The Sugar Quill
Author: outofthecupboard (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Half Laughing  Chapter: Default
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Half Laughing, Half Crying

Half Laughing


“The train began to move. Harry saw the boys’ mother waving and their sister, half laughing, half crying, running to keep up with the train until it gathered too much speed, then she fell back and waved. Harry watched the girl and her mother disappear as the train rounded the corner. Houses flashed past the window. Harry felt a great leap of excitement. He didn’t know what he was going to but it had to be better than what he was leaving behind.”  –J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone


The Order had not been able to spare a single Weasley to send Ginny to school for her sixth year, so, along with a dozen other students and a couple of Auror guards, she had taken a Portkey from Ottery St. Catchpole to King’s Cross Station. This dispirited, pensive company had contrasted bleakly with her usual herd of fussing parents and noisy brothers.


She felt bereft, yet strangely free, as she walked alone, dragging her trunk towards the platform. Ginny imagined that had her mother been there, she would have tugged the buttons closed on her corduroy jacket, and filled her ears with reminders for a safe and productive school year. Instead, sounds she never noticed before reverberated off the prism of windows on the station’s barrel ceiling. Her companions’ shoes scuffed the floor, the train hissed as they released steam, and travelers’ farewells split against the facets of glass until they became distorted souls of human voices. The steam from the train was warm, but she shivered. This was no exciting first day of school; it felt like winter, when brown Christmas trees lay among the trash in the snow by the road, when no holiday was left to warm the bleak months ahead.


There was not a red head in sight. Ron had come of age, and with two Death Eater battles under his belt, no parent or older brother could argue with his resolve to fight. Hermione was determined to keep up her studies from the Burrow, determined to be with Ron, and to be ready when Harry needed her help.


Ginny could have stayed home at the Burrow, but as an underage witch, she had decided the best place for her was at school, where she could do magic and be surrounded by other students who would, perhaps, distract her from her longing. She did not want to sit around and wait for Harry to finish off You-Know-Who. She wanted to do something. She wanted to live.


She was looking forward to the limbo of the train ride, and to the time it would allow her to sit quietly, replay happy times with Harry over in her mind and daydream about how they could have gone on if things had been different.


Beyond the barrier, white steam towered between Ginny and the train. The warm cloud billowed over her and parted like a white curtain, revealing a sight that made her feet come up short. Her trunk banged into the backs of her legs. Her skin felt pricked as if her blood had crystallized, needle-sharp in her veins. His black hair, red scar, and white skin were the color of playing cards. He fixed her under his green gaze, and it was like looking into the sun; it hurt, but she couldn’t look away.


We have to stop seeing each other, he had said.


Seeing each other like this makes my heart stop, she thought to herself.


The string that seemed to hold her immobile snapped. She took two flying steps towards him. Her arms unfolded, but suddenly she dropped them and stopped as if she’d hit an invisible wall. She mustn’t act as if he was more than just a friend. She wasn’t allowed to do that anymore.


“Harry.” His name got stuck halfway through her throat, which felt tight against a storm of emotions. Desire, regret, concern, excitement, relief, and sorrow surged and gnawed and flashed.


Beneath his messy hair, Harry’s face was thin and hard. His cheekbones seemed carved out, like the faces on Ron’s chess pieces. Ginny’s eye followed a vagrant thread that escaped from the rolled up sleeve of Harry’s grey shirt. The thread trailed after a blue vein that meandered around a bone in his wrist. The vein’s course she knew by heart; she had often traced it with her fingertips. The memory of his skin’s living warmth sent phantom sensations into her palms. She remembered the strands of his stubborn hair fighting her fingers as she adoringly combed them through it. She shivered at the thought that she would never do that again.


“I came to see you leave,” he said. 


She had not seen him since the wedding. Now that he was in front of her, she knew she was not prepared for a painful, desperate and possibly unfulfilling goodbye at King’s Cross. He stood before her, awkward and wavering, like a mirage. She knew the moment would be short and would disappear.


