Chapter 10 : Interlude I
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“It’s complicated,” she had said to Lavender.
She made a disgusted sound and shook her head angrily at herself, recalling her encounter with Michael. How could she put herself in that position? It wasn’t fair to Michael, or…
It wasn’t intentional, she tried to reason with herself. Maybe Lavender had simply misread the situation – she did tend to have a flair for the dramatic.
No, Ginny admitted, there had been a moment, undoubtedly.
But it wasn’t the same, she reasoned. It was more muscle memory than anything else.
Nothing could ever be the same as it was with Harry… Ginny closed her eyes.
“You didn’t what? You didn’t break up?”
“No, we… it’s complicated.”
Ginny could recall the warmth of the sun on her face that day by the lake so easily. It had been the most beautiful summer’s day…
White flames engulfed Dumbledore’s body on its marble slab and the centaurs’ arrows soared overhead, and Harry turned to her. She knew as well as he did in that moment that something had shifted – his relentless nightmare was not yet over. Voldemort had to be stopped, and with Dumbledore gone for good…
She felt a forced smile twist across her face as Harry announced reluctantly that they could no longer be together.
“It’s for some stupid, noble reason, isn’t it?”*
She remembered the pained look behind his eyes, his unruly hair blowing in the breeze off the lake. But he was determined as he ploughed on. She felt her heart crack.
She shook her head as Harry explained that Voldemort would use the people he cared about most against him, and she would be one of them if they stayed together, insisting she didn’t care.
But he did.
She had looked away and over the lake, red curls flying as she shook her head ruefully. She wasn’t entirely sure when he had taken her hand, but she brushed her thumb over the back of his, then. The old, white scar stood out against his skin, I must not tell lies.
“I never really gave up on you,” she said. “Not really. I always hoped…”*
She had said a lot of other silly, ramblings then, too. But none of them had changed his mind.
He had left then, turned his back on her and Dumbledore’s tomb and made his way back to the castle that had been his only true home to plan his final chapter with Voldemort.
At the time, she had thought that was the end – a clean break. But of course, it wasn’t.
Ginny tossed and turned in her four poster that evening. Her heart ached, for more than one reason, and seemed to keep her awake with each beat. She stared, wide-eyed in the pitch dark, hands resting on her belly. It grumbled in protest.
Struck with inspiration, Ginny flung the heavy comforter off and swung her legs out of bed. Soundlessly, she crept across the room and down the stairs that led to the common room, bare feet cool on the smooth stone.
The fire in the great hearth had burned down to glowing embers. Softly, she padded her way across the common room toward the portrait hole in the darkness. Two feet from her destination, she stubbed her toe – hard – and grunted a stream of un-ladylike expletives in protest.
His voice passed through the darkness from the couch by the hearth. Flushing, she wrapped her arms around herself, battered toe forgotten.
“What are you doing?” They asked together, and laughed softly.
“I couldn’t sleep,” he said.
“Me either,” Ginny mumbled. She couldn’t see his expression clearly in the low light from this distance, but thought she might have seen him wince, as though in pain. He recovered quickly as she made her way closer to the fire, however.
“So what were you doing?”
“What?” Ginny asked, distracted by her attempt to read his expression.
He motioned toward the portrait hole where Ginny had clearly been heading.
“Oh, I …” she felt the tips of her ears and nose turned pink and cursed her genes as she tucked a loose hair behind her ear. Fumbling for a lie and finding none, she shrugged, “I was going to nick some food from the kitchens.”
A smile cracked across Harry’s face. “Can I come?”
Ginny smiled back and reached her hand out to him. He took it and rose from the couch.
Ginny tumbled somewhat more gracefully than Harry out of the portrait hole, rubbing her arms. It was a relatively warm June evening, but she hadn’t thought to throw on a robe.
“Here,” said Harry, noticing. He shrugged his sweater off his shoulders and flung around hers.
“What about you?” she asked, wiggling her arms through the too-long sleeves, and hugging it around her thankfully.
He shrugged, hands in his pockets. Together, they made their way down the corridor toward the switching staircases, humming quietly in the distance.
