actually, only one Harpy in particular.  It took him a moment to realise Ginny was leaning around one of her teammates and watching him in return.  He quickly diverted his glare.

“That’s my brother, Charlie, and you better not get any ideas, you hussy!” exclaimed Ginny glibly.

“Oh, it’s not my ideas you should be worryin’ about, girly!  He ovah dare givin’ me da ‘Big Eyes’!” replied Kadeisha with a giggle.

“Oh, Merlin!  He is!  Look!” whispered Hannah Hooks, one of the Harpies chasers.  She was standing shoulder to shoulder with Ginny and could cunningly watch Charlie with an easy sidelong glance.

With Hannah’s comment, all Harpy heads snapped in his direction.  The sight was comical.  Charlie’s head snapped just as quickly toward Ron and Bill as he pretended to be engaged in their conversation, but the swift movement had caused a crick in his neck.  No sooner had he turned toward his brothers than he was immediately doubled over in pain, massaging his neck to alleviate the strain.  Ron and Bill looked at him like he was beginning to grow a second head, while the Harpies burst into laughter.  They could see Charlie’s face becoming redder and redder.

“That was slick!” snorted Bertha.

“So, Ginny-girl, what do Chahlie do?” 

“He’s a dragon tamer,” replied Henrietta before Ginny could respond.

“Oh, really? So, tamin’ da savage beasties runs in da family?” asked Kadeisha with a wide smile.  Ginny turned as red as her hair.

“What are you...?” Gesine started to ask, but Kadeisha cut across her before Ginny could be embarrassed further.

“Just a private joke between us rookies,” she replied as she linked her arm in Ginny’s.  “Come, Ginny-Girl.  Let’s introduce me to Chahlie.”

~~~

“Hi Neville, Hi Luna!” cried Angelina.

“Hi Angelina, George!  Alright?” replied Neville.

“Good, thanks!  Recovering from last night?” asked George.

“I’m as good as ever, thanks!” replied Luna.

“Luna, you weren’t even at the bachelorette party.  You just got back from Sweden this morning,” noted Neville.

“True, but the trip wasn’t an easy one,” she replied dreamily.

“So, Neville, George told me that you know why Harry returned.  Care to share?”

“No.”

“Neville, something like that is very important and we need to know!” pushed Angelina.

“I don’t know why you want Neville to answer,” said Luna in her faraway voice, “when you already know the answer yourselves.”

“No, Luna, we don’t know the answer, but Neville does!  That’s why we’re asking him!” stated George none too politely.

“Sure you do.  The problem is not that you don’t know the answer.  The problem is that you’re asking the wrong question.  Once you ask the correct question, you will immediately realise you already know the answer,” said Luna airily as she fluttered away.

~~~

The festivities continued through the afternoon and evening with everyone being well-fed, although most of the gathering drank nothing stronger than butterbeer after a difficult prior night.  Only the Harpies preferred stronger drink, but Ginny was quite relieved that her teammates seemed to be blending with the crowd nicely.  They seemed to be in as much awe of some of the war heroes present as the other guests were in awe of the famous quidditch players.

After dinner and the opening of presents, during which Ginny received a lavish set of pearl earrings with a matching necklace from Arthur and Molly, everyone settled down at various places to enjoy the company of family and friends.  As Teddy and Victorie entertained some of the guests – Victorie chasing Teddy around on his toy broom – Bill and Fleur claimed positions at the end of one of the tables, with George, Angelina, Percy, and Audrey.  Charlie and Kadeisha were there as well, but they only half-heartedly participated in the discussion initially.  They were somewhat preoccupied with getting to know each other.

“I tried to get Neville to tell us what he knows, or suspects, about Harry’s decision to come back.  No luck,” said George.

“But Luna said we already know the answer.  We’re just asking ourselves the wrong question,” supplied Angelina.

“What does that mean?” asked Percy.

Kadeisha looked over at the other couples.  “What was de question asked?”

Charlie briefly clued up Kadeisha, “Harry Potter was hit twice by the Killing Curse and survived both times.”

“I know.  I saw de scars when he slepd ovah heah dat time,” clarified Kadeisha.

“Well, he told us at the party last night that when he was struck by the Killing Curse the second time, he actually had a choice of coming back to life or staying dead.  So, I asked him why he chose to come back to life.  He refused to tell us, but Neville Longbottom seems to know.  We were trying to get Neville to tell us why he suspects Harry returned.  However, Luna Lovegood said we already know the answer, we just need to ask the correct question.  The question is ‘Why did Harry choose to come back to life?’”

“Okay, so rephrase de question,” said Kadeisha.

“What do you mean?” asked Bill.

“You know, you already asked ‘why’ did he return, but dat was da wrong question.  So, ask youselfs ‘what’, ‘wheah’, ‘how’, ‘who’, ‘when’.  You know, rephrase de question,” said Kadeisha.