Desperate as she felt, she tried to sound casual. “Thanks, Harry,” she said, but she nearly choked over his name. “I’m fine, actually. You didn’t have to come.”


He winced. “Well,” he began, blinking agitatedly, “I also have to tell you something. Something important.” He began to fidget with the strap of his knapsack, which had scratched red marks into his neck.


Ginny felt a slight thrill at the thought of Harry sharing with her any detail of what he might have been doing all summer. She lowered her eyes to hide her greedy anticipation, and surreptitiously glanced around the station. The students were loading their trunks on the first three train compartments. The rest would be empty.


“Is it about You-Know-Who?” she whispered.


“It’s about something Dumbledore told me. And it’s about us.”


Ginny’s skin flushed warm. Maybe Harry’s resolve to stay apart had collapsed. She half-hoped, half-feared his answer. “You-you haven’t changed your mind, have you?”


Her blood unfroze and started flowing again. She could hear it pulsing in her ears. Harry gazed at her, infinitely sad, and shook his head. Something inside Ginny crumpled. Harry seemed to notice it. He took his hands from his sides, reached up into the air and waved them from side to side. He must have said the nonverbal spell Mobilicumulus, because the steam from the engine chased after his arms. It formed into a huge, opaque white cloud that hid them both from sight.


Once enshrouded in the mist, they came together; Harry grasped her upper arms in his hands. Condensation collected on their skin.


Harry brought his mouth to her ear.


“Dumbledore told me,” said Harry, “that love is the power I have that Voldemort doesn’t.”


His low voice made a humming in her eardrum.


“All these bad things that happened to me, but I didn’t turn out like Snape or Riddle. He said I am still able to love and I still always wish to do the right thing. That is what protected me so many times. And I’ve realized that, although I know I can’t draw attention to you because of what might happen, I can’t ignore this power that I might need to use in the end.”


Ginny’s face was hot. He said he needed power. Did he need her? “I can help,” she blurted. “I’ve said I would.” She was gulping to turn air into words that would be the right ones--the words that would make him stay or let her go with him. “I—I won’t go back to school, I—”


“No, Ginny. As much as I want to be with you, I see that I have to do this alone. Sirius is gone, Dumbledore is gone, my parents are gone, Ron and Hermione have each other now. It’s just me.”


“It doesn’t have to be just you. I was with you. Dumbledore and the rest didn’t leave you alone on purpose. You were the one who--you weren’t alone with me. They--they left you without wanting to, but with me it was your choice.”


“I was always alone. I was alone from the start, when Voldemort marked me. It makes me different from other people.”


“I know your reasons! You still don’t have to isolate yourself. I’m not scared.”


“Love makes you really brave, doesn’t it?”


Ginny felt like her face was splashed with scalding water.


“Dumbledore taught me that love, and being kind, and making sacrifices, are powerful magic. I have to ask you to stay away from me, you understand, because I can’t lose yet another person that I … that I love.”


Ginny tightened her grip on him, willing him to confirm her dearest hope. She could hardly trust what she was hearing, until his lips parted and he was saying it again.


“I love you, Ginny.”


Ginny put her head down in the circle their arms made, unable to stop her tears, half smiling, half grimacing against the sob of agony that was also a cry of joy. How long had she dreamed of hearing those words from him?  How could he love her, but leave her alone?


Harry lifted her chin.


“Please look at me. There’s more I need to say. I know I need to hide it from other people, to keep you safe, but I realized that it is wrong to hide it from you. I don’t need to hide it from you. If Voldemort uses Legilimency on me, he’ll find out anyway, whether I’ve told you or not. And if anything happens to me, you deserve to know, and I want you to know.”


“Harry, if you love me, we should be together. Like Ron and Hermione. I can’t stand not knowing what is happening to you. When can we see each other again?”


“We-we can’t. I-I won’t endanger you. Please. You three, I love you all, you are my family. Someday, Ginny… someday… I want…” 


Ginny looked past his eyes, and saw a future with no Voldemort, a life without fear, a Harry with no scar.


