The Sugar Quill
Author: Starbuckx  Story: Muileach  Chapter: Chapter One: A Trail of Broken Dreams
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A trail of Broken Dreams

When my soul wings her flight 
To the regions of night, 
And my corse shall recline on its bier; 
As ye pass by the tomb, 
Where my ashes consume, 
Oh! moisten their dust with a Tear.

~ Lord Byron

A pair of eyes focused on the silhouette of The Burrow, scanning the grounds for a familiar red-head and when they did not find her, went back to staring at the place that brought so many memories. The sound of footsteps broke the silence that seemed to have engulfed the house as the owner of said eyes started walking the long, narrow and unkept path that led to a place that had once been filled with laughter, but now seemed strangely devoid of it, as if cold and silence had taken up residence, and the occupants of the house were prisoners of their nightmares, unable to escape or change their faith.

A loud bang from inside the house made the man stop in his tracks, and seconds later the shadow of a young woman could be seen through the window, the worry lines on her face barely visible to the man standing outside. He took a couple of hesitant steps, eager to get close to her, but the picture she presented as he came closer was enough to make him stop once again, as he continued to stare at her.

Her red hair looked as vibrant as ever, and the light coming through the window made it look even brighter, illuminating her face. But her hair was the only part of her that seemed alive. Her face, usually bright and cheery, looked unusually pale, and devoid of happiness. She wasn’t smiling either, and he had never known her to wear such a gloomy expression, especially not so early in the morning. She had always been a morning person.

But, if anything, her eyes told the story of the suffering she had endured the past two years. Their brown depths had always been filled with mischief, and peace, even in the darkest moments, but now the sparkle was gone from her eyes, from her face, and the world seemed such a dreary and empty place without that sparkle.

A loud sigh escaped the man’s lips, but the girl standing in the middle of the kitchen barely moved, as she concentrated on fixing what looked to be a very old clock. He seemed to make up his mind, for he walked to the front door and raised his hand to knock but the sound was muffled by another very loud bang and a very loud curse, muttered by a very familiar voice.

He raised his hand again, but the door was thrown open before he could knock, and his eyes drank in her appearance, trying to take it all in.

“Harry,” she gasped as her eyes focused on him, and her brain sent the correct signals to her mouth. It was truly him, at last. She studied his face, noticing the subtle changes, the wisdom in his green eyes that could have only come from knowing pain first-hand and dealing with it, the way the corner of his mouth turned up in one of those smiles that made her knees buckle and her heart beat faster.

And then, there was his hair, which fell almost to his shoulders, messy as always. The scar was still there, but almost everything else about him had changed. He looked tanned and healthy, relaxed, if not happy and his apparent happiness brought a surge of bitterness that finally made her look away as she struggled for words.

“Come in,” she finally managed, and she stepped away so he could enter, putting enough space between herself and the door that if he were to reach for her, she would notice it. Her eyes focused on the garden as he stepped inside, and if she tried hard enough she could make out the laughing, beloved face of the one she missed the most.

“Ginny,” he called, as she had been staring out the door for quite some time, and if she had been the same girl she was two years ago, she would have blushed. As it was, she only nodded before closing the door and passing Harry on the way to the kitchen.

“I am sorry for being such a bad hostess.” She started talking, because it had always been easier for her to deal with Harry when she had a lot on her mind and he didn’t have her complete attention. “But…” she continued, as she started on the breakfast that should have been done ten minutes ago, “I have to finish breakfast before Mum wakes up, and you’ve come to stay here more times than I can count, so I doubt you’ll mind sitting in the kitchen for a while.”

Turning around to see his reaction was a mistake, Ginny realized as he offered her a bright smile and sat down on the nearest chair. She took a deep breath and thought back to the many days she had sat by the window, waiting for him to come back, and the endless nights she had spent dreaming about his return, but could not find it within herself to feel anything other than relief and an incredible sense of peace. Her anger seemed to have melted as soon as she saw him, and as she muttered a few spells to make things go faster, she discovered that her anger had only been a clever disguise for her pain and her fear. Fear for him. She had lost enough, already, and she wasn’t sure she could have dealt with losing him.

