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11-06-2013 Babucha

INDEX

The Breaku

Breakeven

Breakthrough

The Breakup

[INDEX]

Ginny, why are you doing this? Tell me why! Ginny Weasley was huddled in one corner, tears coursing down her cheeks. She tried but she couldnt bring herself up to tell him why. She knew it was unfair for Harryhe didn't have a single clue. She wanted none of this to hap pen... Ginny suffered many sleepless nights because of this. Harry would never understand, she thought. Hed think her reason was too superficial or more idiotic and non -sense. That was why she refused telling him He had changed So many broken promises I gotta say whats on my mind Something about us doesnt seem right these days Life keeps getting in the way Whenever we try somehow the plan Is always rearranged Why are you breaking us up, Ginny? Why? Harry asked desperately. She could see his eyes, his emeral green eyes, wailing at her behind his glasses. Ginny really wanted to tell him but she couldnt pluck the courage. She wanted to tell him that hes changed ever since he got promoted in the Auror office as Head.

Youre never going to believe it, Gin! Harry exclaimed. It was a starry night and they were outside the Burrow. What? she asked. Okay Harry breathed, Ive been promoted Ginny! They made me Head of the Auror Department. Ginny flung her arms around him and hugged him very tightly. She kissed his cheek. When they parted Oh Harry, Im so proud of you! You must be the youngest Head of Auror Office in a century! she exclaimed.

I know and Im really excited to start working, Harry replied as he smiled at her. They both looked forward to a wonderful future together...

Itits because of the Ginny stuttered, tears blinding her eyes. Because of my job? Harry asked. Thats right, Ginny choked, Because of your damned new job! Its so hard to say But I gotta do whats best for me Youll be okay What does my job have to do with us? Harry asked. Ginny pushed the stray hair from her face and looked at him. He really didnt know, she thought. Youre obsessed with your new job Harry, she said, You love it too much that sometimes you evenfoforget yo-you have aagirlfriend! she choked in tears, But sinceIIsee you lolove it, I might as well e-end us Ive got to move on and be who I am I just dont belong here I hope you understand We might find a place in this world someday But at least for now I gotta go my own way What do you mean? Harry asked. Ginny remembered it full wellhow could he forget? Dont wanna leave it all behind But I get my hopes up and watch them fall every time

He could never forget this, Ginny said to herself. She and Harry had been a couple again for four years now, ever since the Battle of Hogwarts. Every year, they celebrate this special moment together. But these past few months, Ginny seemed to have noticed something. Harry keeps on forgetting arrangements with her. His excuses were all the same Im very busy I had work to do There wasnt any time left But just last night, Harry told her to wait at the fancy French restaurant near the Burrow. Ginny dressed up for this occasion and cant help admiring the wonderful work she has done with herself. She placed her green headband over her shiny red hair. Now here she was, waiting for about three hours for him. The waiters mustve thought she was stupid or something. It started raining cats and dogs outside. Great, I didnt even bring an umbrella. I cant apparate here, theres too many muggles, she said. Ginny hoped that Harry would come or the rain would stop but neither happened. Finally, she stood up

and left the restaurant. She walked towards home, soaking wet from the rain. How could he have forgotten? she asked as she stepped inside the Burrow. Everyone was asleep. She went to her room and dried herself up. The moment she plopped d own her bed did she ask whywhy did Harry forget? Not again, she said, Dont tell me hes busy again The next day, Ginny went to Harrys house. He was about to leave when she arrived and he was hurrying. Where were you last night? she snapped, I thought you were going to meet me at that fancy French restaurant? Did you know I waited for you likethree hours and it even rained? Ginny asked heatedly. Harry didnt seem to mind. He was packing up hurriedly and he didnt seem to have heard her. Harry, are you listening?! Ginny screamed. Thats when Harry noticed she was there. But he still seemed to have not cared Look, Im sorry Gin; can we just talk about this tonight or tomorrow? Im really in a hurry, he said and rushed towards the door. He gave her a peck on the cheek and apparated before Ginny could even argue.

Another color turns to gray And its just too hard to watch it all Slowly fade away Im leaving today, cause I gotta do whats best for me Youll be okay See! You didnt even care. All you cared about is your bloody damn job! We didnt even talk about it anymore. I tried to understand and told myself that youre really busy and its what you want. I tried to appreciate what you wanted! Ginny argued. I didnt make you like what I wanted, Harry said. Ive got to move on and be who I am I just dont belong here I hope you understand I find myself trying to enjoy your promotion Harry, I really do. I love you Harry, thats why even though it makes me frustrated, I do it for you! But nowIm keeping myself realI just hope you understand, Ginny said. Then why the hell are you breaking us up?! Harry screamed. Ive spent too many sleepless nights, wondering why you didnt come to see my Quidditch matches. Ive suffered too many broken promises and I always get my hopes down! Its enough, I cant take it anymore! she yelled back, trying not to cry again. We might find our place in this world someday But at least for now I gotta go my own way Im sorry then! Im sorry I wasnt able to go to your matches and Im sorry if I left you in our anniversary! Harry said. Ginny could see that somehow, he still didn't understand what she was trying to point out. Youve changed Harry, she said, Thats whyIllIll try to move onforget the things weve been

through What about us? What about everything weve been thru? Youre just going to throw away everything because of that? Ginny, I may have faults, but you know that I LOVE YOU!! Harry yelled, Dont throw it all away Ginny. You were one of the reasons why I wanted to finish Voldemort! Do you have any idea how painful it was for me to realize I may not see you again if he killed me? What about trust? Its not that Harry. The way youre acting nowits hurt ing me so badly. I feel as if you're in outer space, gathering moon rocks instead of being with me, Ginny sobbed. I never wanted to hurt you! Im doing this job for youI took it so I have a good future for us if ever we get married! You should know this is all for you! Harry choked. Thick tears began to stream down his cheeks. You know I never wanted to hurt you What about me? Id rather have you jobless Harry than seeing you too much in love with your job rather than me. If you really love me, youd want to see me happy. You dont have to worry about the future, she said. Ginny turned her back at him and stared outside the window. The rain was pouring hard outside. She had to conclude it Thats why ImIm e-ending it, she said, Itwehave got to stopI can't take it anymore..." What am I supposed to do? I gotta leave but Ill miss you Harrys hand held her shoulder. He turned her towards him. Ginny saw him, unable to gaze at his emerald green eyes. He wasnt wearing a shirt, only faded jeans. Ginny would miss himbut it was for the best. Ive got to move on and be who I am (What about us?) Dont end it Gin, he begged, Dont Its for the best Harry, she said, Im probably just a big scab on your new job if I keep bugging youtry to understandI cant handle it anymore I just dont belong here I hope you understand (I was trying to understand) Ill quit just for you, he said. No, stay. I know its what youve always wanted and I dont want to spoil it for you, Ginny i nsisted, Youll be free to date other girls again. I heard Chos free. She told me just before our match against each other last Saturday, which you missed, she said. (Authors note: Chos on the Tornadoes while Ginnys with the Harpies) I dont love ChoI love you for goodness sake! Harry said. We might find our place in this world someday

But at least for now (I hope you stay) I gotta go my own way Please stay Ginny. Dont do thiswhat will I do without you? Harry asked, his voice shaking due to tears, I dont want to lose you Im sorry Harry, but I have to she said, a tear down her cheek. Harry leaned forward her and kissed her. He held tight to her, really determined not to let her go. Ginny can feel the tears on his face and she started to cry too. She didnt want to lose Harry but it was for their own goodthey could give it a try againor Find someone else But for now She pulled away from him and saw his face, glistened with tears from his eyes and her face. She pushed away the tears. Im sorry Harry, she said, Im really sorryI have to move on and leave you in peace to enjoy your job, she headed towards the door, I have to go now she opened the door and looked at him for the last time. He stared hungrily at her, still pleading not to leaveGoodbye Harry, she said and went out. She closed the door and closed the door from Harry. But her heart wasnt really closed from him. It was still wide open and wounded deeply. She still loves himthats why she did it. She wanted him to be free to do anything he wanted Ginny brushed away all the tears. Lifes not over for herneither is for Harry. Life could still go on and besides Theres still another chancethey could still give it a trybutnot noweither way, theres st ill hope for them And theyll always be together in Ginnys heart I love you Harry, she said sadly as she dissaparated. Harry watched her from the window. He knew it really wasnt overbut hell regret the mistakes he had done. He sat down on the couch and sighed. I love you Ginny. Ill wait for you again he said, Its not over for us yet And Harrys rightthings dont end too easily Hell have to wait againand change for the better...ro win her back. I gotta go my own way I gotta gomy own way

Breakeven

[INDEX]

Chapter 1: I. Three Years Later

Im sorry Harry, she said, Im really sorryI have to move on and leave you in peace to enjoy your job, she headed towards the door, I have to go now she opened the door and looked at him for the last time. At that moment, he could feel his heart breaking into two, his hands aching to touch herto pull her back. But he was stuck where he was, unable to move. Her eyes looked at him sadly for the very last time. A tear rolled down her smooth cheek. Goodbye Harry, she said and went out. The door closed behind her, leaving him alone with his thoughts and a broken heart. Goodbye Harry Goodbye Goodbye Forever

Harry woke up with a start. His emerald green eyes moved around, searching thru the hazy vision it produced. It was obviously dark around him and awfully silent too. Pushing away his blanket, Harry Potter heaved a sigh as he sat up from his bed. His left hand felt its way thru his nearby table for his glasses. Finally gaining the feel of them, he took wore his beloved glasses, giving him a clearer view of the surrounding. Looking at the watch, Harry realized it was only three in the morning. He groaned as he rubbed his aching forehead. Damnthis has to stop, he murmured. It was that dream again Or more like That memory again It has been three years since it happened. It has been three years since he last saw her loving, brown eyes. Three years since he last heard her voiceher tinkling laughfelt her warm touch It has been three years since Ginny Weasley was a prominent character in his life.

Harry ran a hand thru his jet-black hair as he got up from bed. He couldnt sleep again, not with those haunting memories of Ginny stepping off from his life. He proceeded towards his work desk, which was littered with notes and plans for work. Work The reason behind the breakup He sat down on the chair and began organizing his messy desk. He figured he would be able to catch some sleep if he fixed his desk. Harry refused to use his wand. He did it with his own hands. He caught sight of that paper he still had to sign. Harry couldnt remember what it was about but he knew he had to sign it and pass it two days from now. He saw another note taped above him, which said: Meet Hermione. Diagon Alley. 3 PM Saturday If his best friend Hermione Granger saw him now, she wouldve just shook her head and tell him: Its been three years, Harry. Three years! You shouldnt do this to yourself. Yeah, he shouldnt fix his desk to put himself to sleep. It looked pathetic. Harry stacked another pile of papers on one side then proceeded to remove clutter from his desk. He caught sight of a photo frame at the end. It was a picture of him and his best friend, Ron Weasley. He smiled as he watched himself ruffling Rons vibrant red hair. To be honest, Harry sometimes envied Ron. It was as if Ron was finally living the life of his dreams: working his dream job, a wonderful family and finally engaged to Hermione. Once, he opened this up to Ron himself. Dont be stupid, mate. Youve got everything yourself. Dont be jealous of meyou have a lot! Ron was wrong. Harry Potter didnt have everything. He lost everything three years ago. Thinking of Ron made him painfully remember her. He saw another photo frame hidden behind the mass of papers. It was facedown, indicating it was placed that way by the owner in order to forget. Harry held it with his hands and gazed at the picture. It was a picture of him and Ginny under a tree. His arm was around her shoulders and she was leaning on him. They were smiling brightly at him. He watched Ginny laugh in the picture, her lips parting and her eyes laughing along with her. It was as if Harry was staring at some long-forgotten dream. He remembered placing it facedown the moment Ginny stepped out o f his life. He didnt want to see anything that reminded him of her. He tore some of her letters, removed all her pictures and basically shut himself for days. It was one of the darkest moments in Harrys life, next to almost being defeated by Voldemort. The moment she closed the door behind her, a rush of dark worries harassed Harry. He couldnt imagine a life without her. He just cant Yet here he was, aged 21 and still alive. Yes, he was able to live without Ginny Weasley by his side. The very next day after the breakup, Harry went about with his daily routines. He pretended nothing had happened. He pretended as if what happened the night before did not impact him. And this went on for three years. Which was a lie.

The truth was, although Harry livedit was as if there was something missing from him. He couldnt help but feel empty inside. Whenever he would catch glimpses of red-haired girls, he would often mistaken them for Ginny. He endured paranoia and regret during those three years. Harry sighed as he put their picture down. Ever since their separation, it seemed as if Ginny suddenly vanished. Admittedly, Harry refrained from watching any of her matches so as not to reawaken the pain she had inflicted on him. Three months later, Harry found out Ginny had taken a leave from the Harpies and avoided being seen from then on. Even her brother Ron had no idea where his sister went. All she told him was I need a break. Then she disappeared from the people, from her familyfrom Harry. Three years later, Harry Potter still had no news of his ex-girlfriend. He didnt bother to ask the Weasleys about her, knowing it was kind of awkward when they knew what had happened between them. He pretended he didnt care with what Ginny was doing with her life r ight now. He only pretended. Finally, Harry decided his desk needed no more organizing and he could feel sleep approaching him. Stifling a yawn, Harry rubbed his tired eyes and took off his glasses. He threw himself on his bed. Lying on his back, he decided it was pointless to think about Ginny when things had ended between them. It has been three years. He shouldve forgotten all about it like a normal person would have. But unfortunately for Harry Potter He hasnt forgotten. Lying on his back, Harry admitted an undeniable truth about himself. He had not moved on from Ginny Weasley. In fact, He was still madly in love with her.

Chapter 2: II. Unexpected

and Mr. Ward specifically requested your presence, Sir. I couldnt say no to the man. Hes been requesting your presence for months now Harry didnt look up at Tyler Heffley, his assistant, who was rapidly informing him of the Head of the Improper Use of Magics invitation to a party for top Ministry employees. The Head, Mr. Raphael War d, has been badgering Tyler to convince Harry to attend the said party. Harry, on the other hand, had no interest in dinner parties. So you told him Id be going, said Harry, still not taking his eyes off the papers he was signing. Tyler embarrassedly rubbed his arms, appearing guilty of the charge. Sorry, sir, he apologized. Harry finally looked at his 18 -year old assistant and sighed. Guess Ill be going whether I like it or not, huh? he asked. Tyler nodded, his eyes avoiding Harry. Harry smiled at his assistant, hoping he wouldnt appear like some terror boss to young Tyler. Get me the invite again, will you Tyler? So Ill know the time and place, he told the boy. Tyler heaved a sigh of relief as he smiled gratefully at his boss. He nodded his head and immediately left Harry in his

cubicle. Harry grinned as he returned his attention to his paperwork. He dipped his quill in ink and began signing once more. Mr. Potter? Harry looked up and saw Tinsel, the receptionist. Yes, Tinsel? You have a visitor, she said, Miss Granger is outside waiting, sir. Hermione? Yes, sir, said Tinsel, then she proceeded back to her desk. Harry quickly got up from his cubicle, wondering why Hermione visited all of a sudden. The last time Harry saw her was a month ago, when she left for Scotland to do some work for the Ministry. He didnt know she was back. He saw Hermione seated in front of Tinsels desk. He couldnt help but notice how radiant she looked today. Her curls were held by a barrette Ron had given her during their anniversary. The moment she saw Harry, she beamed at him. She looked so vibrant when she smiled. Her radiance reminded him of Ginny, the way she smiled at him. He felt a painful tug. Harry! cried Hermione as she stood up to hug him. Hermione, said Harry as he hugged his best friend. The hugged for a few minutes then pulled away. Enjoyed your trip? he asked her. Yes, it was superb! she said, Scotland truly is beautiful. I thought you werent going to be home until tomorrow, said Harry. Hermione tucked a curl behind her ear and blushed. WellI got permission to be home earlier. You know, for the engagement party tonight? she said. Her cheeks became red at the mention of the word engagement. Harry bit his lip, repressing a laugh. He found it funny whenever Hermione giggled over her upcoming wedding. Yeah, you cant wait to see Ron announcing your engagement in his tweed green dress robes, remarked Harry. Hermione laughed and punched his shoulder. She tucked a stray curl behind her ear and sighed. I guess I am looking forward to seeing Ron at the end of the altar, she said wistfully, Its like a dream come true. Harry looked at Hermione as she smiled. She looked so happy at the thought of her wedding. In a way, Harry envied her. How he wished he was as gleeful as her. Hermione caught him staring blankly at her. ErHarry? she asked, Are you okay? Harry snapped out of his reverie. Oh, sorry, he said, Yeah, Im also looking forward to standing beside Ron and seeing him sweat. Hermione smiled and patted his shoulder. Harry, I know this wedding is making you think of somethingor someone I should say, she said gently.

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Huh? asked Harry. Hermione rolled her eyes and looked at him eye to eye. I know youre wondering if Ginny is attending, she said. Harry wondered if Hermione was given a strong sense. She knew exactly what he had in mind and even brought it up. But he wasnt going to let Hermione know about it. He rubbed his eyes and shrugged. I dont know what youre talking about, he said unmindfully. He wanted to appear as if he didnt give a damn whether or not Ginny will be attending the wedding. Which was a lie. In fact, he wondered about it for weeks. Ever since Ron and Hermione announced their engagement, Harry thought if Ginny would be present at her brothers wedding, let alone the engagement party. No one has heard from her for years. Hermione shook her head. You dont have to deny anything to me, Harry. Youre my best frie nd. I know you as much as I know Ron, she said. Really, now? Well, what do you know Hermione Granger? he asked her. Hermione wore her know-it-all expression. I know for a fact that you are not over Ginny even though three years have already passed, she said. Not true, True, countered Hermione, Ive observed you for the past three years, Harry. Though you try to forget about her, theres still a small bit of Ginny inside you. You sometimes slip and let me notice youre still thinking of her. Why are we talking about this Hermione? he asked her, clearly annoyed, You know its pointless. Harry, I just hate it when I see you wallowing about Ginny, I dont- Dont deny it. I know for a fact that you often think of her. Remember when s he left? You asked small details but I could see it in your eyes that you wanted to know more information of her whereabouts, said Hermione. Harry was about to disagree when Hermiones eyes warned him not to. He sighed, figuring it was pointless lying to her. He avoided looking at her. Well? she asked. Well what? he asked. I was right, huh? Harry rubbed his forehead. Alright, I surrender, he said, holding his hands up, Youre right. I still am thinking about Ginny. Are you happy now? then he buried his face in his hands. He felt so ashamed, confessing to Hermione that after three years he still wasnt over his ex -girlfriend Who probably was somewhere out there, worry-free He hasnt even seen her during those three years. And yet, hes st ill wallowing about her. Harry, its been three years already, said Hermione. I know, Hermione. You dont have to rub it in, said an annoyed Harry.