“Please just go to school, or stay home, but live your life. I’m not asking you to wait for me.”


“I won’t ask you then, to change your mind. I won’t ask you to let me follow you or help you. Just survive, Harry. Promise me you will. That’s all I ask.”


“I will if I can.”


“I know you will.”


Harry squeezed her arms and gazed at her meaningfully. “If you believe in me that much,” he said, “then I suppose I can. When you look at me like that, Ginny, I feel like I can do anything!”


“Then I love you, Harry, I love you!” she cried as she pulled him into a tight embrace. His kiss she burned into her memory, so that she could relive this moment in her dreams over the long months ahead.


The train whistled.


“I won’t go. I won’t! Just to have one more minute with you, I’d rather miss the train and miss the year at Hogwarts.”


Harry smiled and sighed. “It isn’t the end, Ginny, if you go. You may as well get on the train. You’re stuff’s packed. You can always come back, you know, you’re not stuck there.”


“What if this is the last time I ever see you?” she burst out. Harry was looking at her imploringly. Somebody would miss Ginny soon. Every moment they were together at the station was dangerous.


“Look in your satchel.”


Ginny only stared. Then she opened the bag that was slung over her shoulder. Inside there was a large sock that she knew hadn’t been there before.


She smiled in spite of her tears. “This is what I’m supposed to remember you by?”


She felt the springy terry cloth. Something square and hard was hidden inside.


“I was in Grimmauld Place, and I found this two-way mirror. I have the other one. If you say my name, I will appear in the glass and we can talk to each other. My Dad and Sirius used to use them.”


Ginny was excited at the idea of be able speaking to Harry at any time she wanted, but suddenly another thought struck her. She felt it would be rash to indulge herself at the expense of Harry’s safety. “They could use this to trick us,” she explained. “What if I’m caught, and they make me lie to you through the mirror? It’s dangerous, Harry.”


“Your mum’s clock still has you down for Mortal Peril doesn’t it? Everything is dangerous. Besides, no one knows about it. They’d think it was just your pocket mirror. And there’s more. After that I went to Godric’s Hollow.”


Ginny, who was examining the mirror, clutched it rather hard, and looked up swiftly.


“It was mostly a wreck, but I found some things that belonged to my Mum. I-I wondered if you’d keep them safe for me.” He nodded at the sock.


Inside, Ginny saw a few trinkets, a bracelet, a button, a tiny silver charm with a slightly charred picture of baby Harry, and a few rings.


She pressed her swollen lips together. Tears poured out and she clenched her eyes shut against their tide as she held these precious artifacts of Harry’s life in her hands. She didn’t trust herself to speak. Her hair fell forward over her face.


The train’s whistle blew again.


This time, Harry grabbed her and hugged her tightly. Ginny’s arm, snaked around the sock, was crushed against him. He kissed her like he never wanted to stop. She kissed him back firmly, as if to show him she could be as brave as he had to be.


They hugged once more and Harry backed away from her. She wiped her eyes on the sock and squared her shoulders defiantly. Harry held his two arms out in front of them, then moved them apart, dispelling the cloud around them.


The train’s wheels screeched and one last whistle sounded. The train began to move.


Harry magicked Ginny’s trunk aboard as the train groaned forward. She gave him a courageous smile and ran to catch the handle on the door of one of the compartments. The train was already rolling away when she hopped onto the stairs. She raced into a compartment, completely empty, grabbed the latch to yank open the window, and she thrust her head out. More steam rose, and then Ginny saw Harry, half laughing, half crying, running to keep up with the train until it gathered too much speed, then he fell back and waved. Ginny watched him disappear as the train rounded the corner. Houses flashed past the window. Ginny felt a great pang of sorrow. She knew what she was going to, and it couldn’t be better than what she was leaving behind.




All the words in italics were quoted from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone. No infringement is intended. The words are quoted here for artistic purposes.

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