The Sugar Quill
Author: Felix Felicis  Story: The Smell of Amortentia  Chapter: Default
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The Smell of Amortentia

The Smell of Amortentia

By Felix Felicis

Disclaimer – All the characters belong to J.K. Rowling.  I’m borrowing them for a bit and promise to return them as good as new.

 

Harry woke for the third time in as many hours, as if on cue.  He clenched his hands slowly into fists and fought back the ache in his head and the prickling tears in his eyes.  Sliding his arm quickly across his forehead, he wiped away the glistening beads of sweat that had formed while he slept.  The dream had been the same every night for several weeks now.

 

Drawing himself up into a sitting position, he wrapped his arms tightly around his knees and pulled them in close, as if to protect himself from the wrath of the night.  Although it was warm, he shivered as images from his dreams flitted around inside his head.  He buried his face in his hands, grimacing as he rubbed his fists across his eyes.

 

This has to end, he thought, I can’t take it much longer.  He sighed and leaned back into his soft pillows, willing them to take away some of the pain.  He yawned and glanced at the clock – three a.m.  There were still three more hours to sleep, so he wormed his way back under the blankets and tossed one arm over his face.  It was only a few moments before the long, even breaths of sleep took over, and his unconscious mind became his reality again.

 

A girl in a beautiful, flowing dress danced freely across the fields holding a bouquet of freshly picked wildflowers.  Her hair flowed out behind her in silent waves and the sunlight caressed it into brilliant crimson sparkles.  Simple sandals adorned her feet, while a sweet smile and bright eyes shown on her face.  Even nature seemed to reflect her happiness by showing off a spectacular array of colors in everything from the seas of wheat to the tall pines of the nearby glen.  The peaceful sunlight shown down from a brilliantly blue sky that seemed to beckon the birds into the air just for the sheer enjoyment of flying.

 

Harry smiled in his sleep as the now familiar dream played out in his mind.

 

As she came into the garden her pace slowed.  Her musical laughter filled the air as a large ginger cat chased several potato-shaped gnomes into their dirty holes.  She looked up and waved happily at Harry, making his heart skip a beat.  She was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen, and she was walking right for him.  She passed the old well pump and skipped up the worn steps onto the porch.  He watched with growing anticipation until finally she joined him on the porch swing. 

 

Kicking off her light sandals and pushing off gently from the floor to get it started, she turned to him and ran a soft hand through his untidy hair.  He was only dimly aware of the soft rocking motion, because the next thing he knew, her head was resting comfortably on his shoulder and his arm was wrapped protectively around her.  He savored the sweet smell of flowers that wafted from her hair as it cascaded down around her shoulders and across his neck.  It was like being touched by a cloud; a softness so gentle it could hardly be felt but for its absence.  Harry inhaled softly and closed his eyes, letting his senses carry him away.

 

Suddenly, a bright light filled his eyes and the girl was completely obscured.  He felt himself falling away and then woke up rudely in his small room at the Dursleys.  The warm morning sun was bright in his face as he rolled over to look at the clock by his bed; it was just after six in the morning.

 

He sat up and rubbed his eyes, trying to forget the dream.  His heart ached every time he had it, and while still better to dream painfully of Ginny than have nightmares about Voldemort, it was a new kind of pain that he wasn’t used to yet. 

 

When Harry first learned about the Horcruxes, he never thought it would come to this; leaving school, perhaps leaving his friends, and worst of all, leaving Ginny.  The number of times he had woken up to this dream, or any dream like it, was something he didn’t care to think about.  Ever since Dumbledore’s funeral when he finally told Ginny his plans and left her sitting all alone, he had been plagued by thoughts of her.  The way her eyes flashed in anger when defending him, the way her mouth looked when she pouted over homework, the freckles that so gently adorned her nose; rarely did he have a moment’s solace from these visions.  He hadn’t spoken to her since the train ride back to Kings Cross, and while she hadn’t sent him any letters, he hadn’t written any either.  It was just too painful.

 

He rolled out of bed just in time to hear his Uncle bellowing for him to hurry up and fix breakfast.  He threw on a t-shirt and scrambled down the stairs into the dazzling brightness of his Aunt’s kitchen, reminding himself that after his approaching birthday he would never have to set eyes on his relatives again.

 

After feeding the rest of the household, Harry slipped unnoticed out of the kitchen.  His stomach growled, but he ignored it and ran back up the stairs to his room.  A hot shower later and wearing clean clothes, even if not his, he sat back down on his small bed to ponder his day.  This summer it rarely changed.  He always made breakfast for the Dursleys, took a shower, then sat to stare out the window, his mind occupied with colors more of the ochre tone than the green of the lawns and the blue of the sky.  It seemed that Ginny was all his mind was interested in these days.