Silence stretched between them as they made their way down the corridor, shoulders bumping occasionally. Torches threw shadows onto the walls, dancing in the firelight.
“It’s this one,” Ginny pointed to a staircase on the right, its departure imminent. They stepped onto the stairs just as the platform began to shift, and Ginny was knocked off balance and gently sideways into Harry’s chest. He caught her by the arms, steadying her.
She murmured an apology, intending to move away, but chanced a glance up at him quickly. He was staring at her, his eyes glued to her own, and she froze. The air between them felt like static electricity, and them drawn together like two magnets, fighting in futility against a connection that couldn’t be broken.
The staircase docked, and Ginny turned, loosing herself from his arms as she stepped off the platform. With a heavy exhale, he followed her off the platform and fell into step beside her once again as they continued toward the kitchens.
She kept her eyes forward, determinedly, as he ran a hand roughly through his hair, which was even more dishevelled than usual after tossing and turning as she had. She touched a hand absentmindedly to her own red curls, wondering exactly how haphazard she currently looked.
“Ginny, I -”
Ginny’s heart flopped as footsteps echoed down the hallway around the bend they were approaching. Ginny spun, grabbing Harry’s hand and dragging him back down the corridor as quickly and quietly as possible.
It seemed like minutes until she found what she was looking for, but finally, there is was.
“Alohomora,” she spat hastily at the lock on the narrow door, and it swung open.
“Shh!” Ginny hissed, stuffing Harry into the closet before squeezing in after him. She pulled the latch on the door shut with a quiet click, as the distant footsteps grew louder.
“How did you know this was here?”
The closet was small and cramped, and he was close enough that she felt his breath on her forehead as he whispered. She shivered from the sensation and shushed him once more. She was vaguely aware that her foot was in a bucket as she teetered precariously in the small amount of foot space in the closet.
The footsteps grew louder as they approached the duo’s hiding place and Harry’s hand slipped around her waist, pressing her to his torso to hold her still. She let out a calming breath as quietly as possible, her heart beating in her throat as the sound of the footsteps rose and fell as the professor monitoring the hallway passed by them, oblivious.
They stood, unmoving and pressed against each other out of necessity until the footsteps faded into silence.
“So… do you frequent broom closets very often, then?”
Ginny glanced upward, raising an eyebrow, but felt herself smile at Harry’s lopsided grin.
“I don’t know about very often, but one might call it often, perhaps…” she had dropped her gaze downwards and was trying, unsuccessfully, to dislodge her foot from the bucket.
“What? But – why? I mean…” Harry sputtered, thrown off guard.
Ginny chuckled. “Not all of us have invisibility cloaks and magical who’s-in-the-hallway maps to make our sneaking about easy.”
“Easy?” Harry choked.
“Yes, easy,” Ginny insisted, shaking her bucket-foot animatedly, “It’s a right deal harder to sneak about this castle without those perks, let me tell you.” She let out an exasperated grunt at the bucket, frustrated. “I think I live here now.”
He chuckled and brushed the hair out of her face, tucking it behind her ear.
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly.
“What, about the bucket?” she joked, half-heartedly.
“No, not about the bucket.”
She sighed, frustrated, and desperate to push the impending awkward silence away.
“I don’t want to not be together,” she said softly, but with determination.
“Neither do I,” he insisted, touching his forehead gently to hers.
“Well then, that settles it, doesn’t it?” she chirped, slipping her arms around his neck and kissing him softly.
He pulled away reluctantly. “I just can’t do it, Gin. I can’t put you in that kind of danger.”
“I don’t care,” she insisted again.
“I feel like we’ve done this before.”
Harry said nothing.
She shook her head angrily as she felt a lump form in her throat. She wasn’t a crier. Snatching her arms back, she grappling blindly behind her in the blackness for the door handle.
“Do you honestly think I’d be in more danger than I already am?” she snapped.
“Yes,” he answered earnestly.
Her groping fingers finally found the door handle and they stumbled out of the closet and back into the corridor. Having become accustomed to the darkness of the closet, Ginny squinted now at the glow of the torches.
