The Sugar Quill
Author: Wahlee (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Look To Your Dreams  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Wahlee - Look to Your Dreams

Look to Your Dreams

Section One: Night and Day

Disclaimer: These characters belong to J.K. Rowling. I'm just visiting.

To JVG, who is the Harry to my Ginny. *sigh*

***

Night and day you are the one
Only you beneath the moon and under the sun
Whether near to me or far
It's no matter, darling, where you are
I think of you
Night and day

–Cole Porter

She was standing on a raised dais, dressed all in white. Below the dais, people were waiting, looking at her expectantly. There were flowers, and music. Her wedding day. It was supposed to be the happiest day of her life. And yet, at this moment, she couldn't even remember who she was marrying. To her surprise, she found she didn't care, even though she expected him to walk in at any time.

As she looked around, taking it all in, her eyes fell on him. It could only be him, with that messy black hair and those green eyes. Eyes that had always seemed to reach into her very soul. For years, anything he asked of her, she would have done, gladly. But he had never asked. And now she was going to marry another man. She couldn't believe she had given up on him. Hadn't she always been waiting?

As she watched him, he suddenly looked at her—and then just as suddenly looked away, as if afraid to meet her gaze. No, she thought, don't turn away. Look at me. She continued to stare at him, daring him to make eye contact. She knew he could feel her gaze, calling to him through the crowded room. He glanced at her once—twice—he looked deep into her eyes. Something passed between them. Something she couldn't quite name. She just knew. She had always known. But now she knew that he felt it too. After all this time, he finally knew—they belonged together. How had she even thought about getting married to someone else? She knew now that it had all been a terrible mistake. It was lucky she realized it now, before the wedding had actually taken place—because she would have gone to him anyway. She couldn't help herself.

She didn't know how she got there. She only knew that she was standing shoulder to shoulder with him, tears blurring her vision. She could hear voices around her—“Dear, what are you doing?” “No, honey, this isn't right—” “You're getting married—” “Young lady, you get over here right now!” She didn't care. The day she had waited for, the day she had given up hope in, was finally here. She tuned out the comments, which were growing more and more vehement, and focused her attention instead on the young man standing next to her.

Their hands reached for each other. The first touch—just a brush of fingers—sent shivers down her spine. Startled, she pulled away, and so did he. But the longing compelled her hand, and she reached out again. Another touch, this one longer, then another withdrawal, this one a bit more reluctant. After so many years of uneasy friendship, it was difficult for both of them to take this next step.

Trembling, she reached out her hand again—this time, there was no hesitation. Fingers intertwined, they stood, both sobbing. Not a word was spoken. She knew he could tell what she was thinking, because she also knew his thoughts. I just never want him to let go. And she knew that he had no intention of doing so. Everything was perfect, everything was right—

She could finally share everything with him, help to carry his burden. The joy springing up in her soul threatened to overwhelm her. He turned to face her, looking deeply into her eyes, and took her other hand in his. They leaned closer, caught up in the moment. Harry. . .

 

And then she woke up. Weeping and quivering, Ginny climbed from her four-poster bed and made her way down to the Gryffindor common room, so she wouldn't disturb her roommates. That dream had been so vivid, so real. She could almost feel the weight of Harry's hand in hers, and the longing for that touch made her sob harder. It wasn't enough that he was never far from her thoughts during the day; he also haunted her nights. She dreamed of him often, but was seldom affected like this. The seeming reality of her dream made her present loneliness all the more unbearable.

Oh, Harry, will you ever see? Or will I spend my whole life in this hopeless love? Reeling from the conflicting emotions her dream had caused, Ginny curled up in an armchair by the fire, and gave in to her tears.

***

Upstairs, in the boys’ dormitory, Harry Potter suddenly awoke. His dream, so clear a moment ago, was fading now—but it seemed to him that he had been holding Ginny's hand.

She had looked beautiful—all in white, like a bride. And she had been crying. So had he. With a jolt, he realized that he could still hear her crying. You're hallucinating, he thought. Go back to sleep. Holding on to the peace he had felt as he held Ginny's hand, he fell back into a deep slumber.

When he woke the next morning, he couldn't remember the dream, but that peace still lingered.

 

Section 2: Cherish

Cherish is the word I use to describe
All the feeling that I have hiding here for you inside
You don't know how many times I've wished that I had told you
You don't know how many times I've wished that I could hold you
You don't know how many times I've wished that I could mold you into someone
Who could cherish me as much as I cherish you

–Terry Kirkman of "The Association"

 

Ginny's first class the next day was History of Magic, for which she was duly grateful. It meant she could think without having to act like she was paying attention. Her dream of last night had unsettled her. After crying herself to sleep in the armchair by the fire, the same scene that had awoken her before was repeated. It was slightly different each time, but the underlying principle was the same: she was engaged to someone else (she never did find out who), when suddenly she'd spot Harry in a crowd. They'd look at each other and just know. Ginny had woken from the last of these scenarios as the light from the rising sun touched her face. Startled, she ran back up to her dormitory before anyone could realize she'd been gone. She made it back into her four-poster just in time.

She sat at the opposite end of the Gryffindor table from where she usually did at breakfast, unwilling to see Harry up close. But her eyes sought him out, almost involuntarily. He was talking quietly with Hermione and Ron. He was quiet more often than not lately. Sometimes he would be stirred into a smile or a laugh, but usually he was very subdued. He's had to grow up too quickly, Ginny thought. We all have. How could they not, with the terrors they had lived through? It was simply a matter of survival.

Ginny watched as the three friends walked toward the dungeons, on their way to Advanced Potions. Hermione said "good morning" as she passed, and Ron and Harry both gave her a wave. They were such a tight-knit trio; there simply wasn't room for her, however much she wished differently. Sometimes she thought it would be nice for Harry to have another friend. She remembered her second year—their third—when Ron and Hermione had fought almost constantly. Harry had been forced to choose between them, and his choice of Ron had hurt Hermione very badly. Then again in her third year, during his awful fight with Ron after his name came out of the GoF, Harry had only Hermione, who was caught between them both. That had been a tough time for Ginny, who alternated between being furious with her brother for acting so stupid and worrying herself sick over Harry—whether he would live or die in the Triwizard Tournament, and how he must feel having lost his best friend over something that wasn't his fault and that he hadn't asked for. In both cases, he could have used another friend—one who wasn't so closely involved with the others (though Ron was her brother, at school they practically ignored each other). Even now, he could use that friend, since Ron had finally realized what everyone else already knew and asked Hermione to be his girlfriend. They both tried very hard not to make Harry feel like a third wheel, but it was inevitable that he would be left alone sometimes. If only I could fill that place, she thought as she made her way to Professor Binns' classroom.

While Professor Binns droned on about Goblin rebellions and Warlock Conventions, Ginny thought back on her relationship with Harry. Ever since she saw him in King's Cross Station, she had felt a connection to him—without even knowing his name. Once she knew he was Harry Potter, she understood why. Ginny had always been interested in Harry's story—she practically had it memorized. Just knowing that his parents were dead—that he was living with Muggles who had wanted nothing to do with him—it made her want to cry. She had once suggested to her mother, when she was very small and after hearing the story one more time, that they should adopt Harry. She doubted her mother even remembered the incident, but she did. Harry had saved them all, and yet he had no one to love him. She wanted to be able to give him that love—had always wanted it. Ginny was jealous of Ron's friendship with Harry—although she was glad that he had a friend—and searched each letter from Hogwarts, whether it be from Ron or any of her other brothers, for every mention of Harry's name. When he came to stay with them at the Burrow that next year, she fell head over heels in love with him. It was a crush—she could admit that now, in hindsight—but it was a big one. Awed by his fame, she threw herself into hero-worship. She was thrilled to her toes every time he looked at her. His kindness in giving her the free set of Lockhart books he had received in Flourish and Blotts (she had treasured those books, even though Lockhart himself was a total git) had only cemented the notion of his perfection in her mind—as had his obvious embarrassment in being dragged into the spotlight. Ginny had watched him very closely that year, and she had seen a lot of things others never would have noticed. She was more taken with him than ever.