 

In the afternoons he would walk down to the nearby park and watch the children swinging, thinking of the gentle rocking motion and the touch of her hand on his as they rocked together in his dream.  Then came night, which was always the worst.  Barricaded in his room with the door locked, he would sometimes let his feelings go when the effort became too great to hold back.  Sometimes he felt almost fortunate that there was no one there to ask, no one who cared about the agony he felt, it surely saved him many questions and much explanation. 

 

His greatest fear was that Ginny felt the same way he did, blocked off from the world, too upset to care about anything, living only inside herself.  It would all be worth it if he could only see her live through the war.  If he could do that, the pain would be justified.

 

The foundation of everything in the course of his next year was based on protecting and saving his friends from harm.  For that, the Horcruxes had to be destroyed and Voldemort defeated, and he grimly realized he was the only one who could do it.  He hadn’t yet discussed with Ron and Hermione his plans for them to stay behind at school, and he sometimes thought he would just disappear without even saying goodbye to them.  That plan was usually dismissed easily because they were just as stubborn as he, and would probably come find him anyway.  They had sworn to stand by him wherever he went, and he knew they would, if he let them.

 

Ginny was a different matter, though.  His feelings for her ran deep, and he struggled for a long time before ending things with her.  The decision had not come easily, but after great thought and consideration.  He had far too much experience with the vengeance of Voldemort against those he loved.  He had lost both his parents and his Godfather because of their relationship to him, and now Dumbledore, his mentor and friend, was gone, in many ways due to Harry.  He couldn’t bear to lose any more, especially the girl who was so important he would give his life for her.

 

A light tapping at the window woke Harry from his reveries, and he opened it to let in a slightly ruffled-looking Hedwig.  She looked a little forlorn and held out her leg while he untied the single letter she held.  Then with no ceremony whatsoever, she flew to her cage, gulped some water and fell quickly asleep.  He glanced out the window at the windy day and then closed it quickly, turning back to his letter.

 

With very little mail to speak of, Harry wondered who could be writing to him.  He turned the envelope over several times before finally tearing it open at the seam.

 

Dear Harry,

 

We all hope that you are doing well with your Aunt and Uncle this summer.  Everyone here at the Burrow is well, even Percy, though he spends little time here yet.

 

I have been in contact with Headmistress McGonagall, and she believes that it will be fine for you to spend a bit of time with us prior to Bill and Fleur’s wedding.  If you and your Aunt and Uncle have no objections, I will stop by to collect you tomorrow.  Please have all of your belongings packed and ready by five in the afternoon.

 

If you are agreeable to this matter, please send your reply back as soon as you are able.

 

Regards,

 

Arthur Weasley

 

P.S.  Harry, I’m adding this after Mrs. Weasley read and edited the above.  Sorry about sounding so formal, but she’s still working things out as regards you and Ginny.  Perhaps we’ll have time to talk before you have to see her.  See you soon!

 

Harry read the letter twice through, the second time understanding a little better why it sounded so formal coming from Mr. Weasley, who was always so friendly.  He smacked his head in frustration at causing even more harm.  He had never intended to anger anyone; his only interest was in protecting Ginny.  Now it seemed that all the Weasleys were upset with him.

 

He rolled onto his back and blew a long breath out through his nose.  He vaguely wished he could be more like the ceiling above him – plain and uninteresting.  He lay there for several minutes, his mind going as blank as the paint over his head.  Finally he got up, grabbed a quill from his desk, and scribbled back a reply to Mr. Weasley.  He looked at Hedwig, and as she was clearly not about to go back outside yet, he set it down on his desk.

 

By evening Harry had cleaned up his room and packed the few belongings he had bothered to remove over the last few weeks.  The affirmative reply for Mr. Weasley was sent, even if Hedwig did look slightly disgruntled about going back out so soon, and at dinner he made the announcement to his Uncle that he would be leaving.

 

“Uncle Vernon?” he began cautiously.

 

His Uncle merely grunted from the other side of the table, pretending his food was quite interesting.  Harry took this as permission to continue.

 

“I’ve just received an invitation to go stay with the Weasleys – my friends from school – and they’ll be here to collect me tomorrow.”  He paused to wait for a reaction.

 

“And…” his Uncle said slowly, “I am supposed to care about this?  Why?”

 

“Well, as my seventeenth birthday will make me a legal-age wizard, I won’t be coming back here again.”

 

The reaction was immediate this time.  His Uncle dropped his fork and knife onto his plate and peered across the table with a most unusual expression.  Harry thought it looked something like unconcealed glee, mixed with anxiety about his having mentioned his abnormality.