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He felt a hand touch his shoulder. Hermione looked comfortingly at him, her hand resting on his shoulder. There was no I-told-you-so look evident on her face. Justsympathy. He sighed. Look Hermione, it has been three years since Ginny and I broke up. I shouldve forgotten about it already and Im still trying okay? Dont feel bad for me. Im okay. J ust be happy for yourself and Ron and dont mind my problems, he told her. Hermione rubbed his shoulder. I just hate seeing you like this Harry. You look happy on the outside, when youre not inside, she said, I feel sad for you. Harry smiled forcefully at her. Dont be. We should all be happy. You and Ron are getting married. Its gonna be the wedding of a century, he said. Luckily, Hermione chose not to push the issue anymore and laughed. Are you coming tonight? she asked. Of course I am, said Harry, It your night. Well, thats settled, she said then she looked at her watch, Oh goodness, I have to get going, Im seeing Luna in fifteen minutes. Hearing Luna Lovegoods name, Harry cracked a smile. It has been a year since he last saw h er. How is Luna by the way? Is she enjoying her escapades with Rolf Scamander? he asked as Hermione got up and brushed her hair. Oh you know Luna, she knows how to have fun in her own way. And I do know for a fact that Rolf is wonderful company for her. In fact, shes taking him tonight, said Hermione. Then she gave Harry and a knowing look and all of a sudden, hugged him. Harry, surprised, awkwardly patted her back. Be happy, okay? she whispered in his ear. With that, she gave him a smile and left . Harry was left alone outside the Auror office, Hermiones whisper tingling in his ear. Be happy He pondered over her words. Be happy? Was he never happy for the past three years? Surely he was happy for once, even for a second. As he stood up, Harry sighed. Hermione was right. He had to stop wallowing. He had to stop remembering. It wasnt right anymore. He was going to live a new life. Tonight, he will be happy. And he fervently hoped he wasnt lying to himself again Harry adjusted his glasses as he stared ahead. His feet walked the mounds of ground that surrounded the home of the Weasleysthe Burrow. He cant help but admire the beautiful decorations adorning the small house. Fairy lights were surrounding the marquee set up right in front of the Weasley lawn. The stars above added to the mystique of the evening, giving faint twinkles in the sky. Flowers adorned every corner of the garden and Harry wasnt able to spot any garden gnome at all. He chuckled, remembering all the fuss Mrs. Weasl ey made with Bill and Fleurs wedding. He wondered

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if she went thru the same fuss with Rons engagement party. As he stepped inside the marquee, heads suddenly turneda usual happening when Harry is spotted by the crowd. Mr. Potter! Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Potter! Good gracious, its Harry Potter! As usual, Harry put on his usual sunny smile for the crowd, greeting them politely and shaking their hands. It was quite the norm for him to please the people who are pleased to see him, the Boy-WhoLived. Even though it has been four years since the Battle of Hogwarts, people still could not get over his victory. It was flatteringbut sometimes it can also get to Harrys nerves. Harry passed his parade of admirers, giving them an occasional smile, greeting them and shaking their hands. Finally, he was able to spot his best mate Ron who was being fixed once more by his mother, Mrs. Weasley. He heard them silently arguing as Mrs. Weasley fussed over her son. a mess your hair is! Im okay Mum! Honestly, my hair is fine. But you look silly! Hermione likes it this way! Ehem, said Harry as he approached them. Abruptly, Ron and Mrs. Weasley stopped arguing. Mrs. Weasleys lips widened into a smile as she gazed at Harry. Harry! she said, pulling him into a hug. Harry could feel her arms almost crushing him as she hugged him yet at the same time, it felt so good to know that she still accepted him, even though he had fallen out with her daughter. How are you, my dear? she asked fondly once she had released him, You look thinner than the last time I saw you. Are you eating well? Yes, Mrs. Weasley, Harry assured her. He caught Rons eyes rolling as he watched his own mum start fussing over Harry. Theyre not stressing you at the Ministry, are they? Youve gotten a little peaky these days, whenever I see your face in the Daily Prophet, she said, concern dripping in her voice. Im okay, Mrs. Weasley, believe me. The stress the Ministry offers is already normal for me. Im already used to it, he told her again, patting her shoulder. But- Okay, Mum, cut Ron, I think I see the caterers over there. Why dont you make sure they dont run short of canaps? Cause I think Mr. Ferguson over there isnt being served any, he said, indi cating to a Ministry official who appeared to be looking for something. Goodness! I told them to keep to the canaps circulating! then with a flaunt of her robe, she stomped off towards the nearest waiters to tell them off. Ron heaved a sigh as he smiled at Harry. Thank god that got her off my robes, he said, Shes been badgering me for hours. Kept on insisting that my hair needed some cuttingit almost got on my nerves. Good thing you came, mate. Perfect

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timing. Then he clapped Harry on the shoulder. Harry looked at Ron from head to toe and chuckled. Looking sharp, mate, he commented. For the night, Ron had chosen to wear bottle green dress robes for the occassion. He looked sharp for the evening and he simply looked happy. Thanks, been pulling this bloody collar though, said Ron, tugging at his tight collar, Have you seen Hermione? Harry looked around the crowd, trying to find Hermiones bobbing head somewhere. What is she wearing? asked Harry. White. A beautiful white dress. You should see her mate, she looks stunning, said Ron, his eyes dreamy. Harry suppressed a laugh. It was quite a funny sight to see Ron love struck. He had known him for more than ten years and it wasnt quite Ron to become dreamy over Hermione. Well, Ill take your word for it, said an amused Harry. He gave his best mate another look and found himself gazing at Ron. Ron was sohappy. No, he was joyful. He looked so fulfilled as he continued talking with the other guests as Harry stayed beside him. Rons blue eyes twinkled as he animatedly chatted with people. Once again, Harry felt envious of Ron and his happiness. Harry? Hearing his name, Harry turned around. He gasped. Wow Hermione, Hermione Granger stood in front of him, her hair sleek and shiny. Ron was right, she was absolutely stunning. The white dress suited her perfectly and her eyes sparkled like Rons as she beamed at him. Ron had also turned and Harry could see the smug smile on his face. Told you, he said. Harry grinned. You were right, he said as Hermione approached Ron. Immediately, Ron took hold of her hand and smiled at her the moment their faces drew close. Hello beautiful, he whispered in Hermiones ear as he pecked her on the cheek. Harry saw Hermiones cheeks redden the moment Rons lips touched her cheeks. For a moment, Harry felt awkward watching his two best friends. It was similar to the time they kissed out of the blue during the Battle of Hogwarts. He couldnt help but feel out of place as the two lovebirds gazed at each other. It was like he was watching them in slow motion as Hermione and Ron talked with each other, arms around each other and all that. He feltout of place. And he also felt a pang in his heart. Before his two friends could forget his presence, Harry coughed. Ehem he said. Hermione and Ron broke out of their reverie of each other. Harry smiled as he placed his hands inside his pockets.

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Sorry, said Ron cheekily. Couldnt help it, added Hermione, Anyway, its now or never, right? The t hree of them laughed. Harry placed his arms around his best friends, two of the most important people in his world. He was happy for them, really was. He was glad they were finally getting their happily ever after. Congratulations guys. Im happy for the both of you. Im so glad you two are ending up with each other, he told them, Just want you both to know that you matter a lot to me. Ill always be here when you need me. And Ill always have both of your backs. Dont forget that. Hermione gave him a meaningful look, her eyes beading with tears as she smiled at him. Ron on the other hand, gave a small chuckle. Yeah mate, Ill count on you catching my back when Hermiones after my neck, he joked. Thats what I meant, said Harry then both he and Ron laughed. Hermione quickly pulled out of Harrys arms and playfully glared at them, her hands on her hips. Then with a nudge from Ron, she joined in the laughter. Hermione! Rooon! Mrs. Weasleys voice broke their laughter as they watched her bust le thru the crowd. Uh-oh, Ron said under his breath. Follow me quickly! The Minister is here! she squealed, pulling Hermione and Ron, You must pay your respects! But its only Kingsley Shacklebolt, Mum! I see him every day at work, whined Ron b ut Mrs. Weasley didnt listen to him. Theyll see you later, Harry dear, she told Harry as she pulled Ron and Hermione towards the crowd. Hermione gave him an apologetic smile as her face disappeared in the ocean of people. Harry watched the string of people entering the marquee. People were everywhere. They were babbling, gossiping or plainly catching up with each other. Everywhere he looked he could see witches and wizards laughing and smiling at one another. Everyone seemed to enjoy the festivities of the night. Figuring hed look stupid standing all alone by himself, Harry allowed himself to wander around the place, hoping he could find something to spend his time. He couldve just allowed himself to talk with a random stranger. After all, being Harry Potter granted you the right to be known by people you dont know yourself. But Harry wasnt in the mood to socialize with people for the moment. He wanted to be alone for a while. Harry watched the vast crowds of people, smiles on their faces and their laughter rolling around the room. They looked so happyso joyful. Everyone was in their best mood. All except Harry. Lucky them

Three hours later Harry watched as Ron waltzed with Hermione in the middle of the dance floor.

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Its been three hours since the engagement party started. Admittedly, Harry had fun during those three hours. He was able to grin widely as he joined his friends from Hogwarts tease Ron with his upcoming marriage. He was able to laugh as he listened to Mrs. Weasley confessing to everyone that she never expected Ron to end up with a super girl like Hermione. Ron wore the most mortified look he had ever worn. The night was enjoyable and it truly was superb, Harry had to admit. And now, things had settled a bit as the dancing had begun. He watched Ron spin Hermione then hold her close once more. Ron was whispering something in Hermiones ear, making her giggle and peck him on the cheek. Although it has been years since his best friends got together, Harry still felt queasy at times when he catches Hermione and Ron becoming fluffy with each other. He figured it was because he had spent six years in Hogwarts watching them bicker and at each others throats. Yet here they were Blissfully in love He couldnt help but smile as he watched them. He was glad for them, glad that they had finally reached their ever after with each other. Feeling he was intruding a quiet moment by staring, Harry decided to leave his place and leave the couple first. Shoving his hands inside his pockets, Harry slowly proceeded to the opening of the tent. The air gently washed over his face the moment he stepped outside. Looking up, he saw the stars twinkling against the dark background of the sky. It was a beautiful sight and it took Harrys mind off things. There was something about them that made Harry relieve some of the stress he was heaving. Its been long since he had peace and quietaway from stress. Stress from workstress from other peoples demandsstress from himself. Breathing deeply, Harry realized he was stressing himself for these past three years by burying himself with work in order to forget. He wanted to relieve himself of the pain and the shame he felt that night Ginny decided to break away from him. It wasnt healthy anymore. He looked back at the tent and saw the people inside. Everyone was enjoying the merriment and the celebration. They wore sunny smiles that lit the evening. He sighed and a second later, his lips widened into a smile. Harry swore that when he gets inside once more, he would be stress-free and truly happy. He wouldnt think of things that bothered him. He wouldnt stress himself during the occasion, even if the Weasleys reminded him painfully of Ginny. For once, he wasnt going to think about Ginny Weasley. He was going to forget about her tonight. And maybe, if he did it often, he would be able to forget her totally. Baby steps. Harry took another deep breath and gazed once more at the stars above. They continued to twinkle at their brightest, making him smile brighter.

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Yes, he was going to start anew. He would be a new man soon. Very soon. His eyes refused to leave the stars yet he figured it was time for him to return inside. Hermione and Ron would probably be wondering where he was. He shoved his hands inside his pockets and sniffed the fresh air for one last time. Then his eye caught a brilliant shade of red in front of him. Must be Ron. Hey Ron, started Harry, taking his eyes off the sky, Look at the- Then he stopped. For a second, Harry Potter was frozen in his place. He could feel his eyes dilating in shock and surprise. His hands turned cold. The brilliant shade of red did not belong to Ron Weasleys head. Harry had somehow found his voice. Ginny? And sure enough Ginny Weasley stood right in front of him, the light bouncing of her vibrant red hair. Her eyes mirrored the shocked expression Harry wore. She was here. Ginny was right in front of him. In the living flesh After three years Hello Harry she said in a quiet voice.

Chapter 3: III. The Other Bloke

Harry was still frozen on the spot. He wanted to rub his eyes and see if he was seeing illusions. But he wasnt seeing things He was seeing Ginny Weasley in the fleshright in front of him. She came. It really was her. Harry? Harry felt a tingle when he heard her call his name. It was the first time he heard her voice again and it gave him a weird feeling.

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His eyes never left her. It was during that moment that he began to absorb the fact that Ginny Weasley was standing in front of him and was looking immaculately beautiful. Her hair was placed into red-colored curls lying on her shoulder and falling behind her back. She looked the same as before but gorgeous as ever. The green dress emphasized her fair skin and brought out her brown eyes. He still couldnt believe it was her. Youre back he finally managed to say. Ginny shyly tucked a stray curl behind her ear and flashed him a small smile. I know, she said. An awkward silence followed. Harry could feel his heart bumping wildly against his chest. It was as if the sight of Ginny had ignited his system. He couldnt figure out if he was actually glad to see her or if he didnt even want to see her. Inside his mind, a battle was occurring. One part of it told him to run while the other told him to stay. He didnt know what to do next. There was unease bubbling inside him as he processed the fact that his ex-girlfriend was there. Eryou look good, he managed to say. Beautiful is more like it Umthanks, replied Ginny, unease also evident on her face, You look good yourself, Harry. Another awkward silence. For a moment, Harry wished he could just disappear. He wanted the ground to eat him alive or to melt like an ice cream. Ginnys return was just too shocking and it was quite ironic that he saw her right after he swore to himself that he would forget about her. Yet there was a part of him that was glad to see her again because he missed her so much And he wanted her to know that. But the timing would be wrong if he did so. Yet he figured, he wanted to say something. He longed to talk to herthe girl he still loved. Ginny- GINNY! Both Harry and Ginny were startled with Mrs. Weasleys shriek. Mrs. Weasley, sighting her da ughter for the first time also, immediately rushed towards her daughter and enveloped her in a tight hug. Youre back! Youre back! squealed Mrs. Weasley, refusing to release Ginny. Seconds later, George and Percy came out from the tent, followed by Mr. Arthur Weasley and Bill. Bless my soul, its Ginny! cried Mr. Weasley as he ran forward and joined his wife in hugging their youngest daughter. Mum, Dad, I missed you both, said Ginny as she hugged her parents. George stood beside Harry as Percy and Bill joined their parents in welcoming Ginny back. Looks like Little Sister is back from the dead, he whispered jokingly to Harry, Gotta have to get a bucket to catch Mums tears. Excuse me for a moment, Harry. Then he followed his older brothers

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towards their only sister. Harry watched quietly as the Weasleys welcomed Ginny back. He felt as if he was intruding a special moment between the members of the family. He took a step back and quickly returned to the marquee, leaving the Weasleys alone. Inside, there was still a rumble occurring within Harry. His heart was still thundering and his mind was still whirring. Ginny was back. The Ginny he loved and still loves was back. She was here. Seeing her after three years gave Harry the mix of emotions he thought he would never have. He recalled the look in her eyes the moment they first laid eyes on each other again. It was as if she too wanted him to know something Harry! Harry saw Ron heading his way. Mate, whereve you been? Me and Hermione were looking all over for you, asked his best mate. Harry looked at Ron and found himself speechless. What was wrong with him? Mate? You okay? asked Ron, suddenly noticing Harry, Whats up? Gulping, Harry spoke up. Your sister is back. Sweat beaded on Harrys forehead. He couldnt move a muscle. He sat frozen on his chair, feeling uneasy. Beside him, he could feel Ginny sitting quite rigidly. Its been an hour since Ginny showed up right in front of him outside the marquee. After all the members of the Weasley family warmly welcomed Ginny, they pulled her inside for the celebration. A lot of her Hogwarts friends also crowded her and enveloped her in hugs the moment they caught sight of her. It was obvious that she was dearly missed by everyone. Especially by Harry. The moment the welcoming had subsided, Mrs. Weasley insisted that Ginny should sit beside Harry, which was followed by some polite objections from Ginny, stating that shes waiting for a guest and had to be visible. Yet her mother was able to win the argument and Ginny ended up seated beside him. The mix of emotions stirring within Harry worsened and Ginnys presence didnt help one bit. He felt frustrated with himself. There were thousands of things he wanted to ask her, to tell her yet there he was, sitting quite stiffly beside her. Erhow have you been doing? he suddenly asked. Ive been fine, answered Ginny shortly. Thats good, said Harry. Things have changedHarry thought sadly. There was no hint of affection in Gin nys voice. Of course, he had expected this. Its been three years since they last saw each other and coincidentally, the last time they did see each other was on the night they broke up, which didnt exactly made things better.

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Harry ran a hand thru his hair, hoping to gain some confidence. Ginny was throwing side-glances at him. How about you? she asked. Erwell, Ive been good too, Harry answered. Ohgood. Oh good? The awkwardness was killing Harry. It was getting to him and it wasnt a p leasant experience. He wanted to really talk to Ginny, not just exchange awkward questions usually asked by strangers. They werent strangers Were they strangers to each other now? He painfully looked at her. There was a cold barrier separating her from him and Harry couldnt get past that barrier. He longed to have a meaningful conversation with her, to apologize for what he did. But somehow, he found himself unable to do so. Ginny Hearing her name, Ginny looked at him. Harry looked back at her and found it hard to breathe. Will you follow me outside? he asked. Ginny suddenly became uneasy. Harry saw doubt on her face. I dont know Harrythey might look for me she said uneasily. Just for a minute, he said, Please Ginny It was obvious on her face that there was an ongoing conflict inside her. Harry hoped fervently that shed say yes. He wanted to get the feeling out of his chest. Please he asked again. Ginny looked at him again. Alright Outside the marquee, Harry stopped under the nearest lamp post. His mind was screaming at him, telling him this was not the smartest thing to do. But his heart told him it was the right thing to do. He heaved a sigh and looked up at Ginny, who was standing a meter away from him. Her beautiful face was betrayed by the doubt on her face. Her eyes didnt want to meet his. Her curls fell behind her as she crossed her arms. Looking at her after three years made Harrys eyes water in pain. It was painful to look at her, to see what he had done to her. He wanted to tell her so much that he didnt know where to begin. He had to get that heavy feeling off his chest. He had to say something. Ginny was already looking at him and she was waiting. She looked so beautiful tonight but there was

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something off with the way she looked at him. It was as if Harry didnt matter to her anymore and he was wasting her time. Maybe he was You look awfully nice today, he said. Lame, lame, lame! Ohuhmthanks a lot, said Ginny. Harry racked his brains for other things to say. He wanted to tell her how much he missed her and that he wasnt over her but the moment didnt seem to call for such confessions. Neither did it call for senseless remarks. You can do better than that, Potter, he told himself. Ginny was starting to look impatient, Harry could tell. By the way she was shifting her weight on her left foot, she indicated that she wanted this conversation over. Eryoure hair looks great, too, DAMN IT. LAMER! By that time, Ginny was torn between amusement and annoyance. Harry on the other hand, silently hated himself for being so lame. Why couldnt he just tell her what he wanted to say? An awkward silence occurred between them once again. Ginny was already tapping her foot impatiently. The annoyance on her face was becoming more evident by the minute and Harry felt he was running out of time. He needed to say something with sense. He didnt want to let her go just yet. Harry, is there something youd like to tell me? she asked, Something important? Yes. I want to tell you so many things, Harry thought in his head. But his tongue was tied and he could not tell Ginny what he truly wanted her to know. Ginny sighed and smoothened her dress. It seems her impatience got the best of her. Look Harry, if you have nothing to tell me- I missed you. Just like that. It didnt take Harry more than five seconds to finally tell her what he wanted to say. He saw Ginnys eyes widen in surprise at what he had just said. Why wouldnt she? Harry himsel f couldnt believe what he had just done. His hands turned cold and he could feel his stomach churning. He couldnt help but question himself. Did he do the right thing? I missed you, Ginny, he repeated, A lot. He awaited her response. Looking at her, Harry felt as if he was seeing one dominant emotion on her face but he just couldnt tell what emotion it was. Could it possibly be guilt? Harry then her voice faltered. Thats what I wanted to say, Ginny. I wanted to tell you thatI missed you, said Harry, I know, I

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sound stupid right now. Im sorry butIjust wanted you to know that. There was silence. Harry figured he would seize the moment to tell her everything he wanted to say. He turned his back on her, feeling he would mess up if he saw her brown eyes piercing him. He clenched his fists and gulped some air. When I saw you a while agoI felthappy, he confessed, Its the first time I saw you ever sincewewell, its the first time I saw you in three years. And now that youre here, all I can say isIm really glad youre back. The wind blew gently on Harry as he lit up his face and looked at the stars above. At the back of his head, he wondered if he was making a fool of himself. But he couldnt run away, not now that he had told her that he missed her. He had to face the music, or rather, face what Ginny has to say. Harry He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. With one swift move, he was facing Ginny once again. The expression on her face was unreadable. Her arms were resting on her sides and the wind blew her red curls. Its been long, huh? she asked. Yeah, Harry said sheepishly. Ginny made a small smile and took steps towards him. A minute later, he was face to face with Ginny Weasley. He could smell that flowery fragrance he had always loved so much. She was pretty much the same, only more beautiful and enchanting than before. She looked up at him and Harry saw her beautiful brown eyes. Im also glad to see you again, Harry, she said. Without thinking, Harry pulled her for a hug. He hugged her tight, hoping all the unsaid things would be understood. A wave of memories flashed in his mind as he held Ginny in his arms. Without any warning, a tear rolled down from his eye. It was the hug they used to share back then. The very same. Harry could feel Ginnys breath on his neck as he buried his face in her hair. He could feel his own heart pounding wildly against his chest. I missed you so much, he whispered in her ear. He never wanted to let go. Harry Ginny slowly pulled away from him. There was an awkward look on her face that suggested she didnt feel the same way as Harry. She pushed away a strand of hair and looked at him. Her look gave Harry an unpleasant feeling. Harry, I knowthis feels awkward for the both of us, especially for me, she said, Its been three years since wewell, weve fallen out. I know, said Harry. You dont have to remind me, he added bitterly in his mind. Ginny took a deep breath. Well, to be honest Harrythings have changed. Im really happy to see you,

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really am but I still cant help but feel quiteawkward, she said then she turned her back at him. It doesnt have to feel awkward, said Harry, putting a hand on her shoulder. Things are different now, Harry. We cant turn things back the way they used to be, continued Ginny. Why was she saying that? Did she know that Harry was still not over her? And did she have any idea that her words were piercing Harry like daggers? Im notplanning on bringing back the past, Ginny. I just missed you, he lied to her. Ginny turned to face him once more, a look of doubt on her face. Harry, I just want to start over again. I want a new and fresh beginning. Im sure you understand me, right? she asked him. Yes, Silence once again. Ginny, Id be lying if I told you Im okay now, Harry said, seizing the moment, Id be lying if I said that Im over you. He could see the sudden alarm in Ginnys eyes. Harry, we dont have to go there- I want to let it all out, Ginny, Harry, please, said Ginny, stepping away from him, We dont have to talk about this anymore. Ginny was all Harry was able to say. He was at lost for words. Seeing Ginny backing off from him gave him that painful tug in his heart. It gave him the premonition that the worse is yet to come. Harry, I- Ginny! Harry and Ginny were both startled at the voice. Behind Ginny was a man with dark blond curls falling on his face, which emphasized his brilliant blue eyes. He seemed to be Harrys age, even older. The grin on his face showcased his amazing set of white teeth. Caleb, said Ginny. The man eagerly approached Ginny and enveloped her in a hug. It was as if Harry wasnt even there. What the bloody hell? I missed you Gin-Gin, said the man. Gin-Gin? Without warning, the man kissed Ginny. Right in front of Harry His hands balled into fists. He could feel his heart just ramming against his chest and his head aching

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at the painful image he was seeing. A part of him wanted to tear the bloke limb from limb while the other part restrained him from doing so. It was similar to the time he saw Ginny snogging Dean, but worse. Caleb, Ginny whispered, pushing the man away. The man on the other hand, noticed Harry for the first time. Oh, Im sorry, he said to Harry. Then his eyes suddenly widened in shock as he stared at Harry, Bloody hell, its Harry Potter! Uhyeah, said Harry, trying to maintain his voice. Ginny pulled herself together and touched the blokes hand. Caleb, thats Harry Potter, she said. I know, Gin, said the man excitedly then he eagerly approached Harry and shook his hand. Pleasure to meet you Mr. Potter, been a huge fan, said the bloke named Caleb, Im Caleb by the way, Caleb Andrews. Pleasure, said Harry shortly. His eyes watched Ginny. Hes my boyfriend, she said.

