Chapter Seventeen: Finding Strength
“Gin? Are you awake?” Bill popped his head through the half-opened door.
Ginny had been up for a while. They were going back to Hogwarts that day and Ginny was getting her stuff together.
“Yes, I am.” She motioned Bill to come in with her hand. Fleur had also gotten up early today since she had to go to work and was already downstairs having breakfast. Bill entered the room and closed the door.
“I’m glad you are awake,” he said walking toward Ginny. “I didn’t want you to leave today without having a chance to say goodbye.” He opened his arms and Ginny walked into his embrace. His brother’s arms had always been very comforting.
“I always miss you the most,” Ginny told him, she then let go of him and took a step back. “Just don’t tell Mum,” she added playfully.
“I won’t,” he smiled. He surveyed her attentively for a moment. “Is something bothering you?”
“No,” said Ginny as she turned around and continued packing.
“You’ve been quiet the last couple of days.”
“No, I haven’t,” she said dismissively. “Besides, how could you tell? You only have eyes for you fiancé.”
“Don’t be such a smarty pants,” Bill let out a laugh and walked over to where Ginny was standing. “I remember when you were born,” he said stroking her hair. “Mum and Dad brought home this bundle of pink skin and red hair; not a pretty sight, let me tell you,” he chuckled. “But it only took me one look at you to instantly love you. You are the first love of my life and no woman will ever change that. Not even Fleur.”
Ginny gazed tenderly at her brother. She also loved him deeply. She felt tears welling in her eyes. After Christmas it took little to get her on the verge of tears. She knew that was what Bill was talking about, but she was not about to admit, not even to him, that her heart broke in a million pieces every time she was near Harry. Not only because she loved him beyond belief, but also because she knew he would have to face dangers she could scarcely imagine. She was not sure she would be strong enough to see him get hurt. She was worried she would crumble down if something happened to Harry.
“Don’t tell her that,” Ginny said, with an unsuccessful attempt at airiness.
“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?” he asked crossing his arms across his chest.
“Who says there’s something wrong?” Ginny shrugged.
“Ginny, I have to get to work and I really don’t have time for this game,” he said somewhat sternly. “You have hardly left your room since Christmas. You avoid even looking at Harry. Are you going to tell me what happened between you two?”
“Nothing happened,” Ginny sighed and Bill’s eyebrow went up. “Absolutely nothing happened between us, Bill, just as nothing will ever happen between us,” she added, not being able to get the hint of bitterness out of her voice. She contemplated her brother for a moment before continuing, “now that you and Fleur are both in the Order, aren’t you scared something might happen to her?”
“Of course I am,” said Bill. “It also scares me that something might happen to Mum, Dad, Charlie, Fred, George and…” he sighed, “and Percy.” His tone was grave now. “And even though I know you and Ron are safe at Hogwarts, it scares me to think something might happen to you as well.”
“I’m scared too,” she said softly. “For all of you, but mostly for Harry. I know he has faced Voldemort before and he has always come through. But even though I don’t have all the details, I also know Voldemort won’t leave him alone until one of them ends up dead.”
“You are right,” he said, taking her hands in his. “Harry will have to face Voldemort once and for all. You might not know everything that’s going on, but you know enough to figure out that’s bound to happen. You went with him to the Department of Mysteries last year. That was very dangerous.”
“I know that now, but back then it all happened so fast. I never thought of the possibility of any of us getting hurt,” she sighed. “We just followed him.”
“Would you follow him again now that you are aware of the dangers?”
“In a heartbeat,” Ginny answered without hesitation.
“Gin, you are a lot stronger than what you give yourself credit for, but the only way you will be able to stand by him –either as a friend or more- is being even stronger. He will need all of us, especially those closest to him.”
Ginny remained silent for a moment, biting her lip anxiously.
“I’d rather Fleur was safe and away from all of this,” he said softly. “But she decided to join the Order because, like myself, she knows Voldemort has to be stopped. I would never ask her to quit; in fact, I love her even more for that.”