“I can take – care – of – myself!” she grunted, managing to kick the bucket off her foot at last as it went sailing through the air to land neatly upside down in the closet.
“Really, Ginny? You can take care of yourself with Death Eaters and Voldemort and God only knows what else bearing down on you every minute of the day?” Harry scoffed angrily. He was getting frustrated now, too.
“I was at the Department of Mysteries, wasn’t I?” she retorted.
“Yeah, you were, because of me!” Harry shouted, then shook his head as his voice dropped, disappointed, “Because I couldn’t tell you no.”
“Because you couldn’t stop me, you mean,” she corrected. “I didn’t exactly fall on my face there, though did I?” She ploughed on before he could interrupt her, “No, I didn’t. I held my own, and I was in and out with fewer bruises than most. And were you following me around, shielding me from harm, distracted from getting your hands on that prophecy? Because I seem to remember deflecting the curses hurled at my head all by myself.”
He set his jaw, glaring at her. “I can’t do… what I need to do… if I’m worrying about you being alive or not.”
“So stop worrying about me,” she spat.
“Shall I stop breathing, too, then?”
That gave her pause, as her heart clenched. He threw his arms up into the air and dragged a hand over his face.
“I can’t do it, Ginny,” he said again, closing the gap between them. “You don’t know how it felt seeing you numb and lifeless in the Chamber of Secrets – ”
“That was different, I was eleven!”
“Oi, you were eleven, and my best mate’s sister, and it burned like fire knowing I might lose you, and I wasn’t in love with you then!”
That made them both stop.
“Er –” he began, but then she was kissing him and his hand was in the rat’s nest that was her hair, and there was nothing else but them in the world.
The sound of someone clearing their throat made them both jump and break apart. Minerva McGonagall stood stoic in her emerald green robes, mouth forming a thin line in what could only be described as her neutral expression, at this point.
“I must say, each of you has done a much better job at sneaking around this castle in the past. I fear you are losing your edge,” she remarked dryly.
Ginny glanced from Harry to the open door of the broom closet, the contents of which lay cascading out onto the stone floor of the corridor, courtesy of Ginny’s earlier bucket missile.
Harry murmured some semblance of an apology, scarlet from the roots of his hair to his toes.
“And what, pray tell, are you two doing out at this hour?” McGonagall asked expectedly.
The two exchanged glances and Ginny shrugged. “We were nicking food from the kitchens,” she said simply. Harry turned to Ginny, wide-eyed and horrified.
The corner of McGonagall’s mouth twitched.
“It was my idea,” Harry blurted.
“No it wasn’t,” Ginny and McGonagall said together.
McGonagall paused a minute, gaze flickering from red to black head. Finally, she exhaled softly and turned on her heel.
“I would prefer it if you did not miss the train tomorrow,” she said over her shoulder, her robes swishing as she made her way back down the corridor.
“Come on,” Ginny chirped, grabbing Harry’s hand and leading him the opposite direction, toward a large, gilded portrait of a fruit bowl at the end of the hall.
Harry was perplexed. “What just happened?”
Ginny laughed with delight as she tickled the pear that opened the secret passage to the kitchens, her heart soaring. The portrait swung open and Harry made to move over the threshold but Ginny grabbed his arm.
“Hey,” she said as he turned back, questioningly, “I love you, too.” Her heart swelled as he smiled back at her brilliantly.
“Mister Potter! Miss Weasley! Come in, come in!” It seemed the castle house elves been expecting them. They bustled and hustled around the kitchen, squeaking with delight at having guests, as though it was the middle of the day.
“Your favourites, Miss Weasley!” An elf named Dalla squeaked delightedly, setting a platter of lemon cream puffs before the two of them. Eyes bright, Ginny grabbed one and popped it in her mouth greedily. Harry raised an eyebrow at her.
“Wha?” she said, through the mouthful.
He shook his head, smiling.
They feasted on fresh baked goods and tomorrow’s breakfast, and laughed – oh, how they laughed. And for a minute, they relaxed, the world forgotten in their pocket of bliss.
