AYNIL: Chapter Fourteen: Sooner Or Later

Ginny spent her sixteenth birthday at Grimmauld Place. It was a week after that article had appeared in the Evening Prophet. The Order hadn’t gathered any information about whether Voldemort had heard about that report. No news was good news when it came to the snake. Harry felt that way in any case, especially when it involved Ginny. He hated to admit it, but he was glad that article had been released inasmuch as it allowed her to be here with him.

Neither Ron nor Hermione were as happy about Ginny being there as Harry was. Ron was sticking to his declaration to make sure that Harry and Ginny didn’t have the chance to become closer than they already were. He was a little short-tempered these days. It might have been because he kept intruding on their alone time, and had seen more than he liked. It could also have been that constantly following them around meant that he couldn’t be doing the same sorts of things with Hermione. Whatever the case he was starting to annoy Harry, Ginny and Hermione to no end.

Hermione wasn’t bothered by the fact that Ginny was there. Like Harry she wanted to make sure that nothing happened. However, having her there meant that the trio couldn’t spend as much time working out where the next Horcrux was, or how to get past the inevitable spells and enchantments that were bound to be guarding it. And then there was the fact that with Ginny there, Harry didn’t feel that same pressing need to get rid of Voldemort that he had when she was staying at the Burrow.

Several Order meetings took place during the week. While Harry and his friends were not privy to what went on in the meetings, they hadn’t been completely in the dark. There had been more Death Eater attacks. During the last week there had been three murders. The Dementors were swooping around Ireland, attacking each day, and Fenrir Greyback had attacked several people.

Each time that they were given news about another attack, Harry felt a pang of guilt. The day of Dumbledore’s funeral he had told himself that it would be better to set off to find the Horcruxes as soon as possible. Now over seven weeks later they had found one, but weren’t all that close to finding another, and he had sat for an entire week and done nothing. Every time that Ginny came near him though, Harry was able to justify his actions. He had her to worry about. Who really cared what horrors were happening outside of Grimmauld Place, as long as she was safe.

Harry knew that he couldn’t really delay much longer. His conscience was starting to get to him. He really would like nothing better than to stay cooped up in Sirius’s old house with his girlfriend and forget what was happening outside it. If only there were someone else that could perform the tasks that Dumbledore had set for Harry to do. But of course there wasn’t. It was down to him to find those remaining items. He wasn’t going to have much luck doing that if he just spent the entirety of his days with Ginny.

During one of the several Order meetings that had taken place during the week, Mr. Weasley had pulled Harry aside and told him that he and his wife, along with the rest of Ginny’s siblings (minus Percy of course) were going to come for her birthday. It was not the ideal sweet sixteen party for their daughter, but the Weasleys were always able to make the best out of the situations that they were presented with.

This party was supposed to be a surprise for Ginny. Mrs. Weasley arrived in the early afternoon. She, with Hermione’s help, snuck in and commandeered the kitchen. Everyone was set to be arriving around dinnertime. For that one day, Ron actually left Harry and Ginny alone. It was Harry’s job to try and keep it from her that there was going to be a party. He wasn’t too impressed with this. He was a bad liar, especially to Ginny.

In a surprise turn of events, Harry didn’t blow it. Ginny didn’t even ask if something was going on that day. In fact she was quiet a lot more than was normal for her. She was in a melancholic mood. Harry was quite certain that she was missing her family. Being here without them any other day didn’t seem to faze Ginny, but when it came to her birthday, she clearly wanted to be at home. Seeing her so downcast made Harry want to tell her about the party. It also increased his feelings of guilt. Ginny really should be with her family, it was because of him that she wasn’t. Three days ago the Order had said Ginny could go home if she wanted. Harry had been the one to say it was too soon.

When Harry and Ginny walked into the kitchen and she was greeted by most of her family, she broke into a wide smile and ran to hug everyone. It was like they were all back at the Burrow again, and the Weasleys were the same happy family that they always were. They were laughing and joking, eating the delicious food, watching Ginny open her presents. Just now, for a few brief hours, Harry felt no guilt for tasks left undone, or for being selfish when it came to Ginny.