From the corner of his eye, Harry could see Caleb placing an arm around Ginnys shoulder as they chatted with Bill. Ginny casually leaned on Calebs shoulder as the conversatio n with her older brother progressed. He felt his blood boil at the sight of it. Apparently, Harry wasnt the only person who knew about Caleb anymore. After Calebs arrival had interrupted Harry and Ginnys conversation, Ginny hurriedly pulled Caleb insid e to introduce him to the rest of her family. Harry was the first to hear of the news. And now he was seated beside Ron and Hermione, watching Ginny and Caleb, who was seated on the next table. Harry, whispered Hermione. Yes? Youre doing it again, she said as she took a sip of champagne. Doing what? Staring at them, she whispered. Harry lowered his eyes guiltily. Hermione was right; he had been staring at them ever since Caleb had arrived. Im sorry Hermione, I just cant help it, he confessed. Youve got to stop torturing yourself, mate, said Ron, Staring at them wont help. Harry looked at Ron. Ron had taken the news of Caleb with politeness Harry had never expected. Ron would usually go against blokes who were after Ginny but when Ginny introduced Caleb to him, Ron had been pleasant. According to Hermione, Ron had been so for his sisters sake and because she had just been back after being gone for three years. Harry took a sip of his champagne and took a small glance of Ginny once more.

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He watched her laugh as Caleb made some sort of joke Harry could not hear. He could see her eyes sparkling as she laughed and playfully punch Caleb on the shoulder. But it wasnt her laugh that harmed Harry; it was the way she looked at Caleb. It was the same look she gave him when they were still together. The way her eyes didnt leave Calebs face reminded him of the way her eyes did not leave his face when he was talking to her. It was painful to watch them. Harry, Hermiones voice snapped him out as he set his glass down. Hermione gave him a knowing look as she chewed her beef gracefully. Harry heaved a sigh as he closed his eyes, dearly hoping he was having a nightmare. But he wasnt How do you find Caleb? he suddenly asked Ron. Ron was taken aback. Erwell, I think hes a nice bloke, he said, Quite funny actually. And I think hes nuts about my sister. I mean, the way he looks at her kind of gave him away. And from the looks of it, seems like hes also quite her type- Ron, pass me a canap, interrupted Hermione, annoyed by Rons lack of tact. Oherokay, said Ron. Harrys eyes fell downward. It was as if someone had just stomped on his heart, broke it into pieces and no one even bothered to pick it up. He couldnt absorb the fact that Ginny was with someone else alreadythat someone already owned herthat he was too late Harry, theyre not yet married, dont be so down, said Hermione. Harry looked at Ginny and Caleb once more. Now Ginny was once again leaning on Calebs shoulder as Caleb chatted with Bill. Theyre as good as one, he murmured to Hermione. He heard Ginnys laughter once more. It pained him to see that she was happy in the arms of some other bloke. But she wasnt his anymore He had no right. He felt Hermione pat his shoulder in sympathy. Its gonna be alright, she told him. For once, Harry doubted Hermiones advice.

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Past Midnight The engagement party was over. After many swigs of butterbeer and champagne, never ending dances and countless jokes, the party was over. Guests started bidding Ron and Hermione goodbye as they disapparated into the night. Mrs. Weasley seemed thrilled that her party was a success with the guests. Mr. Weasley on the other hand was red in the face for drinking too much champagne and was being escorted back to the Burrow by a displeased Percy. Harry was standing in front of the marquee, hands inside his pockets. Ron and Hermione were still inside, busy bidding guests thank yous and goodbyes. So much had happened tonight. Harry couldnt even figure how to handle all of them. He heaved a sigh as he stared at the stars above. Hours ago, he swore he would forget Ginny and now there he was, admitting to himself that he simply could not do it, especially now that she was back. But the hard part was There was some other bloke in the picture. Oh god, Im a mess, he whispered to the wind. He wanted to go home and get some rest. He wanted to shut his eyes and erase all the painful images he had seen tonight. He wanted to forget. Ill be right back, Hearing Ginny sent him to a state of alarm. He heard her footsteps halt to a stop. Harry? He turned around to face her. Ginny, he said. She rubbed her arms, her eyes unable to meet his. Are you going home? she asked casually. Yeah, Ive already said goodbye to Ron and Hermione, he answered quite stiffly. Oh was all Ginny said. His eyes were also unable to look at her. He figured that if he looked at her, it would spark the pain he endured throughout the party. Wellgoodnight then, she said. Yeah, goodnight Then with a swift move, Harry turned his back on her. He was sure Ginny did the same thing. Ginny, he called once more.

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Yes? He gulped. About what happened a while agowhat I said Yeah? Forget about it. And with that, Harry disapparated into the night Hoping fervently that he too would forget.

Chapter 4: IV. Worse

The morning sun wasted no time in blinding Harry Potter with its glorious rays. The light reflected thru the window and was aiming mercilessly at Harrys still closed eyes, forcing him to wake up from his sleep. Yawning widely, Harry ran a hand thru his hair and rumpled it. The nights festivities had left him tired for the day and he had a desire to go back to sleep. But it was a Monday, another work day and being the Head Auror, he had no right to be absent for no reason. Grudgingly, he left his soft bed and slowly made his way to the kitchen to prepare his own breakfast. He quickly placed two pieces of bread inside the toaster as he magically brewed his coffee. He heard a tapping noise outside his window. A large barn owl was tapping at the glass, a newspaper clasped within its beak. Harry opened the window and allowed the owl to hop inside. Here you go, he said, handing the owl two knuts. The owl dropped the paper and automatically flew away once it had received its payment. Harry took the paper and proceeded to his toaster to retrieve his bread. Accio butter, he said, wand pointed at the fridge. The dish of butter magically zoomed out of its original place into Harrys waiting hand. Settled with his so-called breakfast, Harry sat on his table and took a sip of coffee. He opened the Daily Prophet and ignored the headline because his job at the Ministry made sure he learned the big news before the Prophet does. Instead, he scanned for the little bits of other news scattered on the newspaper. There was one about a local citizen sprouting tentacles over his head because he had to prove himself to his brother. Another news was about a woman who miraculously gave birth to triplets at once (which kind of made Harry lose his appetite). The last news involved the disappearances of three girls from Cumbria, which is being associated to some sort of cult. Depressing. Harry turned the page. Landing on the sports page, he found himself face to face with a picture of Ginny Weasley, in her Quidditch robes and on her broom. Underneath the picture was the headline: GINNY WEASLEY RETURNS TO THE HARPIES; HARPIES FANS REJOICE Harry felt his stomach churn at the sight of Ginnys picture. It sent back memories from last night Ugly memories.

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And it reminded him of the boyfriend, whose name Harry had forgotten already. He still couldnt accept the fact that she was taken, that he had already lost his chance when he had only seen her last night. She was happy in the arms of someone else and it wasnt Harry Potter. Well what did he expect? It was his fault after all And now he was reaping the consequences. When he came home last night, Harry immediately threw himself on the bed without even bothering to remove his dress robes. The image of Ginny being kissed by her boyfriend right in front of him stung Harry like a Cruciatus Curse on its maximum level. He felt his hands ball into fists once more as he buried his face underneath all the blankets. Harry continued to stare at Ginnys photo. Then he proceeded to read the article about her. arriving yesterday for her brother and Auror Ronald Weasleys engagement to Hermione Granger of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Miss Weasley was reported to have spoken with the Harpies captain, Gwenog Jones, and affirmed her return to the celebrated all -female Quidditch team. Team Captain Jones confirmed this statement at three in the morning, stating, Were glad to have Ginny back on the team. We could use her amazing Chasing skills once more. ( Ctd. Page 15, HARPIES) So Ginny was back with the Holyhead Harpies. That mustve meant shes staying for go od and has no intentions of leaving anymore. Thinking about Ginny and the Harpies brought back memories of Harry missing most of Ginnys matches ever since he was promoted. He recalled how Ginny would try to understand why he wasnt able to watch. God, he did mess up. He took one last glance at Ginnys photograph and decided to close the paper. Wallowing wasnt going to do him any good at all. Wallowing about Ginny Weasley to be specific was not going to do him any good. Finishing his coffee and toast, Harry stood up and cleaned up after himself. Rumpling his hair once more, he looked outside the window. Then he glanced back at the Daily Prophet, which contained a photo of Ginny. This will be the first day of your life, Potter, he told himself. As expected, the Auror office was in a buzz on a Monday morning. Owls began swooping down and dropping posts for the day. People bustling in and out of the Auror office. Stacks of papers dropped on every cubicle Harry was already inside his own cubicle, signing papers and re-reading proposals for safety from his fellow Aurors. His desk was stacked with papers and notes galore it was already hard to figure how Harry will ever manage to get them done. Looking at the stacks of papers on his desk gave Harry a sick feeling. He buried his head under his arms. He had never been that tired since the Battle of Hogwarts. For a moment, he felt a pang of pain in his head. Mr. Potter?

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Harry looked up and saw Tyler peeking in his cubicle. Yes Tyler? he asked. Would you like some coffee, sir? asked Tyler, Because it seems to me that you need some sort of a booster, Mr. Potter. Harry eyed his assistant of two years. Tell me, said Harry, rubbing his forehead, Do I look terrible today, Tyler? The boy smiled sheepishly. To be honest, sir, I think you look absolutely awfully tired today, he confessed, Youve looked awful since this morning, sir. Harry rumpled his hair and chuckled. If there was one thing he truly admired about Tyler, it would be the boys brutal honesty. That honesty has been able to help Harry all these years in the Auror office. Hand me that mirror, he said. Tyler immediately grabbed the nearest mirror and gave it to Harry. Harry noticed dark circles under his bloodshot eyes. He looked paler than usual and quite peaky too. His mess of a hair added to the whole tiring image. His assistant was right: he did look awful. Putting down the mirror aside, Harry smiled at Tyler. What do I look like to you, Tyler? Aside from looking awful. What aura do you perceive of me? he asked once more, interested to know what Tyler had in mind. You look like someone who hasnt had any decent sleep for a year, sir, replied Tyler. This answer made Harry laugh loudly inside his cubicle. He also heard Tyler laughing along. But seriously sir, said Tyler once their laughter had subsided, I think you need a day off. Harry settled back on his chair and stared at Tyler, Why should I need one? Im head of this office. People will come looking for me, he said. I know sir, but ever since I started out as your assistant, Ive been watching you work yourself hard. I rarely see you take a step back and just relax, Mr. Potter. Every time I see you, youre either busy signing papers or occupied with busting lawbreakers or simply busy fixing arrangements with other people, explained the assistant, In my opinion sir, you need a break. Youre obsessed with your new job Harry, The memory rang out clear as a bell. It was Ginnys voice Tylers words conjured the memory of Ginny telling Harry that he had prioritized his job over her. Harry recalled how Ginnys tears rolled endlessly from her eyes, how she sobbed on the day they fell aparthow the pain was so evident on her face. ErMr. Potter? Harry shook his head. He had been thinking of Ginny again. You were saying, Tyler? said Harry. Sir, why dont you take a week off? suggested Tyler, I mean, youve never been absent from work before. I think its time for you to have some time to yourself, sir. Just because youre the head, that doesnt mean youre not allowed to rest. Harry looked at Tyler then at the stack of papers on his desk. True enough, he wasnt in the mood to sign legal papers and to be on duty, especially now that Ginnys return is bothering him. Tyler had a point. He needed a break.

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A break he denied himself for years Harry stood up from his desk. You know what, Tyler? Youre right, I do need a break, he said, Im leaving you in charge for the week. This bit of news seemed to have surprised the assistant as Tyler clumsily dropped a stack of papers he was holding. II beg your pardon? he asked. Youll be in charge for a week, repeated Harry, Please do all the explaining Tyler and have all the papers I need to sign to be placed here on my desk. Other matters may be informed to you so you can consult me when I get back. Ohwell, okay sir, said the suddenly perplexed assistant. Harry took his wand and grabbed his bag as he headed outside the Auror office. Thanks a lot Tyler! he called off to his assistant who merely smiled at him. He was going to take a week off. He was going to relax. He was going to relieve himself of all the stress. Physically and emotionally. Suddenly, he felt lighter. He felt as if someone had taken his burden away from him. Technically, his assistant Tyler did but still, it felt incredible to be free from work. Harry immediately escaped the Auror office in order to avoid any more interruptions or work. He broke into a run as he stepped into the corridors of the Ministry. As he ran, he heard whispers of the people he passed. Mr. Potter! Wheres he going? Whats the rush? Is there an emergency? He grinned. It was as if he had gone back to Hogwarts, late for Transfiguration and his schoolmates talking about the famous Harry Potters latest escapades. For a moment, Harry wished he were back at Hogwarts. When he wasnt busy worrying about Voldemort, life was pretty easy. He missed being a student. Harry took a detour, made a stop at a secluded space near the bathrooms and leaned on the nearest pillar, hidden from the eyes of the Ministry people. He breathed deeply and looked around. It was quite dark around him The darkness conjured a memory. It reminded him of the times he and Ginny would escape the eyes of their schoolmates by spending their time under a tree by the lake, away from the Hogwarts grounds. They would usually just sit there, bask under the sun and talk. Their conversations would range from their school activities to their deepest worries. For a moment, it was as if Harry could feel Ginny lacing her fingers thru his hands, her melodious laughter ringing along. She would lean on his shoulder and he would automatically breathe in her trademark flowery scent and wrap an arm around her.

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Those were the days. He sighed as he rubbed his forehead. He has got to stop thinking about Ginny Weasley if he wanted to forget about her. Figuring the darkness wasnt helping a bit, Harry straightened up and quickly started walking aw ay from that dark, secluded placeOH! Harry had bumped into someone. Im so sorry- he started to say when he realized He had bumped into Ginny Weasley herself. Its okay- said Ginny who stopped at the sight of Harry. He saw her eyes widen. For a moment, an awkward silence filled the air. Harry figured he had enough with the awkwardness. He racked his brain for the proper words to tell Ginny. Whatre you doing here? he suddenly blurted out. Wow. Real smooth. If Ginny was offended by his sudden question, she didnt show it. Harry on the other hand, realized his mistake and awfully wished he could take it back. I visited the Department of Magical Games and Sports to hand over my form, she said quite stiffly, Im back with Harpies, you see. Eryeah, I read about it in the Prophet, said Harry. Right, said Ginny. Harry automatically shoved his suddenly stone-cold hands in his pockets. Seeing Ginny right after he recalled beautiful memories of her made Harry feel sick to his stomach. He wasnt used to seeing Ginny all stiff and cold with him. Uhso what are you doing here? asked Ginny, her hands behind her back. Harry thought this awkward meeting also gave her a queasy feeling. Breaking out from work, answered Harry. He saw Ginnys eyes lit up at his answer. It was as if his answer had caught her attention. Breaking out from work? she asked. Harry grinned sheepishly at her. Yeah, kind of escaping from work, he told her. Harry Potter is escaping from work? asked another voice. The voice sounded oddly familiar. Sure enough, the voice belonged to Ginnys boyfriend who had just exited the bathroom and was rubbing his hands dry. Harry completely forgot the blokes name.

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Was it Calvin? Casey? Carlos? And it didnt stop him from being somewhat annoyed at the sight of him. The bloke seemed please at seeing Harry. Mr. Potter! Pleased to see you again! he said cheerfully, Im Caleb, by the way, in case you forgot. Caleb Andrews, sir. Then he grinned widely, showing off his set of pearly white teeth. Nice to meet you too, Caleb, said Harry. The pleasures mine, sir! Been a fan for years, said Caleb excitedly. Oddly, Harry was reminded of Dobby. Caleb appeared like an overexcited house elf who worshipped the ground Harry stepped on. Call me Harry, he told Caleb. He saw Calebs eyes widen in some sort of delight and Harry had to fight the urge to laugh. Wow. Harry, said Caleb, Did you hear that, Gin? I can call him, Harry. Ginny smiled sheepishly at Harry as Caleb approached her and slung an arm around her. At the sight of Calebs arm around Ginny, Harry felt a monster roaring inside of him. He had a strong desire to pull out his wand and hex the hell out of Caleb. But being the good man he is, Harry decided to pull his eyes away from Calebs hand. Hey erHarry, youre skipping work, right? asked Caleb. Yeah, First time hes done that, remarked Ginny. Harry looked at her and noticed there was a slight tone at the way she spoke. Smug, perhaps? Or sarcastic? I guess you can say that, he said. Well, in that casemaybe youd like to join us for brunch? offered Caleb. Both Harry and Ginny looked at Caleb, different reactions on their faces. Harry was somewhat surprised at the sudden offer. He looked at Ginny, and for a second, he noticed a hint of disagreement on her face. As if she didnt want Harry to join them for brunch IId love to, answered Harry. The delight on Calebs face was unmistakable. That would be wonderful! I know a good place to eat, he said, Lets go then. Youre not going back to work, right? he asked. Not really, Good, said Caleb, grinning, This should be fun, eh Ginny? he asked his girlfriend, winking at her. Ginny looked hesitant, her eyes unable to meet Harrys for a moment. If Caleb was able to sense the awkward moment, he didnt show. He continued grinning wildly at Harry, eyes sparkling and all that. Yeah, said Ginny, It would be fun. She glanced at Harry then smiled at Caleb. Tarry on, then! said Caleb cheerily, taking Ginny by the hand and leading the way. Harry followed behind them, unable to take his eye off Ginny and Calebs entwined hands. Watching them walk together made Harry felt left out. It didnt help that Ginny kept glancing lovingly at Caleb or that Caleb would often shoot loving looks at Ginny. In fact, Harry wondered if he made a mistake in joining them for brunch.

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He sighed, ignoring the stares of the onlookers who passed them. Probably they were wondering what the great Harry Potter was doing, trailing after his ex-girlfriend with her new boyfriend. A few moments ago, he had sworn he would take a break from life. He would take a day off in order to de-stress, physically and emotionally. Yet here he was Trailing after his ex-girlfriend Enduring the blooming pain And about to have brunch with the bloke Ginny was with. Life couldnt get crueler than this. Harry bit on his buttered roll and glanced at Ginny while Caleb chattered endlessly. Ginny on the other hand, met his eyes for a short second then withdrew them almost immediately. Harry averted his gaze on Caleb instead, his heart aching inside. Caleb took them to the nearest restaurant and practically ordered a whole mount of food on their table. He asked Harry of his favorite foods and made it sure that he ordered the right menu. Its been an hour and Harry had already heard about Calebs background. Now he was chattering about his admiration of Harry and I cant believe Im meeting you at last! Harry smiled as Caleb finished his chatter about how pleased he was at meeting the Harry Potter at last. But enough about me blabbering about my admiration of you, sir- I mean, Harry, said Caleb, What about you? Youre an Auror. A fantastic one, I bet. Wellyeah, I am one but Im not that good, said Harry modestly, Ive had help from my excellent fellow Aurors at the Ministry. Oh but you defeated the Dark Lord! Thats something no one can ever do, Harry. You escaped him thrice, am I right? asked Caleb eagerly. Eryes, Harry answered shortly. Ginny had been quiet for most of the conversation. When she was forced to talk, she would do so politely as if Harry was some sort of acquaintance. Harry had the feeling that Ginny did not like the position she had landed herself into and it saddened him to realize that. Hes awesome, isnt he, Ginny? Caleb asked, looking at Ginny. Ginny glanced at Harry hesitantly, their eyes meeting for a fraction of a second. Yeshe is awesome, she answered, taking her eyes o ff Harry and smiling at Caleb. Then she took a bite of the roll she had in her plate and resumed her quiet demeanor. Sensing her distress sent Harry into a tidal wave of emotions. Things werent like this before He fixed his gaze on his chicken and sighed. So, Harry, youre close to Ginnys brother, Ron, right? asked Caleb after taking a sip of wine, From what Ive heard, youve been best friends since your days at Hogwarts, right?

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Yeah, answered Harry. Caleb nodded, I see, so that means youve known Ginny for quite some time too? I mean, if you spent so much time with Ron then you mustve spent some time with Ginny too, he said, wrapping an arm around Ginnys shoulder again. The question caught Harry off guard. Inside Harrys head, he knew p erfectly well that Caleb was better off not knowing the answer. Yet one side of him nudged him to tell Caleb the truth. But he asked, didnt he? But given the circumstancesHe should know. Then maybe hed think twice Think twice for what? ErHarry? Harry? Harry was brought back to reality by Calebs voice. Oh, sorry, said Harry, You were saying? Caleb smiled, I was asking if you spent a lot of time with Ginny too, seeing you were close with her brother, Ron, he said. Yeah, I was close to Ginny. Closer than you know, I was her boyfriend was the answer Harry was dying to tell Caleb. But Harry wasnt about to let that spill from his mouth. Uhmyeah, we did spend time with each other, said Harry, But Ginny hung out with a different crowd during our Hogwarts years and I hung out with Ron most of the time. Fascinating, remarked Caleb, rubbing his wrists, But you cant have possibly not spent some time with Ginny. From what Ive learned, you spent your summers at the Weasleys right? Harry met Ginnys eyes. Most of them, actually, answered Harry. Caleb laughed, Then you mustve seen my Ginny a lot too, he said. Harry merely smiled. He had seen Ginny a lot, more than Caleb knew. He had witness her grow up from a jerky, awfully shy little girl to the free-spirited, feisty and beautiful woman she is now. He had seen her hide behind a door, gaze at him from a distance and run off whenever he was within the area. He had seen her looking majestically atop her broom, zooming off for the quaffle and become the life of the team. He had seen her closer her eyes the moment they first kissed in the middle of a room filled with fifty people. Yes, he had definitely seen her a lot. More than Caleb knew. I have, admitted Harry. He did not look away from Ginny. There was something in the way Ginny looked back at him that made him wonder what was in her mind. Her brown eyes appeared to be searching him

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Or so he thought. Perfect, said Caleb, That means I can learn so much from you, then. Erexcuse me? asked Harry, clearly confused with Caleb. Caleb laughed, I can learn more about Ginny from you. Youve seen her a lot, therefore you know so much about her, he said, Trust me, Harry. Though Ginny and I have been dating for a year, I feel like I still know so little about her. Then he lovingly looked at Ginny, giving Harry a queasy feeling. Eris that so? asked Harry unsurely. Caleb heaved a sigh and he did not take his eyes off Ginny. Not only did he give Harry the impression of being like Dobby, he appeared like a love-sick puppy. And it did not alleviate the tension inside Harry one bit. Yeah, its a shame really, said Caleb, finally looking at Harry again, Ginny here is the most perfect girl anyone could ask for and yet here I am, still lacking knowledge of her. Sometimes I feel like I dont deserve her, you know. Like Im so befit of herthe most wonderful girl in the entire world, Then his eyes landed on Ginny once more. Harry saw a blush creep on Ginnys cheeks. As much as Harry would like to deny it, he couldnt help but be moved and at the same time be bothered by Calebs words. In fact, Harry was more bothered with the way Caleb looked at Ginny was he made his little speech. He looked so IN LOVE with Ginny. Devoted. Loyal. IN LOVE. No words to describe it. And it made Harry feel the guilt he had buried deep inside him three years ago. Thats nice, he commented shortly, unable to think of any other words to say. Isnt it? asked Caleb, Thats why I want to know her more and Ill be depending on you and Ron for Ginny lessons. I want to make sure I dont run short on information regarding the girl I love. At that exact moment, Ginny stared at Harry. It was as if she wanted Harry to know somethingto te ll him that Caleb was right or something similar in perspective. It was as if she wanted him to take in every word Caleb was saying. Harry could feel his ears burning. He had to get out of there. He couldnt take it anymore. He suddenly stood up. Harry? asked Caleb, Are you okay? Did I say something? For a moment, Harry was speechless. He racked his brain for a decent excuse. Ginny was looking up at him too, her eyes reflecting speculation and wonder. It pained Harry to realize that Ginny was different, she had changed. She was not the person he used to know.

