The Sugar Quill
Author: Chocolatequeen  Story: Greater Than Power  Chapter: 2. Nothing Gold Can Stay
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Chapter 2: Nothing Gold Can Stay

 Chapter 2: Nothing Gold Can Stay

 

            Harry glanced around the lawn furtively as he slunk away from the house, shielded from sight by his Invisibility Cloak. Everyone was bustling around, helping with the wedding preparations, and for a moment he felt bad for sneaking away. His guilt disappeared though when he reached his destination.

 

            Shedding his Cloak and placing it in his robes, he sank gratefully into the cool grass alongside the pond. It was the first time since he’d arrived at the Burrow nine days ago that he’d been alone. First, there’d been the usual welcomes and then—

 

            “What ees thees doing ‘ere?”

 

            Despite the trees that hid him from view, Fleur’s shrill voice sent him ducking for cover. Her moods had become increasingly volatile with each passing day, and even though he knew it was just stress, he couldn’t help but be glad that the wedding was this evening and then she and Bill would be leaving on their honeymoon.

 

            Not that I’ll be around to enjoy her absence, he reminded himself dryly. He, Ron, and Hermione were leaving the next day for Godric’s Hollow. After that, the plan was sketchy at best. They had no idea what they might find, or where to begin looking for the Horcruxes.

 

            Harry shifted, lying down so he could stare up at the clouds floating across the blue sky. He wasn’t even sure what it was that made him want to start at his parents’ old home. Part of it was a desire to see where they were buried, to truly say goodbye to them like he had done with Dumbledore at the funeral. There was more to it though. Perhaps they would find something important, some clue in the ramshackle left of his first home; he couldn’t say. Somehow, something in him was drawing him there, and that was all he knew.

 

            He didn’t want to think about this now though. He was in one of his favorite places in the world and it couldn’t have been a more beautiful day. For once, he allowed the cares of the world to fall at his feet, instead of resting on his shoulder like they usually did. Under the warmth of the afternoon sun, he slowly drifted in a dreamless sleep.

 

            “Harry! Harry Potter, get in here this instant!” Opening his eyes slowly, he cursed when he saw that the sun, which had barely been past its zenith when he’d left the house, was now almost to the horizon. Fleur had insisted on a sunset wedding, and from the look of things, it was almost time. “Harry!” Molly Weasley’s strident tone confirmed that, and he quickly rose to return to the house.

 

            As he rounded a corner behind some bushes, he ran full force into Ron. “Oof! Ron grunted. “Hey mate, where have you been? Mum’s about to have kittens. Fleur wants to start in 15 minutes and you’re,” Ron’s eyes widened, taking in his friend’s appearance. “you’re not even dressed yet!”

 

            Grimacing, Harry put on a burst of speed and dashed past a few surprised looking wedding guests and into the house. “Sorry Mrs. Weasley,” he panted as he passed her. “I’ll be right there, I promise.”

 

            Stopping in the bathroom, he quickly washed his face and shrugged at his overly messy hair. There wasn’t anything he could do about that. In the room he and Ron were sharing with the twins, he discarded his everyday robes and pulled his green dress robes on—he was ready, and he still had 10 minutes before the ceremony was supposed to begin.

 

            This time, he was walking sedately as he passed the other guests, weaving his way to the first row of chairs. The Weasleys had informed him and Hermione that they were expected to sit “with the rest of the family.” As he took his seat, Harry basked again in the warm glow those words had given him. He had a home now, and a family… and he was leaving them both in the morning.

 

            The thought left such a bitter taste in his mouth that he barely noticed the music began. He was only dimly aware of the proceedings; even Fleur’s perfectly timed sunset vows didn’t catch his attention.

 

            The reception was on the lawn, lit first by the pale glow of twilight and later by brightly flickering torches. There was a dance floor and a cake table, but Harry avoided both of them. Instead, he dropped into one of the chairs on the edge of the gathering, determined not to ruin the happiness with his own suddenly bleak mood.

 

            The evening star was already visible when a voice whispered in his ear, “You’re brooding again.”

 

            Harry half shrugged, giving Hermione a forced smile. “It’s hard not to, don’t you think?” he muttered.

 

            He didn’t miss the way she rolled her eyes as she sat down next to him, but he didn’t really mind. “This is supposed to be a happy time, Harry,” she reminded him.