When the Weasleys made ready to leave that night, it was with heavy hearts that Harry, Ron, Hermione and especially Ginny saw them to the door. Once they were gone, Ginny resorted back to that melancholic mood. She and Hermione went upstairs to get ready for bed shortly thereafter.

“I think she misses home,” Ron said, vocalizing what Harry had already figured out on his own. This thought caused him to fidget. They were going to have to get back to work very soon. Every time they got news about more attacks his heart plummeted a little more. And now Ginny was starting to get as downtrodden as Harry had been before his birthday. No, it was definitely time to get back to work, and sooner would definitely be better than later.

The next day Ginny was back to her usual self, and this change in demeanor caused Harry to waiver in his resolve to start the hunt. Hermione, however, finally decided enough was enough. She sat Harry down to have a talk with him about the fact that they were wasting time.

“That day at Dumbledore’s funeral, you seemed like you wanted to get started on this straight away. Well we’re now nearing two months since then, and we’ve only found the one Horcrux. We haven’t even really started looking for the others.” She was speaking in a rather stern voice. “When are we going to start seriously looking for the next one?”

Harry shrugged noncommittally.

“The longer we delay, the more innocent lives he can take,” Hermione said in an angry voice.

“You think I don’t know that?” Harry asked, annoyed. Did she think that he wasn’t aware of what Voldemort was capable of?

“Well, I don’t know what you’re playing at, sitting around here as if there’s nothing going on out there. It’s like you think we’re on holiday or something.”

If Ron had been in the room at the time he probably would have pointed out that they were on holiday. But Harry knew that they weren’t really. The three of them had decided the day of the headmaster’s funeral that they weren’t going back to school, at the very least until Voldemort had been destroyed. They didn’t really have two months to sit and do nothing.

Harry said nothing further on the matter. After a few minutes Hermione stopped trying to get him to talk. She buried her face in a book. Ginny came into the room a minute later so Harry didn’t have to sit lost in self-deprecating thoughts for too long.

Not long after Hermione had tried to get a definitive answer from Harry, Ginny was making her way back out of the room and to bed. Harry watched her go with a smile on his face. This entire week had been so much better than he ever would have thought possible on the train journey from Hogwarts in June. Even despite all of the terrible things that had, and were, happening.

“It’s not going to get any easier,” Hermione stated. She had been reading quietly for so long that Harry had quite forgotten that she was there. When she spoke he jumped a little. He didn’t need her to explain further, Hermione was talking about leaving Ginny, but she explained anyways. “It’s only going to be harder for you, for us, to leave the longer we stay here.”

“I know that.” Harry was annoyed at the fact that Hermione didn’t seem to realize he had worked that much out on his own. But she either wasn’t listening, or really wanted to drive this point home because she added,

“And the more danger that Ginny’s going to be in. You read that Prophet article. Voldemort certainly knows about you two, and it’s only a matter of time before he tries to get to you again. The more we delay, the more powerful he’s going to get. That will make it easier for him to get to Ginny.”

This very thought had been bothering Harry over the last few days. With the increase in frequency and severity of Death Eater and dark creature attacks it was obvious that Voldemort was gaining power. The stronger he got, the more difficult Harry’s task was going to be. They were going to have to find the Horcruxes, and soon. This meant getting back to work, and getting Ginny back to the Burrow. But the longer he could put off her inevitable return, the better he slept.

“Harry I really think that we should consider leaving as soon as possible. The sooner we start —“ Hermione had started talking again.

“I’m tired, and I’m going to bed,” he cut her off. He trudged up to the room that he and Ron shared. It was empty. He flopped down on the bed, without even bothering to change.

Harry knew that Hermione was absolutely right, that’s why he was so annoyed. It was really stupid and selfish of him to sit around doing nothing. They had found the one Horcrux, much quicker than was probably to be expected, given that it took Dumbledore months, if not years to track down the two he found. Yet, they were nowhere near finished. They still had two more Horcruxes to find, plus Nagini, and then there would be the final battle itself.

A moment later Harry was on the next landing knocking on the door to the room that Ginny and Hermione shared. It was the former that called for him to come in. He did so, and saw Ginny standing by a full-length mirror brushing her long mane of red hair. He stopped in the doorway and watched her for a minute, trying to find the words to tell her that they were going to be leaving, probably the next day.