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It had also pained him to realize that it was over. What they hadwas truly over. Im sorry, Harry finally managed to say, Its just thatI suddenly remembered I forgot to take some important papers with me while Im on leave. I thought you were breaking away from work, remarked Ginny, sarcasm hinting a bit in her voice. Harry looked at her once more. Ginny met his stare. It was really over. Harry gulped and looked at Caleb instead. Im sorry, but I really have to go, he told him. Then he quickly got off from his seat and headed towards the door. Harry! Harry stopped in his tracks, hearing Caleb call his name. His feet were itching to leave at the very moment. Harry hesitantly turned around to face Caleb. Before you go, I want you to have this, said Caleb, handing Harry what looked like a small piece of parchment. It was a ticket to a Quidditch match between the Wimbourne Wasps and the Holyhead Harpies set on Friday. Caleb, I- Take it. Its Ginnys comeback match. We want you to be there, said Caleb, Besides, watching a Quidditch match would be perfect for your vacation, right? Harry looked at the ticket held by Calebs outstretched arm then he looked past Cale b, at Ginny. Her eyes were somewhat distant and cold But there was something else. Harry took his eyes off Ginny and forcefully smiled at Caleb. Sure, he said, taking the ticket. Caleb grinned and patted Harrys shoulder, See you there, then! he said then he walked back to Ginny. Harry on the other hand, immediately left. He was headed towards the one place where he could find some solitary peaceand a bit of sunshine. Unca Haweeee!! Harry grinned as he felt the impact of the hug on his body. He buried his face in the forest of sandy-colored hair. How are you Teddy? He felt his arms tighten around the four-year old boy

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His four-year old godson, Teddy Remus Lupin The boy grinned manically at his godfather, his hair changing color tones, from sandy to red. Fine, fine, fine! squealed Teddy. Harry scooped up his godson and proceeded inside the home of Andromeda Tonks, mother of Harrys deceased good friend, Nymphadora Lupin, mother of Teddy. Harry! Harry smiled as Andromeda appeared at the front door, a tray of fresh-baked cookies on her hands. Hello Dromeda, Harry greeted, Need help with those cookies? Andromeda laughed as she escorted Harry inside their home.

Why are you here, Unca Hawee? asked Teddy. I came to see you of course, Harry said, gazing at Teddys brown eyes. Are you okay? he asked again. For a moment, Harry did not answer his godson. Because deep inside, Harry was not okay. In fact, he felt terrible. It was the reason why he decided to visit Teddyto find some relief and happiness in the form of his 4 year old godson. Andromeda seemed to have also noticed the silence. She was looking at Harry, studying him. Unca Hawee? Harry held his godson tighter. Teddy, can you hug Uncle Harry tighter? he asked. The little boy obliged to the request, tightening his grip on his godfather. Harry fed of Teddys hug, erasing all the painful memories and focusing on his loving godson. He tried to forget the sarcasm in Ginnys voice The way Caleb never took his eyes off her The way they looked so in love with each other The stubborn reality that he and Ginny may never have a chance

He suddenly scented the smell of chocolate under his nose. Cookie? Andromeda held a cookie under his nose, her eyes comforting. Harry smiled. She seemed to have understood.

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Lets talk, shall we? she said. Harry nodded, willing to release all he had inside. With Teddy in his arms, Harry joined Andromeda at the sitting room, hoping fervently that her cookies would be able to wash away some of the hurt.

Chapter 5: V. That Fateful Quidditch Game

It was hard to believe that he had just spent his last hour and a half at Snapes stone cold office doing detention. The euphoria erupting around him was viral. He himself couldnt help but also rejoice. The Gryffindor House had just won the Quidditch Cup. Everyone had the right to rejoice. Looking around, Harry saw nothing but wide smiles, non-stop cheering, out-loud laughing and pure enjoyment. The House of Godric Gryffindor was celebrating their joyous victory. Ron had just shown him the silver Cup, the living proof of their victory and Harry felt the happiness burst inside him. They won. He looked around once more and saw Ginny Weasley running toward him; she had a hard, blazing look on her face as she threw her arms around him. She looked so happy, her brown eyes twinkling with joy. And without thinking, without planning it, without worrying about the fact that fifty people were watching, Harry kissed her. It was probably the most blissful moment in Harrys life. After several moments, they broke apart. He looked at Ginny, red in the cheeks and eyes sparkling in delight. She was the only real thing in the world. With one move, he took her hand and took her outsideaway from the eyes of the fifty people who witnessed their first kiss. Looking at Ginny, he realized one truth. He was definitely the happiest bloke on the planet. UNCA HAWEEEE!! Harrys eyes fluttered. His vision was blurry as expected. He felt something balancing atop his stomach, something that giggled and gurgled. Unca Hawee!! It jumped on his stomach, shaking Harry awake. Harry extended his hand to his bedside table and started feeling for his glasses. Once he had them, he hurried wore his glasses. A second later, Teddy came into focus as he continued bouncing on his godfathers stomach. Unca Hawee! then he bounced once more.

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Ouch! groaned Harry. Teddy continued to beam at him, his brown eyes sparkling and his hair changing colors from pink to blue. Wakey, wakey! cried the little boy, Unca Hawee, wakey! Blimey Teddy, Im up, Im up, said Harry, hurriedly seating himself up. Teddy giggled merrily as his godfather sat up, tired from a little boys early morning harassmen t. Teddy! Get off your godfather! Harry was relieved when he saw Andromeda by the door holding a tray and a stern look on her face. Teddy Lupin, I said get off your godfather, she ordered sternly, Hes not a pillow, for goodness sake! Teddy pouted at his grandmother, a sight which Harry thought was his godsons charm. I was waking Unca Hawee up, explained Teddy, He gonna be late for broom game! Broom game? What on earth is a broom game? Andromeda asked, confusion on her face. Harry suppressed a laugh. He means Quidditch, explained Harry, He cant pronounce it right. Andromeda shook her head and sighed. Anyhow, that doesnt give you any right to harass your godfather, young man, she reprimanded Teddy, Hes spending his days here to get some rest, not to be tortured. Now get off your godfather. Teddys face fell and his hair returned to its normal color: brown. In doing so, he reminded Harry of Tonks. Teddy resembled both his parents evidently. He was a striking image of his father, Remus, but he inherited the spirit of his mother, Dora. He never failed to paint a smile on Harrys face. Grudgingly, Teddy removed himself from his godfather, shoulders hunched and he grumpily walked outside Harrys room. Andromeda rolled her eyes as Harry chuckled. Breakfast? she asked, lifting her tray. Yes please, answered Harry. Andromeda took her wand and levitated the tray towards him. It settled perfectly on his lap and one look made his mouth water. Thanks Andromeda, he said courteously, Youve been too kind already. Well, besides needing someone to babysit Teddy, I figured you needed a break yourself, Harry, remarked Andromeda. Harry had been staying over at Andromedas place for four days now. He had spent his week -long vacation by spending time with Teddy, helping out with the chores, hanging out with Ron and Hermione and basically spending time with Teddy. It was a week filled with nothing but happy moments. After his talk with Andromeda, she offered Harry to stay for the week in order to get his mind off things. He agreed to do so yet in exchange; he became his godsons babysitter, which Harry didnt mind. Maybe a week away from all that fuss will give you a clear head, Andromeda had suggested. He had also told her about his problems involving Ginny and her new beaux to which Andromeda had found it funny. She claimed that Harry reminded her of a teenager having trouble with love. To Harry, maybe he was a teenager having trouble with love.

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Hows the toast, dear? Androm eda asked. Its good, remarked Harry, stuffing his mouth with delicious toast. Next to Mrs. Weasley, Andromeda Tonks was one of the best cooks in the wizarding world. Are you meeting with Ron and Hermione later for the game? she inquired. Harry nodded, Well be meeting at the Leaky Cauldron. Are you sure its okay for me to bring Teddy along? he asked. Of course. Youd be doing me a favor, she teased. Harry laughed. Well, Ill be off shopping now, announced Andromeda, Ill be back in a whi le. Keep an eye on Teddy, will you? Sure, said Harry. Andromeda smiled. Enjoy your breakfast, she said and the she disapparated. Harry was left alone with his thoughts. He was trying to remember a particular dream he had awaken from moments ago. A dream that involved his pastinvolving Ginny herself In fact, it was a memory. As Harry savored his toast, he felt a sharp pang inside him. Dreaming of his first kiss with Ginny bothered him. It sent back flashes of memories that werent helping Harry to relax or recover at all. He can remember the way her eyes lit up in excitement as she flung her arms around him. He can vividly remember the taste of her lips when his first touched hers Talk about mental torture. Tonight, he would be watching Ginnys comeback match. Obviously, Caleb would be there and it was somehow a downer for Harry. But in fairness to Caleb, he seemed like a very nice bloke and Harry figured hed be acting unfair if he treated Caleb indifferently. The bloke had been super nice to him. He sighed. There was an ongoing war inside him. Should he or should he not attend the game? But he had already made plans to go with Ron and Hermione. Yet there was a part of him that said he still had time to back out. Decisions decisions. Suddenly, the door creaked, breaking Harrys thoughts. A pair of vibrant brown eyes stared at him. He had to chuckle. Broom game? asked Little Teddy. He smiled. The decision has been made. Yeah, broom game. BLOODY HELL! ITS HARRY POTTER!

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Harry cringed. The moment his name was called out, there was a stir among the crowd. He could hear the whispers and the murmurs in the air. He felt Rons arm around his shoulder. Cmon mate, our seats are there, he whispered to Harry, Lets go before the fans rush at you. Quickly, he and Ron headed to the Top Box where Hermione was already awaiting them. Beside her was an overexcited Teddy who kept squealing manically whenever hed see flying brooms. Hes such a sweetheart, remarked Hermione as she played with Teddys hair. What do you expect? He takes after his godfather, teased Harry. Hermione smirked as she continued caressing the child. Shes gonna want one once were married, whispered Ron, Shes been hinting about it. Harry laughed making Hermione glance suspiciously. Whatd you say? she demanded. Nothing, said Ron innocently, I told Harry nothing. Then he winked at Harry who bit his lip to repress his laughter. Hermione rolled her eyes and returned her attention to Teddy while Ro n heaved a sigh of relief. Harrys eyes wandered around the stadium. It reminded him of first time he watched the Quidditch World Cup with the Weasleys when he was fourteen. The stadium was filled with various types of witches and wizards, all bushy-tailed and excited for the game, especially since it was the game that marked the return of the well-beloved Chaser Ginny Weasley. Everywhere he looked he would spot a sea of either green or yellow-black colors, fans supporting either the Holyhead Harpies or the Wimbourne Wasps. Looking at the right, Harry saw a banner of Ginny being waved by a fan. The words Weasley for the Win was painted on Ginnys chest. Harry gulped as he saw Ginnys poster. It gave him butterflies in the stomach. Whatre those brooms for? Rons voice snapped Harry out. His best mate was indicating to the set of brooms propped nearby their seats. Emergency brooms I reckon, Harry answered, In case any of the players suffer from a fall. Arent there supposed to be marshals for those? asked Ron. Harry merely shrugged and returned his eyes to the stadium. Harry heard Teddy laugh. Hermione was cuddling his godson beside him. Rons eyebrow raised and nudged Harry, as if wanting to prove what he had just told his best mate. Harry cracked a smile as he watched Teddy fling his arms around Hermione. Hes so adorable, remarked Hermione as she brought Teddy closer to her. I can see that, said a cheery voice. Harry, Ron and Hermione watched Caleb as he ascended the steps, a wide grin on his face. Harry felt his stomach churn at the sight of him but he forced himself to grin back. Glad you made it! said Caleb. Then he clapped a hand on Rons shoulder, You okay there, Ron?

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Excellent, Ron answered back. Harry still found it qui te odd that Ron was not cold-shouldering Caleb the way he used to with Ginnys suitors. But probably since he was Ginnys boyfriend, things have changed. Calebs attention returned to Harry. The expression on his face truly and strongly reminded Harry of Dobby. He was wearing this overexcited manic look that Harry might as well figure he was absolutely glad Harry was present. Mr.- I mean, Harry! said Caleb, grasping Harrys hand and shaking it, Very nice to see you here! Do you like your seat? Nice view? Yeah, definitely, answered Harry. Ill be four rows down if you need anything, Harry. If you need anything, as in absolutely anything, I will get it for you, said Caleb. Ersure, answered Harry. Caleb grinned widely then he noticed Hermione. Oh hello there, Hermione. Didnt see you there! he exclaimed, Did you and Ron have fun with our brunch yesterday? Brunch? Harry didnt know that Hermione and Ron had spent time with Caleb. He eyed a suddenly nervous Ron behind Caleb. Yes, quite did, answered Hermione. Caleb chuckled and clasped Harrys shoulder, Too bad you werent able to join us, Harry. We absolutely missed you. It was quite fun. You should join us next time. Yeah sure, said Harry, still eyeing Ron. Wonderful! said Caleb, Well, I must get down now. Must be on time for Ginnys debut. Ill see you guys later! then with a swift movement, Caleb disappeared. Mental that guy is, remarked Ron. Why didnt you tell me youve had dinner with him? asked Harry, You told me you couldnt visit because you and Hermione had to see the dressmakers. What? asked Hermione, setting down Teddy, I told Ron to tell you were going to meet up with Caleb and Ginny. Both Harry and Hermione faced a jumpy Ron. His face was as red as hi s flaming hair. Oh alright, I lied to Harry, he confessed, I didnt want him to know we were going to meet up with that bloke. Why not? asked Harry. Ron fidgeted in his seat. Well, cause I know how you feel about Caleb andwell, I didnt think youd like it if you knew Mione and I were out with him, he explained. Oh Ron, thats preposterous! exclaimed Hermione. I didnt think Harry had to know! He feels bad that Ginnys with Caleb already! Why worsen it? Ronald, I dont think Harry wouldve been offended-! Guys, guys, said Harry, breaking them apart, Im here, he reminded them. Dont fight in front of Teddy, he continued, indicating to his godson who was staring at them ever since the commotion started.

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Hermione settled back in her seat, arms crossed and expression cross while Ron continued to fidget uneasily and guilt all over his face. Look, its alright with me, said Harry, You dont have to lie to me. I cant tell you guys what to do or what not to do. Dont always mind me. Sorry mate, I just thought it wouldyou knowhurt your feelings if we told you, said Ron. Harry smiled at his friend and shook his head. Nah, Ill be fine, he told Ron. Ron grinned back and settled on his seat. Harry faced a disgruntled Hermione. Dont pick on Ron, he warned. Hermione sighed and released her arms. I wont, she whispered, Thats why Im not talking. Harry smiled and touched Hermiones hand. Thanks, he said. Hermione smiled and resumed cuddling Teddy. As for Harry, his ga ze returned to the arena, waiting for the game to begin. Finally WELCOME, WELCOME TO THIS DAYS QUIDDITCH MATCH BETWEEN THE WIMBOURNE WASPS AND THE HOLYHEAD HARPIES! A burst of applause and cheers exploded in the crowd. Without further ado, hailing from the beautiful lands of Wimbourne, Dorset, I give youTHE WIMBOURNE WASPS! A second later, blurs of yellow and black came zooming out of the stands. The cheers that erupted were ear deafening that Harry saw Teddy plug his ears with his fingers. Ron was defiantly booing the Wasps as there players zoomed out one by one. And now, I give you MCKINLEY! A player donning a yellow and black Quidditch uniform flew to the sky with his broom, earning the wows and the appreciation of the fans. BEATON! VAN HOUTEN! KINGSTON! DENZEL! RHODES AAAAAND- McMILLER! The Wimbourne Wasps flew around the stadium, showing off their newest broom tricks and zooming past the amazed crowd. Gigantic wasp balloons appeared out of nowhere, emitting buzzing sounds and making the crowd go wild. Little Teddy was laughing merrily and clapping his hands as he watched the beautiful display. Harry grinned as he watched the Quidditch players arouse the people with their flying talents. Its been a while since he last watched a Quidditch match and it gave Harry a tiny bit of exultation to know that hes starting to lighten up a bit. After the cheers of the Wasps fans (also known as the Stingers) died out, the announcer continued. Now, flying from the Holy Island of the fantastic Holyhead, Wales, put your hands together for the HOLYHEAD HARPIES! Gold and green fireworks were released into the air, covering the sky with a shower of greenish gold sparkles. One by one, the members of the all-girls Quidditch team zoomed out in the air. Harry found himself looking for a certain red-haired girl zooming out on her own broom. I give you MORGAN!

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A brunette Quidditch player started zooming in circles and releasing some sort of gold-colored fairy dust at the same time. GRIFFITHS! ANDERSON! HILL! STUART! JONES AAAAND THE RETURN OF THE WELL-BELOVED CHASER OF THE HARPIESWEASLEY! At the sound of Ginnys name, Harry found himself straightening up. The roar of delight inside the stadium was more ear-deafening that Harry had the urge to cover his ears. But he forced himself to focus. The Harpies fans began chanting WEASLEY! WEASLEY! WEASLEY over and over again. Ginny sped out magnificently from the stands. The wind blew her flaming red hair, giving her that beautiful, majestic appearance on her broom. It was as if time stopped for Harry. As he watched Ginny zoom around, he saw her. ONLY HER. It was as if the whole stadium disappeared. She looked fierce as she flew. He felt his heart skip a beat. It was similar to the first time he watched her mount a broom and show her stuff. He never took his eyes off her. He followed her every movement and continued watching in awe. Harry! Harry felt a tug on his sleeve. He had gotten up from his sit and was apparently frozen. Hermione was tugging his sleeve. Sit down! she hissed, People will notice! Immediately, Harry sat down on his seat, ignoring the questioning look on Rons face. He watched the Harpies line up and face the Wasps. The referee had taken his position between the two teams and was apparently explaining the rules of the game. Harry watched Ginny not take her eyes off the referee, eating every rule he was feeding them. Of course refereeing this match is none other than Sir Floyd McKinon from the Department of Magical Games and Sports, said the announcer named Hayden Flattery, Seems like the rules and regulations have been settled already. The team captains, Gwenog Jones and Steven McMiller shook hands in front of McKinnon, signifying their agreement to a nice and fair game. The referee nodded his head, then with a blow of his whistle, he threw the Quaffle in the air. LET THE GAMES BEGIN!! roared Flattery. The players merely appeared as fast approaching blurs to the crowd. Harry could only make out Ginnys flaming red hair as she sped past the Wasp Chasers, chasing the Quaffle. And theyre off! Gone for three years and still on the go, Weasley is! Shes neck to neck with Wasp Chaser Beaton who is in position of the Quaffle! Beaton passes the Quaffle to Denzel and is being blocked by Morgan and-OOH! He misses the Bludger by Stuart! narrated and excited Flattery, Denzel passes back to- NO, WEASLEY STEALS IT! Ginny was able to steal the Quaffle from Denzel, making the crowd go wild.