 

            “One last golden day of peace,” he said quietly. “That’s how I’ve been thinking of it all summer. But Hermione… what if it is the last one?” he asked, almost desperately. “We’re leaving in the morning, and we have no idea… what if we never get another day like this? What if… what if we lose?”

 

            “Don’t you dare talk like that, Harry Potter,” she ordered, her voice stern. “We’re leaving to protect this. We’ll win, because we know we have days like this to come back.”

 

            Harry stared at her uncomprehendingly. “What are you talking about?”

 

            He watched her roll her eyes again, this time feeling a bit irked by it. How was he supposed to understand her if she talked in riddles? “You have a goal, Harry—a reason for fighting. That’s more than He has.”

 

            “He fights for power,” Harry pointed out.

 

            “Fighting for the sake of more fighting!” she countered, shaking her head impatiently. “That’s all he has. He couldn’t see anything else if it danced naked in front of his red eyes.” Harry laughed, and Hermione smiled in satisfaction. Finally, she was getting through to him. “You have more though,” she continued, pointing at the crowd. “You have this.”

 

            Harry’s eyes swept over his family and friends before coming to rest on a lithe figure weaving her way through the crowd, smiling warmly at her brother as he handed her a glass of punch.

 

            Hermione smiled again when she saw what had caught his eye and rose quietly to go back to the party. Harry barely noticed; he was too busy watching Ginny. Her gold bridesmaid robes shimmered in the lamplight as she walked, and her russet hair was pulled into a knot so the ends cascaded down her back. She was… “Beautiful,” Harry whispered, unable to take his eyes off her.

 

            For a while he was content to watch her, though the monster in his chest protested loudly whenever she danced with another man. Then, after almost a half hour of merrymaking, she finally took a seat in a quiet corner. The monster growled his approval when she laughingly refused the next man to approach her, and then, almost against his will, he found himself standing and moving toward her.

 

            “Take a walk with me?” he asked quietly, holding his hand out to her.

 

            She stared at it for a moment, then up at him, before taking it and allowing him to pull her to her feet. Without a word, he placed his hand in the small of her back and gently guided her toward the pond, where he knew benches had been set up for guests who wanted a bit of privacy and cool air.

 

            It was he who broke the silence a moment later. “How’ve you been, Ginny?” he asked, wincing at the inanity of the question. “I mean, we haven’t really had a chance to talk since I got here and we’re taking off tomorrow and I wanted…” He paused, letting his words hang in the air. What do I want? he wondered. Why did I think it would be a good idea to talk to her now?

 

            It’s okay, Harry,” Ginny told him. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to throw myself at your feet tomorrow morning and beg you to take me with you.” Even in the dark, Harry could see the corners of her mouth tilt up in a wry smile. “Not that it would do much good if I tried,” she added. “It seems like you have your mind made up.”

 

            This was what he had wanted, he realized. A chance to explain, to make sure she didn’t hate him for leaving her behind. “Ginny…”

 

            She shook her head slightly, placing a hand over his mouth. “Don’t Harry. Don’t try to explain it to me. I understand more than you think . I know that you need me here… you need to believe I’ll be safe. Because I understand, I’ll be on the train to Hogwarts in three weeks, like any normal 16 year old witch. I won’t argue… I’ll stay safe.”

 

            Harry was momentarily disappointed that she wasn’t putting up a fight. A brief wave of uncertainty swept over him—did she not want to be with him at all? The thought made his heart hurt in a way he was not at all familiar with, but before he had time to ponder what it meant, she was speaking again.

 

            This time, her voice was fierce. Harry instantly relaxed; this was the Ginny he was used to. “But you listen to me, Harry Potter,” she said, turning slightly and poking him in the chest. “I’ve got some conditions of my own. You three can go off and search for all the bits of Tom’s soul without me—”

 

            “Who told you about that?” he asked quickly. He, Ron, and Hermione hadn’t told anyone the details of their journey; that had been Dumbledore’s wish. They’d simply said that they were going to track Voldemort down. Molly hadn’t been happy with the idea of her youngest son and two adopted children “traipsing around the countryside doing who knows what” as she’d put it, but since they were all of age, she couldn’t do much about it. No, no one know about the Horcruxes besides them, and he couldn’t imagine they would tell her… “How did you know what we’re going to do?”