Ginny turned to look at him, initially with a small smile. When she caught sight of his face though her happy expression vanished, and Harry was certain she knew what he had come up to tell her. She came over and wrapped her arms around him.

“When are you leaving?”

“Tomorrow,” he told her. He didn’t need to ask how she knew. Ginny was always really good at reading his thoughts. This was why it was hard for him to lie to her. He felt, more than heard, her sigh. Was it one of relief or of sadness? Probably both, he thought.

“I knew this would come sooner or later,” Ginny spoke, her voice a little muffled because she had her face pressed against his chest. She sounded resigned again.

“Yes, it’s long overdue,” Harry explained. He was going to tell her everything that he had been thinking over the past week. He wanted to explain how he didn’t want to, but knew he had to leave because of Ginny. This was rendered unnecessary though when she spoke again.

“I guess we’ll just have to make the most of our last night together,” she said. There was a strange look in her eyes. It was a mixture of things, none of which Harry could really put a finger on. Those brown eyes seemed to be pools of sadness, desperation, worry, loneliness, and love. Harry wouldn’t have thought it possible for one look to have so many intermingled emotions.

After tonight, Ginny was going back to the Burrow. Harry, Ron and Hermione were definitely going to leave this time. Both Harry and Ginny had been through their goodbyes several times before. They had been through the worry about not seeing each other for who knew how long. This whole scenario was not new to them. Yet, this time it was different.

The simple action of Harry coming to tell Ginny that he and the others were leaving the following day had made this war far more real to both of them than anything else had done. It was the uncertainty of the whole thing. Before, Harry had some idea of what they were going to do. With their first two goodbyes he was going to the Dursleys, then it was to the Burrow a few weeks later, Godric’s Hollow had been their destination the last time. This time though, they were leaving, but didn’t really know where they were going or what they were going to find.

Yes, Harry and Ginny were no strangers to saying goodbye, but this one was definitely different. Neither knew when they were going to see each other again, or under what circumstances. Would they even see each other again? It was a question they didn’t want to think about. Had the question been asked both would have defiantly said yes. However, they knew that they couldn’t give it with certainty, because they just didn’t know.

The look in Ginny’s eyes made Harry aware of two things. The first was that he loved her more than he ever would have thought possible. This thought gave him back the determination that he needed to leave in the morning. If he wasn’t going after Voldemort for the wider world, or even himself, then he was doing it for her. The second was that he needed to be with her tonight, and he knew that she felt the same. This need wasn’t driven by teenage lust, but love and desperation.

Nothing else mattered to Harry and Ginny that night. They were able to forget about their uncertain future, about all of the bad things that could, and already were, happening. All they were concerned about was each other. They reveled in every touch, every kiss, as though these actions were the antidote to all of their fear and pain. Their actions were those of ones that were desperate to cling to each other forever, but were being torn apart by a force stronger than they were. Even so, it was like they were drawing strength from each other by being so intimate. Everything was going to be all right as long as they could remain together.

All too soon it was morning again. Harry had long ago learned that time seems to speed forward when dangerous and unpleasant things lay in your path. This didn’t mean that he liked it. On the upside though, they had the memories of last night for when the inevitable loneliness crept up on them during their time apart. Harry and Ginny basked in the last few moments that they could be close to each other before they had to take their separate paths.

Ron and Hermione were in the kitchen eating breakfast when Harry and Ginny entered together. She was reading the paper, which was certain to be filled with news of more attacks. Ron was sitting back in his chair and looking very grumpy. His mood did not improve when his sister and best friend walked in together.

“Morning,” Hermione greeted, looking up from the paper. When she saw that it was two of her good friends, a huge smile appeared on her face. He wasn’t sure, but Harry thought she knew what had happened the night before. There was a knowing look in her eyes. When Ron spotted her smile, his scowl intensified. She ignored him and offered them some food, which they declined because they were going to be leaving almost immediately.

“You’re going home today?” Ron asked, his bad mood ebbing away, “Why?”

“It’s time,” Ginny stated simply. She had leaned against Harry, who was resting his chin on her head, his arms wrapped around her. They felt the need to be as close to each other as possible, at least for the last few minutes that they were going to be together.

“Yes, we have to start looking,” Harry explained.