 

“I see,” Uncle Vernon said, “and you mean to say that you won’t ever be coming back, ever?”

 

Harry nodded his head slowly, suddenly feeling a strange sadness.  It wasn’t as if he cared for the Dursleys, but leaving them because he would finally be of-age was just another step toward the end of an era.  He would not be going back to Hogwarts, his friend and mentor had just been murdered, and now he was finally going to be of an age where he would be completely responsible for all of his own actions.  Even with everything he had been through in his young life, it was still not enough to prepare him for this, the ultimate responsibility, in his mind, his own life.

 

Harry excused himself from the table, hating the looks he was now getting from all of the Dursleys.  A moment after he left the room, he swore he heard them starting to plan a party for when he was gone.  Although they certainly weren’t his favorite people in the world, it was painful knowing that even after all these years, they still didn’t want him in their house.  He slumped down on his bed without removing his clothes and napped for a hour or so.  When he woke up it was still late evening and he moved over to the window to watch the stars come out.  The lights from the street deadened the sky somewhat, but Harry didn’t mind so much.  It was easy to look at the stars, especially when he wasn’t trying to find some divine meaning in them.

 

After a few minutes he noticed Hedwig soaring back through the cool night air toward his window.  For a moment his heart lightened at the prospect of more mail, but dropped just as quickly when she alighted on his shoulder with nothing at all to show for the journey.  Seeming to sense his feelings, she nipped affectionately at his ear and cooed softly before returning to her cage for another nap.  At least she likes me, he thought.

 

Harry trudged across his room and slowly changed into his pajamas, then turned out the light by his bed.  It’ll certainly be a long night if things keep going this way, he reflected.  Well, at least tomorrow I’m off to see Ron.  I hope he’s not mad at me too.  With that, he drifted off to sleep.

 

His dreams that night weren’t nearly the same as they had been.  They were filled now with Ginny’s tears and shouts of rage and threats from her brothers.  Even Mrs. Weasley wouldn’t turn her eyes on him.  He felt alone and out of place at their house, but somehow couldn’t shake himself from the dream.  Ginny took one look at him and burst into sobs, running from the room.  Ron turned to him in disgust and marched out after her.  Harry didn’t seem to have a single friend in the family.

 

The next part of the dream was even more bizarre when the Dursleys walked through the door at the Burrow and sat down to tea with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley.  They all talked long and loud about how Harry had never been a proper young man, and wondered what should be done with him.  Uncle Vernon suggested more beatings with a cane, while Mrs. Weasley simply said he should be removed from Hogwarts and all of his school records should be destroyed.  His mind finally had the mercy to wake him when Aunt Petunia recommended he be given to the Dementors to let them sort him out.

 

He writhed in his blankets, feeling them clinging to his sweaty body.  Finally he managed to extract himself and sat up, shaking all over.  For a few moments he even considered sending another note to Mr. Weasley saying he wouldn’t be coming after all, but the reality was that he knew they wanted him to come to the wedding, and there was no way he could go back to his Uncle now and say he was just kidding about leaving.

 

It was one of the longest days Harry ever spent at the Dursleys.  After never getting back to sleep in the morning, he then had to endure the obscene smiles of his Aunt and Uncle all day.  Even Dudley seemed happy to see him go, although Harry couldn’t imagine how his cousin could possibly benefit by his leaving.  In the afternoon he thought about going for a walk down the street to the park, just so he could try to memorize how it all appeared, but he only ended up alternating between staring dully out the window and pacing in circles, making sure he hadn’t forgotten anything.  Coming back to the Dursleys after he had promised them never to return would be like spending another year at Hogwarts just to take class with Professor Snape.

 

When the afternoon came to a close, and all the neighbors returned home to their neatly manicured lawns and homes, Harry piled his things by the front door.  He wasn’t sure exactly how they would be traveling, but it was safer to keep his belongings mostly out of sight from his Uncle.  With the same idea in mind, he placed himself on the stairs and leaned against the wall to wait.  Uncle Vernon came only once to check on him, with a smile so painfully evil it was all Harry could do not to hex him on the spot.  He kept his fingers crossed and checked the clock on the wall so often his neck was starting to hurt.  Finally, just as the clock struck five, there was a knock on the door.  As he got up, it briefly registered with him that the Weasleys were never on time, and a small grin ran across his face at their promptness.