It was George, not her, who had written that stupid valentine—her reaction after it was sung was not because of the Valentine, although she was embarrassed, both for herself and for Harry—rather, it was because she had seen Tom Riddle's diary fall from Harry's bag, and almost into Malfoy's hands. That diary had become her confidant. She had poured every little thought into it, all of her small but seemingly cataclysmic problems. If Harry had read—if he knew—but it wasn't just what she had put into the diary that worried her. She had realized by then what the diary was doing to her—what it had already done—and she was frightened for Harry's safety. Ginny simply couldn't let what had happened to her happen to Harry. Not that it would have, Ginny thought. She had been stupid and gullible. Of course, Tom had been good at winning her confidence. Very good. He was, after all, Lord Voldemort (as everyone at Hogwarts called him now—Dumbledore had been adamant that the rising generation not be afraid to say his name)—although she hadn't known that at the time. He knew all the right things to say, all the ways to get under her skin. She hadn't been able to believe that the personality in the diary could have any malicious agenda, because the Tom she had always seen was absolutely incapable of a malicious thought. It wasn't until the evidence was completely overwhelming that she was able to accept what was really going on. When Ginny saw that her efforts to get rid of the diary forever had failed, she panicked. She stole the journal back—and then made her biggest mistake.

She simply had to find out if Harry had learned how to work it, and if Tom had spilled her secrets. He was capable of great deception and duplicity, and she had to know if he had betrayed her. As Ginny wrote that last time, Tom told her that he'd made Harry think it was Hagrid who'd opened the Chamber—and as he wrote, had been able to take complete hold of her. She knew that he could make her do any thing he wanted—indeed, that was what made her decide to tell Harry everything. She could relieve his fears about Hagrid, and he could plead her case to Dumbledore. She was sitting at the breakfast table, battling with her fear—and with Tom's influence, compelling her not to say a word—when Harry asked her if anything was wrong. Ron, of course, was clueless until Harry spoke, but Harry had noticed her inner struggle. She opened her mouth—and then Percy came. Startled and scared, she had run back to her dormitory, where she flung herself on her bed.

The next thing she remembered was walking down the corridor toward the Chamber of Secrets—then Tom coming out of the diary as she felt the life-force drain from her—then Harry standing over her, covered in blood. In that first instant, she felt only relief—and then the other emotions set in: embarrassment (a feeling that was all too familiar), anxiety, admiration—but above all, fear. Once she realized that Riddle was gone and the basilisk was dead (she only had a moment to wonder at the fact that Harry had managed to defeat them both), her biggest fear was that she was going to be punished. Even the touch of Harry's hand as he helped her to her feet wasn't enough to stop the terrible scenarios that kept running through her head.

Ron's elated face as they approached only pained Ginny further. What will he say when he finds out? was her uppermost thought. She barely noticed the ride up the pipe, and she was too worried to even be embarrassed at Ron's suggestion that Moaning Myrtle might be competition for Harry's affections. She did notice Harry's concerned glances in her direction, although she was too upset to realize their significance. As they reached McGonagall's office and she was gathered into her parents' arms, she became even more alarmed. How would they react? Right now they were only relieved that she was still alive—what would happen when they found out that it was all her fault? Harry began to explain, and all Ginny could do was cry into her mother's shoulder. To her amazement, Harry went out of his way to avoid mentioning either her or the diary. Although she wouldn't realize it until later, when the fear of being expelled had passed and all the basilisk's victims had recovered, that was the moment that her feelings changed toward Harry. It was no longer a crush—that was certain. At first she thought the change meant she felt only friendship. It was certainly easier to talk to Harry; she was able to ride home on the Hogwarts Express in the same compartment as him, and play Exploding Snap without blushing. She was happy to accept this new arrangement—it certainly cut down on the embarrassment, and she was able to spend a bit more time with Harry.

Ginny missed him that summer, of course, but there were other things to think about. She began to have horrible nightmares about the Chamber of Secrets, and her feelings of guilt remained unabated, even though logically she knew it wasn't her fault. As school drew nearer, the nightmares became less frequent, and the guilt decreased, too. But one thing continued to bother her. In the aftermath of her experience in the Chamber, and with all of the feelings of fear and anxiety she had experienced, she had never expressed her gratitude to Harry. Ginny resolved to thank him when they returned to school, but with all the worry about Sirius Black, added to the fact that she still wasn't all that close to him, it was very difficult to do. The same thing had happened her third year, with all the excitement about the Triwizard Tournament and the accompanying trauma. Besides, it wasn't exactly something she could bring up in casual conversation—"My day's been fine, thanks—oh, and by the way, thank you for saving my life." Ginny almost laughed aloud at the thought of saying that. After Cedric's death, Harry had been so withdrawn that she was never able to talk to him. Even now, more than a year after Harry had appeared at the edge of the maze, clinging to Cedric's arm and the Triwizard cup, Harry was clinging just as tightly to very familiar things and people—like he was afraid they would all fly away. Yet he was also unwilling to let new people in, to let them get close enough to him to touch his heart. Ginny assumed it was because he didn't want to put anyone else in danger. She suspected, too, that Harry's first reaction had been to pull away from the people he loved most, and that only Hermione and Ron's insistence that they weren't going anywhere had given him the friendship he so desperately needed. In any case, the opportunity to talk seriously with Harry had never arisen, so the important thanks had never been given.

In the meantime, as Ginny was able to interact further with Harry, she realized that although her feelings toward him had changed, they didn't simply indicate friendship. No, it went much deeper than that. She still felt that she had never met anyone who was Harry's equal. Her first clue that she felt more than friendship came when she saw Harry again for the first time after that horrible summer. She looked at him and blushed deeply—mostly because of the events of the previous year, but there were some other feelings associated with it, too. She got over it rather quickly, though—on Platform 9 3/4 , she and Harry caught each others' eye and laughed silently at Percy trying to impress his girlfriend, Penelope, and she didn't even turn red. It was nice to be able to share that silent joke with him.

But the real moment of truth came when she watched Harry plummet from 50 feet up as the Dementors stormed the Quidditch pitch. She knew how Harry felt—when the Dementors had searched the train, Ginny had heard Tom Riddle's high, cold laugh as he came out of the diary. When Professor Lupin had finally driven the Dementors out, she was shaking all over. Harry's own past was much more frightening than her own; no wonder he had fainted. But as she watched him fall, she had a mad desire to run onto the pitch—to catch him—even as she felt the cold wash over here and new terrifying thoughts flooded her brain. Instead of reliving her time in the Chamber, her thoughts centered around a world with no Harry in it—a world bereft of any chance for love. In that moment, she knew that she felt more than friendship for Harry. The realization made her temporarily mad, she supposed—what else could explain that silly singing get-well card? She certainly wouldn't have done it if she'd been in her right mind. Yes, the new awarenes of her true attitude toward Harry had mixed her up for a while. Ginny didn't dare call it love—not at first, anyway. She was so young; how on earth could she know what real love felt like? It was only recently, more than two years later, at the beginning of her fifth year, and his sixth, that she realized her feelings hadn't changed at all, no matter how hard she tried to get rid of them; when he kept haunting her nighttime dreams. She didn't often daydream about him; she deliberately tried to avoid it. But as she slept, he wormed her way into every romantic dream she ever had—no matter what the scenario, it was always him. That was when she finally admitted to herself that she loved Harry—that she would always love him. She cherished him, she knew, more than any other woman ever could. And she was just as certain that Harry didn't feel the same way.