“How is your mum doing?” Harry’s voice dragged her away from her thoughts and into the real world she so desperately wanted to escape. She tilted her head, and looked at him from the corner of her eye, the concern written plainly on his face and for the first time in a more than a year felt like throwing her hands around someone’s shoulders and letting it all go. But she didn’t. If she had learned one thing the past two years, was that tears didn’t solve anything. Tears just made everyone look at you as if you were weak, and she was not willing to be weak ever again.

“All right, I guess. As good as ... well, after what happened, what can you expect?”

He was suddenly standing beside her, and she wasn’t even sure how he had managed to get so close, but close he was, because she could feel his breath against her cheek as he asked, “And, how are you doing?”

Her eyes focused on the old clock that she had been working on earlier, and then filled with tears. The memory of all she had lost hit her again, almost like a physical blow, and as she shut her eyes to keep the tears from spilling she remembered the way that his absence had surrounded her with a feeling of loss in every aspect of her life

“But I don’t want it to disappear! I don’t want it to” she had been telling Ron one evening, two days after the funeral. “I don’t ever want it to be gone. Why do the names of the dead have to disappear from the stupid clocks anyway? Shouldn’t it say something like: At peace, or some other crap like that? Anything long as it doesn’t disappear.” She had slumped against the wall muttering to herself, “I just don’t want it to disappear.”

Ron had taken her into his arms, holding her tightly. “I don’t want it to either,” he had told her, his voice filled with pain. “But life goes on Ginny, it has to go on.” He had taken a deep breath, and looked into her eyes, “I don’t think he would have liked you to stop smiling because he was gone. He would have never wanted you to stop smiling”

“But I can’t smile anymore!” she had cried out, tears rolling across her cheeks without control. “I can’t even get up in the morning and look at the bloody clock without being reminded that my brother is dead!”

“Gin,” Ron had tried to calm her down, but she had been way too taken over with grief to allow it. “You know what I’m going to do?” she had cried in desperation, “I’m going to get my wand, and I’m going to get his name in there again. And I won’t ever let it fade away again. So that every morning, when I look at that clock, I won’t have to be reminded of that fact that I won’t ever get my eyebrows blown off by one of his stupid presents again. Or that he won’t ever make my ears grow, or my hair turn green again. And he won’t be gone.”

“He is already gone Ginny,” George had told her, appearing behind Ron. “And no matter how much we hate it, or how much we miss him, we have to go on living, we have to go on laughing. If not for ourselves, for him. Because you know that’s what he would have wanted.”

“I won’t ever be able to laugh again,” she had cried as George held her close, the tears never stopping. “Not without Fred.”

And it had taken her a long time, way too long, to be able to even smile again. Fred had taken many things with him, and her innocence and desire to dream were some of those. She hadn’t felt truly happy since that afternoon, almost three years ago, just before Harry had announced he was going to take part in the war.

Harry’s warm hands rested in her shoulders, and she stepped away quickly before he had a chance to comfort her. The pain caused by Harry’s departure had been pushed aside after Fred’s death, and now it returned, stronger than ever. She took a few steps back, putting as much distance between them as she could.

She glanced once again at the clock, and smiled sadly before answering, “I miss him, everyday. But I go on, we all go on. We have to.”

He took another step towards her, clearly ready to take her into his arms, but she was not the girl he had left sobbing near the lake almost three years ago. She was a woman now, a strong woman, and she did not need him to push away her fears or to wipe away her tears. She had, long ago, made a desicion to never cry again, and by Fred, she was going to uphold it.

“Ginny? Is that you?” Her mother’s voice, coming from upstairs saved her from having to reject Harry’s embrace, and she threw him a warning look as she crossed the kitchen to stand at the foot of the stairs. “Yes, it’s me, Mum,” she answered, wearing now a mask of calmness that would have fooled even Harry, if he hadn’t seen her seconds ago. “I’m just fixing breakfast.”

“Oh, that’s all right then, dear.” Mrs. Weasley answered, clearly disappointed. “I thought ..for a moment I could have sworn I heard Harry, but it must have been my imagination.”

