The Sugar Quill
Author: Jenadamson  Story: Stupid, Noble Men  Chapter: Default
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Stupid, Noble Men

Stupid, Noble Men

 

Leaving. 

 

They looked ready for a trip.  They had already changed out of their formal dress robes into trousers and T-shirts, making Ginny – in her frivolous set of gold bridesmaid robes – feel ridiculously overdressed.

 

Her suspicions were confirmed then: they were really going, leaving to do whatever important task Harry had set his mind to, and leaving her behind.  Even the area around them -- smelling of honeysuckle and lavender, lush and green after an onslaught of summer storms -- seemed conducive to a long trip.  It held the promise of hope and adventure, but it wasn’t for her.  The three of them stood directly underneath the willow, a five minute walk from the Burrow.  The dappled sunlight streaming through the canopy of leaves over their heads lit wild, geometric patterns on the packs all had slung over their shoulders.  From what Ginny could see, standing in the evening light with her heels sinking into the ground beneath her, they were tense and engaged in a heated discussion.  Hermione made rapid, angry gestures in the direction of the wedding celebration still in full swing behind Ginny, while Harry emphatically shook his head.

 

With the hum of humid August heat buzzing in her ears, Ginny took a step closer, finally bringing herself within earshot. 

 

“…without at least some explanation!” Hermione said shrilly.  “It’s not fair, Harry, you know it’s not.  She’ll—”

 

Hermione looked past Harry’s shoulder and stopped speaking abruptly.  Her eyes widened when they met Ginny’s, and Ginny was almost positive she saw a fleeting half-smile of satisfaction on her best friend’s face.  In what looked an almost reflexive move, Harry and Ron both whipped around to find what Hermione was looking at.

 

Ginny immediately sought out Harry’s startled eyes.

 

“You weren’t even going to say goodbye?” she asked with considerably more force than she’d intended. 

 

Harry winced only slightly, and though he kept his eyes steady on hers, he wasn’t guilty of trying to sneak away.  He only looked upset at being caught.

 

Ginny watched Hermione slip her hand into Ron’s (she nearly smiled at the startled look upon his face) and take a few discreet steps towards the thick, brown-speckled trunk of the old tree, leaving a solitary Harry standing before Ginny.  His body was tense, poised for flight as if with unused energy, and for a moment Ginny was certain he was going to step closer to her.  Instead, he let his rucksack slip to the ground, landing with a heavy thud as it kicked up a small cloud of dust.

 

“What are you doing here?” Harry asked hoarsely.  It was the closest Ginny had been to him in his three-day stay at the Burrow, aside from the perfunctory waltz he had politely asked for, during which he had proceeded to avoid her searching eyes and keep merely the lightest touch upon her waist.  The rest of the time, he and Ron and Hermione had been cloistered in Ron’s sweltering room, sometimes even missing meals, and giving no indication as to what they planned on doing when Hogwarts opened its doors for their last year.  Just as she’d noted during their dance, his eyes were circled with patches so dark that it made her wonder whether he hadn’t been involved in a fistfight.  His shoulders were slightly stooped, his face hollow, and his hair stuck up in a manner that reminded Ginny of a careless child. 

 

She took a step nearer, her hands reflexively reaching for him.  She caught herself at the last moment, instead needlessly brushing her hair off her face.  Harry eyed her warily, as if she were an angry serpent poised to strike.

 

Ginny felt her chin lift slightly. “I wanted to see what you lot were doing,” she told him, pointedly looking at his abandoned pack.

 

“It doesn’t matter, Ginny, just go back up the wedding.” 

 

Ginny’s mouth dropped open.  Her eyes stung and flitted away from his face.   She could guess the reasons for his harsh tone of voice, but it did little to take away the sting of his words.  She blinked rapidly and her gaze distractedly followed a blackbird as it performed a complicated loop de loop on the wind.  Irresistibly reminded of Harry, she squared her shoulders and met his eyes.

 

“You’re going after him, aren’t you?”

 

Harry’s face froze for an instant before he gave a terse nod.

 

“Let me come,” Ginny said wildly, surprising herself

 

“No,” Harry said plainly, firmly.  “You’re not coming.”

 

Despite already knowing what his answer would be, Ginny wilted.  She glanced sideways to see Ron and Hermione quietly watching the conversation.  “You’re letting Ron and Hermione go,” she pointed out.