They had taken their time making their way back to the common room that evening, hand in hand as they passed through the castle. They scrambled back into the Gryffindor common room and made themselves comfortable on the couch by the hearth.
The fire had been restored to its full blazing glory (by some astute house elf from the kitchens, no doubt), and Ginny closed her eyes, content as the flames warmed her face, leaning against Harry’s chest sideways with his arm around her shoulder and hand resting comfortably on her stomach.
Soon, though, the darkness began to press down like a weight on their happiness. Ginny opened her eyes, watching the firelight dance across Harry’s face. He stared into the flames, brow furrowed, heart heavy.
Sensing her eyes, he glanced down at her, his expression softening. “I thought you were asleep.”
“Not yet,” she said softly.
He pressed a kiss to the top of her head, murmuring into her hair. “I have to go back to the Dursley’s,” he began, “and then…”
She squeezed the hand on her stomach in silent understanding.
“I can’t take you with me. And I can’t not do… what I have to do. I wouldn’t take anyone if I could help it.”
“I know,” she said again. You bloody, proud, idiot.
“I love you, Ginny, I do.” Her heart leapt again as went on, “So I can’t… we can’t go on like this. After tonight, we have to…”
She sat up and kissed him softly, then pressed her forehead against his. “I know,” she whispered. His hand rubbed her back gently. He opened his mouth and paused, struggling to form words. Ginny squeezed her eyes shut against the tears that threatened to fall.
“Sometimes I can’t believe that you’re real…” He combed a hand through her hair, murmuring so that his voice was only just audible. “And I wish that I was anyone else, and nobody else, all at the same time.”
His voice cracked with emotion and he cleared his throat gruffly. Ginny felt a tear slip over her cheek. Damn.
“I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be here when you get back from… wherever it is you’re going.” Because he was going, that much was clear.
“I wouldn’t ask you to wait…”
“You don’t have to.”
He kissed her again, then, his hand on her neck, and there was none of the first-time clumsiness they had once navigated. Only certainty and need, and sorrow at being torn apart, with the promise of coming back together someday contingent on life and death.
“I love you,” they whispered into the night, and fell asleep intertwined as the fire died back down to smoldering embers.
They jerked awake abruptly in the early hours of the morning to Hermione, hands on her hips and foot tapping, irritated, on the stone floor. Ginny was still wearing Harry’s sweater, curled into his chest on the couch where they had succumbed to sleep sometime before dawn. They scrambled into upright positions at Hermione’s expression.
“It’s seven o’ clock,” she chirped. “Ron will be down soon,” she added. That made both of them move, Harry straightening his shirt and rubbing his eyes, and Ginny squeezing his hand briefly before skittering up the stairs to the girls’ dormitory.
“You two are very bad at breaking up,” she heard Hermione snap at Harry, and grinned despite herself.
They had agreed on that night being their last as a couple, but found themselves impossibly drawn to one another. At breakfast, they sat across from each other, feet touching under the long oak table, and exchanging grins as they remembered last night’s kitchen excursion.
As everyone filed back up to the common room, they walked together, shoulders bumping and fingers brushing, aching to touch.
Ginny packed up her trunk hurriedly, mind elsewhere, heading back down to the common room in record time. It was empty, save for Harry who pulled her into a kiss with one foot still on the bottom of the girls’ staircase. They broke apart hastily as the other students began to pour down the staircases, Ginny’s thumb tracing her lower lip.
They shared a car with Ron, Hermione, Neville, and Luna, and exchanged fleeting glances and shy smiles the entire ride to London. Hermione huffed and tuttered, rearranging everyone so they were at opposite ends of the car, smacking Harry on the arm when she thought Ginny wasn’t looking (“Whasamatter wi- you?” an oblivious Ron asked a disgruntled Hermione, through a mouthful of pumpkin pasties from the trolley witch).
They had finally parted ways at King’s Cross Station, everyone exchanging hugs and goodbyes before Harry set off to hop the train back to Little Whinging (his aunt and uncle had declined to collect him from the station this year).