Her relationship with Harry, in fact, was very difficult to define. She was more than an acquaintance, that was certain. He had seen her in her nightgown, after all, and her family had practically adopted him—as she had once wished—especially after the return of Voldemort. But were they really close enough to be called friends? She sat with him in the common room sometimes, while they were all doing homework, and she had finally convinced him—by virtue of making the house team—that she knew a thing or two about Quidditch, so they were able to have some rather animated conversations about tactics and fouls. But for all the really important things, Ginny was still shut out. Not that she wanted him to help her with her homework, or anything like that—no, he had done enough. What she wanted was the chance to do something for him, to repay him in some small way for all he had done for her. But she really had nothing to offer except a listening ear, and it was difficult to force someone to talk to you when they don't want to talk. The last thing Ginny wanted to do was force herself upon his notice, like Colin Creevy had—it was the last thing he needed. And she was afraid that any step toward intimacy on her part would be interpreted that way; considering her history with him, he might think she was back to her old pattern of hero worship, with Harry as the absolute center of her life.

Which was, of course, far from the truth. After she had finally got over her crush, she realized how pathetic her life had been for that past year. Ginny was a person, after all, with her own talents, her own interests—and her own friends. In the next few years, she went about quietly trying to build her own life, one that had very little Harry in it. She found that she was quite good at Astronomy, and spent many hours gazing at the stars. It was true that she was better friends with Hermione than she was with any of the girls in her year; after all she had been through, they all seemed so immature. But she got along well enough with them that she was able to occupy herself almost completely during her free time. And although Harry was never really far from her thoughts, he didn't dominate them either. She was happy with her life most of the time—it was only from time to time, like today, after that dream, that she spent large amounts of time brooding about it. Ginny doubted that Harry even noticed that she didn't follow him around like a love-sick puppy anymore. Of course, the only two times he paid any real attention to her in her third year she had blushed furiously—first when he flashed his wonderful smile at her as he came out of the fireplace at the Burrow, then again when Ron suggested she could go with Harry to the Ball. Oh, Ginny had cried herself to sleep that night, knowing how narrowly she had missed going to the Ball with the boy she cared for. Of course Harry must think she still had a silly crush on him. How else could he think otherwise?

And so she had watched him—not constantly, but often. She watched as he withdrew into himself after the Third Task. She could only guess at what he was going through; no one ever told her exactly what had happened that night. Harry had only told the complete story to Hermione and Ron, and Ginny knew that if Harry had wanted her to know, he would have told her, so she didn't try to worm it out of them. She did know that Harry somehow blamed himself for Cedric's death, and she recognized the haunted expression of one who has seen their worst nightmare come true—a look Ginny had seen on her own face. She longed to reach out to him, to take him in her arms and comfort him, but there was nothing she could do. After Dumbledore made his startling announcement--that Cedric had in fact been killed by Voldemort, and that the Dark Lord had returned, Ginny began to understand Harry's pain and fear.

He seemed a bit better when she saw him next, at the end of that summer when he came to stay with them at the Burrow. He had a new gravity about him, but then, he had always been a serious boy. Ginny could tell as she watched him throughout that year that some kind of internal struggle was still ongoing. She was sure he still blamed himself for Cedric's death, for one thing, and he probably spent a lot of time thinking about the things that were surely to come. She sensed that he was searching himself, looking desperately for something within him that would carry him through the final confrontation that would inevitably arrive—perhaps sooner rather than later. Already there were horrible things happening in the world around them, some of which had hit pretty close to home: Hagrid had returned, barely alive, from his mission to the giants; Sirius Black, now cleared for the murder of Peter Pettigrew since it had been proven that Peter was still alive, had been captured and tortured by Death Eaters, and had only escaped through the efforts of a yet-unknown double agent. And threats had been made against her own family, as well, although nothing had happened so far. As hard as it was to be Ginny Weasley, she knew that being Harry Potter was much, much harder. If only there were some way to help him—

"Ginny—are you coming?"

Colin's words brought her out of her reverie. She noticed with shock that the History of Magic classroom was empty. Class must be over. It was time to go to Herbology.

"Oh, no, are we going to be late?" Ginny inquired of Colin with a worried look on her face.

"Gee, you were really out of it, weren't you? Professor Binns just announced that Herbology is cancelled today. The teachers don't want us to go out in this storm."

"Storm?" Ginny said, confused. "What storm?"

"It broke out just before breakfast. Rolled in really fast—Professor Binns says it's the worst blizzard he's seen since 1915. Ginny, are you all right? You seem preoccupied—I mean, not to notice the storm—"

Now that Ginny was paying attention, she could hear the wind howling. She turned and looked out the window, only to see a blur of white. "I'm fine, Colin. I'm just really tired—I was up late last night writing that Potions essay," Ginny quickly lied.

"As long as you're all right," Colin said, concern in his voice. "Do you want to go to the library? I could use some help with Divination."

"I don't think so, Colin. Since I've got a break, I think I'll go back to my dorm and take a nap. I want to be awake for Potions. I'll help you tonight, okay?"

"Okay, Ginny. See you at lunch!"

As Colin left for the library, Ginny gathered up her things and started walking up to Gryffindor Tower, still lost in thought. Suddenly she bumped into something rather solid. As parchment and quills flew everywhere, Ginny began to automatically apologize— "Oh, I'm so sorry, I wasn't looking where I was going—" She bent down and started picking up her scattered possessions, then froze as her hand brushed the hand of the person she had bumped into.

It was Harry.

 

Section Three: Crash and Burn

Let me be the one you call
If you jump, I will break your fall
Lift you up and fly away with you into the night
If you need to fall apart
I can mend your broken heart
If you need to crash, then crash and burn
You're not alone

–Darren Hayes and Daniel Jones

 

“No, it's my fault,” Harry said as he continued to gather Ginny's things. “I was kind of lost in thought.”

“I know the feeling,” Ginny said, a little absently. It had been a long time since she had seen Harry this close, and she didn't like what she saw. His face had the same worn, haggard look that Professor Lupin had always shown right before and after his transformations. His eyes showed very little life, almost as if his soul had died—or he was being followed by a Dementor. He's worse off than I realized, Ginny thought. His worry will kill him before Voldemort gets a chance. I need to talk to him, get his mind off things for a while—but what to say? “Umm. . .what are you doing here, anyway? Don't you have class?”

“Sixth years get a study period once a week, to help prepare for N.E.W.T.s.,” Harry replied as he handed Ginny her Potions essay. “Ron and Hermione were playing footsie under the table, and I just felt like I needed to get away from there. What about you? Don't you have class?”

“Usually, but Herbology was cancelled because of the storm. I didn't sleep so well last night, so I was going back to Gryffindor to take a nap before Potions. I don't really feel like getting Detention from Snape for falling asleep in class.”

“Yeah, that's probably a good idea.” Harry looked around to see if there was anything on the floor they might have missed. As he looked at the door they were standing in front of, he suddenly went pale. It took a minute for Ginny to realize why. They were standing in front of the Prefect's bathroom.

Ginny hesitated for a moment, unsure of what to do. In the meantime, Harry kept staring at the door, seemingly lost in thought. Ginny screwed up her courage and quietly said, “Harry, what's wrong?” As if I don't know. . .but I need to give him the chance to bring it up. . .

“I've never been back inside there, you know.” Harry's reply was barely more than a whisper, and Ginny thought she could hear it quavering a bit. “I've been a Prefect for a year, and I can't bring myself to go back inside. I thought that if I avoided it, it would be less painful—that I wouldn't have to remember—”

Ginny could tell that he didn't want to say the words, but that they needed to be said, nonetheless. So she said them instead.

“That Cedric helped you.”

Harry turned to her, startled. “How did you know? I've never told you. . .”