 

Harry too glanced in his friends’ direction.  For a moment, his eyes took on a misty, far-away look. “Ron and Hermione know what they’re getting into,” he said as he brought his gaze back to Ginny, his jaw set. “They know what they’re doing.”

 

“And I don’t, is that it?” 

 

“It doesn’t matter if you do or not.  You’re not going.”

 

Ginny opened her mouth; her eyes narrowed and she felt her body roll with anger.

 

“We have to leave now, so no one will notice,” Harry said before she could argue.  “Even if you could come, you’d never be ready in time.” 

 

Ginny pulled her wand out from the hidden, magicked pocket Molly had sewn into her dress robes; ever since the fight in the Department of Mysteries her fourth year, she had taken to having it on her at all times, even sleeping with it under her pillow.  “I don’t need to be packed,” she said.  “I have my wand.  I’ll be fine.”

 

Harry appeared to hesitate for a moment.  “You’re not allowed to do magic out of school anyway, Ginny.  Your wand won’t help you.”

 

“The Ministry doesn’t care about the underage restriction on magic any more, Harry.  They have far more important things to worry about.”

 

Harry swore loudly. “Look, it doesn’t matter.  If you do underage magic, they’ll know, and they’ll be able to find us.  I can’t have anyone—”

 

“These are all rubbish excuses, Harry, excuses that are easy to get around.”  Her voice shook.  “At least be honest and tell me you just don’t want me around.”

 

“I don’t want you around for this.  I don’t want you around to fight him.”

 

 “I have just as much right to want to fight him as you do, Harry,” she said coldly.  “Or did you conveniently forget my first year again?”

 

Harry blanched and Ginny meanly felt a small jolt of satisfaction. 

 

“No, I didn’t forget,” Harry whispered furiously, finally taking a step closer so that she had to tilt her head to meet his eyes, “but it’s only another reason you shouldn’t come.  He could use you, Ginny; he will use you.”  A haunted look came into his eyes.  “Please, please just stay.  For me.  I need to know that you’re safe.” 

 

She wanted to argue, but it was positively impossible to outright deny him anything. Even as she tried her final effort, inwardly, she knew she had lost.  “It’s not as if Hogwarts is particularly safe, Harry.  Not after….”

 

“It’s safer than where we’re going,” he interrupted quickly.

 

“At least tell me where you’re going, then.”

 

“Absolutely not,” said Ron from his spot by the tree.  His hand was still safely clasped in Hermione’s.  “It’s too dangerous.” 

 

Ginny ignored him and looked at Harry. “Please, Harry.”  If he could beg, then so could she.  “What if people need to contact you?  What if something happens and we have no idea where you are?  I promise I won’t follow.  I promise I won’t just run off and tell, but I….”  She fell silent and swallowed, allowing Harry to study her.  Often, when he looked at her like this, when he stared directly into her eyes as if searching for something, she felt they were capable of communicating without words.

 

He nodded.  “We’re going to Godric’s Hollow first,” he said quickly.  “After that, I honestly don’t know.  That’s all I can tell you, okay?”

 

Ginny nodded. 

 

“We have to go now.” 

 

She watched him bend and scoop up his knapsack.  He stood before her for a moment and she held her breath, wondering if he would kiss her goodbye or tell her he’d miss her.  Ginny watched his throat work as he swallowed so harshly she could hear it.  She knew her cheeks were bright red.  He stared as if trying to memorize the exact shade of her hair, her eyes, her blush, so long and fierce was his gaze.  She was sure, so sure, he would kiss her… and then he turned and walked over to join Ron and Hermione. 

 

Feeling as if she were trying to breathe underwater, Ginny barely felt the others embrace her, barely heard them say farewell.  She kept her eyes wide, trained on Harry, determined not to cry or let her heart break until they were out of sight.   

 

With loud pops, both Ron and Hermione disappeared from underneath the tree.  Harry stayed where he was, his wand held tightly.  His eyes bored into hers.  For a brief moment, Ginny wondered if he had changed his mind.  “Ginny,” he finally said.  “I need you to turn around.” 

 

“But...”

 

“Please, Ginny, I can’t….”  He swallowed again, looking positively desperate.

 

She nodded.  “Okay, Harry.  Goodbye.”  Without waiting for his reply, she pivoted away from him, her heels again sinking into the ground so that she was facing the bird gracefully soaring on the wind.  Just behind it was the newly setting sun.  The blinding array of reds and golds seemed so far beyond her reach; it made her feel terribly lonely.  She thought she heard Harry whisper something before the telltale pop of his leaving filled her ears.  When Ginny finally turned back around, she found herself alone with the tree.

