CT: Chapter Twenty-Three: The End Of The Affair

It was hard for Ginny to step back into the flat, especially with Harry, but she knew that his wound was desperately in need of healing; his skin was the ashy-grey colour of old parchment. She also knew that if they went back to the Burrow, where she wanted to go, her mother would start asking all sorts of questions, the very kind she didn’t want to answer right now. Holding tightly to Harry’s hand, she used her wand to unlock the door and they stepped in.

Wait here,” she said, pushing Harry onto the sofa. She hurried off to the loo for the frequently used bottle of Dittany, careful to keep her eyes focused on the floor. Her hands shook a little as she ransacked the cabinet for the potion. When she finally located the bottle she nearly dropped it to the floor, catching it at the last minute only because she’d honed her reflexes playing Quidditch. She quickly left the bathroom and returned to Harry who had his head leaning back on the sofa with his eyes closed. He opened them very slowly as she stood over him from behind the sofa and poured a few drops of the potion on his wound.

“I hope this works,” she said, remembering the poor results they had achieved the last time they’d tried Dittany on his scar. To her great relief, and Harry’s, too, the wound rapidly repaired itself and the bleeding stopped.

“Thanks,” Harry said, looking up at her, not smiling. He looked about as tired as she felt. He hadn’t had much sleep before all of this mess started and she doubted he’d had any last evening when he stayed at Ron and Hermione’s. She wanted nothing more than to say that everything would be OK once they had a good night’s sleep, but it had been a long time since something as simple as sleep fixed problems and this was a big one.

Not sure what to say at all, Ginny decided to resort to what had been her failsafe over the last seven weeks: cleaning. She returned the Dittany to the bathroom and then returned to deal wit the rest of the mess. The remnants of the previous evening’s dinner were still laid on the table. She set to putting things in order, trying very hard not to think about the circumstances surrounding this mess. Things were going well until she picked up the Butterbeer bottle that she’d spilled when everything started to go awry. Outwardly there was nothing to distinguish this bottle from any of the dozens, if not hundreds, that she’d had over the years, but the very sight of this bottle started to make her feel queasy. Suddenly she was drowning in all the same thoughts and doubts she’d been trying to repress last night.

She should have known that something was wrong with the bottle after the fuss Dudley had gone through in opening it — this bottle had a twist-off lid — but she hadn’t. She’d foolishly let herself believe that she was a match for anything Dudley would try. Worse than that, she had actually started to trust him, to believe his apology for his previous behaviour. That was all a lie, obviously. The whole thing had been a lie, a way to trick her into drinking that potion so he could —

Holding her hand over her mouth, Ginny ran for the loo and was soon crouched over the cistern. She hadn’t been able to stomach anything all day and thus had nothing to purge, but her body kept trying anyway. She could feel tears burning at the corner of her eye and she couldn’t catch her breath.

“Gin, you OK?” Harry asked, kneeling in the doorway and rubbing her back. She tried to nod, but another spasm overcame her and she was once more bringing up fluids she didn’t know were in her stomach.

Harry said nothing else. He continued to rub her back, and when she regained a semblance of control on her breathing he handed her a glass of water. Unable to speak she took the glass and settled for wearing what she hoped was a grateful expression.

Ginny saw Harry look over to the bathtub where her charred clothes still remained. Though he looked away quickly, and made no comment, she was sure he understood what had happened because he spent a great deal of time watching his hands, shooting her only covert looks.

Neither of them said a word for a long time, nor could they stand to look at each other. Ginny was worrying about that look on Harry’s face. She’d seen it loads of times before and it never preceded news that she liked. She wanted to ask him what he was thinking about but realized that it would be a pointless question. Harry either wouldn’t tell her, or he would lie. It was clear though, from the pained expression he wore every time he looked at her, that he was recalling some of the less than pleasant aspects of their relationship — particularly the things pertaining to Voldemort.

Maybe he was finding it as awkward to be around her as she was around him. After the cruel words he uttered earlier, Ginny was hardly surprised. But it was more than that, too. He had been the one who had walked in and seen — that! Even though he now knew the truth, was he ever going to be able to get that image out of his mind? Did he now look at her differently, too? Would they ever be able to get past that?

Feeing as though she couldn’t stand to be in this flat a moment longer, Ginny finally spoke up, having to clear her throat several times before any noise would actually come out.