Ginny smiled tenderly at her brother. She understood now. She shouldn’t worry about what will happen, she only had to get ready to face it. She hugged Bill again.
“I’m going to miss you so much,” she said, suddenly feeling cheerful. Her cheerfulness was illogical, of course, as all the things that had her worried a second before were still present, but now she knew she couldn’t do anything about them. She still had to live through it and if possible, help Harry get ready for what he was up against. Knowing that and making the decision of living in the now, made her feel a lot better.
“I’ll miss you too,” he kissed the top of her head. “Just try to have fun at Hogwarts and don’t worry too much.” She knew it would be an easy thing to do. It was hard to consider yourself in danger when you were within the school grounds. She nodded. Bill released her and walked toward the door. “Ah!” he added, with his hand already on the door knob. “And open your eyes. You wouldn’t want to have waited a long time for something to happen and then miss it because you are not paying attention?”
“What are you talking about?” Ginny asked puzzled.
“Nothing in particular. It just felt like a good advice to give you,” he added with a wide smile. “Bye Sis,” he winked at her and left, leaving Ginny bewildered.
Ginny finished up her packing, thinking about Bill’s odd comment. She took her music box from the night table and passed her finger over the lid before opening it slowly; the music immediately filled the whole room.
“Wait a second,” Ginny said suddenly. “He was surely not talking about…” She stared at the music box accusatorily, as though it had been rude to her, then slapped the lid close. “He couldn’t possibly have been talking about Harry,”she added firmly shoving the box in her bag. She couldn’t allow herself think about the possibility. She didn’t have the luxury of hoping. She was going to be his friend, and she was going to be close by. She looked at her reflection in the mirror and tied her long hair in a ponytail. She was going to expect nothing in return. Everything would be easier this way.
When she went down for breakfast a couple of minutes later, Bill, Fleur and Mr. Weasley were already gone. The only ones in the kitchen were Harry and Ron. They were talking animatedly about Quidditch and at the moment Ginny walked into the kitchen they were roaring with laughter. She smiled at the sight of them laughing. It was very uplifting the fact that even with all the horrible things that were happening, people still could find a way to laugh so wholeheartedly. And for her, there wasn’t a more beautiful sound than Harry’s laughter.
“Aren’t you two in a good mood today?” she said cheerfully, sitting down in front of them and pulling a plate of toast towards her. Harry looked up right into her eyes and her stomach did a somersault. Steady now, girl, she told herself as she started buttering a piece of toast, or you’ll soon be putting your elbow in the butter or knocking things down every time he looks at you, like you used to do when you were eleven.
“We were just remembering our last match,” said Harry.
“And your spectacular crash into Zacharias Smith,” Ron chuckled. “That was inspired, Ginny.”
Ginny joined in the laugh. “It felt great,” she said with a wicked glint in her eyes. “He had it coming with all his snide comments.”
“You proved him wrong by playing amazingly,” said Harry, looking at Ginny. “You both did,” he added hastily, turning toward Ron before gazing back at Ginny. “That must have hurt even more than the crash.”
Ginny swallowed hard, under Harry’s gaze. She concentrated on chewing her toast, which was not an easy task since her mouth had gone dry all of the sudden. She was actually glad when the back door swung open and a welcomed distraction came in the form of her mother. Mrs. Weasley was carrying a basket with vegetables.
“You are up, dear,” she told Ginny as she put the basket in the sink. “Do you want me to fix you some breakfast?”
“No Mum,” Ginny said. “I’m fine with just toast,” she added taking a sip from her pumpkin juice.
Ginny really didn’t want to trouble her mother. She had been very touchy ever since Percy had stormed from the house on Christmas Day with his glasses splattered with mashed parsnip. Mrs. Weasley appeared to always be on the verge of tears and she had been crying on and off. Ginny hated Percy for that and in a small degree, she hated herself for her involvement in the whole incident. She was certain his brother deserved it, but her mother’s sadness weighed on her heart.