 

            “I overheard you talking last night,” she said.

 

            He stared at her, not believing this was happening. He’d tried so hard to keep the secret, and now she knew anyway. “Were you using the Extendable Ears?” he asked. He had to know if she had been trying to eavesdrop or if it had been accidental. He had to know if he could trust her.

 

            “No! I won’t say I didn’t think about it, but you were so determined not to say, I knew I couldn’t do that to you. I know you refused to tell the Minister of Magic where you were going, and I heard you tell Mum and Dad that you’d promised Professor Dumbledore to keep it a secret. I wouldn’t betray you like that.

 

            “But last night, I had my window open when you were talking with Ron and Hermione on the back porch, and I just… overheard.”

 

            Harry wearily ran his hand through his hair. “We thought everyone was asleep,” he mumbled.

 

            “I always have a hard time sleeping when it’s this hot,” she said with a shrug. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell Mum and I won’t stop you or try to come with you.” Her voice changed again, regaining her earlier intensity. “But when it’s time for the final battle, I’ll be there. I won’t be left on the sidelines like some weak little girl, do you understand me?”

 

            Panic rose in Harry and he spoke without thinking. “Killing Voldemort is my job, Gin,” he protested. “You don’t need to be there.”

 

            He knew instantly that he’d made a colossal blunder. “I don’t need to be there?” she seethed, her eyes narrowing to slits. “Have you forgotten again that the smarmy bastard possessed me? He tried to get me to kill my friends! Believe me,” she took a deep breath and continued in a softer tone. “Believe me, I need to be there.”

 

            Harry frowned at her. “I don’t like it,” he said bluntly.

 

            Her laughter was bitter. “And I didn’t like you breaking up with me and leaving me behind, but I understood why you had to do it, and I respect you enough to oblige you. Can’t you do the same for me?”

 

            He looked away for a moment, his stomach churning at the thought of Ginny surrounded by Death Eaters. That was precisely what he’d been trying to avoid when he ended there relationship… and yet, he couldn’t deny that she had more right than almost anyone to be there when it ended. “All right,” he said shortly, aware that she released a breath. “We’ll come get you… you’ll be there when it ends.”

 

            His words eased some of the tension between them, and they were able to sit quietly together as the sky grew dark. Once the light had completely faded away, they watched in silence as the Perseid meteor shower began its stellar display.

 

            “Make a wish,” Harry whispered after one particularly brilliant batch of falling stars.

 

            “Hmmm?”

 

            “You saw a falling star… make a wish,” he repeated.

 

            She straightened a bit and said, “Harry, what time is it?”

 

            He squinted at his watch in the pale moonlight and said, “12:30, why?”

 

            “It’s my birthday,” she told him. “It’s a double wish, a birthday wish made on a falling star.” She kept her face turned to the sky for a moment longer, her eyes closed as she made her wish. Then she smiled and looked at him. “Do you want to know what I wished for?” she asked.

 

            “I thought it wouldn’t come true if you told someone,” he teased.

 

            She stuck her tongue out at him and said, “If you don’t want to know, then I won’t tell you.”

 

            “No, tell me!”

 

            “I’m sorry sir,” she said, her impish smile belying her formal tone, “I’ve been informed that once a wish is revealed, it will not come true. I’m afraid that in the interest of wish fulfillment, it will have to remain a secret.”

 

            “Fine. Be that way,” he pouted.

 

            She smiled wickedly; besting him always made her happy. She turned back to stare at the sky again, but Harry could not take his eyes off her. In the starlight he studied the curve of her cheek and the way one curl had teased itself loose from the clip. Without even thinking about it, he reached up and brushed it back. She looked at him then, and he knew he couldn’t leave without kissing her once more.

 

            He whispered her name and watched as her eyelashes fluttered and then closed. Leaning in slowly, he brushed the curl back once more, this time placing his hand at the nape of her neck. Tilting her chin up with his other hand, he kissed her gently, savoring once more the feel of her lips under his.

 

            This kiss, like their first, stretched for an indeterminate length of time. However, the emotion behind it was not the flash of joy caused by a first kiss, but rather a bittersweet poignancy. This was not hello but goodbye, and they both knew it.

 

So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

 

~Robert Frost

//
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