“I hope you don’t mind, Harry, but I’d really rather stay at the Burrow tonight.”

She wasn’t sure if she was reading his expression correctly, but Ginny rather thought that he was as grateful to get out of the flat as she was. He helped her to her feet and they both headed for the fireplace in the corner of the sitting room.

Seconds later, Ginny was standing in the cozy kitchen of the Burrow. Harry followed quickly, but even before he arrived she was not alone. Both her mother and father were awake, sitting at the kitchen table with Bill, Fleur, Fred, George and Tonks. What looked like a hastily scribbled letter was lying forgotten in the middle of the table.

“Harry? Ginny?” her mother said in surprise. “What brings you here at this late hour?”

Whether it was being back in her family home, the fact she was finally away from all the painful memories that being back in Harry’s flat had made her recall, or the fact that her mother sounded genuinely concerned Ginny didn’t know, but she found at once that she couldn’t suppress her emotions anymore. Practically throwing herself into her mother’s arms, she began sobbing, answering questions so incoherently that she might as well not have bothered. She heard the scraping of chairs as the others in the room got to their feet, but she didn’t look at them, grateful that her mother told them to stay away.

Without question or complaint, Ginny allowed her mother to lead her up the stairs and into her old room, unchanged even though she didn’t live here anymore. She sat on the bed while her mother walked about the room, collecting pajamas for her, conjuring a cup of tea and forcing her to drink it after which Ginny felt a little calmer.

“Now,” Molly said, smiling reassuringly. “Do you want to talk about what’s bothering you?”

Ginny started to shake her head but stopped, knowing that she would have to talk about it some time. Her mother might not question her tonight, but she would tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that. It might be better to get it over with now. Slowly she started to talk, keeping her voice even with a lot of effort. She couldn’t look at her mother while she spoke, and Molly remained silent the entire time. She also took her lead from Ginny when the story was through. It was plain to see that she was upset and that she wanted to show it, but all she did was hug her daughter, and rub her back soothingly.

“You’ve been through the ringer, dear, there’s no doubt about that. I think the best thing for you now is to get a good night’s sleep. She pulled from the pocket of her robes, a bottle of Dreamless sleep potion. “A measure of this is what you need.”

“No,” Ginny said, louder than she had intended. She didn’t like the look that she was getting and thus added, “I — I think I’m tired enough not to need it.”

“Don’t be stubborn, Ginny. This won’t hurt you, it will help you get some much needed rest.” There was something in her expression that told Ginny she hadn’t believed this flimsy excuse. Deciding that it was time she came clean with at least one person, she plucked up the little bit of courage she had left.

“I’m not being stubborn. I just can’t take the stuff because I’m —“

“Pregnant?” Molly asked, already with a slight tilt of her head to show it was less of a question than it sounded.

“Yes.”

“Oh, Ginny,” Molly sighed, placing her hands in her lap. She remained in a contemplative silence for a moment, betraying nothing of her reaction on having her suspicions confirmed. Ginny didn’t say anything either. Like her mother had done with her, she would wait to see what the reaction was before showing any of her own feelings on the matter. “How long?”

“About ten weeks, I think,” Ginny said, feeling a little bit of relief that her mother hadn’t immediately started shouting at her. “I found out just after the last Quidditch game.”

“I suspected as much, as did most people.” Molly nodded as she spoke. “Why have you waited so long to tell us? And . . . how is Harry taking the news?”

“I . . . er . . . haven’t told him yet,” Ginny admitted, finding this confession harder than anything else she had told her mother.

“It’s not going to remain a secret for much longer, you know.”

Yes, she knew that quite well. She’d been having a horrible time trying to figure out a way to tell Harry though. The very last thing she wanted to do, given how things were going for him at work, was to add the biggest problem of all. It was a problem because, though they had touched on the subject of having a family eventually, neither of them was in a place right now where it was a good idea to bring a child into the world. That was true even before the events of the last twenty-four hours had unfolded.

“Well, try an get some sleep then.” Molly said, seeming to sense that there wasn’t going to be any more conversation on the matter. She started to leave, but Ginny called her back.

“Mum, please don’t tell anyone what happened . . . or about the baby.”

Though she looked like she didn’t agree with this decision at all, Molly said that she would keep quiet about everything they had talked about.

Ginny closed her eyes as her mother left but, even though she hadn’t slept the night before, she couldn’t calm her thoughts enough to drop off anytime soon. Not only was she now thinking about what her mother said, and how she was going to tell Harry, she was also thinking about how he was going to react, especially in light recent events.