“Oh Harry, dear, don’t worry – I expect we’ll see you soon,” Mrs. Weasley puttered with forced cheerfulness, drawing Harry into a bear hug as Hermione released him from hers.
“Right, we’ll definitely see you at the wedding in August, at least,” Bill chirped cheerfully from beneath the scars that marred his face. Fleur blinked up at him lovingly.
Harry nodded in agreement, but caught Ginny’s eye over Mrs. Weasley’s shoulder.
He was leaving, she could see, in more ways than one. She watched him slowly hardening, steeling himself for the things to come. His smile came less easily, and more forced, his posture more tense through his shoulders. She could feel her body echoing the changes in his as it came to her turn for goodbye.
He paused before her, surrounded by her family. For a minute she wondered if he would say anything at all, but then he had his arms around her and she was holding on for everything she had, vaguely aware of her family averting their eyes (except Ron, who Hermione pinched).
“I love you,” He whispered, only loud enough for her to hear, laying a chaste kiss on her cheek, and he was gone, swallowed by the crowd.
She swayed slightly on the spot, gently touching the spot on her cheek where his lips had just been. Her family exchanged glances as Mr. Weasley cleared his throat.
“Shall we go?” Ginny chirped with uncharacteristic perk, and began dragging her trunk toward the rental car.
It had been a long first half of July, and Ginny had mostly kept to herself in her room. Apparently, this gave her brothers cause for concern, despite Mrs. Weasley telling the boys to leave her be.
“How’s it going?” Ron’s freckled head poked around the corner from her bedroom door.
Ginny raised an eyebrow from where she lounged on her bed, reading a book. “Fine, you?”
Ron’s brow furrowed as his gaze settled on her outfit, “Is that Harry’s sweater?”
Ginny rolled her eyes, “Go away, Ron.”
Ron shook his head, walking into her room, his hand outstretched. “Give it here,” he said with authority.
Ginny gaped at him incredulously, “Excuse me?”
“I’ll take it away, just give it here.”
“No!” she threw a pillow at him, which he deflected easily.
“I’m trying to help you!” he yelled angrily, a flush rising in his cheeks.
“Why are women so bloody unreasonable,” he snapped.
Ginny stood up off the bed and he back up a step, despite his towering height. “Get out,” she said, dangerously quiet.
“No, I won’t.”
“Ron –” Hermione’s voice came from outside the bedroom – Ginny could picture her wringing her hands.
Ron threw up his hands and headed for the door, Ginny hot on his heels, but before he exited, he turned on his heel, angry.
“I don’t like you moping about like this,” he said, pointing a finger at her.
Ginny glared at his finger, “I don’t see how it’s any of your business.”
Hermione was tugging on his sleeve now, desperate to break up the confrontation before it boiled over.
“You’re my sister!”
“Yes, unfortunate, that.”
Ron turned even more red. “Why can’t you just get over it?” he snapped.
“Why can’t you just leave me the hell alone?” Ginny spat back, slamming the door in his face.
“I told you not to –” Hermione’s muffled voice tutted.
“Yeah, yeah, right again – as usual,” Ron snapped at her, before apologizing.
Ginny made her way back to her bed as Ron stamped his way back up to his room, hugging her knees and breathing in deeply, her nose pressed to the sleeves of the sweater.
A soft rap sounded on her door and Ginny closed her eyes and sighed. She grunted her acknowledgement.
Hermione’s bushy head peeked around the door cautiously, “May I come in?”
Ginny paused, then nodded. Hermione crossed the room quietly and sat down beside her on the bed. “Sorry about Ron,” she said softly.
Ginny grunted. “He’s not your responsibility.”
“Well… sometimes I wonder,” Hermione mumbled. Ginny cracked a small smile knowingly.
“What?” Hermione asked.
Hermione was silent for a beat. And then, “I haven’t heard from him either.”
Ginny shifted her gaze out the window, saying nothing.
“Are you two…”
“I don’t know,” Ginny said, although she did know. Mostly.