 

Unsure whether he should answer it himself or wait for his Uncle, Harry moved slowly toward the door.  Uncle Vernon peered around the corner at the end of the hall, and told him to get going as quickly as possible.  Harry didn’t mind doing just that.  He pulled open the front door to reveal both Mr. Weasley and Ron, who was standing off to one side.  They could both nearly pass for Muggles, and though Ron had a hard time meeting Harry’s eye, Mr. Weasley, as usual, could hardly contain himself around so many Muggle things.  Harry watched closely as he started eyeing a plug in the wall, and picked up his things quickly so they could leave.

 

“Harry,” Mr. Weasley said, looking up in surprise, “aren’t you even going to say goodbye to your Aunt and Uncle?”

 

“I’ve already done so, much good it does.  Let’s just get out of here.”

 

Mr. Weasley was watching him carefully, and Harry could see the cogs turning in his mind as he remembered the last time he had tried to get the Dursleys to say goodbye to their nephew.

 

“Harry, would you mind waiting here for a moment?  I want to have a word with your Aunt and Uncle.”  It wasn’t a question.  He smiled at Harry, then strode off down the hall.

 

“I wouldn’t do that if I were –“ he started to say, but Mr. Weasley was already gone.  Harry turned to Ron.

 

“Alright, Ron?”

 

“Yeah, you?”

 

“Could be worse.”

 

Ron held a guarded look on his face for a moment, but then seemed to make a decision in his mind.

 

“Look mate,” he began, “I don’t know what’ll happen between you and Ginny, but I do know this…” he smiled, “When you say ‘it could be worse’, well, it’s about to be worse.  Dad seems to be okay with what happened.  I think he understands what you’re up against, even if he doesn’t agree with your choice; but Mum, well, you’re on your own there.  She’s lost it, completely ‘round the bend.

 

“She doesn’t hate you,” Ron added, seeing the look on Harry’s face, “she just… isn’t happy with you.  You know girls, always making crazy plans in their heads, and then blaming it all on you.  Well, she seems to have…made some, uh, long range plans for the two of you, and she’s a little disappointed that they didn’t work out.”

 

“Wait,” Harry said, “I haven’t given up on Ginny, I’m just trying to keep her safe.”

 

Ron held up his hands in defense.  “Hey, I’m just telling you what’s going on so you can be prepared for it.”

 

A sound from behind them made Harry turn.  In the doorway stood all three of his relatives with Mr. Weasley smiling happily in front of them.

 

“See, Harry, they wanted to say goodbye to you after all!”

 

Uncle Vernon smiled fiendishly and waved at Harry from behind Dudley.  Aunt Petunia had a similar look on her boney face, but wasn’t quite so mean.  Dudley was just smiling smugly as if Christmas had come early and he was getting twice as many presents as last year.  Harry turned away from them, disgusted, and couldn’t help but notice the sympathetic look on Ron’s face.

 

“Well, Harry, shall we go?”  He nodded.

 

Mr. Weasley led the way down the walk, turning toward the same park Harry had used so often this summer.  Having shrunk all of Harry’s things and pocketed them, they were left only to look at the houses and gardens as they passed.  Mr. Weasley commented on all of them, and got particularly excited about watching one man watering his lawn with a long hosepipe.  It was all Harry could do to drag him away from asking questions that would only lead to more questions in return.  He thought it best to change the subject.

 

“Mr. Weasley, how exactly are we getting to the Burrow?”

 

“We’ll be Apparating, of course.  Ron’s just got his license, and I’ll be taking you side-along.”  He looked at Harry cautiously, “I understand you’ve done side-along Apparating before?”

 

“Yes,” Harry said quietly, “with Dumbledore.”

 

They didn’t talk for a few minutes after that, until finally Ron burst out.

 

“Harry, look, I’ve been kinda going back and forth on this, but you’re my best mate, so I’ve made my decision.”

 

Harry looked at him blankly.

 

“Well, I was mad at first, about what happened with you and Ginny, but I’m not going to be anymore.  I know what you’ve been through, and what you’ve lost.  I still don’t agree with you, but I know what you’re trying to do.  Plus, I really wanted to hex your Aunt and Uncle back there.  They way they looked at you, knowing you won’t be back there ever again.  It’s just sick.”  He looked sideways at Harry, trying to gauge his reaction.  Harry couldn’t help but smile back.  It felt good having someone angry on his behalf.

 

“Thanks,” he said.

 

In what seemed like only a few moments later, Harry shook himself out of the uncomfortable compressed feeling he got from Apparating, and looked up to see the crooked, teetering walls of the Burrow.  He couldn’t help but smile again, this place was so much like home to him.

 

They walked across the yard and Mr. Weasley held open the front door for Ron and Harry, who was careful not to go first.  Once inside, Mr. Weasley quickly returned Harry’s belongings to their original size, and Harry ran them upstairs to Ron’s room, feeling happier every step.