 

 

 

 

 

***

 

 

 

Half an hour later, she was still by herself.

 

Unable to keep still but unwilling to go back to the celebration, Ginny had finally allowed herself the satisfaction of giving in to the confusing jumble of emotions creating a maelstrom within her.  The faint strains of melodic and happy music danced down to her from the wedding, carried on the wind, but it only succeeded in making the achy, empty hole in her chest more pronounced.  Restlessly, she kicked off her shoes and bent to pick a smooth pebble from the ground. 

 

At the sound of muffled footsteps moving along the damp grass, she quickly swiped her hand across her cheeks and looked to see Tonks walking slowly over to her. 

 

Wotcher, Ginny,” the young Auror said when she drew closer.  Her cheeks held the healthy glow of several sunlit hours.  “Your mum was getting worried about you,” Tonks answered Ginny’s unvoiced question.  “Actually, she was worried about Ron and Hermione and Harry as well.  I saw you head this way and thought maybe you were all taking a break from the party.”

 

“No, just me,” Ginny informed her, unable to keep the bitter strain out of her voice.  “And I’m fine.”  She paused, finally meeting Tonks’ eyes.  “The others…they’ve left.  To fight Voldemort.” 

 

She waited for the shock to form on Tonks’ face, but it never did; she merely nodded, saying, “And they’ve left you behind.” 

 

Left me behind.

 

“Well,” Ginny said, giving a quiet, resentful laugh, “can’t have little Ginny getting hurt, can we?”  She blew a strand of hair out of her face and threw the pebble she’d been holding.  She watched it soar in a perfect arc through the air before it landed silently.

 

Tonks stretched her arms above her head and gave an exaggerated yawn. Her bubblegum pink hair was back in place; her cheeks flushed; her eyes were bright.  Ginny’s mind flashed back to Professor Lupin and the young Auror holding hands and laughing happily only a few hours before.  The image made her stomach turn with jealousy.  Just then, she didn’t want Tonks’ company, let alone the pitying look that was sure to be on her face. 

 

“Shouldn’t you go inform the others the golden trio is gone?” she asked, cringing slightly at her unpleasant tone.

 

“Nah,” Tonks said comfortably.  She settled herself down, her back against the tree, and hugged her legs to her chest.  “I reckon the damage is done now.  Waiting ten minutes won’t matter.  Besides, from what I’m told about Hermione, if the three of them don’t want to be found, they won’t be.”

 

For a brief moment, Ginny considered telling Tonks where the group was headed.  Her promise to Harry held her tongue.

 

“Oh.”  She felt Tonks studying her.  Uncomfortable with the shrewd look on the other woman’s face, Ginny bent to pick up another stone.  She rubbed the smooth surface between her hands.  “Well, I’ll be fine, if that’s what you’re worried about.  I just need a few minutes alone.”

 

Tonks nodded, still watching her.  Mmm-hmm.  Well, it’s going to be dark soon, so it’s probably best if you’re not alone.”  She sighed audibly.  “Besides, it’s getting a little wild up there.”  She gestured with her head towards the Burrow.  “Your brothers spiked every punch bowl, and Hagrid and Slughorn are doing a Muggle dance – the turkey dance or something.  I could use a break from it myself.  You don’t mind if I keep you company for a few minutes, do you?”

 

“Of course not,” Ginny said, immediately feeling guilty for her unfair anger towards Tonks.  She moved to sit beside her, folding her legs beneath herself. The rough bark from the old tree pressed into her back. She let the stone fall to her lap and studied the fiery ball of the sun as it made its descent into the horizon.  Her bird appeared to have moved on.  Both of them sat quietly, and Tonks unexpectedly slid her hand on top of Ginny’s.  It felt familiar, as if it were Ginny’s own – short nails and calloused fingers – and the gesture was immediately calming.

 

“There was a tree like this in back of my parents' house,” Tonks announced suddenly, breaking the comfortable silence between them.  “I used to climb it all the time, when I needed to get away from my mum harping on me to clean to my room, or when I wanted to think.”  She smiled, undoubtedly caught up in memories.  “It was my own private Eden.”  Pausing for a moment, she turned her body to fully face Ginny, studying her eyes for a moment and looking undecided about something.  “I probably could have used it last year, when all I wanted was to be alone.”  She tilted her head, as if trying to read Ginny’s thoughts.  “I think I understand what you’re going through,” she said quietly.