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Weasleys up for the goal but shes being chased Van Houten. Kingston aims a bludger at her but Stuart is hits the bludger back! Weasleys heading for the goals and - SHE SCORES! TEN POINTS TO THE HARPIES! The Harpies fans rejoiced as Ginny made the first score of the game. Harry silently rejoiced along with them. She was brilliant as always and had even gotten better. As he watched her sped past Van Houten and passing the Quaffle to Morgan, he couldnt help but admire and be scared for her at the same time. She was so magnificent on her broomstick. Harry wondered why he missed her matches when they were still togetherwhy he took these beautiful scenes for granted. and the Wasps are in position of the Quaffle due to an excellent steal by Van Houten from Hill! He dodges a bludger from Anderson and passes the Quaffle to Denzel. Denzel swerves away from Weasley. Denzel passes the Quaffle to Van Houten and- WEASLEY STEALS IT AGAIN! Fans waved their gold and green banners as Ginny flew past the Wasp Chasers, clutching the Quaffle firmly. Ron was cheering madly for his sister while little Teddy had joined along the screaming. Hermione was waving her golden banner manically. Harry on the other hand did nothing but watch. She dodges the bludger from Stuart! Weasleys on the way to the goals once more. McKinley is watching her every moveWeasley escapes Van Houtenshe aimsSHE SCORES!! ANOTHER TEN POINTS TO THE HARPIES! Another roar of exaltation came from the fans of the Harpies. They rejoiced as they watched Ginny Weasley take the lead of the well-beloved all-girls Quidditch team. Although everyone was rejoicing and cheering around him, Harry was firmly seated on his seat. He was rejoicing inside, keeping it to himself. He wondered why he wasnt able to express it out loudwh y he kept it inside. As he watched the match, he felt a sudden pang of pain. A pain of realization. Ive spent too many sleepless nights, wondering why you didnt come to see my Quidditch matches It was as if Ginny was whispering those exact words she told him the night they broke up. He painfully recalled those times he would set Ginny aside in order to perform well in his job. The workload offered by his job caused him to be obsessed with his job as an Auror and to forget things that actually MATTERED to him. Ginny was one bright example. All she ever wanted was to see him watch her play. And he failed to give her that. And now there he was, watching his ex-girlfriend play and be admired by millions And he couldnt even express himself. he swerveshe aimsHE SCORES! TEN POINTS TO THE WASPS! SCORE IS 100 AND 180 IN FAVOR OF THE HARPIES! The match had been going on for almost an hour already. The crowd had witnessed a number of penalties, bludgers missed and well-aimed and Quaffles thrown in the goals. Yet the excitement within

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the stadium did not waver. In fact, it became livelier. Ron was waving his golden flag manically as he watched his sister zoom past her opponents, the Quaffle in her arms. Hermione was trying to calm down an overexcited Teddy as the boy jumped up and down, screaming and cheering at the top of his lungs. Harry on the other hand was still firmly seated, his heart pumping in excitement. As the minutes went by, he was able to loosen up a bit, cheering along with the crowd and occasionally yelling out for the Harpies. But he still wasnt able to cheer for Ginny alone. Whenever he tried, hed feel a lump on his throat and eventually he would refuse to yell out Ginnys name. Watching her for almost an hour gave Harry the fact that Ginny was nothing less than amazing. She was a brilliant Quidditch player. She was even better than brilliant. It was a shame that he was only able to appreciate that fact nowwhen things were over between them. He couldve at least given her more credit before. He couldve at least noticed As he watched Ginny, he sighed. She dodged a bludger attack from Stuart and swerved, tricked the enemy Chasers and shot another goal. Shes really goodHarry thought as he watched Ginny waved to the crowd and resume her position. This realization made him heave another sigh. He felt something warm touch his hand. Hermione smiled warmly at him, her brown eyes comforting him, as if she too could feel what he was feeling deep inside. She nodded encouragingly at him. Just enjoy, she whispered. Harry smiled back at her. He then returned his attention to the game. The Harpies had resumed their offensive positions while the Wasps raised their defense. The Harpies Seeker, Griffiths, was neck to neck with the Wasps Seeker, McMiller for the Snitch. Being a previous Seeker, Harry was able to follow the Golden Snitch even though it was bloody fast for the inexperienced eye to catch. He figured hed watch the Snitch instead of Ginny in order to remove the unease i nside him. For a moment, he watched Griffiths and McMiller chase the just released Snitch. They were quite high above the sky as the Snitch chose to move towards the higher path. He swore that he would watch only them till the match was over. But being Harry, he wasnt able to fulfill this. His eyes followed Ginny again as she raced against her opponents. As she did, Harry suddenly felt as if there was something quiteoff. Like there was something not quite right Ginny and her fellow Chaser, Morgan, were after Van Houten who was in position with the Quaffle. Everything seemed quite normal but to Harry, he felt something wrong. As if something was going to happen LOOK OUT! A second later, a rogue bludger had soared out from nowhere and was aiming to knock Griffiths and McMiller of their brooms. The crowd was practically screaming and many had stood up, fear etched on

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their faces. THERE IS A ROUGE BLUDGER IN THE ARENA! SOMEBODY STOP IT! yelled Flattery, SOMEBODY STOP THAT BLUDGER! A few marshals aimed spells at the bludger yet nothing seemed to have stopped it. It continued chasing after the Seekers, causing panic among players and spectators alike. Harry saw Ginny turn her broom to the opposite direction and upward in order to save her teammate from the bludger. She was speeding her broom so fast she was like a blur. Harry felt his heart thumping wildly against his chest. And the unexpected happened. The bludger abandoned the Seekers and went for Ginny instead. No one, not even Harry, could see what happened next as Ginny, knowing the bludger was after her, flew up towards the sky in order to escape it. Harry felt his insides churn unpleasantly as his eyes were glued to the sky. There was a crash And then OH MY GOD!! The next moment terrified everyone present. Ginny, unconscious, was falling fast from the sky. She was limp and still as her body zoomed downwards. The screams from the audience were ear-defining as everyone watched a beloved Chaser fall unconsciously. Harry suddenly became cold. WHERES THE BLOODY MARSHALL?! Without thinking twice, Harry quickly jumped up and set his sights on the nearby brooms. He hurriedly grabbed one, mounted it and flew from the stands. Ginny was falling fast from the sky and he had to reach her before she fell. Grasping his broom tightly, Harry sped past the stands and upwards towards Ginny. He had to get to her He had to save her He had to. Faster, thought Harry, I need to save her Harry leaned forward, speeding up, headed towards Gin ny In the nick of time, he was able to grab hold of Ginny. Her weight pulled him and his broom down, causing the possibility of harm to the both of them. I have to save her But Harry determinedly resisted gravity and pulled Ginny on his broom, able to maintain the balance. He looked at her and saw blood oozing from her forehead. She was pale and her eyes were closed. It pained Harry to see her limp. Please wake up, he begged, Please

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LOOK OUT!! The rogue bludger was after him now. Holding one arm tightly around Ginny and the other on his broom, he rapidly flew down back to the arena. The bludger was closely behind them, determined to knock him off his broom. He heard a soft moan. Ginny was somehow regaining consciousness. He looked down at her. Its gonna be alright, he murmured as he quickly flew down, Its gonna be alright. Ginnys eyes were closed once more. Harry could still feel the presence of the rogue bludger behind him. His heart was thumping wildly against his chest and the sweat beaded on his forehead. He had to lose it, he had to get Ginny somewhere safe. He had to. He failed to notice the panic-stricken crowd watching him attempt to save Ginny Weasley from the rogue bludger. There was only one thing in his mind: SAVE HER. Finally, he decided to fly towards the locker rooms. He saw the other Quidditch players trying to fend off the rogue bludger, giving him some time. Rapidly, he flew towards the opening of the Harpies locker room. Nearly crashing towards the lockers, Harry quickly got off his broom, ran to the door and shut it closed. Ginny was lying on the floor, her breathing quite even. The blood on her face had dried up but she looked somehow okay. She was safe. He removed a stray lock of hair from her face. Ginny he murmured. There was thumping on the door and it caught Harrys attention. Suddenly, the bludger burst thru the door. Harry quickly dived in front of Ginny andOH MY GOD! MR. POTTER! The next thing he knew, everything was fading. He felt no pain but he began to see nothing. The last thing he saw was Ginny lying on the floor Ginny he said once more. Then everything went black

Chapter 6: VI. Pretending

Ouch He felt pain in his head. It was as if someone had carelessly laid a metal block on top of his head and didnt bother to remove it. He couldnt remember anything nor could he feel. Darkness was his friend as he couldnt also see anything.

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But he could hearfuzzy sounds. Harry Hearing his name, Harry Potter was slowly regaining control of his body. He could feel his fingers and his hearing became more precise. wonder if hes okay? The light was beginning to blind him, even with his eyes closed. Slowly, he was also beginning to feel pain. He could feel his head aching unbearably. He had to wince. Ron, look! He could perceive shadows thru his closed eyes. He sensed movement around him but the pain in his head took majority of his weak focus. He felt someone hold his hand. Harry? Harry? He just winced, hes awake. The pressure on his hand and the pain on his head were knocking him into consciousness. He slowly opened his eyes, allowing the light to blind him. A blurry vision of someone with brown locks and another with fiery red hair greeted him. Ron, his glasses! said a voice that unmistakably belonged to Hermione. Apparently, it was her hand enveloped in Harrys. He then felt someone suddenly shove his glasses on his face. Ron! Im sorry! Harry? Harry? Harry had closed his eyes once more. He felt his glasses in place. Slowly, he opened his eyes again. He saw Ron and Hermiones faces clearly and in front of him. Harry! exclaimed an extremely relieved Ron. Are you okay? asked an over-worried Hermione, running her hand over Harrys forehead, Do you need anything? Say something, mate! pleaded Ron. Harry was still in a daze. He found himself quite speechless for a moment as his brain slowly processed and recalled what had just happened to him. He was racking his head for a memory. Then it came back to him. Ginny he muttered. What? What did you say? asked Hermione, then she faced Ron, What did he say? I dunno, answered Ron, Mate, what did you say? Ginny.

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It all came back to him. He began to remember saving Ginny from falling at the Quidditch match. He remembered carrying her in his arms as he tried to escape the rogue bludgers attacks. He recalled flying into the locker roomsand after that Ginnys body on the floor. Ginny! he exclaimed, looking frantically at Ron and Hermione, She was hitbludgeron the floor! Easy, Harry, soothed Hermione, pushing him back to the pillow, Shes okay. But she was hit by that bludger! Shes fine, mate. I saw her moments ago, said Ron, You got her on time. Dont worry. Harry l ooked at Ron and saw nothing but the truth on his best mates face. Shesshes okay, then? he asked. Ron and Hermione both nodded their heads. Seeing this, Harry slowly leaned back on his pillow. She was okay. He saved her. Where am I? he asked. St. Mungos, answered Ron, You got hit in the head by the bludger instead, mate. The officials got there in the nick of time before that bludger beat you into pulp. You made us panic, Harry. One second you were seated beside us then the next thing we knew, you ran towards the brooms and flew off, said Hermione, Look at you! Following Hermiones orders, Harry scanned himself, starting with his arms. Whoa His arms were covered in purple patches. When he poked one of them, he flinched. Some of them were healing while others appeared quite fresh. He touched his own face and cringed, feeling the sores. Ouch, he muttered, Do I look horrible? Ron shrugged sheepishly then nodded his head, Trust me, mate. You dont want to look at a mirror, right now, he advised. Ill take your word for it, said Harry then he sighed. There was still one thing roaming around his head right now. Is Ginnyas hurt as I am? he asked. Hermione and Ron looked at each other, and then Hermione smiled at Harry. To be honest, Harry, she looks better than you, she said. She didnt break any bones or lost too much blood or-? Harry, trust me, Ginny is FINE. Shes okay, assured Hermione, You have to think of yourself for now. Oh and I dropped Teddy at Androm edas already, explaining to her what happened so dont worry about anything now. Harry rested his head on the pillow. Ginny was okay. He found it quite difficult to wrap his finger on it.

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Besides, Calebs with Ginny, mate, so shes not alone, said Ron. Hermione glared at Ron for his lack of tact. Harry on the other hand, merely heaved another sigh. Thats good, he should watch over her, he said. He went overboard a while ago. I bet you, the moment he sees you, hes gonna fall on his knees and worship you, Harry. He was so glad you saved Ginnyhappy is an understatement, actually. He wasbloody joyful, said Ron, ignoring Hermiones warning looks. Harry weakly smiled. Thats nice, he said. He laid his head on his pillow and said nothing. The door creaked open and Harry lifted his head to see. Once he did, he thought Ron was right. HARRY! Thank god youre awake! Caleb hurriedly approached Harrys bedside, an obvious relieved expression on his face. Harry, Im so glad youre awake! he exclaimed, You dont know how indebted I am to you. You saved Ginnymy Ginny. I owe you everything. Harry waved his hand at Caleb, No you dont. You dont owe me anything, he said. He looked up at Caleb, Ginnys boyfriend. He flinched at that thought. Are you okay? asked Caleb frantically, Do you need anything at all? No, Im fine, woozy is all, he said, lying back on the pillow, Hows Ginny? He saw Calebs eyes sparkle in delight. God, he does have the kind of blue eyes that easily attracts women. Shes asleep. Still dizzy but shes okay, answered Caleb, Thank you so much for saving her. I cannot thank you enough. Its alright, Caleb, said Harry, unsure of his next words. Caleb truly reminded Harry of Dobby as he stood there, his face torn between happiness and worry. I think we should go now and give you some rest, announced Hermione, standing up from her chair and touching Rons shoulder. Couldnt agree more, remarked Caleb. Rest well, mate. Well come back tonight, said Ron. Hermione had linked her arm with his and looked comfortingly at Harry. Sleep, itll make you feel better, she suggested. Yeah, I will, said Harry. Ron and Hermione, together with Caleb headed towards the door and said their goodbyes. Harry? Yes, Caleb? Caleb smiled, his eyes twinkling. You truly are a hero, he remarked then he closed the door behind him, leaving Harry alone with his thoughts. Bloody hell, he murmured then he buried himself under the sheets.

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Something damp touched his forehead Something soft He figured it was a cloth And it was enough to bring him back to his senses. Though still half-asleep, Harry could still feel the painful throb in his head. The pain was still present yet he felt better than before. He had a strong urge to fall asleep again but there was a nudge inside of him, telling him to wake up. Darkness dominated the room but there was an orange glow from his right. Mustve been from the lamp He felt his head lolling side to side as he slowly gathered his senses. He opened his eyes and thru his blurry vision, he perceived an object not so far away from him. He touched it. It was a basin with water. Someone mustve been washing his face. He heard the door creak open and he hurriedly closed his eyes. He heard voices though. be okay. Ill be back in a jiffy, Make sure you get some rest Will do. Thank you so much again The last voice was familiar. Much too much familiar. Then the door closed. He felt footsteps on the floor. A minute later, a hand was touching his forehead. A soft one yet a bit calloused, mind you. He recognized that handthat very hand he used to hold for stretches of time years ago. He opened his eyes a bit. The sight of red confirmed his suspicion. It was Ginny Weasley. She took of the cloth from his forehead and dipped it into the basin. Harry heard the splashes of water she made. He felt the cloth replaced on his forehead and her weight sitting beside him. She was near him. Her warmth was radiating from her, touching Harry. Her mere presence was starting to stir him inside. But Harry remained motionless, refused to let her know he was awakethat he knew she was there. He heard her sigh. Thru his closed eyes, Harry imagined that she wore a tired look on her face but he was hoping she was looking at him with tenderness or something like that. I dont know if you can hear me she whispered. I can, Im awakehe thought but he remained still, curious to hear of what she had to say. But that was stupid. What you didsaving me from a rogue bludger. It was stupid, Harry, she continued.

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He couldnt believe she was saying that. She thought him saving her was STUPID? How wrong she was then. It wasnt stupid to Harryit meant a lot to him. He heard her sigh again and felt her take the cloth away from his forehead. He had this strong urge to let her know he could hear her but he kept his eyes firmly shut, figuring he should not ruin the moment. Merlins beard, Harry. Why did you have to do that? she asked, clearly annoyed in a way, You look terrible and its my entire fault. With another fierce splash, she lifted the cloth and placed it again on his forehead. Harry felt something throb and it wasnt his head this time. His heart was aching once more. Ginnys words were not helping him get better. He could not understand why she was so upset that he saved her. Did she hate him that much that she didnt want him touching her? He felt her hand touch his. Harry, she whispered, Harry Potter. GinnyGinny Weasleyyou have no idea how much youre hurting me Another sigh. This isnt supposed to happen, Harry. Im not supposed to feel uneasy with you, she confessed silently, What we used to beit haunts me every time I see you. Every single time. Ditto here She did not remove her hand from his. She silently laughed, You know what Harry? Every time I see you, I remember that night. It brings back pain, yes but I cant help but remember some of the good too, she whispered, You were always the hero. The hero? The words brought back the memory of Caleb, telling him, Harry, that he was a hero. He wanted to cringe. She sighed again but wistfully this time. And nowyoure the hero again, arent you? she asked, Will you always be the one who rescues everyone? Of course not She stopped then she went on, I knew there would be trouble when we saw each other again. Now, here it is, she whispered. She might have been looking at him, indicating that he was the trouble she was talking about. Harry Potter saves the day once again she murmured, As always She said it like it was some sort of headline for the Daily Prophet. Her tone was caught between sadness and somewhat sarcasm. Harry didnt know what to think of it. He listened to her even breathing and awaited her words again. Her hand moved up to his forehead once more. She laughed quietly, as if enjoying her own private joke. The bludger mightve beaten you into pulp if it hadnt been for the mediwizards she said. Then she chuckled. And thats supposed to be funny? Her hand remained on his forehead, rubbing it gently. The tips of her fingers on his skin gave Harry the feeling of warmth he had missed for three years. Then her fingers ran thru his face. He felt her hand

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touch him lightly, hesitant yes but her hand was still there. Harry she murmured. It felt so good to hear her say his name. It eased some of his pain. Calebs such a big fan of yours, she continued, Isnt that sort of odd? Im dating a bloke who wants to know you more than I do That stung. Im dating a bloke who wants to know you more than I dowhat was that supposed to mean? Hearing about Caleb sent him a flash of annoyance again. Why did Ginny have to bring up her boyfriend? Didnt she know Harry didnt want to hear about him? Obviously not. This is life for us now, I guess she remarked quietly. Ginnys hand withdrew from his face and Harry felt a sudden longing. He didnt want her to stophe wanted her to stay. Things are bloody complicated, arent they Harry? she asked him. Yesthey are He felt her get off his bed. He heard the last splashing of water, figuring she mustve dumped the cloth inside the basin. Harry was sorely tempted to open his eyes and reach out to her. But he refused to do so Instead, he continued his faade, feeling Ginnys movements. He heard footsteps walking away from him and then a creaking door. Light was streaming from the slightly open door. Dont go He heard the footsteps halt. Then there was another sigh. Thank you, Harry. Thanks for saving my life And with that, the door closed. Harry was alone with his thoughts. He finally opened his eyes. Harry sat up and rubbed his forehead, processing the whole one-sided conversation he had with Ginny. He felt the nearby table for his glasses. Sliding them on, Harry sighed and rubbed his eyes. He didnt know what to think of her words. He touched his forehead. It was as if her touch was still there. Things are bloody complicated, arent they Harry? With a sigh, he rumpled his hair. His eyes were set at the door where Ginny had just stood. Yeahthey really are He closed his eyes and chose the moment to stop.

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Harry had been pacing back and forth in the empty visitors lounge. It was only six in the morning and he had chosen that time to escape the confinements of his room. He had awoken an hour ago, bombarded with thoughts from last nights encounter with Ginny. He took a deep breath as he gazed at the window, seeing the outside world from inside. It was still dark but he could see the sun rising slowly. The scenery gave him the space to think. Things are bloody complicated, arent they Harry? Her voice rang out clearly, as if he conjured her out of his mere memory. He touched his face, remembering the feeling of her hand on his skin. It still gave him the shiver, recalling how she tended to him, even though it was only for a short while. She mustve been hesitant at first but she still did. He pulled the blanket he had brought around him closer. The coldness of the surrounding atmosphere added to his confused ambiance. He wondered why Ginny would bother to wash his face. Did it mean something? Why was she even there? For a second, a tiny flicker of hope appeared. But it was somehow diminished as Harry continued going over his thoughts. He rubbed his eyes. The Ginny sitting on his bed side last night was different from the Ginny who told him that things cannot go back to the way they were. Definitely. The way she spoke last night, it gave Harry the feeling that she still wanted to tell him somethingsomething that gave her a hard time to confess. But what? What we used to beit haunts me every time I see you. Every single time So it probably explained why she kept a cold attitude with him. His presence reminds her of the painful breakup that marked the rest of their lives. His face reminds her of the night she had to call it off. No wonder she couldnt look at him straight in the eye. The very same happens to him whenever he sees her. And yet there he was, still not over her. Since he kept his eyes closed last night, he imagined the scene in his head. Ginny was there, sitting beside him, the wet cloth in her hand and the other hand on his forehead. He could not picture the emotion on her face. Her voice was unreadable and he didnt know what to think of it. But her sighs expressed some of the feelings she kept inside. It gave him the feeling that Ginny was tiredtired of all the commotions between them. She was right. It was complicated. Sighing, Harry figured it was time for him to return to his room. He wanted to go back to sleep, to let himself loose to his dreams. He wanted to rest his mind. Silently creeping towards the exit of the lounge, he stopped in his tracks the moment he heard voices. Quickly, he hid behind a pillar and held his breath.

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youre okay? There was a tingling laugha very familiar laugh. Im sure, Caleb. Im okay, It was Ginny. Harry peeked from his place, hiding in the dark. He saw Ginny and Caleb facing each other. You look peaky, love. You need to rest, said Caleb, putting a hand on her forehead. Harry automatically held his own forehead, as if he could still feel Ginnys hand. Ginny shook her head as she gazed up at Caleb. I told you, Im fine, she said, removing hi s hand from her face gently and smiling up at him. Harry felt the sudden pressure stirring within him. Are you sure? I dont want to see you like this at all. I want to see you all fixed up, said Caleb, holding both her hands. Ginny face lowered, probably hiding a blush. Harry on the other hand, felt like he was being torn into pieces. Ginnys hands held Calebs face. I will beas long as you stay with me, she murmured. Harry watched Caleb smile at herhis eyes twinkling even from a distance. Im sorry I wasnt the one to save you, he said, Because of that, even Harry was dragged into this mess. I feel like its my entire bloody fault. Calebs face fell as he gazed sadly at Ginny. Ginny on the other hand, cupped his chin and looked at him. It was something out of a movie. The way they looked at each other It was similar to the way Ginny used to look at him. His heart gave a painful tug as he watched Ginny silently gaze lovingly at Caleb, probably assuring him its alright. You will always be the one wholl save me, Caleb, she said, Always. Harry watched as Caleb looked meaningfully at Ginny then pulled her, enveloping her in a hug. Ginnys arms circled his waist and her head was buried in his chest. It was enough to break Harrys heart. That should be mehe thought painfully. He watched as Caleb tightened his embrace, burying his face in Ginnys fiery red hair, the same way Harry used to bury his face in her hair. Harry closed his eyes, unable to watch anymore. He could feel his heart thundering wildly against his chest. I love you, murmured Caleb. There was silence I love you too, replied Ginny. They broke away from their hug and walked away, arms around each other.