They finished their breakfast in silence and Mrs. Weasley ushered them out of the kitchen for she was going to clean up.
“So,” Ginny told the boys on their way to the living room. “How do you plan to spend your last few hours of Christmas holiday?”
“I wish we could go outside and play some Quidditch,” said Harry. “But we all left our brooms at Hogwarts.”
“I could settle for a match of exploding snap,” said Ron, sitting in front of the fireplace and stretching his long legs lazily.
“I’m game,” said Harry. “How about you, Ginny?”
“Sure,” she said. “Let’s play.”
Late in the afternoon, Harry, Ron, and Ginny lined up beside the kitchen fire to return to Hogwarts. The Ministry had arranged this one-off connection to the Floo Network to return students quickly and safely to the school. Only Mrs. Weasley was there to say good-bye, and she dissolved into tears at the moment of parting.
“Don’t cry, Mum,” said Ginny, patting her on the back as her mother sobbed into her shoulder. “It’s okay…”
“Yeah, don’t worry about us,” said Ron, permitting his mother to plant a very wet kiss on his cheek, “or about Percy. He’s such a prat, it’s not really a loss, is it?”
Ginny gave Ron a surreptitious kick in the shin and glared at him for being so insensitive while her mother moved on to hug Harry. She sobbed harder than ever as she enfolded him in her arms. “Promise me you’ll look after yourself… Stay out of trouble…”
“I always do, Mrs. Weasley,” said Harry. “I like a quiet life, you know me.”
Mrs. Weasley gave a watery chuckle and Ginny smiled at him. He was so sweet, trying to make her mother feel better.
“Be good, then, all of you…” she said when she had let go of Harry. He stepped into the emerald fire and shouted “Hogwarts!” A second later he was gone. Ron was next and soon came Ginny’s turn.
“Ron’s right, Mum,” she told her mother with a last hug. “You don’t have to worry about us. We’ll be safe at Hogwarts.”
“I know, dear,” she kissed Ginny’s cheek. “Now go; they must be waiting for you.”
Ginny had one last fleeting view of her mother’s tearful face before the flames engulfed her; spinning very fast, she caught blurred glimpses of other Wizarding rooms, which were whipped out of sight before she could get a proper look; then she was slowing down, finally stopping squarely in the fireplace in Professor McGonagall’s office. She greeted her teacher, who greeted her back barely glancing up from her work as she clambered out over the grate.
Ron and Harry were waiting for her and all three of them trooped out of McGonagall’s office and off toward Gryffindor Tower. The three Gryfindors appeared to be lost in their own thoughts as they made their way to their common room. Ginny certainly was. She was thinking about Dean and the fact that they hadn’t owled each other during the holidays, except for the exchange of Christmas presents. Actually she had hardly thought about him, but now things would go back to normal, which meant she would spend most of her time with him and barely any with Harry.
“Baubles,” said Ron, bringing Ginny back to reality and she realized they had reached the portrait of the Fat Lady.
“No,” said the Fat Lady, who was looking rather paler than usual and winced when Ron spoke.
“What d’you mean, ‘no’? Ron insisted.
“There is a new password,” she said. “And please don’t shout.”
“But we’ve been away, how’re we supposed to…?”
Ginny turned around to see Hermione hurrying toward them, very pink-faced and wearing a cloak, hat, and gloves.
“I got back a couple of hours ago, I’ve just been down to visit Hagrid and Buck… I mean Witherwings,” she said breathlessly. “Did you have a good Christmas?”
“Yeah,” said Ron at once, and Ginny rolled her eyes. Now he was going to be all suave. Hermione would not fall for it. “Pretty eventful, Rufus Scrim…”
“I’ve got something for you, Harry,” said Hermione, neither looking at Ron nor giving any sign that she had heard him. Ginny managed to disguise her snicker with a soft cough.
