WOGW: Chapter Thirteen: The Ring

Ginny hadn’t realized she’d fallen asleep until James made a noise that woke her.  In her groggy state she knew not whether it was cry or laugh, but she automatically started shifting the blankets before opening her eyes.  If he was awake she had to be as well.

“Ssh,” said a second voice.  “You don’t want to wake your mum, do you?”

In a whirlwind so fast it almost made her sick, Ginny was alert and in full recollection of everything that had happened over the last four days: Harry’s sudden reappearance, the nightmarish scene outside their flat the following morning, Tonks’s death, the sickening hours of waiting to see if Harry would recover from his injuries (a fear made more prevalent at the time by Adrasteia’s extended absence on Sunday evening) and the still continuing worry that Bellatrix Lestrange might put in an appearance at the Burrow.

Neither Harry nor James had yet noticed that she was awake, so Ginny too the time to observe them together.  As the days went on she had taken to doing this with more and more regularity.  She had many months of lost time to make up, but she would have thought that after a few days the urge would decrease.  Instead, like some highly addictive drug, it seemed to increase: the more she watched them together, the harder it was for her to tear her eyes away.  Even more confusing was the fact that this addiction (for lack of a better word) only seemed to extend to the pair of them, but not to Harry alone.  In fact, she’d taken great pains over the last few days to extricate herself from situations that found them together without James.

They were nonsensical, her feelings.  it might have made sense to be uneasy in Harry’s presence because of his long absence, but it hadn’t been until he was up and moving around on Monday that she started feeling so.  She couldn’t even say that this awkward feeling stemmed from the fact that her own stupidity had almost got him killed, because she’d felt fine long after Adrasteia’s late return and pronouncement that Harry was going to be fine.  No, it was only on Monday morning, after a night of little to no sleep, that she felt any sense of unease at being alone with him.  Once, as she lay awake on her camp bed, listening to the slow steady breathing of father and son, she thought she grasped some thread of understanding, but it slipped out of conscious thought as quickly as it came.

James laughed happily as Harry lifted him into the air.  She could just make out the edge of the bandage Harry still wore, and imagined Adrasteia’s reaction if she could see what Harry was doing, especially after he’d reopened his wound only the day before.  He had insisted on visiting Remus and Teddy with Ron and Hermione.  Apparition, as it transpired, was a little too much for Harry just then.

“Are you trying to make Adrasteia’s head explode?” Ginny said, sitting up and untangling the sheets from around her legs.

Harry had the good sense to look sheepish as he lowered James down to a reasonable height.

“I think she just likes yelling now,” he said.  “Sorry to wake you.”

Ginny waved away his concern as she checked the time.  Six hours?  She’d been asleep for six hours?  She hadn’t slept as long in weeks, not since James had decided that he would spend the night wailing rather than sleeping.  Even so, she felt no more rested than she had done on the previous few nights.  It was hardly surprising that she felt unrested when she had spent the night worrying about what the day would bring: Tonks’s funeral

The reminder of what this day was, of where they were going and why, made Ginny move away from the clock.   She took James from Harry and held him close to her, almost as though the closeness of her son could make up for the fact that she was responsible for the fact that  Teddy Lupin was motherless.  For what felt like the millionth time, Ginny couldn’t help running over that horrible scene in her mind, and berating herself again for not listening to Harry.  If she had they wouldn’t have been in a situation that required Tonks to jump in front of them.  If Tonks hadn’t been in the forefront of the battle, she wouldn’t have been such easy prey for Lestrange’s curse, and she would still be alive.

Several minutes passed during which Ginny paced the room and Harry watched her.  Neither of them said anything.  During her seventh or eighth circuit about the room, Ginny chanced a glance at Harry and was sure his thoughts were much the same as her own.  She paused, wondering if she ought to say something, to apologize again for what she’d put him through, or . . . When nothing came to her she resumed pacing.  What else could she say that hadn’t already been said in long conversations they’d had with Ron and Hermione over the last two days?

A soft rap on the door interrupted Ginny’s pacing that was now entering it’s dozenth rotation.  Hermione poked her head in.

“Breakfast is ready,” she said, opening the door wider when she saw she wasn’t intruding.  “Your mum says we should all have something to eat before . . . “ She took a deep breath to steady her voice.  “You should all come down soon.”