 

It felt as if a she’d been doused with cold water.  Ginny pulled her hand out of Tonks’ warm, soft grasp and studied the horizon again. 

 

“No, you don’t,” she said harshly.

 

Tonks sighed.  Out of the corner of her eye, Ginny saw her hug her legs closer to her chest.  “Last year,” Tonks whispered.  “Last year was probably the worst of my life.”

 

Ginny brought her head around at Tonks’ strangled whisper.  She studied her profile.  “Do you want to know why?” Tonks asked without looking fully at Ginny. 

 

“We all assumed it was because of Sirius.”  Her eyes grew wide, and she spluttered, “Not that we were talking about you.”

 

But Tonks merely kept her eyes trained ahead of her.  “Well, of course, Sirius’ death was hard; he was…well…he was family, and so alone and miserable during that year at Headquarters.  To be honest, I didn’t know him all that well, though, and my grief was probably more over Remus’ and Harry’s pain more than anything.” 

 

Remus…” Ginny remembered, thinking back on that day in the infirmary.  It felt a lifetime ago, and with everything that had happened since, Ginny had forgotten entirely about Tonks’ dramatic outcry of love.

 

“Yes, Remus.  He got it into his head that I would be much better off without him.  That he was unsafe, that he was somehow unworthy of me.  I tried at first to tell him how utterly ridiculous he was being, and I thought I’d eventually wear him down.  Finally, though, I just gave up… not even really on him.  I gave up the hope that we would ever be together.”

 

Ginny turned herself and rested the side of her head against the tree, the bark scratchy and oddly comforting against her cheek.  She slipped her hand back into Tonks’.

 

“When I finally let go of the hope,” Tonks continued, throwing a warm smile in Ginny’s direction, and giving her hand a quick squeeze, “it was… I was… I felt as if I was coming apart at the seams; when I was alone I wanted to be around people, but of course when I was with them, I wanted to be alone.  I was angry with Remus for abandoning me when I was grieving, which was actually rather ironic, because I was grieving for him.  And though I was convinced he wanted to be with me, and I was consequently worried about him being lonely, a part of me was terrified that what he told me – about wanting to keep me safe – was all a lie, an easy way to get around having to tell me I wasn’t good enough for him.

 

“And naturally, I felt guilty because there was a war to be fought, children to protect, people dying, and I was so terribly worried about Remus, and feeling alone and sorry for myself, that I didn’t think I had anything left to give anybody else.”

 

Tonks finally looked Ginny’s way, her eyes calm and warm.  “Is that it?”

 

Ginny nodded, her eyesight growing fuzzy.  “I just feel so alone,” she confessed, unable to stop speaking once she’d started.  “I’m to go back to Hogwarts next week, and the thought of facing all of those rooms and those memories without him there, without them there, terrifies me.  And then I think, well, aren’t I being selfish, because they’re going off to chase down Voldemort and I’m terrified of empty rooms, but… but I’d feel safer facing down a dark wizard with them than I would alone in the dark, and maybe a part of me is angry that Harry can’t stop to notice that.”  She sighed.   “Or that he’s incapable of noticing because he has bigger things to worry about than his silly girlfriend and her mad paranoia.”  Ginny laughed wetly.  “Except I’m not his girlfriend anymore.” 

 

She glanced at Tonks.  “Do you – I mean, did you know he and I were going out?”

 

Tonks smiled warmly.   “I was at Hogwarts for most of the year, even if you couldn’t see me.  I knew you were together.  And I saw how happy it made him.”

 

Ginny’s eyes flitted away for a moment; she sighed, caught up in memories of sun-drenched air and breathless laughter, of hands and dizzying kisses.  She felt her cheeks warm and looked back at Tonks to see a knowing smile gracing her heart-shaped face.

 

“So what changed between you and Professor Lupin?”

 

Tonks smiled.  “What changed was that I acted like a complete fool in front everyone and he probably didn’t want that sort of mad drama again.” 

 

Ginny laughed quietly.  “So I should follow Harry and make sure my whole family comes, and then make a scene?  Somehow I don’t think that would work.”  

 

“No, you’re probably right,” Tonks agreed.  She frowned slightly.  “The truth is I’m not entirely certain what changed.  When Sirius died, it seemed that Remus gave up hope, and it was… later he told me he felt that punishing himself was the only thing he knew to do to make it better.  He felt as if by hurting, he was doing the right thing.