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Harry stepped out from his hiding place the moment the coast was clear. It was as if he had been stomped on by a hundred men. The pain he was experiencing was unmistakable. It was real It hurt. Tears suddenly beaded in his eyes. Breathing deeply, Harry quietly exited the visitors lounge and headed to his ro om. Along the way, he couldnt help but remember the painful image over and over again. It weakened him to see Ginny and Caleb at peace with it each other. It pained him to realize that Ginny was better off without him Last nights event gave him a false hope. He was wrong to assume. He was wrong to think that last night meant something to Ginny. Was she merely pretending? Will you always be the one who rescues every one? He opened the door to his room and quickly closed it behind him. He didnt want to think any morehe didnt want to remember anymore. Harry threw himself on the bed and pulled the covers up to his head till he cannot see. He removed his glasses and sighed. His eyes were still wet. Will you always be the one who rescues every one? Wiping his eyes, Harry took another deep breath. Guess Im not enough to save you at all, Ginny Weasley Then the lights went off

Chapter 7: VII. Hello, Goodbye

Monday morning Rain started pouring down heavily on the Londoners making their way to jobs. Monday mornings usually meant the start of another week filled with nothing but work, work and work. Umbrellas began opening one by one as soon as the rain drops gradually increased in number. Noticing the rain, Harry Potter opened his red umbrella, shielding himself from the rain. He pulled his coat nearer, keeping himself warm as he headed back to the Ministry for his first day of work since his week-long vacation. People passed by him, obviously in a hurry, but Harry took no notice of his busy surrounding. His look was straightforward, probably focusing. But in reality, he was in a hurry to drown himself in work because he was in need of a DISTRACTION. Badly Avoiding a group of chattering women, Harry hurriedly walked towards the Ministry entrance, which was located at the mens bathroom. He was so in need of a distraction that he did not bother apparating to work. He wanted to do anything that required majority of his attention. Anything that

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would make him not remember Suddenly, he stopped in his tracks. A woman with flowing red hair was in front of him, her back facing him. She was under the shelter of a newspaper stand. Ginny? he murmured. The woman turned around, proving Harry was mistaken. It wasnt Ginny Weasley. Harry rubbed his eyes and continued walking. He noticed that hes been quite paranoid lately, often mistaking red-haired women for Ginny. It was starting to disturb him already. He needed to distract himself of Ginny or else he might lose his mind. Or worse, his sanity. That was why he left St. Mungos earlier than recommended by the Healers. At eight in the morning, Harry checked himself out, reasoning that he was already okay and did not need anymore medical attention. He couldnt stand the idea of seeing Ginny and Caleb together right after what he saw early in the morning. A sudden squealing broke Harrys trail of thought as it caught his attention. A teenage girl was running across the street and behind her was a boy about her age, an umbrella in his hand. The girl was drenched in rain as she ran towards Harrys side of the road, squealing as she did. The boy eventually caught up with her. He pulled her by the arm and enveloped her. Both were laughing melodiously as they stood there, rain pouring on them, not even caring that many were watching. He stopped in his tracks, mesmerized by the two young teens. Time stopped for him as he stood there. The image conjured a memory inside Harrys mind. It was as if he was watching his memory from a distance. He could still see Ginny running thru the rain, laughing as she did. Her feet stepping on the dew-coated grass as she squealed, allowing the rain to soak her for the mean time. Her joyful laughter rang once more in his ears as she provoked him into chasing her thru the rain. Harry could remember the way he would laugh as he would run after her. He would pretend Ginny was the Snitch he had to seek. After all, she was the only one he had been seeking for all his life. Youll never catch me, shed tease. Watch me Her laughter would explode as she would try to get away from him. Harry, being the skilled Seeker he was, usually won in the end. He would hold out his arms and focus on her Eventually, he would catch her. They would fall to the grass, Harrys arms arou nd her. Let me go, Harry! she would squeal, Okay! You wonlet me go! Her laughter would mix with his as Harry would pull her closer to him. He would look at her in the eye and smile.

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Ill never let you go, Ginny Weasley. Not in a million yearshed say. Her eyes would sparkle. She would pull herself closer to him until they were only an inch apart. Really? He recalled how they would just stare into each others eyes. He knew she knew. She knew the answer. Yes. Because I love youhed say. I love you too I love you I love you Mister? Uhmister? Harry blinked. A young boy was tapping on his shoulder. Could you move? Youre blocking the way, said the boy. Apparently, Harry was standing in front of the boys bicycle. Oh, sorry, apologized Harry as he stepped aside, making way for the boy. The bike drove past him, leaving Harry embarrassed. Damn, he murmured under his breath. He pulled on his coat and shrugged his shoulders. He had to get to workfast. Harry felt the eyes of the Ministry people watching him. He tried his very best to ignore them by simply passing them without looking back. He felt a huge wave of relief when he finally sighted his cubicle a few feet a way. He was in a hurry to take refuge inside his workplace. Morning, sir, greeted Tyler with a newspaper in his hand. Morning Tyler, Harry greeted back as he took his coat off and handed it to his assistant. The moment he looked at his desk, he felt his eyes widen. Are you okay, sir? asked Tyler, Does your head hurt? Harry did not hear Tylers question. He was transfixed on the humongous stack of papers placed on his desk. The sight of them was bothering and alarming at the same time. Areare these all for me? he asked, flabbergasted and amazed at the s ame time. Who knew that his week of absence left a large pile of work for him? Yes sir, answered Tyler, Guess I was right about the part where people would be looking for you. But sir, I wanted to ask- Harry was not listening. He was still gazing at his desk. It amazed him to realize that he truly was someone of higher position. But the sight of the stack of papers also gave him an unpleasant churn in the stomach. youre okay, sir?

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Im sorrywhat? asked Harry. Tyler cleared his throat once more and repeated what he had said. I was wondering if youre okay now, sir. If you have recovered from yourinjury, he said. Howd you know about that? asked Harry, surprised. You have gauze on your forehead, sir, said Tyler, indicating the obvious gauze on his forehead, And wellI read all about it in the Prophet. Harry was suddenly alarmed. The Prophet? You read it in the Prophet? Its actually a front-pager, sir. Here, said Tyler, handing that days Prophet. Harry seized the newspaper and immediately read the headline. Rogue Bludger Terrorizes Harpies-Wasps Game; Potter, Weasley, Injured. Underneath the bold headline was a picture of him flying in the field, holding an unconscious Ginny in his arms. Harry chose to ignore this picture and read the article instead. They make it sound like some sort of muggle, action film, sir, remarked Tyler as he watched his boss scan the paper. Harry could feel his eyes widening as he read the article. when a rogue bludger suddenly appears from nowhere, attacking the Seekers of both teams. According to spectators, Weasley chose to differ the course as she flew up to save her teammate from tragedy yet the bludger went for her instead. Tensions heightened when a sudden crash was heard and Miss Weasleys body fell from the sky. Another surprising twist of events occurred when Harry James Potter, known Head of the Auror Department of the Ministry, mounted a broom and raced to save Miss Weasley- Youre right. They did make it sound like some action movie, commented Harry, folding the paper. He didnt want to read any further. Remembering the accident brought back unpleasant memories, and it werent memories of the injury he received. Tyler was checking him out, a look of uncertainty painted all over his face. Sir, if theres anything you need, please dont hesitate to ask me for- Tyler, Im alright. Dont worry. I will call you if I need anything, Harry said firmly. Tyler merely nodded his head and returned to his post outside of Harrys cubi cle. Sighing, Harry dropped his bag on the floor and sat down on his chair. It was only eight in the morning and he was already coming down with stress. Glancing at the stack of parchment, Harry felt butterflies in his stomach. The week-long vacation gave him the sense of freedom he had withheld from himself for years. Now, stuck in a cubicle filled with nothing but work, Harry felt his head ache. He couldnt believe he had been a workaholic for three years already. That very realization gave him a sick feeling. He shook his head. He had to concentrate, prioritize and set himself straight. Harry Potter didnt have time to wallow. Clutching his quill, he breathed deeply.

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Let the work begin and tell Mr. Spencer over at the Department of Law Enforcement that I will send security over for him, Right-o, Sir, said Tyler then he trailed off with his duties. Harry rubbed his forehead as he continued scribbling on the parchment. It was already 4 in the afternoon and Harry was almost done with the stack of papers placed earlier in his desk. His hands were starting to numb with pain as he released his quill and stretched. He spent the entire morning signing papers he had left behind and the afternoon entertaining security requests and meetings with a number of people. It had been a long day for him Another long day But Harry had long accepted this daily routine for him. Being the Head of the Auror office meant shouldering responsibilities offered by the job. Although he was dubbed as the Chosen One, it gave him no excuse to escape work with no reason. He yawned as he rumpled his hair. Standing up, Harry decided he wanted to have a cup of coffee. He felt a bit woozy and he figured he needed some time to relax. He went outside the Auror office towards the newly renovated employees lounge. Luckily, no one was occupying the lounge, giving Harry the sense of freedom he had been craving since morning. The smell of coffee wafted under his nose, making him feel the sense of hunger. He realized he hadnt eaten anything since that morning. Same oldsame old He held out his wand. Accio cup, The cup zoomed towards his waiting hand as he approached the coffee machine. He poured some coffee into his cup and added sugar and cream. Stirring the coffee magically, Harry inhaled its comforting scent. He brought the cup closer to his mouth as he sipped coffee. The warmth of the beverage somehow calmed Harrys tensed nerves. He sipped greedily, finishing his first cup. Unsatisfied, he made himself another one. During his third cup of coffee, Harry began to feel quite dizzy. His head began to throb a bit once more. He rubbed his forehead and closed his eyes. The bloody bludger really hit him hard that up till that moment, he could still feel it. Opening his eyes, Harry felt as if his surroundings were spinning. He was starting to see double. His knees started to wobble and his headache began throbbing painfully. Oh god, he murmured as he gripped the edge of the table to keep his balance. He was beginni ng to feel woozy. He was swaying and he felt his grip on the table slacken. Harry decided he should go back to his cubicle and take a seat. Still wobbling, Harry slowly made his way outside the lounge, his vision still spinning. He felt like falling Suddenly, he lost his balance. Oof!

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A pair of arms caught Harry right before he fell. Harry? Harry opened his eyes as he felt someones arms holding him up. His glasses had slid sideward. Harry? Are you okay? He looked around and saw a pair of brown eyes looking at him. The one holding him was none other than Ginny herself. Harry found himself staring at her. Once again, he was unable to utter a single word as he remained motionless in her arms. He was still dizzy alright, but he was able to se e her clearly. He wasnt daydreaming Ginny was holding him. Harry? she asked again. Harry gently removed himself from her grasp and slowly stood up on his own feet. He rubbed his forehead, trying to ease his wooziness. Whatwhat are you doing here? he asked her. Harpies meeting, she answered shortly, Are you okay? ImIm fine. Just lost my balance, he lied. Ginny threw him a suspicious look, a look he knew so well. She said nothing but her eyes were boring thru him, as if she was trying to read him. Harry found himself surveying her as well. Her hair was held back in a ponytail, exposing her porcelain skin. There were smudges of dirt on her face and her brown eyes were flashing. The fact that it was her who saved him from falling amused him for a bit. You have dirt on your face, he remarked. What the hell? Oh, said Ginny, rubbing her face with her fingers. Harry was sorely tempted to do it himself but he restrained. He glanced at the opening of the Auror office. Should he go back now? II have to go back, said Harry, It was nice bumping into you Ginny. He made a move back to the office when he felt her hand grab him and pull him back. Dont tell me youre going back to work, she said. I have to. I still have things to sort, But youre already falling on your feet, said Ginny. No, I cant just leave. I have loads to do- Youre bloody crazy! she exclaimed. Harry was startled. He saw her eyes flash with indignation the moment she exclaimed that he was crazy. IIm not. I just have to do work- No, said Ginny in a firm voice.

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No? What? He saw Ginny glancing at the opening of the office. There was something going on inside her mind and Harry could not pinpoint what it was. You cant possibly go back to work when youre not feeling well, she remarked, still not taking her eyes off the office. Yes I can, he told her. Ginny stared at him. Harry felt his heart thundering against his chest but he refused to let it show. He too stared at her, hoping he looked convincing. The next second took Harry by surprise. Ginny had grabbed him by the hand and was pulling him away from the office. What the-? Ill explain to Tyler tomorrow morning, she said shortly. Ginny, Ive got to go back, No. Though he was stronger than he and could have easily pulled off, he was not able to do so. In Harrys mind, he knew he had to go back, that it wasnt right to let Ginny lead him off but his heart said otherwise. Ginny- Youre coming with me, She did not look back. She just kept pulling him by the hand, hurriedly walking along the corridors of the Ministry. Luckily, a number of employees had already gone home, therefore there werent much eyes watching them. Harry watched as her fiery red hair swished back and forth as she continued walking. It was really her. They stopped and Harry sensed what she was about to do next. With a blink of an eye, they were gone. Clutching his cup of coffee, Harry hoped his stone cold hands could be warmed by the heat from the cup. Opposite him was Ginny, hidden behind the Daily Prophet and also drinking her cup of coffee. Fifteen minutes ago, they had apparated right into Hogsmeade and headed straight into Madam Pudifoots tea shop. Madam Pudifoots tea shop! Out of all the places! They were seated in the farthest and quite solemn spot in the shop, which enlightened Harry for a bit. He certainly did not want to attract any more attention. Harry felt his stomach churn at the sight of the frilly decorations of the shop. It reminded him of the fact that it was a shop for couples (considering the fact that he once brought his first girlfriend, Cho, to the same place). He and Ginny were surely not a couple

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But they were once They had not spoken ever since they had arrived. Harry felt it was his responsibility to say somethingto break the tension. He was about to open his mouth. Rubbish, remarked Ginny as she closed the Prophet, Absolutely rubbish. Harry took a sip from his cup. Whats rubbish? he asked. Ginny pointed to the article about the accident. They make it sound like its something out of a movie, she remarked. Harry merely nodded his head. He was still confused with Ginny. He couldnt figure her out and he was basically driving him mad inside. Harry thought that Ginny was now cold and distant with him but what was with the sudden concern? Was it even concern? Hows your head? he asked her. He noticed there was still some hint of purple on forehead. Ginny touched it. Its getting better. A bit woozy too, she said. How come you were at practice? The Healers said it was okay to watch as long as I dont ride strenuously for a week, she explained. Oh, said Harry. He resumed to his coffee and remained silent. He was racking his head for something to say in order to keep the conversation rolling. How about you? asked Ginny, Are you okay? Harry gulped. Eryeah, I am, he lied. You looked like you needed some sleep, she said. Not really, he replied, sipping his coffee, I was just tired. Oh, said Ginny. Silence once more. Harry was quite tired of experiencing awkward silences whenever he was around Ginny. He knew he had to say something. Thank you, by the way, she said. Damn, why does she always say something first? Ginny was stirring her cup of coffee, staring at it. Thanks for saving me from that bludger, she said again. Its okay, he replied. He suddenly remembered that fateful moment when Ginny was in his room in the dead of the night, placing a damp cloth on his forehead. She had thanked him on that night but also broke his heart that morning.

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Ginnys eyes focused on him once more. Why did you leave St. Mungos last Saturday morning? I heard the Healers talking about you defiantly telling them you were already fin e, she said. The question caught Harry off-guard. Did he dare confess? II really felt fine, he told her. You dont look fine to me, she remarked, You look sick. Im not sick. Im just really tired, You shouldnt have left St. Mungos if youre still tired, Harry. You left with no word, no explanations at all. Must. Change. Subject. NOW Wheres Caleb? he asked. He saw Ginny redden at the question. Hes off to visit his grandmother in Cumbria, she said, Hell be back in two days. Her eyes were sparkling at the mention of Calebs name. Harry recalled the way her eyes would sparkle whenever she was with him. He felt a twinge in his heart, realizing that she was truly in love with him. Hes a nice bloke, isnt he? Ginny nodded her head, Yes. He really admires you too, she said. Harry smiled a little as he sipped from his cup. He was once again reminded of the late house-elf, Dobby. He loves you a lot too, he remarked then he felt stunned with his own remark. What the hell? Ginnys cheeks grew pink. Yeshe does Harry felt his head drooping at her answer. Truly, Caleb did love Ginny more than he, Harry, ever did. He paid more attention to her, made her feel special and made it a point to show her that she mattered. Unlike Harry, three years ago It was only a matter of time for him to admit the harsh reality. I can see that, he said, Ive never seen anyone so panic-stricken in my entire life. He was bloody worried about you. Ginny said nothing but her cheeks continued to glow pink. Im happy for you, he finally blurted out. He saw Ginnys expression change at his words. He figured he should seize the moment. Keeping his expression demure and composed, Harry cracked

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a small smile. Im happy that you found Caleb. He suits you well. He clearly adores youhe loves you a lot, he said then he faced Ginny, Youre very lucky with him. Thanks, said Ginny, Caleb is one of the nicest blokes Ive ever seen. He continued to smile, though he was hurting. It hurt to realize that Caleb was actually making Ginny better. He was a better off boyfriend than Harry. Ginny, Yes, Harry? He looked straight into her eyes. Im glad youre happy now, he said. He smiled at her, hoping she could not see the pain he was experiencing as he was saying those words. He wanted to cry out in pain but he figured he had to say the best for her. Im glad that youre finally okay, he continued, Its good to see you smiling again. That was true. Harry painfully recalled the last days of their previous relationship; the days when he was so engrossed in work that he had neglected the girl he loved the most. He remembered how Ginny would look as if she had just finished crying and was denying it whenever he pointed out. Now here she was, glowing and so different from the Ginny he loved three years ago. He wondered if Ginny knew what he was talking about. Her expression was unreadable as she stared at her coffee then at him. Harry, Yes, Ginny? Close your eyes, she said. Harry checked her expression to see if she was pulling his leg. Ginny was serious and there was no hint of sarcasm or leg-pulling on her face. Obeying, Harry closed his eyes. His mind began playing tricks on him as he wondered why Ginny had told him to do so. What was she going to do with him? He heard a chair pulled back. He suddenly thought of Ginny probably planning to leave him and the bill. Or even worse And the unexpected happened. Harry felt himself being enveloped in her armsGinnys arms. She was hugging him. Harry inhaled the familiar scent of flowers from her hair. He tentatively placed his hands on her back, wondering if shed pull back. But she didnt He buried his face in her hair, similarly to the way he did three years ago. He breathed in her scent, memorizing every detail of her.

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For a moment, it was as if all his problems had disappeared. He kept his eyes closed; hoping this moment would never end. Harry felt his eyes beading tears but he refused to let them fall. He couldnt let Ginny see how affected he was by her. I was hoping we could break the tension, already, she whispered in his ear. She had not pulled back yet. Ginnys arms were still around him and they felt so comfortingso warmso loving Thank youGinny, he whispered back. Ginny had finally released herself from their hug. There was a sincere look on her face, confirming that their hug was no lie. We cant bring things back the way they werebut we can always start something new, she said, As friends of course. Its never too late, isnt it? When she said the word friends, Harry felt his insides crumble a little but he figured it was much better than being cold and distant with her. After all, what did he do to deserve her love back? Yeah, as friends, he said. Ginny smiled a little at him. Harry smiled back at her. He felt like he had survived a well-fought battle and was rewarded a consolation price he deserved. The tension was finally over. Ginny checked her watch, Oh, Ive got to go, Harry. I promised Bill Id meet him at Diagon Alley in five minutes, she said. Harry stood up, Thats alright, I have to get going- Go home, okay? Dont go back to work, she said, Youll kill yourself. He grinned at her, I will, I promise. Ginny grabbed her bag and slung it around her shoulders, I guess Ill see you at Ron and Hermiones wedding dress fitting, she said. Oh yeah, that, he said, I will be, I guess. Ginny smiled. It felt so good to see her smiling warmly at him again. Her smile alleviated some of the stress he was burdening. She tucked a stray lock of hair. Come here, she said, pulling him into another hug. Their second hug was better than the first. Harry closed his eyes, thanking the heavens for this moment. Thank you Harry, she said. She pulled away and smiled. Well, I have to go now, she said, turning back, Ill see you around. Goodbye Harry! She slowly walked away from him, exited the shop and disappeared into the crowd, leaving Harry

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speechless. He recalled her scent once more Hello again, Ginny Weasley

Chapter 8: VIII. Enchanted

Saturday morning, three weeks later WHEEEEEE! Teddy, come back here! Harry was running around his living room, chasing his hyped up godson who was escaping him without any clothes on. It was almost nine in the morning and Harry had to get his godson dressed before Ron came to fetch him for the dress fitting for the wedding. Teddy was the designated ring bearer of the said occasion so it was Harrys task to keep his godson at bay. But seeing Teddy run around with nothing but his tighty-whiteys on gave Harry the impression that he would have a rough day as his godsons sitter. Teddy Lupin, you have to get dressed! he exclaimed, Your Uncle Ron will be here any moment! WHOPEEEEEE! squealed the young boy as he jumped off the sofa and made his way to the kitchen. Harry struggled to catch his godson. He too jumped over the couch in order to get Teddy before Ron sees him. Come here! he said, holding out hi s hands. Teddy squealed louder as he ran around the kitchen. Harrys seeking skills were once again put to test by his snitch of a godson. Teddy was within his grasp, he stretched further. GOTCHA! He grabbed the boy by his hand, causing them both to slip and land on the rug with a poof. Teddy continued laughing manically as he continued poking his godfather who had his arms around him. Cmon Teddy, put your pants on, said Harry, struggling as he pulled Teddys pants over the boys legs, You dont want Uncle Ron to see you like that. Teddy gurgled as he was being clothed by Harry on the rug. His hair color started changing color tones as he did. Me wanna run around! he squealed. No, said Harry firmly, Not now. You cant show up at the dre ssmakers wearing nothing but your underwear. Whos showing up with their underwear? Harry looked up and saw Ron, apparently suppressing his laughter, at the door. How long have you been there? demanded Harry. Long enough to see you pulling pants on Teddy, replied Ron, Honestly mate, youd make a great

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nanny. Ha-ha, said Harry sarcastically as he sat Teddy up and pulled down his shirt, Wait till you have your own set of children, Ron then well see who laughs last. Ron suddenly cringed at the word children. Harry bit his lip, trying not to laugh at Rons expression, as he smoothed Teddys hair. There. You look better, he said to the little boy. Teddy continued to smile at his godfather, hinting mischief underneath. Lets just hope he wont take his clothes off and run around naked at the dressmakers, remarked Ron as he opened his arms wide open as soon as Teddy began to run towards him. Teddy threw himself at Ron and giggled once he was carried up. Harry straightened up and dusted his pants. He glanced at Ron, whose attention was already diverted to Teddy. Harry smirked. You know what, mate? he asked. Whaf? asked Ron, Teddys fingers inside his mouth. Harry patted his best friends shoulder. Youd make a good daddy, he commented, indicating to Teddy. Rons face reddened at the remark as Harry burst into laughter. Oh shut up, he said, Lets get going. Harry and Ron, along with Teddy, arrived at the Leaky Cauldron. Tom the Barman eagerly served refreshments as they waited for Hermione to arrive. Teddy was busy gazing at the floating kettle serving tea to bother his godfather and his best mate who were discussing recent news in the wizarding world. Have you heard of the recent kidnappings? asked Ron. Harry took a sip of his tea, trying to recall any recent disappearances. Theres that one in Elephant and Castle and another one near St. Catherine, he replied, So far, I havent had any updates on those. Probably, the bloke stopped. Ron ran a hand thru his hair, Its just quite alarming, isnt it? Those poor girls, he remarked. I know, Harry nodded his head, Were trying to find the culprit but we havent had any clues as of now. Quite disturbing if you ask me, commented Ron. Well eventually figure them out, said Harry, then he looked around, Is Hermione coming around soon? Ron glanced at his watch. She said shed be here by ten. Probably just had to do some errands, he replied. Suddenly, they heard the pub door swing open. Harry and Ron turned their heads around to check the newcomers. Hermione! said Ron, quickly leaving his seat and hugging a pink-faced Hermione. Sorry Im late, said Hermione, hugging Ron back and seeing Harry, Hello, there Harry.