“OK,” Harry replied.  Ginny nodded.

The breakfast table was already crowded.  Both of her parents were there, along with Ron and Hermione, Percy, Fred and George, Charlie – who had arrived the previous day and was leaving again in the morning – and Hugh.  Unlike her family, Hugh looked up from his plate quickly and then down again when Ginny entered with James, closely followed by Harry.  The others, Percy and Charlie in particular, were watching them almost unblinkingly.  Any other day Ginny would have stared them down, but she didn’t have the strength today.  She plunked James into his high chair and went to prepare his food while Harry slunk into the empty seat beside Hermione, exchanging tense greetings with everyone else.

When Adrasteia returned late Sunday evening she had not been alone.  Kingsley had been with her.  Ginny felt ready to hex him for daring to set foot in the Burrow after everything he’d done.  In the end, however, she was forced to grudgingly concede that his presence had been helpful.  For one thing, he was responsible for Adrasteia returning at all.  She’d been held up at work due to interference from her boss.  It had been Kingsley who extricated her from virtual imprisonment.  He had also owned to the fact that Harry’s months long absence was his idea and not Harry’s.  While this news didn’t dispose Ginny to think differently of the situation, it did help to sooth some of the simply murderous looks worn by Bill, Percy, Fred and George.  They, like her, however, were still having trouble figuring out how they should act around Harry.

“Remember Ginevra, you need to eat, too,” Molly said as Ginny finished preparing James’s food.

 

“Yes, mum,” Ginny replied automatically.  She hadn’t had much of an appetite over the last few days, but she would force down enough food to keep her mother off her back.

 

It turned out Molly was not the only Weasley intent on giving reminders about eating enough at breakfast.  As Ginny sat down with James’s porridge, she distinctly saw Ron trying to encourage Hermione to eat more.  Hermione had her head behind the morning copy of the Daily Prophet and kept rebuffing him.  The more she resisted, the more insistent Ron became.  It was rather comical, but no one aside form Ginny saw it.  At least she thought she’d been the only one until she saw the very slight smirk Harry wore.  She returned it when he caught her eye.

 

Ron and Hermione hadn’t mentioned anything about how their meeting with Adrasteia went, and Ginny hadn’t thought to ask.  The appointment had been pushed from her mind because of everything else that happened.  It wasn’t until Monday evening that it was brought back to her.  While Adrasteia was giving Harry one of her many lectures Ginny had gone to bathe James.  She returned just in time to see the healer leaving the room and stopping to talk to Ron and Hermione who had been waiting just outside the door.  She made an inquiry as to how they were doing.  Curiously, Ron and Hermione’s expressions changed at once.  Where a moment before they had been frowning slightly, they were beaming.  Hermione in particular looking radiant.

 

Neither Ron nor Hermione would answer Ginny’s question about what they were so happy about, but it was the sort of question she was sure she didn’t need an answer to.  She watched them closely for the rest of the evening and by then was absolutely sure that Hermione was pregnant.  She shared this suspicion with Harry that night.  He balked at the idea at first, but within minutes was mostly convinced, and after their visit to Remus on Tuesday, he returned with the conviction that Ginny was right, but unsure why they were trying to hide it.  They were failing miserably, of course, and these attempts were growing more and more feeble as hours passed.

Ron caught Harry and Ginny’s shared smirk.  It looked as though he understood what they were thinking, because he turned slightly pink.  “Did she tell you she’s not going to play in Friday’s match?” he asked, directing his question to Harry.

“For heaven’s sake, Ron,” Hermione said, slamming her newspaper shut.  “Haven’t I told you already that this isn’t the time?”

“Quidditch?”

 

All the attention given the question, one would have thought Hugh had asked something more meaningful.  Of course it wasn’t his question but rather the fact that he was speaking at all.  He had also been staying at the Burrow (the Ministry hadn’t yet deemed it safe to return to their building) but he had not yet spoken up during meals.  It was fairly easy to forget he was there most of the time, at least until Ginny would catch Hugh watching her or Harry with the same look he’d worn Sunday morning when he’d learned Harry had stayed the night at the flat.  She thought she could still detect his displeasure beneath his interest in the sport.