“Hermione filled me in. I think she thought that if I knew, I would be careful not to mention it to you.” Noting the pained look on Harry's face, she quickly began to apologize. “I'm sorry, Harry; I didn't mean to hurt you—”

“No,” Harry interrupted, “it's all right. I suppose it's better that you know.” He fell silent, gazing again at the door.

“Do—do you want to talk about it?” Not wanting to push him, Ginny quickly added “If you don't that's okay, I just thought it might help—”

“I've talked about it with Ron and Hermione dozens of times,” Harry said, the bitterness evident in his voice. “It's never seemed to help.” He paused, looking at her. “But—I don't know why, but I want to talk to you—” He paused, looking a little embarrassed. “I mean, maybe you could give me a different perspective.”

“I'll do my best,” Ginny replied. She beckoned to a stone bench a few feet down the corridor. “Shall we sit down?”

They walked to the bench and sat in silence for a few minutes. Ginny muttered a quick Privacy Charm so they wouldn't be disturbed, but otherwise was perfectly satisfied just to sit close to Harry, waiting for him to start talking. Eventually, he did.

“He came up to me after the Yule Ball. Said that I had done him a favor with the dragons, and wanted to help me out with the egg. I wasn't too happy with him at that point—He had, after all, just spent the whole night with Cho.” Harry laughed then, a humorless laugh with a cynical note behind it. Ginny didn't like it. “I had such a crush on her. Of course, I didn't know her very well then. All I knew was that she was pretty and was always nice to me, even when the whole school thought I had cheated to get my name in the Goblet. I know her better now; she's a nice enough girl, but I don't think we would have suited each other, even if it hadn't been for”—Ginny thought she would have to supply Cedric's name again, but Harry managed it— “Cedric. Anyway, he told me to take a bath, and gave me the password to the Prefect's bathroom. It took me a while, but I finally followed his advice. If it hadn't have been for him, I never would have figured out that the Second Task would take place in the lake.”

“That was really nice of him,” Ginny said, sensing that Harry needed a little prompting to go on. “I didn't know him very well, but he was always nice to me, too—he even knew my name.”

“Yes, that would be Cedric. Some people thought he was just trying to be popular, but he wasn't—he really cared about people, about their feelings. In fact, that generosity could have saved him—if I hadn't listened to my everlasting sense of decency. We both reached the Triwizard Cup at almost the same time. He tried to get me to take it—I'd just helped him defeat the Acromantula that sneaked up behind him, and he felt that I deserved it. Of course, I couldn't allow that—he'd got there first, it was his win. We spent a few minutes discussing it. Finally, I suggested we both take the cup together—to tie. If only I'd taken his offer— if only I had taken the cup alone—he'd—he'd still be alive.”

Harry hung his head, trembling. Ginny could see the tears start to form. Impulsively, she reached out and took his hand, her own eyes blurring with tears. The feel of her hand in his brought her back to her dream of the night before, and of her strong desire to somehow help him. She realized now that this was her chance. Very, very quietly, she said what Harry desperately needed to hear—and to believe.

“Harry, it wasn't your fault.”

He didn't answer, just shook his head, trying to hold back the tears. Seeing this, Ginny gently said, “Don't hold back. You need to let it all out. You've been holding it all in for the last year and a half, and it's eating you up inside. Just let go.” She gently pulled Harry to her, holding him tight while he sobbed. “Just let go,” she repeated.

Ginny didn't know how long they sat there, with her arms around Harry as he cried into her shoulder, but it was a long time. Ginny was grateful for the time; she didn't know what to do next. She was sure that Harry had heard those words before—from Ron, from Hermione, from

Dumbledore, even from her own mother. What she needed to do was to help him believe them. She thought back again to that summer after her first year when she was battling with feelings of guilt for what had happened with the Chamber of Secrets. She remembered the tears she shed that summer, the nights she spent believing that it was all her fault. And suddenly, she realized how she could help; and, ironically, that she was the only one that could do it. When Harry had finally calmed down enough that he could pay attention, she spoke.

“Funny, isn't it? We both avoid bathrooms. You avoid the Prefect's bathroom; I avoid Moaning Myrtle's.” Surprised at this turn in the conversation, Harry pulled back and looked at her quizzically. “I don't even walk by it if I can help it. I just keep thinking about those people lying Petrified in the Hospital Wing—Colin, Justin, Penelope, Hermione—and I did it all.”

“That's ridiculous,” said Harry. “You weren't in control, it was Voldemort. He did it all.”

“He may have taken me over, but I let him. I wrote in that diary. I was stupid. I trusted him.”

“Ginny, it's not your fault. Voldemort did it. And he couldn't have done it if it hadn't been for Lucius Malfoy. He planted that diary in your Transfiguration book. He planned it all. If you want to blame anyone, blame Voldemort—or Lucius Malfoy. Don't blame yourself.”

“I don't,” Ginny replied quietly. “Well, I did at first. It took a while, but I realized that I didn't have any control over what happened. And neither did you.” Harry flinched, but Ginny went on. “I just wanted you to look at a similar situation. It's not your fault that Sirius was captured. It's not your fault that my family has been threatened.”

She looked him straight in the eye so he would be sure to understand. “And it's not your fault that Cedric died. It was Voldemort”—it was easy to think the name, but to say it took great effort—“who captured Sirius. It was Voldemort who threatened my family. And it was Voldemort who killed Cedric. It's not your fault any more than it was my fault that Hermione was Petrified. If there had been no Harry Potter, all those things might still have happened. For that matter, it probably would have been a lot worse—because Voldemort would have been around for the last 15 years, too, instead of just the last year and a half.”

Ginny watched Harry's reaction to her words before going on. She liked what she saw. Instead of the deadness she had seen in his eyes, she saw a glimmer of—hope? Peace? Some of both? It was time to complete the idea, and fulfill a promise she made to herself four years ago.

“One thing is certain: if there had been no Harry Potter, I wouldn't be here right now. Because you saved my life, Harry. You went into the Chamber of Secrets all by yourself; you fought and killed a Basilisk with nothing more than a sword, the Sorting Hat, and a Phoenix. You defeated Lord Voldemort again, and this time you were more than just a baby who didn't know what he was doing; you were a twelve-year-old boy who cared more about the life of his best friend's baby sister—who had embarrassed him at every turn for the last year—than he did about his own life. Every time you think to yourself that Cedric's death was your fault, remember me. Remember that I'm still here because of you—and that I'm eternally grateful to you for that. I've wanted to tell you thank you for a long time, but I've never had the chance—until now.”

Harry was looking at her very strangely. It was as if he didn't know what to believe. He had spent so much time blaming himself, it was hard for him to let go of the guilt. And yet, she could tell that he wanted to believe her—wanted with all his heart to believe her. He gazed into her eyes for a long time, as if studying what he saw there. Ginny hoped that all the gratitude she felt—the certainty that he was blameless in what was going on—her belief in him and his abilities—that they were all reflected there, and that he could gather strength from her gaze. Finally, he opened his mouth to speak.

“Well. I wanted a different perspective, and I got one. Hermione has never said that.” Harry grinned somewhat sheepishly. Ginny took the fact that Harry could speak lightly after such a conversation as a sign that she had helped—that he felt at least a little better. Suddenly serious again, Harry looked at her. “Thank you,” he murmured. “With all that's been happening, I almost forgot. No. I did forget.” He stood, then turned back to her. “I think I'm going to go back to my dormitory to think for a while. Will you walk with me?”

Ginny nodded, and Harry helped her up. As they walked, Ginny gathered her courage. “Harry, I hope this won't be a one-time occurrence. Anytime you want to talk, I'm here. Anytime you just want to sit in silence with someone beside you, I'm here. And anytime Ron and Hermione go off for a bit of private snogging, I'm here.” She smiled when Harry laughed. It came more easily than it would have half an hour ago. “I want to be your friend, Harry. Will you let me?”