“I didn’t think you seemed very broken up in June,” Hermione noted, shifting uncomfortably. “I was only trying to make it easier for you,” she said in a rush, speaking of her vain attempts to keep them apart that last day.
Ginny smiled, still looking to the outdoors. The sky stretched blue and infinite. Just like that day by the lake.
“He told me he loved me that night.”
Ginny stretched out on her bed, eyes closed. “I just want him to be okay, and to be happy… even if it’s not with me,” she trailed off.
Hermione snorted in a most un-Hermione-like way beside her, “Well, I don’t think there’s any danger of him being happy with anyone other than you,” she said earnestly. Ginny smiled weakly, at that.
“As for being safe…” she turned to meet her friend’s eyes, “I’ll do my best to take care of him. Them,” she corrected, firmly.
“Thanks. He’s a git, but I do like him in one piece, I suppose,” Ginny said, and Hermione grinned, knowing she was talking about her brother, now.
Ginny sighed. “Do you know what…”
Hermione winced slightly, “Sort of. A little bit.” She said no more, and Ginny nodded, understanding that the details of Harry’s mission were not hers to share.
Hermione sat up, “We need your help, Ginny.”
The redhead propped herself up on an elbow and looked at Hermione quizzically.
“He won’t let me go with you,” Ginny began, but Hermione shook her head, hair flying.
“No, not that. We aren’t going back to school, as you might have guessed,” Hermione swallowed a lump in her throat at the prospect of squandering her education for a year, but she pushed through. “We need you to keep the DA going. I expect we’ll find ourselves back at the castle at some point this year, and if that happens … we’ll need reinforcements.”
And so, her boot camp with Hermione had begun. Under Hermione’s tutelage, Ginny learned spells she had never even heard of, practicing the theory and wand motions day in and day out. She couldn’t actually perform the magic, as at sixteen she still had the trace, but Hermione was a relentless and meticulous teacher.
Spending all of her time in her room with Hermione irritated Ron, who Ginny knew would rather have Hermione all to himself, whether or not he was willing to admit it.
Harry’s sweater lay across the back of Ginny’s desk chair, not forgotten, but no longer worn.
When he came through the portkey on the front lawn of the Burrow that last week in July, she let out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding for a month, her body relaxing and coming to high alert all at once.
Their game of cat and mouse began again during the short time they had together at The Burrow, their sidelong glances and grins firing across rooms like fireworks, so obvious to each other, but largely unnoticed by others. They had only touched briefly since he arrived, holding hands while waiting for the others to arrive by portkey, and spent their time doing their best not to find themselves alone together – until his birthday.
They had fought the magnetic draw of each other all week, through the haze of the firewhiskey after Mad-Eye died, and through the emotional pull of George’s close call and Hedwig’s demise. They were each other’s greatest comfort in a time when people were drawn to comforting one another, but they both knew a slippery slope awaited them, with an even harder goodbye at the end. But she knew he – they – would likely depart after the wedding, and the wedding was tomorrow.
Now or never, she had thought, and asked to see him in her room. She watched him hesitate, thoughts flashing through his head, and was grateful to Hermione for hauling Ron off in the opposite direction.
The minute he crossed the threshold into her room, that magnetic draw they’d been fighting became tangible, the air around them fully charged.
“I couldn’t think what to get you…”* she had begun, as she closed the gap between them.
The kiss they had shared was easy and urgent, full of desire and remorse all at once and made her head swim. She could still remember every detail of that moment. They had broken apart as Ron burst through the door, and seeing the strangled look on Harry’s face, Ginny had turned away as tears threatened to fall.
Then the wedding had come and gone, and despite their repeated goodbyes, it had all ended with him disguised as Cousin Barney, turning on the spot, and leaving her for good with no real, final farewell. And Ginny, alone at Hogwarts, raising an army to deliver to him when, and if, he came calling.
“I love you, too,” she whispered into the darkness.
*A/N: Contains some dialogue excerpts (conversation adjusted to be from Ginny’s POV) from HP 6: The Half Blood Prince and HP 7: The Deathly Hallows, all ©JK Rowling, indicated by an asterisk at the end of the line.
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