 

For the past three days Ginny had spent as much time avoiding Hugh as she had done trying not to be alone with Harry.  On more than one occasion in the last two days particularly, Hugh had been making pointed assertions to the fact that they needed to talk.  She couldn’t deny the necessity, but she didn’t much feel like becoming involved in a conversation that had no discernible end.  She was sure that Hugh was going to ask her that impossible to answer question: what now?

 

“Yes,” Harry said shortly.  He addressed his next question to Ginny.  “Why not?”

“I still think that you could make it up,” Ron replied before Ginny had a chance to answer.  “It’s not as if you’ve forgotten everything in three days, right?  And it might do you some good to get out of the house for a few hours.”

Ginny chose to feed James rather than answer Ron’s question.  As far as she was concerned, the matter was closed.  She had made one journey outside the house since Monday, and that was to see Jordana and explain the circumstances.  She had thought that she would have to present an entire case for why she wouldn’t be able to play that week, but the minute she’d stepped into the office, Jordana had barked out a question as to why she was there.  Ginny had been stunned at first, but it was only then that she had seen that morning’s Daily Prophet.  Splashed across the front page was a large picture of Harry, accompanied by a report on what had happened at their flat the previous day.  Jordana dismissed Ginny almost at once, only half-joking about how it would be on her if they lost the match on Friday.

Ginny hadn’t given the team much thought since Monday morning.  She had more pressing matters.  The wider world knew that Harry was out of hiding.  She had known to expect such a story after Adrasteia’s return and the story she’d told about her boss keeping her prisoner, Kingsley having to rescue her and the fact that her boss now knew Adrasteia had been helping Harry all along, yet it had still made her feel uneasy.  Bellatrix Lestrange had obviously known for some time that Harry was still around, but she’d been wasting time trying to find him.  If she did make a move on the Burrow, the most logical place Harry would be . . .

“I think he’s right,” Harry said.  “You should play.”

Ginny felt him watching her for several minutes before she finally looked over.   The way Harry was watching her, she had a feeling he knew what she’d just been thinking and was agreeing with Ron because he thought she could use the distraction.  What he and the others didn’t realize was that however much she worried while she was at the Burrow, everything would be magnified tenfold if she were to leave.  It was far more important to her to be there, ensuring the continued safety of her family, than at a Quidditch match.

Having made his point, Harry didn’t pursue the subject, but Ron insisted on continuing the conversation.  Eventually he roped Fred, George and even Percy to his side.  Between mouthfuls they tried to convince Ginny that she should play, their assertions about the consequences of her not playing became wilder and wilder.  Even Ginny, who was not in a humorous mood, and was busy feeding James, chuckled.  The whole affair was called off when Molly stood up and said they had all better get ready or they would be late.

Though Molly had not mentioned where they were going, or why, everyone grew quiet.  Their procession up the stairs was probably the quietest in the Burrow’s history.  Even James, who usually took Fred and George as his role models and made as much noise as humanly possible, stayed quiet as Ginny carried him up.  He didn’t even fuss when she deposited him into his crib so she could change, but he did watch her with wide eyes.

Harry remained on the landing with Ron and Hermione for several minutes, giving Ginny time to change.  She was just stepping into her shoes when he knocked on the door.  As he entered Ginny was visited by a feeling that had become all too common over the past few days: the incongruous nature of their relationship these days.  It was not possible to count the number of times they’d seen each other naked, yet now it seemed indecent to reveal so much as a bare shoulder to him  Yet she remained in the room while he got ready.

James was surprisingly cooperative.  He didn’t put up any sort of fuss as Ginny changed him into his dress robes and ran a comb through his hair.  They were both ready to go in record time.  She turned round to see if Harry was ready, thinking they would go down together.  Not only was he not ready, he had somehow managed to get tangled in his robes.  He was thrashing about and in some danger of once again re-injuring himself.  This, combined with a call from her mother to hurry up, made Ginny place James back in his crib and go over to help.

 

“Sit,” she ordered.  Harry sat.

 

It took a few minutes, but finally everything was on the way it was supposed to be.  Ginny debated making a comment about how he could lift a twenty pound child with no troubles but a set of robes defeated him.  She held her tongue, though, because Harry looked thoroughly frustrated.