 

“But the thing is, Ginny,” Tonks continued, “sometimes doing the right thing and the easy thing is the same thing, and people assume the right decision always has to be the one that hurts us, when – if they’d just listen to their hearts – they’d see how wrong they are.   Remus had to figure this out on his own. Harry’ll come around.”

 

Ginny snorted.  She felt tears prickle her eyes and she turned her head to watch the sun slip behind the horizon. 

 

“The difference is,” she said after a minute, keeping her eyes trained ahead in the darkness, “Professor Lupin loves you, and he’s here with you, and he’s not some seventeen-year-old boy running off to meet his fate.” She looked back at Tonks.  “He sees you as an equal, not some little school girl in love with a fairytale.”

 

Tonks gave a half-smile.  “There was a time not too long ago when Remus’ worries were in fact that I was a silly little girl incapable of grasping the cold, hard facts of war, and he was worried that I was taken up with the grandeur of being with a werewolf.”  Tonks tutted.  “What nonsense. I’m an Auror; I’m fighting next to him, and the real truth of the matter is that he was blinded by his own insecurities.

 

“If you’re worried about Harry loving you, Ginny…”  Ginny brought her startled gaze up to Tonks’.  “Don’t be.  I’ve seen the way he looks at you.  I saw it this past year at Hogwarts, and I saw it all through the wedding when he thought he was being terribly sly and studying you when he thought no was watching.  As for him thinking you’re unequal – prove to him that you’re not.”

 

Ginny scoffed. “How am I supposed to do that?  If I followed them to God—”  She clamped her mouth shut, ignoring the shrewd look Tonks gave her.  “If I followed them,” Ginny repeated in a rush. “— not that I even have any idea where they’re going – they’d just send me home.”

 

Tonks sighed and gave her shoulders an exaggerated shrug.  “I dunno, Ginny, that’s something you’ll have to figure out.  Maybe there’s something at school you could do…”

 

“What on earth could I do cooped up at Hogwarts?  I don’t even think we’re going to be allowed into Hogsmeade this year.”

 

“No,” agreed Tonks.  “Hogsmeade isn’t very safe.”

 

“It’s not as if Hogwarts is all that safe anymore, anyway.  I just wish Harry’d realize that.”

 

“Harry, more than most, understands that nowhere is entirely safe now.  I’m not defending his choice to distance himself from you.  Denying love is never a good thing, but I am sure he only has your best interests at heart – and probably his own.  You have to trust him to make the right decision when the time comes.” Tonks paused.  “And you have to trust yourself as well.”

 

“How can I trust myself when I feel so… so desperate and confused and… terrified?”  Ginny glanced up at the vast sky, millions of stars blinking back at her.  For a moment, she wondered what would happen if they fell out the sky; she didn’t think the world would be any more confusing.  “The world is falling apart, and I’m just some helpless girl watching it crumble into dust.”

 

“No,” Tonks said sharply.  “You’re not helpless.  When the world around you is falling apart, Ginny, that’s when it’s imperative that you trust yourself.”  She looked at Ginny, her eyes two bright spots lit up by the rising moon[MSOffice3].  “If the world is unsafe, do something about it.  Make yourself safe.” 

 

“How am I supposed to—”  She stopped.  Her mind suddenly flashed to a not-so-secret room filled with students all eager to learn how to defend themselves

 

She felt a sudden rush of excitement and smiled to herself.  She looked up to see Tonks smiling in return. 

 

“And I’ll tell you a secret,” Tonks mock whispered.  “If you need any help with anything, I’m sure your new Defense professor will be more than willing to help.”  She winked.  Ginny opened her mouth, but Tonks interrupted: “Are you ready to go back up there?” she asked, looking past Ginny into the black evening.  “It’s dark.  We shouldn’t be outside the wards.”

 

Ginny glanced in the direction of the Burrow.  Music and laughter still floated towards her.  Though she wasn’t terribly eager to break up the merriment by informing the party of Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s disappearance, she knew putting it off would not make it any easier.  Maybe once her mum had calmed down a bit, she could sneak off to her room to owl Neville and Luna. 

 

She nodded and allowed Tonks to help her up.  Under the mellow white light of the crescent moon, the two moved hand in hand towards the laughter.  Ginny shut her eyes.  A picture of Harry flared behind them, as clear as if he were standing in front of her; he was laughing, telling her everything would work out in the end.

 

From somewhere far away, Ginny thought she heard the sound of a blackbird.

 

A/N: Many thanks to Hailiebu, Allie and Gwynne for the beta.

 

 

 

//
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