“Finally,” Hermione’s smile increased. “I was wondering when you were going to come to that conclusion. We’ve really wasted enough time here.”

“How’re you getting home?” Ron asked his sister.

“I’m taking her,” Harry explained.

The expression on Ron’s face made it quite obvious to everyone in the room that he was conflicted about this. It was always a crapshoot when it came to Ron’s reaction to their relationship. He could just as easily have punched Harry as rejoiced over this news. In the end, he did nothing. He grabbed Hermione’s paper and hid behind it. The other three people in the room exchanged looks.

“Well, I guess we should go,” Harry spoke a moment later. Doing something sooner was always better than later. That seemed to be the thought of the past few days.

Hermione got up to give Ginny a hug before they left; Ron simply grunted his goodbye from behind the paper. Ginny raised an eyebrow at this, looking from Hermione to Harry, who both shrugged. From the look that Hermione was shooting the paper though, it was likely that Ron was going to get quite the telling off for his reaction once they left.

“Ready?” Harry asked Ginny as they stood just outside number twelve, Grimmauld Place. He had a fleeting hope that she would say no, and refuse to go, but that passed as quick as it came. She slowly nodded her head, and grabbed his arm tightly.

Next instant they were back in the yard that held Ginny’s home. When they opened their eyes the scenes that met them were familiar and welcoming. Nothing had changed at all in the last ten days. Not that Harry had expected it too. There had been no change to the house in the six years that he had been coming. Well, there wasn’t any physical change to the house. The security around the Burrow had increased immensely. One of these changes was the locked door, which they had to knock on to enter the house.

“W- w- w- who’s there?” Mrs. Weasley’s shaky voice called through the door.

“It’s Harry and I, mum,” Ginny called back. She and Harry were exchanging a concerned look. What had happened to make her mother sound so nervous?

The door opened a crack and one of Mrs. Weasley’s eyes peered out. When she confirmed it was them, she threw the door open wide. She ushered them quickly in and shut the door right away, locking it again with her wand.

“Oh, Ginny I am so glad you’re home. I’ve been frantic.” She pulled her daughter into a tight embrace.

“We’re fine.” Ginny winced as her mother let go of her. Sometimes Mrs. Weasley hugged a little too hard, especially when she was worried. As her mother turned to Harry to hug him, Ginny went and dropped her bag by the stairs.

“Thank you for taking care of her,” Mrs. Weasley expressed her gratitude. Harry looked at Ginny as she said this and, remembering what they had done the night before, felt embarrassed.

“It . . . uh . . . was no trouble.” He was rubbing his hand on the back of his neck again, something he did when he was nervous or embarrassed. He couldn’t bear to look at Mrs. Weasley or Ginny right now. He was quite certain that Mrs. Weasley would not have been so thankful if she knew about last night. Harry shifted a little guiltily.

Mrs. Weasley seemed to have noticed nothing odd in Harry’s behaviour though. She asked if he and the others were still planning on leaving Grimmauld Place.

“Yes, probably today, in fact,” he explained to her.

“Oh . . . Is that really necessary?” Mrs. Weasley asked, the same tremor in her voice that had greeted them when they first arrived was starting to show itself again.

“Yes mum it is.” Ginny was the one speak.

“I suppose it is,” Mrs. Weasley said softly. “You make sure you’re careful, and you tell Ron and Hermione to do so as well,” Mrs. Weasley told Harry. She didn’t like this turn of events that was clear, but wore an expression as though she had come to terms with what they were going to do.

“I will, and I’ll pass on the message to Ron and Hermione,” Harry assured her. “I guess I should go though.”

Ginny was looking at him, and then at her mother. Harry could tell that she wanted to have a few more minutes alone with him before he went. He was in agreement with her wants. Mrs. Weasley seemed to pick up on this exchange because she grabbed Ginny’s bag and said that she was going to take it upstairs.

As soon as she had disappeared, Ginny ran over and leapt into Harry’s arms.

“Make sure you’re careful,” she said warningly as she kissed him.

“You too,” he kissed her back.

“I love you,” Ginny told him, they kissed again.

“I love you too,” he told her, sealing that proclamation with another kiss. He had to go now, but couldn’t say goodbye, or make any move except to kiss Ginny back and run his fingers through her hair.