Dwelling on these events led Ginny into somewhat of a stupor that turned to sleep some time during the night. When she opened her eyes the sun was just starting to appear over the horizon and she saw Harry sitting on the edge of the bed tightly gripping Gryffin, her stuffed Gryffindor lion. He hadn’t noticed she was awake. He seemed deep in thought and it didn’t look like he would notice much in the way of subtle movements. Once more he was looking as troubled as he had the previous evening during their brief stay at the flat.

“Morning,” she said at last.

“Sleep well?” he asked, looking at her quickly, and loosening his hold on Gryffin.

“Yes. You?”

He didn’t answer this question, choosing instead to watch the inanimate animal. She could feel that he wanted to sigh, but restrained from doing so with some difficulty.

“Harry, what is it?”

He looked away from the lion for just a second, wearing a smile that did not carry to his eyes.

“After the last few days you had, you needed the rest.” He went back to staring at the lion again. Ginny waited for him to talk first, unsure that she would be able to say anything more herself due to the tightening in her chest.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve been here — having to recuperate from some horrible experience, nor is it going to be the last with Bellatrix Lestrange still on the loose.”

“They — they didn’t capture her?” she asked, her throat dry.

“No. She, Narcissa and Umbridge have disappeared from the face of the earth.” Once more Harry looked at her, not turning away this time. “She’s not going to stop just because Lucius Malfoy is now in custody. She thinks that she can resurrect Voldemort.”

Ginny didn’t feel it was necessary to repeat the oft-cited statement that Bellatrix was expecting the impossible. She waited in silence for Harry to continue. He continued to watch her, but she had to keep looking away, feeling as though the intensity of his gaze might scorch her.

“Even if it hadn’t been Dudley, or you hadn’t been . . . they were still going to target you just because you were with me. I thought it was all over after Voldemort, but Bellatrix Lestrange is worse than any of us imagined her to be. Gin, I —“

She put up her hand. “Just get Dudley Dursley into Azkaban and let him rot there. The rest of the task force will catch her soon, I’m sure. As for me, I’ll have to be more careful, is all.”

Ginny thought Harry might have worn the hint of a smile for a second before he looked away again, choosing to stare at Gryffin rather than at her.

“There’s something that they told us in Auror training I never fully understood until all of this happened: you should not allow a case to get personal. I didn’t do it on purpose, but as soon as we started working on the premise that I was the target I should have backed out.”

“Are you going to do that now?” Ginny was mentally crossing her fingers for an affirmative answer, but Harry shook his head.

“I’m too involved now. She’s got it in her head that I am the key to bringing Voldemort back. Whether I’m involved in the case or not, she’s going to come after me. I need to stay a few steps ahead of her and not allow a repeat of last night’s performance. That’s why I —“

“Don’t say it,” Ginny said, putting up her hand and turning away so she didn’t have to look at him.

“I have to. I can’t go through — I can’t allow you to become the victim every time. It’s dangerously distracting, but more importantly it’s affecting your life. If things keep on like this you’re going to end up dead.”

He uttered this phrase with such ferocity that Ginny was momentarily at a loss for words. Harry seized the opportunity to press Gryffin into her hands, stand up and head for the door. Ginny scrambled out of bed and threw the stuffed animal on the dresser.

“There are other ways. You don’t have to keep leaving,” she said, not quite able to manage the angry tone she’d been trying for.

Harry stopped, hand on the doorknob, ready to leave at any minute. He looked away, shuffling his feet as though he would rather be anywhere but with her at the moment. Ginny could tell that he hadn’t been swayed by her argument at all.

“Unless you’d rather be somewhere else?”

He didn’t nod or shake his head, but Harry did look at her again. She couldn’t tell what he was thinking, but once more she had to look away from his intense gaze. Harry seized his opportunity; he was out the door and down the stairs in seconds. She followed him, hoping to catch up and get him to see reason, but she arrived just outside the door of the house in time to see Harry disappear.

She found herself once again focusing on somewhere Harry had been, rather than somewhere that he was, and thinking about all of the things that she had meant to say but hadn’t got the chance. The first vividly clear thought that she had was of how she should have taken her mother’s advice and told him immediately about the baby. If she had, things would have been different.

The End – but, to be continued . . .

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