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Harry finished his cup of tea and nodded to acknowledge his other best friends presence. Ron and Hermione broke apart and approached Harry, holding each others hands. Little Teddy, remarked Hermione as she caressed Teddys cheeks, Youll love your ring bearer tuxedo, love. Tusheeedooo! repeated Teddy, making the three adults laugh. Have you already chosen Teddys tuxedo? asked Ron, I thought he was to be fitted today? Hermione flashed an embarrassed smile, Well, I was sorely tempted with the little suits I saw before at the dress shop. I already have three reserved for him, she said. Three? Youve got to be joking! exclaimed Ron, his eyes wide. Hermiones face reddened as she looked fondly at Harrys godson. The tenderness on her face reminded Harry of the look she gave Ron during their stay at Grimmauld place. But I figured he would look so adorable! argued Hermione. But he only needs one bloody suit! Shall we get going then? asked Harry, standing up from his seat and setting Teddy on the floor. He was hoping to break the tension, avoiding a quarrel between the two lovers. Hermione suddenly blushed, Lets just wait for- Im here! Sorry Im late! Harry looked behind Hermione. A smile formed on his face. Ginny had just arrived, face also pink from the wind. Locks of red hair were tangled around her face and she hurriedly smoothed them. She saw Harry and returned his smile. Ginny! I thought you werent going to make it, said Ron. Why wouldnt I? For your dress fitting? she asked, hugging her brother, Not in a million years. She winked at Harry as she hugged Hermione. She then turned to Harry and also enveloped him in a hug. Harry scented flowers in her hair. It felt so good to be on good terms with her. Ginny broke away from him. She looked so radiant i t stung Harrys eyes. Her eyes diverted away from him and landed on his godson, who was also ogling the stranger he had no memory of. Is thisTeddy? she asked. Harry nodded his head, No one else, he said. Teddy on the other hand, was mesmerized by th e beautiful stranger. Pretty, he remarked, Pretty lady! He was pointing his fingers at Ginny. Teddy, its not nice to point, said Harry, holding Teddys arms. Ginny giggled as she scooped Teddy from the dusty floor. Her fingers brushed his hands. Harry felt a tiny jolt of electricity the moment her skin touched his. He wondered if she felt itor if he was just paranoid. Youre a feisty little fellow, said Ginny, kissing Teddy on the cheek, Last time I saw you, you were

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just a baby. Pretty lady! squealed Teddy, touching Ginnys face. He looked at his godfather and said, Unca Hawee, she pretty lady! All of them laughed at Teddys adorable remark. Ginny covered Teddy in kisses. Harry noticed she was alone. Wheres Caleb? he asked. Ginny was cuddling Teddy in her arms. Hes at work, she explained, His boss has been annoying the hell out of him these last weeks. Hes not alone, remarked Ron with a grimace on his face. Ginny smiled as she continued cuddling Harrys godson. Pretty lady! squealed Teddy, making Ginny laugh. He makes it a point to let people know he sees the good in you, explained Harry, covering up what he truly wanted to say. Ginny was never pretty. She was always beautiful in his eyes. Ginny smiled, Takes after his godfather, she said. Harry felt his face redden at the remark but he merely grinned at her. Well have the cozy catch up later, Gin, said Ron, Lets get going!

Now, if youll just lift your arms please? Harry obeyed as he hesitantly raised his arms. He felt the enchanted tape measure wrap around his chest. Beside him was a quill taking down all his measurements. They were already at Madam Malkins dress shop, measuring and looking at dress robes. Madam Malkin was already busying herself with Harry as Teddy was tangled in tape measures at her feet. Hermione and Ginny had wandered off to another section of the shop, looking at the various bride and bridesmaid dresses they had to offer. Ron was in another fitting room with another dressmaker, who was noisily fussing over him she might have reminded Harry of Mrs. Weasley. Harry was never a fan of dress shops. Looking around the fitting room gave him the chills. What color would you like for your robe, Mr. Potter? asked Madam Malki n. ErI have no idea, he said, How can I choose the proper color? Madam Malkin took the tape measure and observed his reflection at the mirror, I suggest you think of a color that brings out the color of your eyes, she said. Harry stared at himself. What color matched his brilliant emerald green eyes? Red? Blue? Navy blue? Black? Pink? Bottle green, Harry looked back and saw Hermione grinning sheepishly. Behind her were two attendants holding four kinds of dresses.

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Good choice, said Madam Malkin, Will the bride be requiring my services now? I think so, Hermiones kicking me out, remarked Harry as Hermione made her way and punched him lightly in the arms. Very wellMr. Potter, Ill have your robes ready in an hour. You can amuse your self within the shop for the meantime, said the dressmaker. Will do, he said, Come now Teddy, we wouldnt want you peeking at your Aunt Hermione. He scooped the 4-year old who laughed merrily. Well see you later, he told Hermione. The curtains closed behind them and he heard the ruffling of the dresses. Hermione was probably having the time of her life. Cmon Teddy, lets look at the dresses, he told his godson. Teddy frowned. Too girly! complained the little boy. Nah, it wont be, said Harry, Were just going to look at them, alright? Harry walked along the parade of dress robes the shop had to offer. He was amazed at the size of Madam Malkins shop. He usually went there for school robes during his years at Hogwarts. He never knew the shop held various kinds of robes for all occasions. He saw threads hovering above them, dressmakers magically sewing hems and such and robes flying to their respective hangers. They came across another wing of the shop. All the white convinced Harry he was finally at the bridal section of the shop. Teddy shuddered as he stared at all the girly dresses surrounding them. Girly! he said. Arent they? asked Harry. Gazing at the dresses made Harry wonder what Ginny was going to wear. He surveyed all the gowns he saw and made mental notes about them. He remembered what Madam Malkin said: I suggest you think of a color that brings out the color of your eyes, Ginnys eyes were vibrant brown. What color suited her eyes? He began imagining her in the dresses he saw. No matter what dress he saw her in, she looked beautiful in his mind. She always did Gold! Look! squealed Teddy, his finger pointing at the nearby gold dress. Harry settled his godson to the floor as he approached the golden gown Teddy had pointed. It was made of silk and had a cream-colored bow at the back. It was of simple design. It reminded Harry of the dress Ginny wore on Fleur and Bills wedding. He recalled how his stomach churned at the sight of her. She looked absolutely beautiful, even more beautiful than Fleurs sister, Gabrielle. He remembered how his eyes were glued to herhow he wanted to have her again And there he was

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Still wanting more of her Harry shook his head. He could not want more of her. They were already friends. Harry did not want to wreck their new relationship as friends. He had to be satisfied with the chance Ginny had given him. A small thud broke his trail of thought. His head turned to the direction of the dressing rooms. A single white shoe was sitting under the curtains. Shoe? asked Teddy. Harry nodded his head as he approached the dressing room. A single, fair foot emerged from the curtains, feeling the floors for the shoe. Harry immediately took the shoe. You dropped your shoe, he said. Oh, thank you, The owners head popped out of the curtains. Harry looked up and saw Ginny? Upon seeing him, Ginnys eyes widened in surprise. Eventually, her lips broke into a sheepish and embarrassed grin as she looked down at the shoe. I was just trying out the dress Hermione wanted me to wear, she explained, Apparently, Im not good at dressing up. Both of them looked at the fallen shoe. May I? asked Harry, holding the shoe below her foot. Please, answered Ginny, slipping her foot in the shoe. She smiled at Harry, making Harrys heart miss another beat. Hey, why dont you stay there and tell me what I look like with the dress on? she suggested, Maybe you and Teddy could provide me with the proper critique. Harry carried the little boy on the soft chairs, Wed be honored, he said. Ginny smiled as she closed the curtain behind her. Harry heard the rustling of the dress and the clomping of shoes. Have you already been measured? he heard Ginny ask. Yes, he answered, Apparently Ill be in bottle green robes. She laughed. I think its a nice color, she said, It matches your eyes. Harry shrugged, I dunno. Ive never worn any other color of robes except green and black. Wouldnt blue fit me? he asked. No, the color will clash with your eyes, said Ginny, Bottle green suits you perfectly. Your eyes will shine brighter. He laughed, his eyes still on Teddy who was looking around, frowning at the dresses.

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I think Teddys not a big fan of dresses, he said. He heard a zipper close. Really, now? asked Ginny. He rumpled Teddys hair. Yep, hes not enjoying every moment of it, he said, Takes after me and Ron. He heard Ginny laugh behind the curtains. Well, lets see if hell still hate dresses when he sees his Aunt Ginny, she remarked. There was silence in the air. The rustling of dresses where the only sounds in the room. There was a look of impatience on Teddys face as he continued fidgeting on the plushy red chair. Is Caleb coming? he asked, figuring he should talk more. Deep inside, Harry wished he wasnt. I think so, answered Ginny, He said hed probably be done by this afternoon. I bet you cant wait, teased Harry, even though he was stung by his own words. Ginny giggled. He wondered if her face was reddening by now. Oh stop it, she said, Im done. Are you ready? Ready, ready! said Teddy. Yep, we are, said Harry. Okay, said Ginny, I feel fat, though. Harry rolled his eyes, No youre not. Quit stalling, he said. Ginny laughed behind the curtains. Alright, she said, Here I come. The curtains flew open Harry felt his eyes widening. His heart stopped. His breath caught short. It was as if he was suddenly pulled out of reality and thrown into the depths of his dreams. He was frozen. Wowweeee! squealed little Teddy, tugging his godfathers pants, Pretty! Teddys voice did not register clearly inside Harrys head. It was as if his godson had just murmured. Yes very pretty, he said absentmindedly, still absorbed. In front of him was Ginny, looking absolutely divine in a golden dress, her hair, which fell into glamorous locks on her shoulder, adorned with a white lily to compliment the dress. She smiled gaily at Teddy then at him. What do you think? she asked, twirling around in order for him to see. Harry noticed the cream colored taffeta bow fastened on her back. Her gown swung along with her as she spun. Harry gulped. He was too mesmerized by Ginny to think of any comment to tell her. As expected, gold

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brought out the best of Ginnys eyes. It complimented hair fair skin and fiery red locks. The lily on her hair completed the image of beauty that simply took Harrys breath away. Oh my god Harry was speechless. Well? she asked again, her eyebrow rising. Apparently, Ginny was awaiting his reply. Harry took a deep breath. He had to say something. You look beautiful Ginny smiled at his reply. When she smiled, Harry felt he was going to faint. He was too amazed by her. Exaggeration aside, he was truly under her spell. Pretty lady! said Teddy, clapping his hands, Pretty Auntie Ginny! Ginnys eyes sparkled as she scooped Teddy from the chair. She rubbed her nose with his, making the little boy laugh. You think so, Teddy? she asked, bringing Teddy closer to her. Yes, yes, yes! Harrys eyes were glued to that image. He watched as Ginny cuddled Teddy in her arms. It was pleasant to his eyes. There was a sudden rush of warmth inside of him as he continued to gaze at them. It was as if he was watching one of his dreams Ginny enveloping a child in her warm hugs It reminded Harry of one of his past desires To build a family with the woman he loved. Unca Haweee! Teddys squeal broke Harrys reverie. He blinked and l ooked up to see Teddy waving his hands in front of his godfather. Are you okay, Harry? asked Ginny, You seem kind of pre-occupied. Harry stood up and cleared his throat, hoping he didnt look as if he had just daydreamed about her. Im fine, he said, I think the dress fits you perfectly. He saw shades of pink on Ginnys cheeks, which she tried to hide by bringing Teddy closer to her. I wont look like a bumbling idiot? she asked. Harry scoffed as he removed a stray lock of hair from her fac e. Not the least, he said, You look like a princess. Doesnt she, Teddy? Yes, a pretty Princess! agreed Teddy, making both Harry and Ginny laugh. Ginny set the little boy down and gazed at herself at the nearby mirror.

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If bottle green is your soul color, I think gold is mine, she said, looking at her gown, Ive worn the same color thrice now. Harry stepped behind her and joined her in gazing at her. The golden dress had brought out the best of Ginnys natural radiant beauty it hurt Harry to look at her yet at the same time, he could not take his eyes off her. He was like a blind man who was looking at the sun for the very first time. Probably because gold brings out the best of you, he remarked. Like you brought out the best in me You think? she asked again, looking at him thru the mirror. Harry shoved his hands in his pockets and nodded his head. Ginny touched the hem of her dress and continued to stare at her image. I should probably wear dresses like this to make me look pretty, she said, Rather than sporting muddy, boyish Quidditch uniforms. Her laugh followed after her remark. I dont think you need a dress to look beautiful, Harry answered out of impulse. He was looking at her thru the mirror. For him, Ginny didnt need the help of sparkles and gowns to look pretty. She already was. Really, now? she asked, staring back at him, You dont think I look rugged whenever I wear those baggy Quidditch outfits? Harry laughed, You never look rugged to me, Ginny. You always look quite pretty, he said honestly. No pun intended? Merlins beard, GinnyIve always told you that you are beautiful - Then Harry stopped. He realized it was sort of awkward to tell her that he had always considered her beautiful ever since before and during the time they were together. He knew they were already friends but it somehow made the situation awkward if he continued what he was about to say. He sighed and smiled at her. Look Ginny, youre amazing just the way you are, he said. Ginny turned her head, making her face inches away from his. Harry gazed at her warm, brown eyes, reminding him of the times he would simply look at her and feel all the stress vanish. She was the only real thing in the world, Ginny. Harry had never met anyone like her, even during the past three years when she vanished from his life. There was no one like her. Deep inside, Harry felt the pain of regret. Though he was in a better position with Ginny now, his past mistakes were haunting him once more as he stared at Ginny. He could never have her You really think so? she asked. She was just an inch away. Harry had the painful urge to kiss her. I know so, he said. Ginny laughed a little, still not taking her face away.

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So are you, she said. There was silence. They could only hear Teddys little steps behind them. They were just staring at each otherno words spoken. Just thoughts. Harry felt like he was going to drown in her eyes. How he missed her. How he longed for her again He wanted to touch her againto feel herto be with her She looked so amazing Inside and out. He was enchanted with her. Ginny was gazing at him too. Probably, there was something going on inside of her mind too. Youre simply enchanting, Ginny, he said. It was no lie. She was. Thanks Harry, she said. She was simply looking at him. He could smell the familiar scent of flowers. Harry felt his mind going blank. He was going to act on impulse once more. Probably, he was not going to regret itGinny, love! Their connection was broken by the sound of a familiar voice. Both he and Ginny turned to find Caleb standing by the door, a wide smile on his face. Harry had the urge to hex something. Calebs eyes widened at the sight of Ginny. A look of admiration fl ashed across his face. Wow love, you look beautiful! he exclaimed, stepping aside of Teddy and slowly approaching. Ginnys cheeks reddened as she tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ears. She had edged away from Harry. Caleb then took notice of Harry. Hello there, Harry! he greeted, then he pointed back at Teddy, Your godson? Yep, answered Harry. Caleb smiled as he pulled Harrys hand for a shake. Seems like hes going to be a bloody good chap like his godfather, said Caleb, shaking his ha nd. He let go and wrapped an arm around Ginny. Harry was tempted to throw Caleb off but he remembered he had no right with Ginny. Probably, he said shortly. Caleb was eyeing Ginny, his eyes sparkling at the sight of her. You look divine, Ginny, he said, kissing her on the cheek, Im sorry Im late, love. My boss wouldnt let me go till I had everything done.

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Ginny smiled back at him, Its okay. At least youre here, she said. Teddy had walked towards Harry and was eyeing the new stranger with an eye of pure dislike. Harry carried Teddy in his arms, fervently hoping his godson would not make his dislike known. She looks beautiful, doesnt she, Harry? asked Caleb. She does, said Harry, Even Teddy thinks so. Caleb smiled at Teddy. Hello there, chap, he said, offering his hand for Teddys tiny hand to shake. Teddy looked at his godfather, as if asking his godfather if he should take the strangers hand. Harry nodded his head. Teddy took Calebs hand and shook it once then immediately let go and buried his face in Harrys chest. Shy bloke, aint he? said Caleb. Takes after his godfather, said Harry as he set Teddy down to run along. Caleb laughed as he pulled Ginny closer to him. Harry caught Ginnys eyes. She avoided looking at him at first but gave up when she stared right back at him. She gave a small shrug and smiled at him. That was it? Bloody hell, The three of them watch Ron enter the room with Hermione tailing him. Hermione was biting her lip, apparently suppressing laughter. Ron on the other hand, was red in the face. Thank god thats over, he remarked as he threw himself on the plushy cushions. Hermione sat beside him, pink in the face and began rubbing his back. She took notice of Caleb. Hello Caleb, just arrived? she asked. Ron looked up and grinned at Caleb before burying his face against the mashes of pillows. Yes, I must say, this dress suits Ginny, he said, Did you choose it? Of course, I want my maid of honor to be the prettiest of them all, said Hermione. Youre going to be the prettiest of them all, Hermione, said Ginny. They all laughed heartedly, except for Harry. Once again he was putting up a performance in order to avoid being questioned. So, if everythings settled, anyone up for lunch? asked Caleb, My treat! Yes, please! Thank you! said Ron. Hermione and Ginny giggled. Caleb looked at Harry. What do you say, Harry? You want to join? he asked. Harry pasted a plastic smile. Teddy and I would love to, he said. Ill have to give this dress back to Madam Malkin, said Ginny. We can go back to the other wing, suggested Hermione. Lets get going, then, shall we? asked Caleb, taking Ginnys hand. Harry wanted to close his eyes.

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Yes, let us, said a relieved Ron. He and Hermione went ahead, followed by Caleb and Ginny. Harry slowly followed them, staring at Ginnys retreating back. For a moment, he was crestfallen. It was as if someone had just burst his bubble. Teddys hand touched his face. Pretty? he asked. Harry sighed and merely smiled at his godson. Saying nothing, he followed the procession. It was as if the enchantment was never meant to last

Chapter 9: IX. Wounding Realizations

Opening his bedroom door, Harry felt a wave of relief when he set his eyes on his bed. He truly wanted to throw himself on the soft cushions. So he did. Mmmthis feels so good, he murmured, mashing his face unto one of the pillows. His body was aching from all the walking and carrying Teddy around that afternoon. He was only twenty-one years old, yet he felt like an old man. He turned sideward and gazed outside his window. It began to rain outside. He thought it was lucky for him to be home before the rain hit. He wasnt looking forward to being tired and getting wet. On his bed, Harry began to replay the events of the afternoon. After the dress fitting, Caleb brought them all to an Italian restaurant for lunch. Teddy had a swell time spinning the spaghetti strands with his own fingers and eventually leaving tomato prints on his Uncle Ron. After stuffing themselves, they returned once more to Diagon Alley to visit the florist in charge of the wedding flowers. The entire afternoon was spent on dealing with preparations for the wedding. With all the fussing Hermione made and the redness of Rons face, Harry figured hed think twice before getting married. But he admired Ron for keeping up with Hermiones demands. Harry figured it was love that kept Ron alive. Speaking of love After their dressing room encounter, Harry noticed that Ginny had somehow placed a distance between them. It wasnt as if she had suddenly became coldshe just became quite careful around him. Or so he noticed She clung to Calebs arm a lot and somehow made it a point not to be alone with Harry. She continued talking to him and cuddling Teddy but Harry sensed that she was sort of distancing herself. It saddened him though. Caleb on the other hand, remained quite cheery and overexcited throughout the day. He doted on Teddy even if the boy didnt dote him. But as expected, he paid more attention to Harry.

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Harry didnt fail to notice that look of admiration that flashes on Calebs face every time they would talk. He looked as if he ate every word Harry uttered. It somehow disturbed and at the same time, amused Harry. It also made Harry feel guilty. Deep inside, he was sort of sure that he would dislike Caleb, being the man who owns Ginnys heart. But the blokes unfailing kindness rebuked him of his attitude. He felt like a hypocrite whenever he w as faced with Caleb. Harry held his pillow tighter. His mind was going out of control with what was happening. If this continued, he might lose his mind. A sudden thought lit up his mind. Ginny looking absolutely divine in her golden dress, her hair on her shoulder, her eyes searching his Blissful, yesyet short-lived He sighed. Oh my god, he said. He groped for his wand. With a flick, he turned the lights off.