 

“It’ll get easier.”  She unconsciously ran her fingers through his hair.  This was something she did a lot with James and it struck her hard at that moment how very similar his hair was to Harry’s.  She had known it for months, but knowing it from memory was different than the reality.  Such a small thing almost threatened to overwhelm her and she stepped away quickly, holding out her hand to help Harry up.  They were barely inches apart for a moment.  Ginny started to back away again, but Harry reached out.  Ginny recoiled slightly, thinking he was reaching for her, but then his finger curled around the chain she was still wearing around her neck.  Within a heartbeat, the ring was sitting in the palm of his hand.

 

“I thought I’d dreamt this,” he said, more to himself than to Ginny.  “Gin, I -”

Someone knocked on the door and it swung inward to reveal Hugh.   He looked thoroughly uncomfortable being there, but discomfort changed to shock when he saw Harry and Ginny together.  It was enough to unfreeze Ginny.  She scooped the ring out of the palm of Harry’s hand, tucked it down the front of her dress again, and then picked James up.

 

“My mum sent you up here to tell us to get a move on, I expect.  You can tell her we’re on our way.  No, I’ll tell her myself.  Let’s go.”

 

Debate had arisen about whether it was wise for Harry to go to the funeral at all.  Not only were there security concerns because of what Lestrange might do, but there was the general public to contend with.  The Ministry certainly hadn’t announced the time and location of Tonks’s funeral or that Harry would be attending, but if word got out where he was, they couldn’t rule out the possibility of a flash crowd.  People had been hearing that Harry was back for days, but it didn’t meant that they weren’t still anxious to see him for themselves.  Kingsley and Dawlish both made half-hearted attempts to convince Harry not to go, but he was adamant.  They relented grudgingly, but insisted that there be extra security with Harry, Ginny and James.

 

That extra security turned out to be Tougas, and he was unusually late.  Only Ron and Hermione remained behind to wait with them, but after a few minutes Ginny began to wish that they’d gone with the others.  Ron tried to break the awkward silence by continuing his campaign to have her play in Friday’s match.  She began to suspect that he was continuing with this less because he wanted her to play that badly, but more because he didn’t want to think about the funeral.  None of them really did, so Ginny didn’t stop Ron.  Nevertheless, she was grateful when Tougas finally did show up.

 

As a rule Tougas was obsessively punctual.  Harry immediately demanded the cause of his lateness, a question Ginny was on the verge of asking herself.  In his usual fashion, Tougas went from looking grouchy to angry, and for a moment it looked as though he wasn’t going to answer.  FInally he offered a gruff apology, but would say no more about what caused him to be late.  Given his taciturn nature such a reaction wasn’t entirely unsurprising, however he seemed unnaturally grouchy.  Surely some of that could be explained away by Tonks’s death, and the funeral, but Ginny had the inexplicable sense that there was something more going on than that.  She glanced at Harry, and from the frown he wore it looked as though he was thinking the same thing.

 

“Are you ready?” Tougas demanded, looking pointedly at his watch.

 

Ron helped Hermione to her feet despite her protests and they headed out first, telling Harry and Ginny that they would meet them there.  And they did.  Within a few minutes the Burrow was empty.  Ron and Hermione Disapparated a full minute before Ginny, Harry and Tougas because there was a momentary argument about who should go with whom; Harry insisted Ginny and James go with Tougas.  Finally that ludicrous notion was shot down.  Ginny waited for the sound of their disappearance to fade before she made a move to join them.  She was momentarily seized with the idea to turn around, go back into the house and hide under the covers.  It was a desire not so easily mastered, but did not prevent her from taking a deep breath for strength and then turning on the spot.

 

They were the last to arrive, but not by much.  The entire service was to take place in a graveyard not far from the Tonks’s home.  Ginny could see Mr and Mrs Tonks, Remus and Teddy standing several dozen feet to her left, still shaking hands with mourners.  She could see from where she stood that Remus looked even worse than Mr and Mrs Tonks.  She wanted both to go to him and to turn and walk in the opposite direction.  How could she possibly explain to him how sorry she was.  Words were meaningless.  They couldn’t undo what had happened to Tonks.  At other times in her life she’d thought of how useful a time turner would be, but never more so than now.