“Oh, hang on,” Hermione continued. “Password. Abstinence.”
“Precisely,” said the Fat Lady in a feeble voice, and swung forward to reveal the portrait hole.
“What’s up with her?” asked Harry.
“Overindulged over Christmas, apparently,” said Hermione, rolling her eyes as she led the way into the packed common room. “She and her friend Violet drank their way through all the wine in that picture of drunk monks down by the Charms corridor. Anyway…” She rummaged in her pocket for a moment, then pulled out a scroll of parchment and handed it to Harry.
“Great,” said Harry, unrolling it at once and Ginny could see it was from the Headmaster. “I’ve got loads to tell him… and you. Let’s sit down.”
Ginny took that as her cue to leave. Harry and Hermione probably wanted to talk in private and there was a chance they didn’t even remember she was standing right there with them. But at that moment there was a loud squeal and Lavender Brown came hurtling out of nowhere and flung herself into Ron’s arms. Several onlookers snickered. Ginny would have too, but she was very much aware of Hermione’s reaction. She gave a tinkling laugh that didn’t fool Ginny for a second and said, “There’s a table over here… Coming. Ginny?”
“No, thanks, I said I’d meet Dean,” said Ginny, not feeling at all excited about it. She walked away, leaving Ron and Lavender locked in a kind of vertical wrestling, match, while Harry led Hermione over to the spare table.
Dean was not in the common room, but Ginny saw Colin coming down from the boys’ dormitories.
“Ginny!” he called out, waving his hand. She waved back and waited for him to join her. “How was your Christmas?” he asked as they took a seat in what appeared to be the only available chairs.
“Eventful,” she said. “My house was so full of people that I didn’t manage any alone time. I was barely able to finish all the homework, and to be honest, I have to admit I did a lousy job.”
“Wow, many people at your house,” he said. “Who?”
A little smiled played on Ginny’s lips. She knew very well what he wanted to know and wondered if Colin would ever get over his obsession with Harry. Well, she was not going to make it easy for him.
“Well there was my Mum and Dad, of course, and my brothers, minus Charlie, he couldn’t make it from Rumania.” She took her time before continuing. “I had to share my bedroom with Phlegm… was forced to, actually. And I didn’t enjoy a moment of it. “Oh! And Professor Lupin also spent a couple of days with us.”
He stared at her inquiringly. Ginny was about to let out a snicker, but willed herself to keep her expression blank.
“Is that it?” he finally asked.
“Oh! You are right. There was someone else.” She rolled her eyes. “Percy dropped in on Christmas day.” She purposely left out the fact that he had been accompanied by the Minister of Magic.
When it was obvious she was done enumerating people, Colin asked, “How about Harry? Wasn’t he at you house?”
“Didn’t I mention Harry?” she asked innocently.
“No, you didn’t,” Colin said with a raised eyebrow.
“Well, he was home as well,” she said dismissively.
“Did you give him the present? Did he like it?”
“Yes and yes.” Ginny said.
“Did you tell him I took the picture?”
“What did he say?”
“I already told you he liked it,” she said in a tone that clearly meant she was not going to keep talking about it.
Colin knew there was no point in pursuing the subject and started talking about his time at home and told Ginny all about a date he and Demelza had. They had gone to the movies, which was a completely new experience to her, since she came from a wizarding family. Ginny listened to the whole story with a smile on her lips. She was very happy for her friend. It was so great when a relationship was new and fresh. Every little thing was pure joy.
Dean arrived in time for dinner, and reminded her how things were when relationships were going down the hill. He was talkative and excited about all the things he had done back home. He said he had missed Ginny terribly and kept hugging her and holding her hand and kissing her as he talked. She was actually glad when people started going up to bed, which gave her an excuse to leave as well. With a last overwhelming kiss, Dean wished her goodnight and she went up to her dormitory, feeling awkward.