 

On the way back down, something was different when he reached the hallway outside Ginny’s room, and he couldn’t help but stop.  The door was closed, and though Harry couldn’t hear anything from inside, he somehow knew she was there; it was a warm feeling, a familiar smell of flowers, and a sense of comfort.  Looking back, he realized he had always felt it in her presence.  He paused, then reached out his hand to slowly brush the worn handle with his fingertips.  It felt oddly familiar, as if it held some of Ginny’s own magic.  Suddenly, like an electric shock had jumped at his hand, he withdrew it, and the very next moment the door opened.

 

Ginny stood on the other side in her jeans and a Weird Sisters t-shirt.  Her long, red hair was piled on the back of her head, with what looked like her wand stuck through it; and though not smiling, she didn’t look unhappy.

 

“Harry?” she asked tentatively.

 

As if he had swallowed a frog, his voice was suddenly very thick.  “Hi, Ginny,” he croaked.  Feeling the heat rising in his cheeks, he wondered how long they would stand there staring at each other.  Finally, she spoke again.

 

“I was just… going to go for a walk in the garden,” she said, hurriedly.

 

“Oh,” he replied, “do you want some company?”

 

“No,” she shook her head, looking at the floor.  “I’d rather go by myself.”

 

He nodded and let her pass by, watching her tread slowly down the stairs.  He went back upstairs to Ron’s room to kill a few minutes, then went down again, deciding it would be best if they didn’t know he had seen her yet.

 

“Hey,” Ron said, when Harry finally appeared at the bottom of the stairs, “Mum’s just about got dinner ready, and you just missed Ginny.  She’s going out to the garden.”

 

Harry was silent for a moment, but couldn’t avoid Ron’s probing look for long.

 

“I’ve already seen her.  We, uh, met on the stairs earlier.”  He waved vaguely toward the stairs behind him, then added, “I don’t know if I’ll eat anything.  I’m not very hungry, really.”  He made to turn around, but was accosted suddenly from the door to the kitchen.

 

“Hey look everyone, it’s Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Wouldn’t-Date-Our-Sister.”  Contrary to the normal joking from the twins, Harry was a bit surprised by the angry stares he was now receiving.  He glared back at them, and muttered under his breath.

 

“What’s that, Harry?”  Fred asked.

 

“Yeah, couldn’t quite hear you there,” George added.

 

“I said, it’s none of your business.”  Harry knew it wasn’t best to get them going, but in his present state of mind, he wasn’t about to disappoint them.

 

They looked at him in mock fear.  “Well, actually –” started George.

 

“It is our business,” finished Fred.

 

“You see,” said Charlie, appearing behind them from the other room, “she’s our sister, and you might say we’re a little protective of her.  You might even say we’re a lot protective of her.  Perhaps even to the point where anyone who hurt her had better watch out for themselves.”

 

Charlie rolled up his sleeves, and Harry swallowed unconsciously.  With a wand he would be glad to take them all on at once, but as he was still underage, that wasn’t an option.  He looked over at Ron, seeking some form of help, but Ron seemed too shocked by their behavior and only looked on as they advanced toward his friend.

 

“That’s enough,” a voice shouted from behind Harry.  He jerked around, seeking the identity of his savior, and nearly tripped over himself as he stared right into the fiery eyes of Ginny.  On many occasions over the years he had seen her unique ability to halt her brothers in their tracks, and this appeared to be the best example yet.  A sudden picture of Malfoy covered in Bat-Bogeys came to his mind, and once again he felt the blood rushing to his face.  As much as he was happy he wasn’t going to get pounded by her brothers, it wasn’t going to help his situation having her show up to defend him.

 

She advanced across the room like a stalking leopard, and they cowered back through the doorway, heads bowed toward the floor.  She followed and closed the swinging door behind her; not that it stopped her voice in the least.  Harry marveled for a moment at her ability to scream like her mother, and almost betrayed his thoughts with a smile but for Ron’s presence.  Instead, he watched in his mind’s eye as the scene played out in the other room.

 

“Look,” she started, “I don’t need you picking my fights for me.  I’m perfectly capable of handling my life, myself, without your interference.  I’m not a little girl anymore, and as much as I know you like thinking you can protect me, I’d appreciate it if you would let me handle this myself.  I am capable, never mind what you lot think.  There are some things you should just leave alone, and this is one of them.”  She paused for a moment, then continued in a softer tone.