 

“Are you ready for this?” Harry asked quietly.

 

Ginny nodded mutely.  She hesitated for a moment when Harry held out his hand, but then she took it and they moved forward together.

 

None of them were crying, but both of Tonks’s parents seemed near tears.  Remus, on the other hand, stared straight ahead, showing no emotion whatsoever.  He had shut down, and wasn’t allowing himself to deal with the pain of losing his wife.  It was unfathomable.  Even after everything she’d been through with Harry’s disappearance, there had always been that hope that he would be found.  She had never truly allowed herself to imagine what would have happened if he hadn’t returned.  A lump rose painfully in her throat, and she hugged Remus as tightly as she could while still holding James.

 

“I’m so sorry, Remus.”

 

He hugged her back, but let go very quickly and returned to staring at nothing in particular.  And he reacted the same way when it was Harry’s turn to offer condolences, though he did say something that Ginny couldn’t hear.  Harry nodded.

 

“He . . . er . . . asked if we would stand with him,” he said, nodding in the direction of the coffin.

 

Ginny searched out her family, and saw them clustered together among the other mourners.  She swung her head from their direction and back to Remus.  She had wanted to stay with the rest of the family, but Remus’s needs were greater than theirs at the moment.

 

When the time came for them to head to the grave, Remus stared straight ahead, still as a statue.  He couldn’t, or wouldn’t move.  Ginny and Harry each took one of his arms and led him up the aisle, while Mr and Mrs Tonks walked ahead of them, carrying James and Teddy.  When they reached their destination, the children were transferred so that Harry was holding James and Ginny had Teddy.  They stood either side of Remus and held his hands.  Whatever support they could offer would be given even though Ginny knew it would be of little help.

 

The casket loomed large before them, drawing Ginny’s eyes, and most of her attention.  She barely caught any of the Minister’s words.  It seemed impossible now to think that one of her closest friends was lying there, someone who had been very much alive less than four days earlier, now about to be buried in the ground.  Despite the weight of guilt that had been pressing on her for most of the past few days, it was still unreal.  For a full minute Ginny was seized with the absurd idea that Tonks would suddenly spring up out of the coffin, probably knocking it off it’s catafalque as she did.  Of course she would probably fall on her face, but that wouldn’t stop her from yelling that it had all been another elaborate plan of Kingsley’s to throw Lestrange off, but it had gone too far.

 

Nothing of the sort happened.  The Minister finished talking and the air was filled with the sounds of sniffling and sobbing people.  The woman next to her, dabbed at her eyes, and only then did Ginny realize that it was Pamela Brazill.  She turned away quickly on the pretense of checking on Teddy and Remus.  Both were unchanged.  Teddy clung to her tightly and watched everything with wide eyes, much as James was doing in Harry’s arms.

 

When the Minister had lead them in the last prayer, he stepped away and Kingsley took his place, clutching a roll of parchment so tightly that it was in imminent danger of being turned to mulch.  He stood without staying anything for several long seconds, alternating between scanning the crowd like he was watching for troublemakers, and staring down at the crumpled paper in his shaking hand.  It was this crack in his usually unbreakable calmness that made Ginny pay more attention to him than she had initially intended.  Several days earlier it would have satisfied Ginny to see the Minister for Magic this uncomfortable with the end results of his grand plan, but now it just made her angrier with him.  He should have known!

 

“No words of my own could ever be enough to fill the hole that was left in all of our lives by Tonks’s death.  I therefore have some written by someone else that she asked me to read, should the need ever arise.”  Kingsley smoothed out the parchment, and watched it for a moment, before lowering it and returning his attention to the congregation.  “It is sometimes hard for people to understand what it is to be an Auror.  Each and every one of us starts with the purpose of catching the people who want to do the most harm.  We all know of the real possibility of death and danger lurking all around us, regardless of how much we prepare ourselves, and take every safety precaution.  We hope for the best, but each prepare for the worst in our own way.  Nymphadora Tonks was no exception.  She asked me to read this, a poem that she said expressed her wishes perfectly:

 

Remember me when I am gone away,

Gone far away into the silent land;

When you can no more hold me by the hand,

Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.