“You can bet on it,” Harry replied. He grinned again. “Just don't place the bet with Ludo Bagman.” Ginny laughed, and Harry laughed with her. This time, there was no bitterness, no cynical note. She knew that he hadn't fully recovered yet—that would take time, and lots of it. But it was a start. After they stopped laughing, he continued. “I don't know why, but it was easy for me to talk to you back there—I didn't know if you would actually be able to help me or not, but I knew I could tell you everything, and that it would make me feel better. If you can do that, I'll definitely be back.” Ginny didn't reply, but she smiled.

Finally, they reached the common room. Ginny said, “See you later,” and started toward the girls’ staircase. Just as she reached the foot of the stairs, she heard her name.

“Ginny.”

She turned and looked at Harry, who was at the foot of his own stairs. “You're welcome.”

“And so are you, Harry. You're welcome, too.” They smiled at one another, then turned away. As Ginny climbed the stairs, the smile widened. Again her thoughts returned to her dream of the night before. The feel of Harry's hand in hers still lingered, but this time the feeling had been real. Well, that part came true, she thought. Now for the rest of it. . .I'll just have to wait and see.

 

Section Four: Count Me In

If you need someone to count on, count me in
Someone you can rely on through thick and thin
When you start to count the ones that you might ever doubt
If you think of counting me, count me out
When you count the ones that want you, count me too
And if I'm not first on your list, count me blue
Just be sure you count on me, and when the countin's through
Count me madly in love with you

–Glen D. Hardin

 

“Get off it, Malfoy.” Harry's voice, shaking with anger, carried through the corridors. Uh-oh, Ginny thought, as she fought her way through the crowd.

“Oh, is Potter the Prefect going to take away some points?” Malfoy's drawling voice was dripping with contempt. “You know you can't make it stick—I'll just go to Snape, and he'll give me the points back right away.”

“I can make it stick if I go to Dumbledore—all I have to do is tell him what you said, and Snape won't have a leg to stand on.”

“What did I say? I can't seem to remember saying anything—except that now that your filthy little Mudblood girlfriend seems to be permanently attached to that Muggle-lover Weasley's hand, you've found yourself a nice replacement. So has that pretty red-headed shadow of yours given you any action yet?” Ginny, still fighting through the crowd, froze. What was she hearing?

“Hermione was not my girlfriend, and don't you ever call her a Mudblood again. And if I ever hear another word about Ginny out of that slimy Slytherin mouth of yours, I might just follow Professor Moody's example, and hang the consequences. Would you like to be a ferret again, Malfoy? Just say the words.”

Malfoy opened his mouth to respond, but he never had the chance. Professor McGonagall appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. “What's going on here?” She addressed her question to Harry. “As a seventh year and a school prefect, I'd expected better of you.”

“I was just trying to discipline Malfoy, Professor. He was calling students ‘mudblood’ again.”

McGonagall's face contorted with anger. She turned to Malfoy, fuming. “Mr. Malfoy, you know perfectly well that Professor Dumbledore has outlawed the use of that word. Twenty points from Slytherin, and if it happens again, it will be detention. Now, off with you.”

Malfoy turned and stalked away, obviously unrepentant. The crowd began to disperse, and Ginny walked toward Harry, whose face was still red with fury. When he saw her, his expression changed to one of concern. “Ginny! Did–did you hear that?”

Ginny was heartily embarrassed, but tried to act like it didn't bother her. “Umm. . . yes, I did. Thanks for standing up for me, Harry.”

“I—it was nothing, Ginny. Malfoy loves to attack my friends—it's the only thing that makes me angry anymore.”

“He's—he's said stuff like that before?” Ginny was startled, and more than a little angry.

“Well, yeah.” Harry looked a bit sheepish. “Actually, that was pretty tame—if McGonagall hadn't come along—well, I'm glad she did. I wouldn't want you to hear some of the things he's said about you.” Harry looked angry again. “Malfoy's lucky he's still here—Ron's just about strangled him several times—for your sake, and Hermione's.”

“Why can't people understand that we're just friends?” Ginny spat the words out. After all the work she'd done to convince Harry she didn't love him—and Malfoy kept saying stuff like that? He'd never think of her the way she wanted him to if he had to keep denying it in front of Malfoy. “I mean, my first year was a long time ago.”

“I don't think Malfoy knows what it means to be friends with a girl. To him, girls are only good for one thing, and—well, let's just say that talking isn't it.”

Now Ginny really lost it. “Why that slimy little git—why didn't you turn him into a ferret? If you don't, I will, next time I see him—”

Harry interrupted her. “No, Ginny, don't. This isn't your fight.”

“He just insulted me, didn't he? I'd say that makes it my fight.”

“No. We all decided—Ron, Hermione, and me—that Malfoy will get what he deserves someday. I've threatened to curse him a million times—but I haven't done it since fifth year. It would just make him nastier, and get us detention. One day, we'll figure out a way to really get him—but not right now. Okay?”

Ginny took a deep breath. “Okay, Harry. Just make sure that when he gets it, he really gets it—for me, for Hermione, for Ron, and for every girl on the planet.”

“Don't worry about that, Ginny. Now, you'd better get off to dinner—we've got Quidditch practice at seven, remember?” Harry got that maniacal glare in his eye that he always got when talking about Quidditch lately—ever since he'd been made Captain. He was every bit as fanatical about it as Oliver Wood—Ginny figured it came with the position. She'd been a Chaser on the team for the last two years—ever since Katie, Angelina, Alicia, Fred, and George had all left in one fell swoop. Harry had been startled that she was any good—although he should have known. She did have six older brothers, after all, and she'd been dragged into playing more games than she could count. All that practice had done her good—she was now the best Chaser on the team, and with Ron as Keeper, Gryffindor had another Quidditch Cup victory the year before. Fred and George had even bought her a used Nimbus 2001 for Christmas out of the proceeds of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, to celebrate another Quidditch player in the family. Gryffindor had already won their first match, against Ravenclaw—who were considerably worse after losing Cho Chang as Seeker—and their match against Hufflepuff was coming up in a matter of weeks, right before the Christmas holiday.

“I'll be there, Harry, don't worry.”

“You'd better be.” Harry grinned. “Or it'll be detention for you!”

“Oh, that is so not fair—you can't be Prefect and Quidditch Captain at the same time!”

“Who says?” Harry laughed. Ginny liked it when they joked around like this—especially after a confrontation with Malfoy. It helped Harry to forget.

“You, know, it's a good thing they didn't make you Head Boy—you'd be insufferable!” Ginny slapped him playfully on the arm as she walked by. “See you at practice!” she called down the hall.

***

Harry watched her go with mixed feelings. He was sorry that Ginny had heard Malfoy—although when he said that his latest comment was pretty tame, he was telling the truth. But she didn't need to be exposed to that. Especially since Malfoy probably wouldn't have said a word if she hadn't been his friend— There you go again, blaming yourself for everything, Harry thought to himself. Malfoy is Malfoy, and you are Harry—and nothing he does your fault. Ginny helped you see that. Gratitude for Ginny swept through him, as it had so many times over the past year or so. How he had ever survived without her friendship, he couldn't figure out. She'd been able to keep him sane—making him see things in a way he simply couldn't, turning his mind to other things when he got too bogged down with what was going on in the world around him—making him laugh when he felt like nothing could make him laugh ever again. Just knowing she was there to talk to when he needed her gave him so much comfort. And she was there—just like a good friend should be. There was no more awkwardness. It seemed her crush had finally disappeared. Harry found that he missed it somewhat—he was so used to the idea of Ginny's adoration—but her friendship more than made up for it. If only he could do something for her—show her how much she meant to him—

“Oy, Harry! Where've you been?” Ron called as he walked towards Harry, with Hermione close behind. “Come on, you've got to get some dinner or you'll be late for Quidditch!”