 

“You have no idea what the situation is in there with Harry,” she said, “You have no idea what we feel or don’t feel for each other, because it’s none of your business.  If we want to be together, or if we don’t, it’s our decision, not yours.  No, we’re not seeing each other anymore, but it was mutual.  I have school and Harry has things he needs to do.  Threatening to hurt him won’t help, and it’ll only make me angrier.  Now, does anyone have any problem with that?”

 

He could imagine her surveying her elder brothers with a satisfied look in her eye, then turning and walking out the door to the backyard, victory in hand.  Instead, he was surprised when she walked back through his door, paused, and glanced up at him.  The look on her face was much different than he imagined.  It was strained and hurt, and it broke his heart to pieces.  He never wanted to see her this way, and somewhere down deep he knew it was his own doing.

 

“Ginny,” he reached out a hand to her.  She drew back and looked away, a single tear running down her cheek.  He continued, “What… what did that mean?  It wasn’t mutual, it was all my fault…” his voice trailed off.

 

“I had to say something,” she whispered, followed by a long pause.  “Oh, Harry…” she finally cried, then ran up the stairs.  Harry looked on, and for once didn’t wonder at her actions.  His own emotions were so tied up in thick knots, he didn’t even know where to begin unraveling them.  He decided to start by going back upstairs, and he just wasn’t hungry anymore.

 

“Hey mate,” started Ron, “I’m sorry about what they –“

 

“It’s okay,” Harry said and shook his head.  “Listen, I’m not very hungry so why don’t you go along and eat without me.  Maybe try to talk your brothers out of killing me in my sleep.”  He smiled tiredly.

 

“Yeah, alright,” Ron replied.  “See you in a bit?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Ron turned and walked through the door.  Harry stood watching after him for a moment, then went upstairs to think in solitude for a while.  When he reached Ron’s room, he flopped down on the camp bed, and scrubbed his face with his hands.

 

This can’t be right, he thought, I’m supposed to let her go so she’ll be safe, and now I’m falling for her all over again.  Maybe I shouldn’t have come back, but Bill and Fleur wanted me here so I guess I’m stuck.  Maybe I can just stay away from her the whole time.  That’s not very likely though, is it?  Oh well, she is very pretty.  I can’t believe it took me so long to notice her in the first place.  Guess I’m just a stupid prat like the rest of ‘em.  What did I ever do to deserve her anyway?  She’s too good for me, way too good.  She’s pretty, and smart, and just as stubborn as me about some things, but she’s so sweet, and sooo pretty.  Wow, I love the way the room just lights up when she comes in.  I love the way she looks at me when she knows I’m covering something up.  I love the way the firelight reflects off her hair.  I love the way she makes me feel like I really can win the war, and that it’s worth fighting, just for her.

 

Is that why I’m doing this?  For a girl?  I really am pathetic, just like all those old knight-in-shining-armor stories.  Am I trying to save her?  Of course, that’s the whole point, right?  She’s amazing, she’s wonderful, she’s beautiful, I’d do anything for her.  I’ll do anything for her.  But I wonder… I wonder if she still wants me?  I don’t deserve her.

 

His train of thought carried on in this dizzying manner for some time, and he found himself getting very tired.  He stripped off his shirt and pulled on his pajamas, then crawled under the light blanket, his feelings for Ginny leaving his mind in turmoil.

 

It was nearly midnight when Ron came up, and though he tried to be quiet, Ron was never one for graceful actions.  He tripped over the corner of Harry’s bed, and fell quite loudly into the post of his own.  Swearing to himself, he climbed into his bed, completely unaware of his friend shaking with mirth on the floor next to him.

 

Harry lay in his bed for some time after, watching the stars move across the sky in brilliant arcs.  Finally, he sat up, feeling rather awake for one o’clock in the morning.  He pulled back the blanket as quietly as possible and padded toward the door, trying his best not to wake his friend.  As he opened the door to the hallway, Ron’s snores stopped for a moment, but then started again as Harry closed the door behind him.

 

He continued on down the stairs and couldn’t help but pause briefly at Ginny’s door.  He was surprised at the lack of feeling and closed his eyes to clear his senses.  Earlier when she was in her room, he knew it, he could feel her presence.  Now, attributing it to her being asleep, he touched the door and pushed it open gently.  Somehow he wasn’t surprised to find she was gone.  He looked around the empty room and his eyes fell on a picture sitting by her bed.  In it he saw himself lying on a sofa in the Gryffindor common room, while Ginny sat on the floor reading a book.  His arm was draped around her and he played absently with her hair.  She smiled to herself and glanced back at him while he pretended to sleep.  He remembered the time and remembered how peaceful he felt, but now it seemed like ages ago; so much had happened since then.  Tearing his eyes away from the picture, he backed out of the room and continued down the stairs toward the kitchen.  Having skipped dinner, his stomach was now grumbling angrily at him.