Remember me when no more day by day

You tell me of our future that you plann’d:

Only remember me; you understand

It will be late to counsel then or pray.

Yet if you should forget me for a while

And afterwards remember, do not grieve:

For if the darkness and corruption leave

A vestige of the thoughts that once i had,

Better by far you should forget and smile

Than that you should remember and be sad.’

 

When he was finished reading, Kingsley immediately walked straight toward them.  Stopping before Remus, he rolled up the parchment and held it out.  “I know it is not much, but I thought you would want to keep this.  Tonks transcribed it herself.”

 

Remus took the parchment, but did not say or do anything else.  This lack of reaction stunned Kingsley, for he stood in front of his friend for several long seconds in shocked silence.  He dithered for a moment as though he was trying to say something, but gave it up, issued his condolences, and moved left to say something to Harry.  Ginny couldn’t hear what it was because of the people starting to mill around her in conversation.  Something turbulent rose in her stomach when she saw Harry nod.  If he was agreeing to something else – No, he wouldn’t be that stupid.  A moment’s doubt crossed her mind and Ginny was on the verge of letting out some of her anger with the Minister.  It was a good thing for him that he chose to walk away rather than past her.  She thought of following him to give him a piece of her mind, but this was the wrong place.  Ginny looked to the coffin and issued a silent apology to Tonks.

 

Remus had stood so still during the service, that Ginny wondered if he had perhaps turned to stone.  From the periodic glances shared with Harry, she gathered that he was wondering something similar.  They also agreed that they would let Remus take the lead.  It was always impossible to tell how a person would react to death and they wanted to be there should he need someone to lean on.  That being said, as the minutes stretched on and people began to pay their last respects before departing, she couldn’t help but shift her feet.  Teddy was growing heavy in her arms, and it didn’t quite seem right to hand him off.  It wasn’t too long, however, before Mr and Mrs Tonks approached, with red and puffy eyes.  As soon as they were within arms reach, Mrs Tonks took Teddy from Ginny.  She buried her face in his hair while her husband took up Remus’s stance, except that he was staring at the coffin holding his daughter as though he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.  They eventually steeled themselves and headed for the casket, taking Remus with them.  He went willingly enough, but again with no change of expression.

 

“He’s worse than yesterday,” Harry said in an undertone, closing the distance between them.

“It’s the finality of it all.  Without seeing her like that, he could hold out hope that maybe it wasn’t real.”  This was a feeling Ginny knew well, having lived it for months and months.  In the quiet hours of the night when sleep would not come, she had often struggled against such a scene, with herself in Lupin’s place.  It was a nightmare that had so nearly come to pass that for a very brief moment it felt as though it was her reality.  She automatically reached for Harry’s hand, its warmth was a comfort.  What was more, she felt not only relief, but a sense of triumph, a sense that passed quickly and left her feeling ill.

 

James had remained remarkably quiet and still for the entire duration of the funeral.  He broke this silence as they stood watching the backs of Remus and Tonks’s parents.   “Mumumum’ he said, stretching his arms towards Ginny, his usually happy expression gone.  This outburst also interrupted Harry’s focus on Remus.  Without batting an eye Ginny caught James up and snuggled him close to her, momentarily burying her face in his hair as had become her custom when she was upset.  The last thing she wanted was sympathy, not when they were here because of her.

“I’m fine.  Really,” she said, brushing Harry’s hand away from her face.  She smoothed the damp spot she’d left on James’s hair, cast one last look in the direction of the casket and then retreated the two dozen feet to a bench.  Harry followed, and Ginny could not deny that she was glad of this.

 

They sat in silence for several more minutes, only because departing mourners were passing them.  As soon as there was a break, however, Harry took the opportunity to speak, reiterating a point he’d been making for the previous four days: “It wasn’t ever likely that we were all going to get out unharmed anyway.  We were outnumbered -”

 

“What did Kingsley say to you earlier?  What did he want now?” Ginny interrupted.  The last thing she wanted to do was to rehash a conversation that would only serve to upset her more.

 

“He didn’t want anything.  He’s concerned about Remus.  He said we need to keep an eye on him.  That’s all, I swear.”  Harry held up his right hand as though he was pledging a solemn oath.