“Ahem!” Mrs Weasley was back in the kitchen. The announcement of her return had caused the pair to stop kissing, but they didn’t let go of each other immediately. Harry realized after a minute that this was his cue to leave. He did finally back away from Ginny.

“Goodbye, Mrs. Weasley.”

“Goodbye Harry dear,” she responded, a worried look on her face.

Ginny followed Harry as he returned to the yard where he would Disapparate.

“Remember to be careful,” Ginny told him again.

“Always.” He smiled at her.

“Talk to you soon.” This reminded Harry of something. He had almost forgotten and was glad that Ginny had made that comment. If she hadn’t he would have been really angry at himself for having brought it with him and not given it to her.

Out of his pocket he pulled the repaired two-way mirror. Hermione had been able to get it working during the last week.

“I want you to take this.” He pushed it into her hand. She did take it, but with a bewildered look on her face.

“Thanks Harry, but I have enough mirrors.”

“Very funny. It’s a two-way mirror. Sirius gave it to me just after Christmas at Grimmauld Place. I didn’t find it until . . . until after he died.” Was it really a good idea to be giving this mirror to Ginny? Harry wondered if every time he looked at it he would felt pangs of guilt for forgetting about it. “I found the other one this summer. If you need to talk to me just hold it up and say my name. We’ll be able to see and talk to each other.”

Ginny looked at the mirror appraisingly. “Sounds good,” she said finally, looking back at Harry and smiling.

“Don’t forget about it. I did. That’s why we ended up at the ministry . . . “ Harry didn’t think that he was ever going to get over his stupidity when it came to Sirius and these mirrors.

“I won’t.” She leaned up to kiss him again, grabbing both of his hands in hers as she did that.

As before, one kiss wasn’t enough. They must have stood there for five minutes, before Harry pulled away and told her again that he had to go. Ginny nodded, but didn’t let go of his hands, which she still held in her own. He didn’t tell her to let go; instead he brought each hand to his lips and kissed them. Then he pulled away. Before he Disapparated he looked at Ginny one more time.

“I love you,” Harry told her, stroking her cheek with his thumb. He smiled down at her, then he Disapparated before he changed his mind.

* * * * * * * * * *

Ginny had the same feeling Harry did about what the others knew regarding their last night together. Hermione in particular had a knowing look on her face. Maybe it was because she and Ron . . . ugh. Ginny was not going to go there. The thought of her brother doing that with anyone was beyond repugnant. If Ron knew that would explain his attitude towards them this morning.

She didn’t have long to contemplate the puzzle that was Ron and Hermione’s reactions to herself and Harry. Within a few minutes of entering the kitchen they were leaving it again, and leaving Grimmauld Place entirely. When Harry asked if she was ready to go she had a fleeting desire to say that she had changed her mind and didn’t want to go home. But she couldn’t take any more time in that dismal house, no matter how pleasant it had been to be with Harry.

When they arrived at the Burrow and Ginny opened her eyes, there was a split second when she hoped it hadn’t worked and she wouldn’t be back at her home. That was surpassed when she actually saw the delightfully asymmetrical house she had grown up in. If she couldn’t be with Harry, this was the only other place she wanted to be.

Her mother was a little shakier than she had been when Ginny had gone to stay at Grimmauld Place a week before, but otherwise seemed perfectly normal. She really did need to stop trying to squeeze everyone to death though, Ginny thought as she took a few deep breaths to recover from her mother’s embrace.

Ginny was a little amused at Harry’s embarrassment when her mother thanked him for looking after her. If only she knew what kind of looking after they got up to. If Molly had been less preoccupied she probably would have, given Harry’s obvious mortification. It was adorable when he rubbed his neck like that, but such a dead giveaway that sex was somehow involved.

Grateful that her mother allowed them to say a proper goodbye, Ginny ran to Harry the minute her mother disappeared. He would be leaving any time now. They didn’t know when they were going to see each other again. She had a very bad feeling about this parting. It was the uncertainty about their relationship she tried to convince herself. But that didn’t seem right.