Ginny turned to look at him once again, her gaze piercing into his soul, her expression begging him not to ask too many questions, before saying, “You’re not imagining things Mum, no matter what the doctor says. He’s right here with me. And he didn’t come to see me, so come down.”

“Harry?” a voice said, and moments later Mrs Weasley stood in the foot of the stairs, looking happier than Ginny had seen her in a very long time. “Is it really you, my boy?” she asked, as if she feared her mind was playing tricks on her, and she stood rooted to her spot, too afraid that if she moved, Harry would disappear.

Ginny’s eyes begged Harry to make the first move, to give her mother this moment of happiness, but she didn’t even have to beg. The brightest smile she had seen so far today appeared in Harry’s face, and he crossed the space to where Mrs. Weasley was standing in a heartbeat before taking her in his arms for a hug that seemed to contain all the love she had given him when he was a child.

“Let’s sit down so you can tell me how you are doing,” Mrs. Weasley said minutes later, and she and Harry had occupied their familiar spots at the Weasley’s kitchen table, leaving Ginny with an empty feeling as she looked at Fred’s spot. “Care to join us, dear?” her mother asked, but Ginny had managed a slight smile before going back to breakfast. “No, you and Harry catch up, Mum, I’ll get you both some breakfast,” she had said, unable to stare at the table for another second.

The sound of their joined voices was a distraction from unwelcome thoughts, as she focused her attention on things she could be sure about, like bread and ham. She stared at her own hands as she went through her breakfast routine and she had to fight a real smile that threatened to appear as she thought about how hard it had all seemed to her on the first day she had stayed home to take care of her mother. So much had changed since then.

The pot she was holding almost fell down to the floor, as she heard her mother ask Harry about Ron, and she held her breath as a silence fell upon the room. But very soon the silence was broken by Harry’s laugh and she turned around to face them, wearing an expression she was sure matched her mother’s in bewilderment.

“Ron and Hermione are going to kill me for telling you this, but I honestly don’t know how they expected me to keep quiet.” He glanced at both Mrs Weasley and Ginny’s faces and laughed again before continuing, “I think, well, I think you are going to have another person in this house sooner than you think.”

Ginny’s expression must have been one of utter shock, because Harry burst out laughing again as he stared at her. “Not like that,” he managed to get out before lauging again. “I am just saying that Hermione is going to be part of this family sooner than you might have expected.”

“Really?” Mrs. Weasley screamed happily, “That’s wonderful news Harry! How do you know? Did Ron tell you anything?” A thousand questions seemed to pour out of her mother’s mouth, and Ginny marveled at how alive she looked. Her whole expression had changed, a serene smile now grazing her lips and she greeted Harry’s words with an enthusiasm Ginny hadn’t seen in a while.

“Ginny, did you hear that?” she asked, smiling at Ginny’s nod before turning back to Harry and Ginny could feel the cold blade of anger, an anger that threatened to consume her. Anxiously, she turned her back on them, focusing on the garden, trying to concentrate on the good things in life as hard as she could, but nothing came to her. Instead of good memories, the worst moments of her life passed her by, Fred’s cold body lying on the ground. Harry’s goodbye. Her decision to stay and take care of her mother.

Maybe, that’s what’s left for me in life, anger and pain, she reflected as her eyes rested on the clock once again. She had wanted to throw it out so many times, and yet had never been able to. So every morning, she stood in front of it with her wand, trying to magically insert Fred’s name again.

She always failed.

Her eyes closed, and she tried to focus on Ron and Hermione, their laughing faces, their smiles. The happiness they'd found in each other. She searched deep inside her, trying to reach that part of her heart that still believed in fairy-tale endings, but there wasn’t anything there. No dreams, no hope. No magic.

But for Ron and Hermione, perhaps, there was still some magic left. For the first time since Fred’s death, Ginny closed her eyes and prayed that it would work out between them. Ron deserved some happiness, and the only one who could make him happy was Hermione. It was ...meant to be.

Funny, she had once thought she and Harry were meant to be. Maybe they still were, but she didn’t believe it anymore. Pain, bitterness and anger had taken over her heart, and she had vowed to never let anyone get close enough to hurt her again. Life would go on, and she would continue to live it, with no hope that something better might be awaiting.