 

“Kingsley is the one you need to keep an eye on,” Ginny replied flatly.  She saw out of the corner of her eye that Remus, Teddy and the Tonkses were finally stepping away from the coffin and heading down the same path she and Harry had walked a few minutes earlier.

 

At first it seemed like Remus and the Tonkses had deliberately chosen to come down that path because they saw Ginny, Harry and James there.  They quickly discovered that this thought was wrong, for the party of four was startled when Harry and Ginny stood up in front of them.  Condolences and hugs were offered again.  Remus looked even worse now than he had during the service.  Ginny gave him a particularly long hug, repeatedly telling him how sorry she was.  She only just held herself together.  The last thing that Remus needed now was for her to go to pieces.  Mrs Tonks looked dead on her feet, and was the first to say she wanted to go.  Thereafter they all started to move, Ginny and Harry falling into step either side of Remus, who was walking just a few paces behind the Tonkses.

 

Remus kept up with his in-laws for a minute, but he soon started falling back.  They looked back once, but he waived them on, saying he would catch up.  He waved to Teddy, who was staring back at his father from his grandfather’s arms, feigned a smile that was more a grimace, and then turned round to stare back down the path they’d just walked.  He stood that way for several long minutes, saying and doing nothing else.  Harry and Ginny silently agreed that they would allow him the time he needed to grieve.  As the minutes lengthened, however, James started to fuss, and he was growing heavy in Ginny’s arms.  Though she didn’t want to, she knew she would have to bow out, at the very least to see if someone else in the family could take her son.

 

“Kingsley was right about one thing,” Remus said, breaking his minutes long silence.  He had the parchment with Tonks’s poem in his hand again and was staring at it intently.  “She was prepared.  She didn’t want this, but she was prepared.  She kept saying ‘when I’m gone’ . . . I didn’t think it would be this soon.”

 

“None of us did,” Harry replied.  “It was -”

 

“Too soon?  Yes, it was.  Too soon, especially because I was a fool for an entire year.”

 

“Cautious, not foolish,” Ginny said.

 

“Cautious?  It was a foolish waste of time.  I thought I knew what was right, and look where it got me?  Look.”  Remus gripped Ginny’s arm tightly and forced her to spin around so they were facing the coffin again.  “That’s what my caution bought.  Lost time that I cannot reclaim.”

 

His move was startling.  Whether it was because he realized what he had done, or because James started to cry, Remus had already let go by the time Harry intervened.  Issuing a hasty, but no less genuine apology, he retreated several steps, collapsed onto the nearest bench and buried his face in his hands.

Remus’s reaction was the deciding factor for Ginny.  Waiving away Harry’s concern, she left him with Remus and walked with James to where she could see her family standing.  Her heart was still racing.  Remus had never acted so before, at least not in her presence.  Startling though it was, she thought she could understand it.  She knew from her own experience that people did crazy things when they were grieving.

 

“Are you OK?  What was all that about?” Hugh asked the minute Ginny reached the group, nodding his head in Remus’s direction.  “What did he do to you?”

 

“He’s upset.  He’s having a hard time with this,” Ginny replied, shaking Hugh off before handing James over to her mother, who had her arms out to take him.  Looking back she saw that Remus was still sitting on the bench, Harry had joined him.  It was hard to tell from this distance, but it looked as though Remus was doing most of the talking.  “He regrets waiting a year to get together with Tonks.”

 

A discussion broke out amongst the family members about whether Remus’s decision was right or wrong.  Ginny listened for several minutes without contributing.  She started to drift away from them, lest she be asked to give an opinion she didn’t have.  For years she had shared the majority opinion, that Remus had been ridiculous to wait so long, but suddenly she thought she could understand, at least partly.  Remus most certainly had suffered from a lot of ‘what ifs.’  Questions like: What if he bit Tonks?  What if her family hated he for marrying a werewolf?  What if he hurt Teddy?  What if Tonks were to die?  What if it had been Harry and not Tonks?  Suddenly Ginny was considering a whole different set of ‘what if’ questions, questions without simple answers, and with consequences that made her very uneasy.

 

Harry found her some time later, leaning against a tree, lost in her own thoughts.

 

“How’s Remus?” she asked

 

“Distraught,” Harry replied.  “He sends his apologies again for grabbing you.  Are you OK?”