Ginny pushed all of those negative thoughts away as she and Harry said their goodbyes, which required no words, just feelings. Her mother returned far too soon, hastening Harry’s departure. Needing to squeeze every last second out of the little time they had remaining together Ginny followed Harry outside. She had to tell him to be careful one last time, it seemed very important. Then just when he seemed like he was about to leave she said,

“Talk to you soon,” not knowing how that was going to be possible. They couldn’t really send owl post to each other, and Grimmauld Place didn’t have a phone, even if Ginny wanted to walk into the village to use the one there. But it was good that she had done so, because he pulled out a mirror.

At first Ginny thought that it was some sort of joke. However, he was looking very serious, even by his usual standards, so she listened to what he told her. When he got to the part about Sirius and everything that happened around that she felt her heart break a little. Harry was never going to forgive himself for something that he didn’t cause. She wanted to tell him that it wasn’t his fault, but he was explaining how to use the mirror now.

Ginny was certain that she wouldn’t forget the mirror, especially if she could keep in the forefront of her mind what had happened when Harry forgot about it. But as she stowed it quickly in her own pocket her mind was back on the fact that Harry was leaving.

They were kissing again. It was great, always had been, but now didn’t seem enough. Even as they stood there, relishing the last few minutes before he left, Ginny had the urge to tell Harry not to go, or at the very least she wished time could stand still. That same bad feeling was back, and she knew now it was more than just uncertainty. Something bad was going to happen, it always did where Harry was concerned.

Time doesn’t really stand still though, and all too soon Harry had kissed her one last time, told her he loved her and Disapparated. Ginny stood there, unable to take her eyes from the spot where her boyfriend had been just a moment before. She recalled all of the ups and downs of their relationship over the last couple of months.

When Harry had told her at Dumbledore’s funeral that they couldn’t be together she had been sad, but accepted it. She had expected he was going to do it ever since the night Dumbledore had died. That was the way he was. She hadn’t really expected him to change his mind after the train journey either. It had been hard to watch him walk away from her again that day. She hadn’t cried. Ginny didn’t cry, growing up with six brothers you learned that tears were for wimps.

There had been an order meeting the night Voldemort appeared on Privet Drive. Ginny had been there with her parents. When they heard there was going to be an attack on the Dursleys there had been a mad dash to get enough people to go. Ginny absolutely refused to be left behind, and demanded that Charlie take her with him. There wasn’t time to argue so he did. She was not going to wait like a good little girl when Harry was in trouble.

That had been a long, and event filled night. Yet, after everything that happened Harry had still stuck to his stupid noble reasons for staying away from her. This had really started to get to Ginny, especially after he was still turning to her for comfort. She had gone to bed that night, or rather, early the next morning more uncertain about where their relationship was. She knew Harry agreed his logic was flawed, but didn’t know if that would change his mind. She hoped that sooner or later he’d come around.

Then there had been that dream. He wouldn’t give her details about it, even now, but he had said she’d died in it. Much as Ginny didn’t ever want to see Harry hurting, she was glad he’d had the dream inasmuch as it changed his mind about their being together. That had been six weeks ago.

Thinking back over all of these things, Ginny smiled a little. Harry could be frustrating as hell sometimes. But that didn’t matter really, he loved her, she loved him. That was all tha counted in the long run. Last night they had proven it to each other.

Yes, she definitely loved Harry. She loved him so much it hurt. What if something happened to him? He had just left her to pursue Voldemort. He was literally walking into the line of fire. If Harry managed to come out of this war unscathed it would be a miracle.

Just after Dumbledore’s death Ginny had made a resolution. No matter what Harry decided in regards to their relationship, she was not going to cry. She hadn’t done either. Not at the funeral, not after the train journey, not the night they arrived at Grimmauld Place. But now, facing the fact that she might lose the person she had given her heart, soul and body to, was too much. She burst into tears and fell to her knees.

This was how Molly Weasley found her daughter ten minutes later. She didn’t ask questions as she helped her back into the house and up to bed. Ginny and Harry may have thought she didn’t know about how serious they had got, but she did. Mother’s always do. It had been obvious to her from the moment they walked into the house. Loathe as Molly was to think of her little girl doing that, she knew it was inevitable, especially when things were so uncertain. At least Ginny loved Harry, and he loved her.

Molly was worried about Harry too, but knew that her worry didn’t rival Ginny’s. So much of her daughter’s being was wrapped up in the boy. If he didn’t come out of this war all right Molly doubted Ginny would either.

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