 

At the bottom of the stairs, he noticed a fire still burning in the grate, casting dancing shadows around the room.  He stopped to watch quietly for a moment.

 

As his eyes roamed to the sofa, they were drawn down to a small figure, huddled up on the floor, leaning toward the fire to catch all the warmth it had to offer.  The telltale hair gave her away, and Harry felt goose bumps rise on his arms.  Time seemed to slow down, and he felt like he could just stare at her forever.

 

“Harry?” Ginny said eventually, still looking into the fire.

 

He cleared his throat, “Hi,” was all he could say.  He wanted to say something else, but couldn’t figure out quite what it was, so he just stood, watching her from across the room.

 

“Do you want to sit down?”  There was the smallest trace of a shake in her voice, and he felt himself being drawn to her.  He walked carefully to the sofa, then thought better of it and joined her on the floor.  He reached out and swished his hand over the candle on the table, lighting it with his fingers.  Her eyes were drawn to it and she stared blankly at it for a moment.

 

“I didn’t know you could do that,” she said in awe.

 

“Yeah, Dumbledore… he taught me… or, was teaching me.  I’ve never really done it before without his help, though.”  His throat tightened up slightly at the name, and he sensed, rather than saw, Ginny looking at him sympathetically.  Even the knowledge that he had finally performed what the Headmaster had been teaching didn’t stop the flood of memories that gushed into his mind.

 

“I’m sorry,” she said, unconsciously reaching out to him, then drawing her hand back, looking uncertain.

 

Harry gave himself a moment to remember, something he was only just learning to do, and looked off into the fire.  “Thanks,” he said, “I know you miss him too.”

 

“I do,” she replied, “but you know, the people we love, they never really leave us, as long as we don’t forget them.”

 

Harry smiled a little, “Yeah, a great man once told me that.”

 

They sat in silence for some time, enjoying the warmth of the fire, each lost in memories of their beloved Headmaster.  Eventually, Harry couldn’t help but notice Ginny shifting around uncomfortably next to him and shivering in her light pajamas.  He reached across to the sofa and pulled down an old patchwork quilt, spreading it across them in silence.

 

“So…“ she said quietly, “how are you doing?”

 

Harry wasn’t sure what to say, so he answered automatically, “Fine.  I don’t ever have to go back to my Aunt and Uncle’s house again, so that’s good.”

 

She looked away, “That’s good.  They’re not very nice, and you deserve better.”

 

“How… how are you doing?” he asked, afraid to hear the answer.

 

She turned her head down to look at her hands, and stroked the quilt softly.  “I’m okay, I guess.”

 

Another long silence.  Harry’s mind was going in twenty directions at once, and he was starting to wonder if he could truly hold his resolve.

 

“Harry?” she asked, “Are you still not coming back?  To school, I mean?”

 

“No, I’m not coming back.  There are things I have to do.”  He was surprised a little at the resolve in his own voice.

 

“I know, I just… never mind.  Are Ron and Hermione going with you?  I can’t imagine Hermione not going back to school, but she’ll do anything to help you, you know.”

 

“I don’t want to them to come with me.”  He looked down at the floor, “But I don’t think I’ve got much choice.  If they get hurt…”

 

“Harry, you can’t protect everyone.  Sometimes you have to accept help from the people who love you.”  Her voice was much stronger, and she turned to look at him.  “They only want to help you.  There are some people who are willing to make the sacrifice so you can succeed.” 

 

She looked away again and he studied her face in silence.  The light from the fire and the candle perfectly framed it, and he felt his resolve loosen even more.  Her scarlet hair fell down messily around her shoulders, and he could hardly resist pushing it back and running his fingers down her neck and pulling her close.

 

Shaking himself back to reality, he turned to look off into the fire.  Ginny sniffed and he glanced at her.  She wiped hastily at her eyes and he felt a stab at his heart.  Is it worth it, he wondered, can I even do this without her?

 

He had to try to explain.

 

“Ginny, you know… I still like you, it’s just…”  He struggled for an answer.

 

“Harry,” she looked at him, “you don’t have to explain.”

 

“Yes, I do.  I mean, I need to.  I have to say it out loud… just to make sure it’s true.”  He knew he was trying to convince himself as much as her, and he wasn’t doing a very good job.

 

“See,” he looked down at his hands, “I really like you, and I don’t know what would happen if you got hurt.  I couldn’t live with myself, because it’d be my fault.  If you stay here, then I’ll know you’re safe.  Voldemort would stop at nothing to get you if he knew that I… You’re just so much safer apart from me.”