What did Harry choose to come back to life?  Where did Harry choose to come back to life?” said George, “Those questions don’t make any sense.”

“Not ‘what did Harry choose to come back to life’, George.  The proper question would be ‘What did Harry choose to come back to life FOR?’” explained Audrey.

Bill shook his head.  “That’s not the correct question either, Audrey.  The correct question is ‘WHO did Harry choose to come back to life for?’” he finished, looking at his sister speaking with some of her friends. 

Dusk faded into darkness as George tromped into the meadow with Lee Jordan and an armful of Weasley’s Wildfire Whiz-bangs.  Those of the party who did not find seats around the table found spots on an assortment of blankets spread about the meadow.  Fleur settled Teddy and Victorie in front of her on an old duvet.  The little ones had lain on their backs and were yawning continuously, despite their every effort to remain awake for as long as possible.  Shortly thereafter, Bill settled next to his wife.

“Zo?” Fleur asked.

“So?  So what?” Bill replied in confusion.

“Zo eez Geeny going to ztart tinking weet ‘er ‘eart inztead of ‘er ‘ead?” clarified Fleur.

“Sadly, I think she is.”

“Why you zay ‘zadly’, Bill?”

“Because while I think she’s now ready for him, I don’t think he’s ready for her anymore.  I’m afraid he might have moved on with his life already.  Did you know Mum invited him here tonight?”

Fleur shook her head.  She was among the many who was unaware of that bit of information.

“She said Harry declined.  He told her that if it were anybody else’s, he might have come, but because it was Ginny’s, he couldn’t.”

“Why eez zat do you tink?” Bill simply shrugged his shoulders in response to Fleur’s question.

“Do you tink eetz becauze ‘e no longer carez for ‘er?”

“No, I think he still cares for her.  Maybe he cares for her too much.”

“Zo, eets becauze ‘is ‘eart breakz every time ‘e zeez ‘er, wheech meanz ‘e steel tinks zhe no longer carez for ‘im, wheech meanz zhe needs to tell ‘im zhe steel carez for ‘im eef zhe wanz to keep ‘im!  Doez Geeny know zis?”  

Again, Bill simply shrugged his shoulders in response, which earned him a punch in the arm and a shove off of the duvet.

“Zen go find out, you idiot!  You are ‘er brother!  Talk to ‘er!  Now!” cried Fleur.

Bill rolled over and sat upright.  He noticed Ginny and Henrietta standing near the old oak tree that divided the meadow from the side garden.  They were apparently anxiously awaiting the fireworks display as much as the other guests.  He approached Ginny from behind and slid his left arm over her shoulder.  Ginny glanced up at him with a small smile and leaned into his shoulder with a sigh.

“Henrietta, this is my oldest brother, Bill.  Bill, this is Henrietta Bailey.”  The two exchanged pleasantries before Henrietta excused herself to find some of the other Harpies.  Bill conjured another blanket and, taking his sister by the hand, helped her sit before flopping himself down.

“Having a good birthday, I trust?”

Ginny gave him a watery smile.  “I suppose.”

“You look happy, Gin, but not very.”

“No, Bill.  I’m happy.  Really, I am.”

“But you could be happier.”  Ginny shrugged her shoulders.  Her hands were buried in her lap.  “Are you worried about Harry?”

Ginny’s head and shoulders slumped and she became preoccupied by her wringing hands.  “Is it that obvious?” she asked in a barely audible voice.

“Do you love him?” asked Bill.  If Ginny’s head and shoulders were slumped before, it was nothing compared to the posture she now assumed.  If possible, her voice became even lower.

“yes.”

“Yes?”  

Ginny could do nothing more than nod.

“Enough to want to be with him now?”  Another almost imperceptible nod.

“Enough to want to be with him forever?”  After a moment’s hesitation, again, a nod.

“Are you going to tell him how you feel?”  Ginny did not respond.  Bill glanced down and saw the teardrops rolling down her cheeks.  He turned sideways and wrapped two caring arms around her shoulders, rocking her slowly and planting a soft kiss on her head.

“What are you afraid of, Gin?” he asked softly.

Bill continued to hold his sister and rock her gently, much as he would had done for his daughter, Victorie, when she was upset or had scraped her knee.  He allowed Ginny the time she needed to formulate her own words.

“I don’t know,” replied Ginny finally, her voice still barely perceptible, “I’m afraid… I’m afraid he’ll never give me the chance to tell him… to tell him how I feel… and… and I’m afraid if I ask him, he’ll tell me to bugger off…”

Bill gave her another loving kiss on the top of her head and spoke into her hair.  “Let me tell you something, actually some things, I learned last night.  First – and this is the worst of it, okay, so don’t get upset – first, Harry feels very wounded by you right now.  By a lot of us, really, your prat brothers and me included, but particularly with you.  He said it was your choice the two of you were not together, not his.  I think he’s still under the impression that you want no part of him.  If that’s not true, if you do want to be with him, then it’s incumbent upon you to correct that misimpression as soon as you can.  Understood?”