The silence was like a blanket to her, and she took solace in it, drawing it besides her as the sunlight fell on her face, making her freckles stand out. She smiled slightly and turned around, ready to face her mother and Harry once again, but her mother was already gone, and standing in the middle of the kitchen was the only man she had ever loved, looking at her like she was the most precious thing in the world.

“That’s the first real smile I’ve seen from you today,” he commented as he closed the distance between them, coming to stand right beside Ginny, both facing the window.

She stared at the floor, trying to block out the tenderness in his voice, as she answered back, “Well, I had a rough morning.”

“You’ve had a rough time, I know that Ginny,” he told her, his green eyes alight with something more than concern, something deeper than friendship “But, the war is over. It’s time to heal the wounds.”

“Some wounds don’t heal Harry,” she answered him as she stared at his face and thought back to that awful afternoon when he had declared he loved her too much to stay. “And we can’t spend the rest of our lives waiting for them to heal.”

“Yes, so we move on,” he said, as he grasped her hand, and she smiled sadly at the feeling of security his touch brought to her. The only way of being safe, was to guard her heart, and Harry was the most dangerous enemy in that regard.

“We continue to live,” she told him, removing her hand from his grasp. “That doesn’t mean we move on.”

“Ginny, I spent three years away from here, and not a single day passed by when I didn’t hope I would wake up to find that everything had been a bad dream.” He stared at her, trying to give her a comforting smile, “But I am here now.”

She looked away from him, and once again her gaze rested on the clock. “I spent three years hoping I could be there with all of you, fighting, doing something, instead of just hiding here,” she told him, her voice hollow and broken. “It’s not that I wanted Mum to be alone, but I wanted to help out. After everything that happened, after her illness, I just couldn’t go.”

“Gin,” he started, but she didn’t let him continue. “I went as far as the station once, had everything ready. But I couldn’t go through with it. I told myself, just a few months, until Mum gets better. And then Fred know. And things were never the same”

She finally focused on him, her expression a mixture of pain and regret. “I’ve always felt bad about everything you all had to go through. But, I just couldn’t leave”

“Ginny, no one asked you to,” Harry told her, taking her hands and placing a soft kiss over them. “No one expected you to. Everyone understood. And we were all so very proud of you, for doing what needed to be done.”

She took a deep breath and smiled sadly at him, “Thanks, I think ...I needed to hear that”

“I am glad I was here to say it you,” he smiled and stared at her again. She could sense the shift in the mood, and she looked away, unprepared for what was to come. She had never been very good at resisting Harry’s charms, and she wasn’t sure she could deal with him now.

“Ginny,” he whispered softly and he waited until she faced him before continuing. “I am here now. And I am not going anywhere.”

“There was once a dream that was you and me,” she whispered softly, so softly he had to strain to hear what she was saying. “That dream is gone.” She looked into his eyes, her brown ones filled with sadness. “I don’t believe in dreams anymore, Harry.”

Her eyes went back to the garden, where she had spent some of her happiest moments, with Harry, with her brothers. A long time ago, when the war was only a distant thought. When there were still things to dream about.

“I don’t ...People just don’t go on with their lives. They struggle to live each day, because it’s what is expected of them. They let go of their dreams and desires, and focus on the moment.” She stared at him one last time, and his pained expression almost took her breath away. She closed her eyes to block the tears, but unnoticed, a single one managed to fall, tracing the swirl of her freckles until Harry wiped it away with a trembling hand.

“I choose the moment, Harry,” she told him as she stepped away from him. “I don’t believe in dreams anymore. I’m not sure I will ever believe again.”

To be continued ...

A/N: This was intense, emotionally draining, and very hard to write. I really didn’t want to kill him, but I had to. You’ll find out why later. A thousand and one thanks to Carrie, for helping me plot this one, and encouraging me to do what I had to do, to Anne and Zsenya, for catching the mistakes no one else catches, and to Paula and Amy, for giving me the push I needed to go on when I wasn’t sure this was going in the right direction. And to my cyber-sisters, as always.

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