Harry had a sudden idea. “Ron, Ginny's birthday is on the nineteenth, isn't it?”

“Yeah,” Ron replied. “She hates that it's so close to Christmas, ’cause it always seems to get lost. It'll be even worse this year, since that's the day of our match with Hufflepuff.”

“That's what I was thinking. What d’ya say we give her a surprise party?”

Hermione squealed. “Oh, Harry, what a great idea! After the match, you keep her down on the pitch for a while—that'll give the rest of us the chance to get back up to the tower. I'll go down to the kitchens and talk to Dobby about getting food sent up during the match—he'll be happy to help, and besides, I'm Head Girl, they'd do it for me anyway—and Dean can do decorations, and Hogsmeade's next weekend, so we can get her presents—Oh, I'm so excited!”

Ron groaned. “Harry, I think you've created a monster.” Hermione gave him a look that said she was not amused. But Harry was smiling. This'll show her how wonderful she is. Perfect.

***

A week later, however, he was not so happy. He was standing in the middle of Hogsmeade's main street, utterly unsure of what to do. What on earth should I get her for her birthday? Hermione's birthdays had always been easy—sweets, or a new book. But Ginny was different. He'd never gotten her a present before, and he wanted this one to be special—kind of making up for all the birthdays he'd missed. And yet he didn't want it to be too special—like the necklace Ron had given Hermione this last year. That'd look too much as though he liked her—which he did, just not that way. He finally decided it needed to be something practical, so there couldn't be any romantic connotations, but something rather—expensive. So she'd be sure to get the point. He wasn't worried about being able to afford it—the piles of gold in his vault hadn't noticeably shrunk even in the past seven summers—but he was still at a loss what to get her.

He wandered from store to store, looking at all sorts of things—sterling silver inkwells, dragon-hide book bags, inkable sugar quills (he bought one of those for himself; the biggest problem with sugar quills was that you couldn't write with them), solid gold cauldrons—but he couldn't find a thing he wanted to get her. Finally, he ended up in Kilmeny's Kreatures, the local magical pet store. The saleswitch was the owner herself—a tall, dark-haired witch who introduced herself as Kilmeny Bytheway.

“And don't give me any ‘By the way, Kilmeny, what's your last name?’ jokes, because believe me, I've heard them all. You're Harry Potter, of course. What can I do for you?”

Harry explained his dilemma. Kilmeny nodded as though she understood. “Practical, yet meaningful. Well, I think I've got just the thing for you. Come on over here.”

She led Harry to the back of the store. There, in a beautiful gold cage, was the most magnificent owl he had ever seen. He was a snowy owl, like Hedwig, but much larger. His feathers were so white they almost glowed in the dark, and though he was only sitting on a perch in a small cage, his posture was regal, as though he were king of all he surveyed.

“I'll take him,” Harry said without hesitation.

***

“Shh. . .I think they're coming!”

“Ow, you stepped on my foot!”

“Quiet, or they'll hear you!”

The portrait hole opened, and Harry and Ginny stepped through. Suddenly, the lights flared on, and everyone yelled “Surprise!” Ginny's mouth dropped open. A giant banner flashed “Happy Birthday, Ginny!” and the entirety of Gryffindor was there, cheering and clapping. She turned to Harry, still gaping. “Did you know about this?”

“Of course he did!” Hermione said, running up and giving her a hug. “It was his idea!” Harry grinned at Ginny, then kissed her on the cheek. Ginny felt her face go red. “I just wanted to let you know that you mean a lot—so I decided, what better way than to throw you a party? It's a good thing we won the match, though—I wouldn't have felt much like celebrating if we'd lost.”

Ginny still couldn't speak—she was so flabbergasted. Harry, throw her a surprise party? It was impossible. She must be dreaming. Before she could say anything, Hermione had dragged her over to a table, piled high with presents and food. A large cake, complete with 17 candles and “Happy Birthday Ginny,” took up most of the room. “Make a wish!” Hermione squealed happily. Colin stood close by, his camera poised. Ginny thought briefly, then took a deep breath and blew out the candles. Everyone clapped and cheered as they all went out.

The rest of the night passed in something of a blur. She got so many presents, she didn't know where she'd put them all—a Muggle book called Pride and Prejudice from Hermione (“It's my favorite book—I've bewitched it to read itself to you.”)—a photo album from Colin, full of wizard pictures of herself and her friends—a box full of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes products that Fred and George had sent in—a pair of pretty barrettes from Parvati Patil—a box of caramel pecan fudge from Ron—even a pair of socks from Dumbledore, which he had Dobby knit—one with a pattern of broomsticks, the other with yellow stars. Harry, for some odd reason, smiled at that present. She thought she heard him mutter, “You can never have enough socks” under his breath, but she didn't understand that at all.

Late that night, after everyone else had gone to bed, Ginny helped Harry, Ron, and Hermione clean up (the house elves would have done it, of course, but Hermione insisted). She sighed happily. “This has been my best birthday ever.”

“It's not over yet!” Harry grinned. “You probably didn't notice, but I haven't given you my present yet.”

“I though the party was your present,” Ginny replied.

“Nope—I just wanted to wait until everyone else had gone. Sit down, and I'll go get it.”

Ginny sat as Harry ran up to his dormitory. She heard him come down the stairs, then pause before the door at the bottom. “Close your eyes!” he yelled through the door. Obediently, Ginny closed them. She waited as Harry walked toward her. She could feel that he was near her, but she didn't open her eyes.

“All right. Open them.”

Ginny did—and gasped. A beautiful, snowy white owl was held out in front of her, a bow attached to the top of its cage.

“Oh, Harry—he's beautiful—but, Harry, it's too much—you shouldn't have—”

“Just think of it as 6 years of back birthday presents—besides, I have ulterior motives. Errol's not going to last forever, Pigwidgeon is too small to carry big packages, and I expect lots of letters from the Weasley household in the future. Besides, Hagrid bought Hedwig for my birthday. It's about time I passed on the favor. So, what are you going to name him?”

Ginny looked closely at her new owl. He stood erect, confident in his standing in the world. Majesty hung in the air around him. Yet he also looked kindly, and wise.

“I'm going to name him Solomon.”

Harry smiled.

 

Section Five: They All Laughed

They laughed at me wanting you
Said I was reaching for the moon
But oh, you came through
Now they'll have to change their tune
The all said we'd never get together
They laughed at us, and how
But Ho! Ho! Ho!
Who's got the last laugh now?

–Ira Gershwin 

 

Ginny Weasley woke with a crick in her neck. Disoriented, she began rubbing it as she sat up and looked around. She was in the Hospital Wing. Suddenly she realized what it was that had awoken her. Harry was stirring.

“Hey,” she said softly, as she handed Harry his glasses. “Welcome back to the world.”

“Ginny?” Harry put on his glasses and looked at her. “What are you doing here? For that matter, what am I doing here? Where are Ron and Hermione? Are they all right? What about Sirius and Remus? What happened? How long have I been here? Where—”

“Harry,” Ginny interrupted, “if you don't stop asking me questions, I'm never going to be able to give you any answers.” Harry gave a small smile and looked at her expectantly. She went on. “Now, I'm here because you're here. Ron and Hermione are just fine—they're back in Gryffindor Tower, resting. We've been taking turns sitting with you for the past five days so there would be someone here when you regained consciousness. For the first few days, we weren't sure you were going to—wake up.” She gulped back a few tears and went on. “Sirius and Professor Lupin are fine, too—Sirius has been sleeping under your bed, in dog form, waiting and worrying. He would have been here, but my father and Dumbledore needed their help—with Fudge dead, they've put Dad in as temporary Minister of Magic.” She couldn't help but smile as she thought of that—her dad, the Minister!