 

“I’m fine.  Did he leave?”

 

“Yeah he did.  He said he wanted to go to Teddy, that he didn’t want to make the same mistake with him as he did with Tonks.”  Harry was not looking at her, but in the direction of her family.  They were milling about, and it took him some time to find James who was still being held by Molly, who was taking with Hugh.  Harry’s expression darkened.

 

“His friend is back from her holiday today,” Ginny said.  “He’s going to stay with her as soon as he collects his things from mum and dad’s.”

 

Harry teetered on the verge of speech for several seconds, finally asking “Do I have anything to worry about?”

 

“That’s a presumptuous question,” she said.  “I would say there’s plenty, even without involving my friends.”

 

“Friend?” Harry asked, his dark expression lifting slightly.  He looked relieved.  “I’d heard – and I thought -”

 

“Yes, friend.  Maybe there was the possibility of more, but . . Is this really the time to discuss this?” Ginny moved her eyes from her family to the casket..

 

Harry followed her gaze, his eyes also resting on the casket.  “For almost the entire time that I sat with Remus after you left he would only talk about all of the time he wasted with Tonks.  He said it was his biggest regret.  He warned me against making the same mistake, and I don’t want to.”

 

“Harry -”

 

“No, Gin, listen,” he said, taking her hand.  “I’ve made mistakes, huge, probably unrecoverable mistakes.  I would understand if you never wanted to see me again.”

 

“I -”

 

“Just a minute,” he continued, tightening his grip on her hand so that it was almost painful.  “I just need to know if you think we can ever get back what we had before.  Can we get past this?”

 

“You want an answer now?” Ginny asked in shock when she saw he was watching her expectantly.

 

“Yes.”

 

“This is really the wrong time for this conversation.”  She started to walk away.  Harry caught her hand and stopped her leaving.  Frustrated and upset, Ginny rounded on him.  “What do you want from me?  You’re the one who left, stayed hidden for months and months, lied and spied, and now you think you can start making demands?”

 

“I’m not asking that we pick up where we left off, Gin, I simply want to know if you think we have a future.”

 

“It isn’t simple,” Ginny replied.  “Nothing about us, about this situation, is.”

 

“I still love you.  That’s simple.”

 

“No, that’s why it’s complicated.  If I didn’t still love you it would be easy to wash my hands of this mess.  And there’s James to consider.  And what if something happens again?  It was hard enough this time . . .  I don’t think I can . . .   No, I can’t.”

 

Her words became more jumbled as her thoughts began to race.  Ginny started to pace, walking faster and faster as wave after wave of thoughts started to crash over her, both good and bad.  They’d been through everything, from the first time they’d made love when she wasn’t sure she’d ever see him again, to his disgusting but short-lived accusation that she’d willingly slept with his cousin.  It had taken what felt like a million year to get over that last, but she had.  They’d been happy in those last months before James was born, but then Harry had disappeared.  Could she go through it again?  Did she want to?  Her hand closed over the ring hanging around her neck.  She walked back and forth a few more times, then she pulled the chain off, and stared at the ring.  Very slowly, she unclasped the chain and let the ring slide into her palm.  She covered it with her fingers, closing her eyes as she prayed for the strength to make the right decision.

 

“Here.”  Turning round so she was facing Harry again, she transferred the ring from her hand to his, closing his fingers over it.  She wanted to apologize, to offer an explanation for her decision, but when their eyes met all words caught in her throat.  They were standing in their new flat, several months out from that horrible incident with his cousin, happy about the future and excited about a new baby.  Then they were standing underneath a large yew tree on a blustery March day, the pain of the previous eighteen months imploding the happiness of that memory.

 

“When I gave this to you I never thought you’d give it back,” Harry said quietly.

 

“Neither did I,” Ginny replied, equally  as quietly.  “I’m sorry.”

 

“No, I’m sorry.  More than you can ever know.”

 

Harry brushed a tear from her cheek.  Ginny hugged him as tightly as she dared, and didn’t want to let go, but did.   Then there was nothing more to say.  With a great deal of effort, Ginny turned her back and walked away from Harry, towards her family.

One thought on “WOGW: Chapter Thirteen: The Ring

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