 

“But,” she said, “is it really worth it?  Being apart?”

 

He looked up at her for a moment, as if trying to find the answer in her face.  He found nothing but another tear resting gently on her pretty eyelashes.

 

“Harry,” she hesitated, “I have to tell you something, but I want you to promise to listen until I’m done.”  He nodded and turned to face her.

 

“I’ve known you for a long time, and you mean so much to me.  I’ve been watching you since I first started Hogwarts, since I had that stupid crush on you.  It’s gone now,” she smiled at the look of shock and worry on his face, “no, don’t worry, it was replaced by something else.  See, when I was trying to date other boys it never seemed to work right.  I was never really comfortable with them.  And don’t get your head all puffed up about it, but I was always comparing them to you.  I didn’t even do it consciously.  It was just the little things that gave it away.  Like when I talked to you, you always listened.  You always looked at me and gave me all of your attention, no other boy ever did that.

 

“You always treated me nicely, even when I must have been driving you nutters with my own personal Harry Potter fan club.  It would have been so easy for you to laugh, or to just dismiss me entirely, but you didn’t.  Even after my special… um, valentine, you were still always nice to me.  And when you saved me from Voldemort… well, I still owe you for that one.  Do you get it yet?

 

“It’s always been about you.  I may have had a crush on you when I was younger, but it’s gone now, turned to something deeper.  I would do anything for you, and I want to help protect you.  My feelings… well, don’t you see it?  It’s called love.  Ron and Hermione, and, well, everyone here, they all love you.  They’re your true family.  But me,” she looked down at the floor, “I love you in a different way.  I love you with my heart.”

 

Harry stared for a moment, “Love…” he said with a strange heaviness in his voice, “It’s something I never really knew.  My Aunt and Uncle, well you could hardly say what they gave me was love.  Then I came to school and met Ron and Hermione, and, well…”

 

“They love you,” she added.  He blushed and smiled a little.

 

“Yeah, I guess.  They were my first real friends, you know.  Then I met Sirius, and he was like a father to me.  It hurt so much when he died.  I think Remus feels the same, but he doesn’t show it as much.  And then…” he looked up into her eyes, “and then there was you.  Ginny, I don’t know how to say it.  I’ve never said it before.  You mean more to me than anyone I’ve ever met, and I couldn’t bear to lose you.  I couldn’t go on without you, because you’re everything to me, you’re part of me.  What if you get hurt?  What if… what if Voldemort gets to you first?”  He was panting now, and didn’t even bother to stop a tear running down his face.

 

“Don’t you think I feel the same way?” she said softly.  “What if you were hurt?  What if you never came back?  I couldn’t live without you.  Wouldn’t you rather have the time together now, while we can?  If we let Voldemort tear us apart then he’s already won.  We have to fight him by living our lives, and by loving those we love.”

 

Harry started at her words and opened his mouth a little.  “Wait, wait…”  He recited something to himself that was too quiet for her to hear.

 

“The prophecy!” he blurted, “It said ‘But he will have power the Dark Lord knows not’, Ginny, that power… I think… I think it’s love, your love.”  His eyes were wide with disbelief.

 

He turned to her with tears in his eyes.  “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.  I never thought… but it doesn’t matter now.”  He took a deep breath, “Ginny,” he whispered, “I’m in love with you.”

 

She threw her arms around him and cried because it was the most beautiful sound she’d ever heard.

 

“I don’t know what I did to deserve someone like you,” he said, “but I need you.  It’s going to be hard to adjust to the idea, but I really do need you with me.  I need all of you.  I can’t do this on my own.  Our… love,” he blushed, “somehow it’s going to help me destroy Voldemort.  I don’t know how, but you have to be there, with me, to help me find out.  Ron and Hermione have to be there as well, as my family.  We can do this.  Somehow, we can do this.”

 

He smiled as true warmth flooded his heart.  His old self was all but forgotten, and he knew now that this was worth it.  He would live his life now, not knowing how long he would have, but cherishing every moment he could.  It was worth living for, and it was worth dying for.  It was true love.

 

*****

 

“Ginny,” he said the next day as they sat on the porch swing, “did I ever tell you about the Amortentia potion?”

 

She shook her head, her hair drifting softly in the breeze.

 

“Well, it’s all about true love, and the first time I smelled it was when I realized I was in love with you…”

 

 

The End

 

 

A/N – This is my second or fourth story, depending on how you count.  It’s the second I’ve had published, but the fourth I’ve written.  I guess this is me hoping J.K.R. will get them back together soon.  Thanks to my Beta, Felina Black, for her corrections and plot suggestions.  Please, please review.

 

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