Harry didn't seem to notice. “But what about—Voldemort? Is he—”

“He's gone, Harry. Gone for good. You did it.” Harry breathed a sigh of relief. It was finally over. Ginny went on. “It took everything you had—and I mean everything, Harry. Every shred of strength you had—physical, mental, spiritual—every ounce of your will went into defeating Voldemort. When he fell, so did you. Dumbledore thought it would be like that—expected it, actually. He made sure Snape was prepared with a potion that would help you. We rushed to you—me, Ron, and Hermione—and, Harry, we thought you were dead.” The tears started to flow, but this time she didn't try to stop them. “Maybe you were. You didn't even have enough strength left in you to breathe—or to make your heart beat. Luckily, Hermione knew what Muggles call—”she struggled for a moment to remember— “CPR. Anyway, she told me what to do. I helped you breathe while she kept your heart beating, until Professor Snape arrived with the restorative potion—he had been delayed, fighting with Death Eater. Anyway, it was the strongest he had, but it barely gave you enough strength to breathe on your own. Sirius picked you up and brought you up here, and you've been here ever since. I'm glad you're awake, Harry—but I'd better warn you that it'll be awhile before you get to leave. Madam Pomfrey says another week at least.”

“Well, judging by how I feel right now, I don't think I'll want to even move for the next month or so.” He chuckled, then looked at Ginny again. “So he's gone—and everything's okay. What about everyone else? I remember a lot of fighting with Death Eaters—”

Ginny looked a bit stricken. She took a deep breath and said— “There are a lot of people who didn't make it—some on our side, some on theirs. Lucius Malfoy is dead—Professor Lupin killed him to keep him from killing Sirius. Draco is in bad shape—after Ron stunned him, a deflected Gut-Wrencher curse hit him. Wormtail is dead, too, but I suppose you knew that, since he died trying to save you. Mad-Eye Moody is still unconscious—they took him to St. Mungo's. And Colin—” Ginny gulped again—“Colin's dead, Harry. Professor Sprout, and Professor Filtwick—they're both gone, too. Neville was hurt bad, but he's going to be okay now. Ron broke his arm, and Hermione and I both had a few cuts and bruises—Nothing Madam Pomfrey couldn't handle. Hagrid—” Here she broke off, unable to go on. Harry looked panicked.

“He's—he's not dead?”

“No, but we're not sure if he'll make it. He had a lot of internal injuries, and giant physiology is so different that the mediwizards at St. Mungo's aren't sure if they found all the problems. Professor Snape is working on a potion right now that he thinks will work, but only if he can find the correct combination of ingredients in time. There's still hope, Harry.”

Harry nodded, trying to keep back the tears. It was all so overwhelming. Ginny saw this, and decided it was time for her to leave.

“I should go get Hermione and Ron, and Sirius and Professor Lupin—and I should send Solomon to my family, they've been worried sick—I'll go tell Madam Pomfrey you're awake, she can sit with you until I get back.” She rose to leave, but Harry grabbed her arm.

“No, Ginny, wait. There's something I need to tell you.” Surprised, Ginny sat back down

Harry took a deep breath. “You've meant a lot to me this past year or so, Ginny—ever since that conversation we had outside the Prefect's bathroom.” Ginny nodded, unable to speak. “You've been a great friend—whenever I needed someone to talk to, you were there. For some reason, I always felt like I could tell you things—things I wouldn't even tell Ron and Hermione. Not that they were any less important to me; but you were more important than you had been before. I don't know how I would've gotten through these last few years if it hadn't been for you, Ginny.” Again, Ginny nodded. To hear those words at last—she felt like if she opened her mouth she'd explode. She could only nod. Harry took another deep breath and went on.

“I knew that you were a great friend—I even threw that party for you, and gave you Solomon, to prove it to you—but I didn't realize how much you really meant to me until I saw Malfoy sneaking up behind you with his wand out. I knew then that if you died, there would be no point in my going on—that I might as well let Voldemort kill me, because I couldn't live without you. In that moment, I just knew—that we were supposed to be together. Luckily Ron saw Malfoy, too—he cursed him before Malfoy had a chance to curse you. Knowing Ron, he was probably mad enough to kill him—I'm glad he didn't. Ron shouldn't have to be a killer. Anyway, when I saw that Malfoy was down—that you were all right—I wanted to run over to you and—” He broke off, unable to say the words. Ginny was barely breathing—she was so afraid to break the spell—to shatter the dream—

“Well, at that moment, Voldemort arrived. I didn't know if I'd ever see you again, but I promised myself that if I did, I'd take the first opportunity I got to—to tell you—that I love you, Ginny.” He took moment to recover from actually saying the words, but went on before Ginny could speak. “I know you probably don't feel the same way—I mean, you had the crush, but I'm sure you've grown out of it—you probably feel only friendship for me—it's been so long—and if that's the case, I hope this doesn't ruin our friendship—because I don't think I could live without it anymore. Oh, Ginny, say something—anything—”

It took a moment for Ginny to gather her thoughts. She pinched her thigh, just in case she was still asleep. It hurt. Gradually the meaning of Harry's words reached her scattered brain. He loved her—he was afraid she didn't feel the same way—she needed to say something, relieve his fears—

“Harry.” She looked into his eyes—those eyes that had always held her, always compelled her—and said the words she'd wanted to tell him for so many years. “I love you, too. Of course I love you—I think I always have. And I know I always will.”

The look on Harry's face was one that Ginny had never seen before—and one she would remember for the rest of her life. It was a look of joy—pure joy, with no hint of sorrow, fear, or bad memories behind it. The haunted look in his eyes was gone, replaced by a twinkle not unlike Dumbledore's—as if there was some deep supply of inner happiness. She knew the same look was on her face, for she could feel the joy diffusing into every cell of her body. For a while they both simply sat there, staring at each other, each with a slightly goofy smile upon their faces. There was still much to say—many things to talk about, to worry about—but they could wait. This moment was theirs; a single moment in time when they could both be perfectly happy.

Harry reached out his hand, and Ginny took it eagerly. There was no hesitation, as there had been in her dream of years ago—they had both been through too much to hesitate. Still holding Harry's hand, Ginny rose from her chair and sat on Harry's bed instead. Harry pulled her towards him; slowly, carefully, he brought his other hand to her chin. Gently, he raised her head, then placed his lips on hers. Nerves she never knew she had came to life at the feel of that kiss; fire seemed to be shooting through her body. She kissed him back, and her body flamed again. The kiss was not deep, but it was long and achingly sweet. When they finally broke apart, Ginny found she was trembling. Harry fell back against the bed, exhausted from even that little bit of exertion. But he still looked at Ginny, grinning foolishly.

“Took you long enough.” Ginny jumped as she realized that those words had come from her own mouth. Harry grinned ever wider.

“Yes, I suppose it did. You've known this whole time, haven't you? All those years I ignored you—these last two years, pretending to feel only friendship for me–why did you do that, Ginny?”

“Because I knew that you didn't feel the same as I did—and even if you did, that you weren't ready for that kind of a relationship. I knew that if I showed I felt more than just friendship, you'd pull away—and then I'd lose the closeness I'd worked so hard to gain. Besides, it was enough—at that point, just knowing that you liked me as a friend, that you trusted me—it was enough.”

“I can't believe I didn't realize it sooner. I must be really thick, huh? All those times I thought about how much you meant—how easy it was to talk to you—how close we were. And I never saw it. Even Malfoy noticed—all those times he insulted you, with those disgusting innuendos, and I was so quick to defend you—why didn't I realize it then?”

“You weren't thick, Harry. You were—preoccupied. Rightly so, as a matter of fact. Defeating Voldemort was much more important than me. That's another reason I held back. I knew that in order for you to do the things you had to do, we had to remain friends. It wouldn't have worked otherwise.”