Ginny merely nodded.

“Second, I know you’re afraid that he may tell you to bugger off, but if you really, truly love him, don’t let that dissuade you.  Be patient.  Stick with it until he comes back around.  You see, last night, Harry shared something fairly astonishing.  When he took the Killing Curse the second time, he actually had a choice of staying dead or coming back to life.  The allure for him to stay dead was very, very powerful.  He could finally be with nearly everyone of those people he loved most: his Mum and Dad, Serius, Remus and Tonks, Dumbledore, even Fred.

“What made the allure so powerful was that it would have been so easy for him.  He would have been surrounded by those who loved and cared for him.  He could spend all of eternity without the physical pain and emotional anguish that filled the large majority of the first seventeen years of his life.  He would have been content and happy had he decided to go on.

“But he didn’t.  He had so many reasons to cross over… to step across to the other side, and he had only one reason to come back.  But that one reason was more important to him than spending the rest of eternity with all those he loved and who’d gone on before him.

“That one reason was a person.  There was one person still here, one person who he loved more deeply than anyone or anything ever before.  He chose to come back to life… for that one reason… for that one person.  You.”

“Me?” she choked.

“Yeah, Gin.  You.  That was an incredibly difficult decision for him to make, nearly as difficult as walking into the forbidden forest and taking the Killing Curse in the first place.  The fact that he made it shows that it’s an incredibly powerful love he has for you.  And he may be very angry, just as you were when he left you three years ago, because in his mind – and in my mind and those of your other brothers – he felt he made the ultimate sacrifice, leaving that kind of peace and love – and we – please know that you are not alone in this – we rejected him outright.

“But I want you to remember this, because this is the most important part:  be of strong heart, don’t let go of that dream you had as a child, that dream of marrying Harry someday, because he came back for a reason and ultimately that reason will win him over.

“So, be patient with him.  Be kind.  Be gentle.  If he runs from you, wait for him to come back and try again.  If he runs again, wait and try again.

“Listen, I know I must be confusing you.  I fully supported you when he first returned.  Charlie and Percy, too, for that matter.  We treated Harry terribly.  But we understand now.  And we’re willing to help you and Harry any way we can.  If you need us to help, even it’s just a shoulder to cry on, you let us know.  Okay?  We’re all here for the two of you.”

Ginny whispered a quiet, watery ‘thanks’ to Charlie, rested her head on his shoulder, and allowed the words he had spoken to swim around in her mind.  She hadn’t realised a half hour later that George’s firework display had ended and her guests were preparing to leave.

~~~

“Ginny?  Are you decent?” asked Arthur with a knock on her bedroom door.

The guests had left, rubbish had been collected, and tables, chairs, and other party items stowed away.  Charlie and Kadeisha had also left, disappearing during the firework display, despite the fact that Charlie was supposed to be staying at the Burrow until tomorrow morning.  He was to travel back to Romania for ten days before returning for the wedding.  Ginny remained distracted for the remainder of the party.  Nervous thoughts of her imminent encounter with Harry had her on edge and she hardly remembered saying farewell to her guests.  As soon as that last guest, Luna, departed, Ginny made her way to her room, changed, and climbed into bed.  However, sleep was still evading her when her father knocked on her door.

“Come in, Dad.”

“Hi, sweetheart.  Did you have a nice birthday?”

“Yes, thanks.”

“You and Bill seemed to be having an intense discussion.  Care to share?”

“No, not now.”

“Very well.  I just want you to know that if you ever need to talk, I’m all ears.”

“Thanks, Dad.  Er, was there anything else?”

“Oh, yes, of course.  It seems you have one more gift,” said Arthur with a smile.  He handed her a small box wrapped in red and gold paper.

“Thanks!”  Ginny opened the present and removed a delicate hair comb adorned with a glass butterfly that was about the size of her palm.  The comb itself was gold, while the butterfly was gold trimmed with green and cream-coloured inlaid glass.  The butterfly was enchanted to slowly flutter its wings.

“Oh, this is lovely!  Thank you!  It’ll go perfectly with my dress for the wedding!”

Arthur chuckled.  “As much as I’d like to accept your gratitude, I can’t.  Your mother found it downstairs on the mantle.  Wasn’t there card with it?”

Ginny looked through the wrapping and the box, finding nothing.  “Perhaps Hermione and Ron gave it to me... not as a birthday present, you know, but as a gift for being her Maid of Honour.  Do you think?”

“Possibly,” replied Arthur with a shrug of his shoulders.  “It is a nice piece.  Wear it well!”

Arthur wished his daughter one last ‘happy birthday’ and a ‘good night’.  After a kiss on her forehead, Arthur left Ginny alone in her room with one more thing to ponder.
 


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