Harry thought this over. “Maybe. I still feel stupid, though.”

“You've just been around Ron too much.” She grinned, and Harry laughed. It was nice to hear him laugh again.

She leaned toward him, and they kissed briefly; then he wrapped his arms around her, and she leaned her head on his chest. The beating of his heart and the gentle rise and fall of his chest as he breathed reminded her of that horrible moment when she thought Harry was dead. “Oh, Harry, I'm so glad you're alive—I thought I had lost you forever. When Hermione suggested CPR, it gave me hope—even though I was scared to death to try it.”

Harry jumped slightly as the full impact of what Ginny had told him earlier hit him. “Oh, my. . .Ginny, you helped me breathe? You—”

“I didn't even think about that until after—but Hermione said she needed to do the chest compressions, because they had to be done just right or I could break your rib and puncture your lung; and Ron was running for help, so that left me. I hope you don't mind.”

“Mind? Mind what, you saving my life? No, I don't mind at all—but it must have been rather—awkward for you.”

“Not at the time, no; but I did get quite embarrassed every time I had to tell someone about it. Not a new sensation, I might add.” Ginny grinned as Harry gave her a squeeze. “Besides, you saved my life—the least I could do was try to save yours.”

“Thank you,” Harry whispered. “Thank you for trying—and for succeeding. I guess that means we're even, huh?”

“We're even.” She sighed and snuggled closer. “I've dreamed about this, or something like this, so many times,” she murmured. “I can't believe it's real.”

“Dumbledore once told me that our dreams can be very important,” Harry softly replied. “Maybe they were trying to tell you something—telling you to not give up hope.”

“You might be right.” Ginny sighed. “Remember when I blew out the candles at my birthday party?”

“Of course I do.”

“This is what I wished for.” Ginny turned her head so she could look up at Harry. “I was so careful not to tell anyone—so it had a chance of coming true.” Harry leaned down and kissed her again; this time was even longer, and sweeter. Just as she thought she was going to melt, Harry pulled away. She snuggled close to him again. “So what happens now?”

Harry sighed. “I don't know. I've never been able to see this far ahead—I wasn't even sure I'd make it this far. There were so many times I was sure I was going to die—I thought I would be lucky if I even made it to seventeen. And now it's all over—Voldemort is gone, and I'm still here. It's unbelievable. So unbelievable, that I don't think it's really hit me yet. Ginny, I just killed someone. I've never done that before. It's—it's kind of hard to swallow. Then all this stuff with Wormtail being gone, and Snape saving my life, and Hagrid still in danger—and I'm sure that a lot more has happened in the last five days than just the stuff you've told me. I should be more worried about it—and I'm sure I will be, once it all sinks in. Knowing me, the weight of everything that has happened is going to be with me for a while. It don't know if I'll ever be the same person I was before I faced Voldemort. I really don't know who I am—so much of me was tied up in being ready for that event. I feel like I'm going to have to reach deep—maybe even back to the time before I knew I was a wizard, before I knew I had a mortal enemy. Who is Harry Potter when there's no Voldemort to play off him? I think I need to find out.”

Ginny opened her mouth to say something, but Harry continued.

“I'll be leaving Hogwarts in a few weeks—but you still have a year left. I don't know how we're going to handle being apart—unless Dumbledore offers me the Defense Against the Dark Arts job. But then, I'd be your teacher, and I'm pretty sure teachers and students can't date each other, so that won't work. I can come visit on Hogsmeade weekends, though. And—”

“Harry,” Ginny interrupted, sitting up and looking him in the eyes. “Stop it. The last thing you need right now is to be worrying. Now listen to me. You've been through a lot in the past few days, and you're right—some of the things that have happened are going to take a while to sort through. But you've been through tough things before, and you'll be fine. Now, you may not know who the real Harry Potter is, but I do. He's a young man who was treated like dirt for most of his childhood, and yet still managed to be the sweetest kid you'll ever meet, instead of being angry and resentful. He's kind, he's considerate, he's intelligent, he's brave, he's intensely loyal, and he's a darn good Quidditch player. He's met evil time after time, and has been able to conquer it. He's had every bad thing conceivable thrown at him at one time or another, and instead of letting them knock him down, they made him stronger. Oh, he has his faults—he tends to blame himself for everything, and worries too much; he tends to get into trouble and has a bit of a proud streak—but he's the man I love. Are there going to be problems? Of course there are. But there's one thing I'm absolutely sure of—my feelings for you will not change. I've had too many years of dreams to let me ever doubt it. If there's one thing my dreams have taught me, Harry, it's that I love you and always will.”

This time Harry opened his mouth, and Ginny could tell by the look in his eyes that he was going to argue. She put her hand over his mouth and continued. “Let's not dwell on the problems. We'll deal with them when they get here. Right now, I just want to be with you—to just be us. So shut up and kiss me, you fool.” She removed her hand and replaced it with her mouth. This kiss was different than the last; it was intense, demanding. All the pent-up emotions of the past six years were released in that kiss, and when they finally broke apart, Ginny was exhausted. She looked at Harry enquiringly, silently asking him if he accepted what she said. He responded with a smile.

“Us.” A sense of wonder and immense satisfaction played across his face. “I like the sound of that.”

Ginny smiled dreamily. “Me too.” Harry took her hand in his, fingers intertwined.

“You're right, Ginny. As I realized at the end of fourth year, what's going to happen will happen, and we'll meet it when it comes. In the meantime, let's take this summer and just try to be happy.”

“But first, you're going to have to get past my brothers.” Ginny laughed, and so did Harry.

“Oh, come on! Your family loves me!”

“As Harry, yes; but I'm not so sure about how they'd feel about you—or anyone—being ‘Ginny's boyfriend.’ I'm not just the only girl, I'm also the youngest. Dad will probably grill you as he's polishing his wand.” She laughed again, but Harry looked alarmed. “Don't worry, Harry. Mum'll be so delighted, she'll make them all shut up. Ron, too, after he gets over the initial shock.”

Harry groaned. “I didn't even think about that. How are we going to tell Ron—and Hermione—and Sirius—”

“Well, you'd better think fast,” Ginny interrupted. “Because I think I hear them coming down the hall.”

Ginny leaned over and gave him a quick kiss, then got off the bed and sat back in her chair. Harry reached over and took her hand, and they waited for their friends—and their future—together.

A/N: First of all, I'd like to say thanks to my subconcious, which supplied me with the dream in part 1. A gigantic thanks goes to all those at the Super Secret HP Forum, who encouraged me to write more, and who gave me such good feedback. Special thanks go to Wolf550e for telling me that my original Part 5 was crap, for helping me write a better one, and for helping me with the HTML; and to Teri Krenek and Melanie Seibert, who did lovely betas for me. Thanks also to Carleton97, my wonderful SQ beta.

The title of the story and of each section is also the title of a song; credit for each section title has already been given, but not for the story. Look to Your Dreams is a Carpenters song, lyrics written by John Bettis. The lyrics themselves have almost nothing to do with this story, so I won't quote them here, but if you'd like to read them, go here.

//
Write a review! PLEASE NOTE: The purpose of reviewing a story or piece of art at the Sugar Quill is to provide comments that will be useful to the author/artist. We encourage you to put a bit of thought into your review before posting. Please be thoughtful and considerate, even if you have legitimate criticism of a story or artwork. (You may click here to read other reviews of this work).
* = Required fields
*Sugar Quill Forums username:
*Sugar Quill Forums password:
If you do not have a Sugar Quill Forums username, please register. Bear in mind that it may take up to 72 hours for your account to be approved. Thank you for your patience!
*Comment:
The Sugar Quill was created by Zsenya and Arabella. For questions, please send us an Owl!

-- Powered by SQ3 : Coded by David : Design by James --