GET DOWN! Tantalengra! A fusion of jinxes caused an explosion of lights. Protego! Harry ducked and missed a spell that flew his way. Crouching, he hurriedly crossed the other side. Stupefy! he cried. The spell blasted out from his wand, hitting his opponent square in the chest. Just as he was about to escape from his hiding place, he spotted a chunk of a wall headed his way. Confringo! The wall blasted and burned. Quentin, GO! called Harry to the Auror nearby. The man named Quentin went ahead of Harry, performing a Shield charm as he went along. Sir, look out! Harry turned and was hit by a Stunning Charm. He was thrown on his back, landing on a hard fallen brick wall. He groaned as he began to feel his injuries. He slowly sat up, feeling his bones crack. Blood was already dripping from his forehead. He figured if he looked at a mirror, he wont be a pretty sight. He stood up, brushing the dirt from his robes. He wasnt done yet.

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A cloaked figure appeared behind him. It raised its wand to hex him. Everte Statum! yelled Harry. The figure stumbled backward and fell on its back. Harry looked around for his fellow Aurors. He saw a hex flying towards one of his fellows. Joanna, WATCH OUT! The Auror named Joanna immediately performed a Shield Charm and was able to avoid the attack. I GOT IT! Harry turned to see another Auror waving a golden cup around. I GOT IT! yelled the Auror, LOOK! GET RID OF IT THEN! demanded Harry, DONT SHOWCASE IT, STEBBINS! Stebbins, clearly rattled by Harry, immediately set the cup down and pointed his wand at it. EXPULSO! The cup exploded and blasted into small bits. Ashes fell from the sky, covering them in a dark haze. I think were done here, said Harry, then he pointed his wand in the air, Finite, The burning ashes and bricks began to vanish as the spell started wiping away the scene. The smell of fire was extinguished and the room had returned to normal. Harry limped towards the Auror named Stebbins. Next time you find a dark object, you dont flash it around and make it known you found it. Yo u destroy it IMMEDIATELY, he said in a firm voice, Youll invite the bad guys to attack you. Is that understood? Stebbins nodded his head, Yes sir, Im sorry. I got a bit excited, he confessed. Well you wont get that excited when youre faced with the real thing, said Harry, showcasing his injuries, Just stay focus and be alert at all times, understood? The trainee Aurors nodded their heads. Okay, thats all for stealth and tracking. You may go back now, he said. One by one, the trainee Aurors thanked Harry for the session and began to leave the training center. Harry limped towards the nearby chair as his assistant Tyler began applying first aid on his injuries. Why do I have more injuries than them? asked Harry. Tyler merely chuckled a s he muttered healing incantations on Harrys wounds. Will Mr. Weasley be back today? asked Tyler, His intern Auror, Dawson, was looking for him a while ago. Harry flinched as he felt the sting. He was here this morning, he said, Tell Dawson to co me back tomorrow morning. Rons splitting time with the Ministry and his business. He stood up, wobbly and quite unsteady.

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Oh and sir, said Tyler, You have a visitor. Harry limped towards the exit, Who is it? Is it even important? he asked. If he was going to be honest with himself, he was in no condition to attend to visitors. I dont know, sir. But the bloke says you know him, said Tyler, He was pretty much eager to see you. Oh please, not admirers. I dont have time for them right now, thought Harry. Someone named Caleb Andrews, sir, informed Tyler, Hes waiting by the entrance already. Caleb? What in the world was he doing here? Harry found it odd to have Caleb visit him. They werent even close friends Well, according to Harry. For a moment, Harry was torn. A part of him yelled not to meet the bloke. He had no reason to meet up with Caleb, didnt he? Yet another part tugged his heart, telling him that Caleb did not deserve his coldness. It wasnt his fault that Ginny fell in love with him. What shall I tell him, sir? asked Tyler, Will I tell him youre busy? Harry sighed. No, Ill meet him. Now, theres the chap! Harry slightly cringed as he saw Caleb stand up from the chairs, his blue eyes gleaming along with his set of pearly whites. He immediately extended his hand for a shake. Hello, Caleb, greeted Harry, politely shaking Calebs hand, What brings you here? I was wondering if youre doing something right now, said Caleb, I was hoping maybe I could take you out for coffee. Why me? Why not Ron? he asked impulsively. Harry suddenly realized Caleb might have been offended by the question. But he wasnt. Caleb chuckled, I figured Ron needed time to rest. I got out of work earlyI was hoping for so me companionship, if you dont mind, he said, You were the first person that popped into my head. Harry thought for a while. He sort of predicted what would happen next if he said he was free. I just finished training some of the trainees. I do think I have some spare time, said Harry, not believing his own words. Calebs face lit up as he grinned. Great! Shall we get going then? Harry was tempted to return to his cubicle. But Calebs somehow overexcited face persuaded him not to.

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Let me get my coat, he said. He would get his what?

Harrys mind was playing games with him. He assumed there was a reason behind Calebs surprise visit. But he couldnt point his finger at it. The past hour was spent in a tiny coffee shop right outside of the Ministry. Caleb had merely asked Harry of his day and about his job as the head of the Auror department. Then he began questioning Harry about his years as the Boy Who Lived and all his adventures with Ron and Hermione. He was quite annoyed at first but he found himself answering all those inquiries. Underneath all those questions though, Harry suspected that there was a true motive to the visit. Now, Harry found himself walking in the nearby park. Caleb was walking beside him, not talking but merely smiling at the surroundings. Harry had finally admitted the fact that Caleb was the overexcited type of bloke. Their conversation in the coffee shop was filled with enthusiasm Harry could not match. He also accepted the fact that Caleb had a high level of respect and admiration for him- which Caleb had not failed to remind him over and over again. Knowing all that, Harry found it strange when Caleb became silent as they walked. His suspicions were becoming more realistic. Harry? Yes? he asked. Caleb was looking ahead of him, hands in his pockets. How long have you known Ginny? he asked. More than ten years, I guess, answered Harry, Ive known her since she was eleven. I see, said Caleb, nodding his head. There was silence. Harry was beginning to realize where the conversation was headed. And it made his stomach churn. He decided to break the ice. How about you? How long have you known her? he asked Caleb. Two years, actually, answered Caleb, We met at a local pub at Cumbri a. Ginny was just new to the community. Harrys ears tingled. So Ginny spent the last three years at Cumbria; Harry did not know this fact for even the Weasleys had no idea where there youngest daughter had gone during her years of exile.

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He wanted to know more information regarding Ginnys stay in Cumbria. He wanted to learn how Caleb and Ginny got together Even if it was somehow torturing It mustve been love at first sight, huh? he teased even though he was trembling inside. Caleb laughed as he ran a hand thru his hair. Not really. The first time I met her, Ginny was quite reserved and cold. She was obviously not interested in a bloke like me, he answered. Is that so? asked Harry. Yep. But I was definitely interested in her. There was som ething in the way she brought herself. Of course I already knew who she was even if the local natives had no idea that the famous Harpies Chaser Ginny Weasley was amongst them, said Caleb, I mean, who wouldnt be interested, right? Harry watched Caleb as he sighed wistfully; his eyes were looking ahead. Harry wondered if Caleb was picturing Ginny in his headthe Ginny he met for the first time. Right, said Harry. I have to admit, I was already one of her fans. But there was something about Ginny th at urged me to get to know her betterto look under that intimidating Quidditch player persona, continued Caleb, Would you like to sit on a bench? he asked, indicating to the nearby bench. Harry sat down on the bench, watching Calebs every expression. He waited for his companion to continue his story. You eventually pulled her thru, didnt you? asked Harry. Caleb chuckled, It was difficult at first but yes, I was able to soften her. Eventually, I realized that I not only admired Ginny for her skills and beauty, I also admired her for her wit and uniqueness. There was no one like her, he said. Thats true. Harry agreed with Caleb. Truly, there was no one in the world like Ginny. She was one in a million. And he lost her. He heard Caleb heave another sigh. Harrys eyes landed on Caleb. The bloke was looking at a distance, his expression dreamy. Harry envied him. You know Harry, said Caleb, Ginny is the best thing that ever happened to me. Calebs words tore Harry into two. He was feelin g exactly the same thing about Ginny. The only difference was Caleb had the girl, he didnt. Harry said nothing though. He continued to listen. Before Ginny, I was living life as it is. I was happy-go-lucky, basically contented with everything life passed to me, continued Caleb, When she came into my life, I experienced thrill and excitement that gave me the reason to wake up every morning. Ginnyshes the only real thing in the world. The only real thing in the world It was how Harry also described Ginny thru all the years he loved her.

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Remembering that sent a flash of pain inside Harrys system. But instead of showing it to Caleb, he chose to paste a sunny smile on his face. You did a good job of wooing her, then, he remarked, You were able to draw her out. Caleb laughed once more, Like I said, it wasnt easy. The first time I met her, she was distant and quite careful. She didnt give in to interaction easily. It was like she was avoiding something, he said. Avoiding something? I watched her every move, Harry. You might think I was stalking her but I was merely curious with her, said Caleb. What was it about Ginny, then? asked Harry. Caleb stopped for a moment. There was a thoughtful look on his face. From the way she acted, I knew that Ginny came to Cumbria, not for a vacation, but for an escape, said Caleb, Later on, I realized I was right about her. Harrys curiosity was getting the best of him. About her? he asked. Caleb merely smiled. He was still looking ahead but he looked as if he was recalling a distant memory. You know Harry, I eventually learned a lot about Ginny, especially when we got together, he said, I learned to separate the rumors I heard and the facts she told me. But even though she was completely honest with me, I did some research. Research? Was Ginny some sort of homework? Did he love her so much that he wanted to know everything about her? Harry suddenly felt small. He could not recall a time he did research on Ginny. Throughout the years of their relationship, Harry had taken her for grantedhad forgotten her real value. But he still refused to speak. He continued to listen to Caleb. Caleb sighed then he looked up, I knew Ginny was not completely truthful whenever I would ask her why she came to Cumbria in the first place. There was that look on her face that indicated she would rather not talk about it, he said, But I knew there was a reason. There had to be And you know what, Harry? What? I eventually figured it out, said Cal eb. Harry found himself turning his face at Caleb. He wanted to say something but he could not utter a single word. He urged himself to ask. What was the reason then? he asked. Even if he knew the answer. Caleb faced him, his expression torn between blank and seriousness.

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You. Harrys heart sank. He felt his insides churning uneasily and he somehow had to catch his breath. It was as if someone had forced him to swallow a reality he could not chew. You dated Ginny, am I correct? asked Caleb. He maintained a cool and expressionless face as he asked. He knew Yes, answered Harry shortly. Caleb nodded his head and returned his gaze to his front. When you live in a place like Cumbria, which is basically some sort of province, youre not really updated with all things modern, he began to explain, Here in London, it was probably common knowledge to everyone that the great Harry Potter was dating the Quidditch star Ginny Weasley. But not in Cumbria. Hhow did you know? asked Harry, Did she tell you? Caleb chuckled, Well, she didnt have to tell me that she came to Cumbria because she was escaping the pains of a former relationship. It sort of showed in her face, he said, As for me figuring out about you and her, wellshe eventually confessed. Oh, was all Harry was able to say. He still couldnt wrap his mind around the shocking fact that Caleb knew. He knew. He saw Caleb bite his lip. Apparently, the bloke was also in deep thought. He showed no sign of anger or disappointment at Harryhe remained expressionless and quite thoughtful. Did you love her, Harry? The question caught Harry off guard. Calebs blue eyes were staring at him. He was patiently waiting for Harrys answer. Didnt he have any idea how his question made Harry uneasy? Did you? he asked again. Harry gazed at the trees. He heard the birds singing above him and the leaves flying away with the wind. Yes. Yes, I did, he finally answered. What happened then? asked Caleb. Harrys head lowered a bit. He felt the pang of past paining him all over again. He recalled Ginnys tear-streaked face, her pleas, and her complaints. He remembered how he had forgotten what it meant to love someone like Ginny Weasley. He remembered how he placed work above her. It brought back the pain. Im sorry Harry, you dont have to tell me if it makes you uncomfortable, said Caleb, Im sorry - I took her for granted, answered Harry, Thats why.

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Caleb did not speak. Harry assumed he was merely listening, waiting for him to continue. He obliged. I was just promoted at the office and I thought everything was perfect. Turns out I was wrong, continued Harry, Work got the best of me and eventually, I forgot all the promises I made to her. As he spoke, it was as if he could still see Ginny questioning him regarding the reason why he wasnt able to attend her Quidditch game for the nth time. He remembered how she looked thoroughly upset and he, Harry, would just be annoyed, thinking that she was becoming such a nagger. I started forgetting all the promises I made, the games I was supposed to watch and even forgot her on our anniversary, he went on, I prioritized work over her. I always thought that I could make it to her tomorrowand I never did. I always had excuses ready for her complaints. He suddenly recalled that night he forgot their anniversary. The reason behind that was he had to sign papers for the Auror department and had to be passed that very night. He remembered how frustrated Ginny was when she came to his house the morning after, complaining how she had to go home alone thru the rain. And he didnt even care He didnt care. That was the bitter reality. He sighed, I forgot what she was to me. All she ever wanted was for me to pay attention to her again and I didnt. I forgot all the things I had gone thru in order to come back to herto be with her forever when my future was clear, he said, And being the prat I was, I threw it all away. I set aside the most important person in the world for a bloody job." Regret was slowly creeping back into Harrys system. He was beginning to realize how stupid he was three years ago. He could not believe that he loved his job more than he loved Ginny. It was a painful realization. All those months he spent worrying that Ginny would find someone else while he was away hunting horcruxes, all those sleepless nights he spent wondering if he would ever be the stranger she would marry in the future They were thrown away when she came back into his life. Which he threw away when he took her for granted Im sorry, Harry, Calebs hand was on his shoulder. Harry looked at him and saw nothing but sympathy on Calebs face. It was somehow odd to have Ginnys present boyfriend comforting him, the ex -boyfriend, over losing her. But Caleb seemed genuinely sympathetic and Harry no longer wanted to be a hypocrite. He forced a smile out of his face. He shouldnt earn Calebs sympathy. He deserved the consequence he was suffering. Do me a favor, Caleb? he asked. Of course, what favor? He heaved another sigh as he placed a hand on Calebs shoulder. Make her happy, he said, Let her feel the happiness she never felt with me. Harry-

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Pay her all the attention she deserves. Make sure you make her know you love her, continued Harry, Dont ever take her for granted. A girl like Ginnyshes one in a million. You cant find someone else like her. I know, said Caleb shortly, a smile escaping his lips. He looked Caleb straight in the eye, To be honest, I think shes doing much better off with you, he said, Ive never seen her so happy. He saw Calebs cheeks redden at the remark. Well, I couldnt say so myself. Ive been a blunder at times, he said. I dont think it affects the way she feels about you. Her eyes sparkle whenever I mention your name, said Harry, She loves you Caleb His heart pained at his own words. But he continued, You love her, right? he asked. Of course, more than my own life, answered Caleb. Harry nodded, Love her more than she could love you. Ginnyshes the type who loves unconditionally. She deserves to feel the same love, he said. The wind blew gently on the two gentlemen as they sat on the bench, silence hovering over them. Harry was processing the realization he had formulated. Ginny was better off with Caleb. She was in a much healthier place. She had no need of him anymore. It was already too late. He had to move on with his life and stop wallowing about her. It was fate. He had to accept the harsh reality even if it was painful. He simply had to let her go. He suddenly stood up. Harry? Are you alright? II think I have to get back now, said Harry, My co-workers might already be looking for me, you see. Oh, is that so? Yes, Im sorry Caleb, said Harry, But I want to thank you for the coffee and for the time. I appreciated it. Caleb also stood up and clasped Harrys shoulder. The pleasure is mine, Harry. Ive always looked up to you and always will, he said, Thank you

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toofor the time and the honesty. I hope we could be good friends. He smiled at Caleb, We will be. And welcome, glad to be of service. But I have to go now, he said, then he patted Calebs back, Ill see you around Caleb. Goodbye. With that, he turned his back and heaved a deep breath. He began to slowly walk away Harry? Hearing his name, Harry turned around. Do you still love her? asked Caleb. Why did the questions never end? For a moment, Harry did not speak. He just merely stared at Caleb, unable to open his mouth. There was a battle in his head: should he or should he not answer? He paused to think. The answer was quite obvious. He smiled weakly. I missed a lot with Ginny, he said, Fill it up for me, will you? Then with that, he turned his back and began walking away quietly, leaving Calebs question unanswered.

5:00 P.M., Afternoon Rain started to pour once again. Under his umbrella, Harry shivered and pulled his coat closer to his body. In order to distract him from his conversation with Caleb, Harry immediately started working when he got back to the Ministry. He didnt want to think about the realization he had learned during their chat. His heart could only take so much pain. He wanted to pretend as if he didnt hear the hurtful truth that came from his own mouth. He wanted to forgeteven for a second. It hurt to know that Ginny was much better off without him but he knew he had to accept the fact that she was healthier with Caleb. She was more vibrant than ever and Harry knew it was all because of Caleb. As much as he hated to admit it, it was reality. And everyone knows realities can hurt. But then he thought, if he loved Ginny, truly loved herhe would want the best for her. Caleb was the best man for herso he ought to let her go. All these thoughts were killing him inside. Groups of people were also rushing towards home. The rain poured harder and it was getting difficult to see and to walk faster. Harry became cautious as he felt people hurrying beside him, left and right.

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It was as if the weather was also sympathizing with him. He wanted to go home To have some rest And to forget, even if it was just for a while OOF! Because he was distracted and the crowd of people became thicker, Harry had accidentally bumped into someone. A plastic of fruits spilled on the pavement, exposing green apples. Im so sorry, Harry apologized, gathering the apples one by one. Its no big deal, answered the person, whose face was covered by the umbrella. That voice sounds familiar, thought Harry. He looked up and found himself staring at the persons back, who was also picking up fruits from the pavement. Here are your apples, he said. The person turnedher raven black hair swinging along with her. And Harry found himself staring into a pair of dark eyes. Too familiar dark eyesthat widened in surprise at the sight of him. Harry? Harry Potter? Harry looked up. He knew he was right. Hello, Cho

Chapter 10: X. Other Fishes in the Sea

Rons eyes were as wide as saucers. Solet me get this straight, he began to say. Harry bit his lip as he awaited his best mates words. Youre going to spend the afternoonwith Cho? asked Ron, And when you said Cho, you meant Cho ChangCho Chang the Raveclaw seeker and Tornadoes chaser. Yourer, well, your- Ex-girlfriend finished Harry, Right. Ron took a sip of butterbeer as he remained silent. Apparently he was still processing this new bit of information from his best friend. Harry on the other hand was also surprised at what he had just done. When did you first see her again? asked Ron. Two days ago. We bumped into each other and ended up having dinner, answered Harry.

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Who asked first? Harry sighed. I did. There was a look of astonishment on Rons face. Harry had expected that; he himself could not believe what he did. The moment he realized that he was face to face with Cho Chang, the words Would you like some dinner? came out of impulse. The things heartbreak can make you do. Did she tell you why she resigned from the Tornadoes two months ago? Harry shrugged, She didnt say much about that. She only told me she had just come back from Scotland after visiting her relatives, he answered. Ron was quiet once more; his expression was torn between disbelief and shock. He was staring into nothingness. Wellwhat did you talk about during your dinner? asked Ron. Harry leaned on the window and crossed his arms. It was pretty awkward and silent at first but then we basically caught up wit h each other: careers, family and stuff. Turns out she might just settle with her familys business. And we talked about the Ministry, said Harry. There was a thoughtful look on Rons face. It made Harry nervous by the minute. Erwell, is she still-? I mean, is shegoing out with someone? asked Ron, unease and wonder in his voice. Harry stared outside of his window. The sun was hiding behind the clouds, giving them another gloomy day. No, he answered shortly. Oh, said Ron. They both realized the possibility. Soyoure going out with her? asked Ron, repeating his question, Like on a date? It exasperated Harry. Look Ron, Im just spending the afternoon with Cho, he said, Were not going to end up in a motel or some sort. Were just going out. Like a date? Harry sighed, Sort of, he answered, I meandates arent anything official. Its just going out. But dates can also lead to something else, mate, said Ron. By that moment, Harry was getting somewhat annoyed. Well if it leads to something else, then we cant do anything about it, can we? snapped Harry, Maybe its a good thing.

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But mate, what about Ginny? Moments like these made Harry wish Hermione was present to handle her boyfriends lack of tact. Harry ran a hand thru his raven black hair and sighed once more. They were at Rons flat, basically killing the spare time they had received from their early dismissal from work. It was during that time that Harry chose to tell Ron about Cho. Now he wished he hadnt. What about her? asked Harry in a cool voice. He saw Rons eyes widened in disbelief. It appears that Ron fell for his acting. Bubut, I thought stammered Ron. Harry simply looked at him as he took the bottle of butterbeer and drank. He wasnt go ing to let Ron know that even he was surprised at his own actions. He was going to let Ron see that he didnt care anymore Ron was figuring the right words out. Finally, he took a deep breath. I thought you stillwell, I thought you still loved her, h e said. Harry took another sip of butterbeer. Ron was right but he wasnt going to let Ron know that. She has Caleb, now. I cant just butt into their relationship, said Harry, Besides, dont I deserve to be happy? His question must have struck Ron. Ron simply nodded his head and looked past Harry, towards the window. Harry decided to press on. Look mate, Ive decided to leave Ginny and Caleb alone. Im not going to be some prat trying to break them apart. But I will be the bloke whos trying to move on, he explained, I have every right to do so, dont you think? I know you do, mate. But- Then youd understand why Im doing this, Ron. Maybe going out with Cho is the answer. I mean maybe I can finally move on, said Harry, Ill be able to leave them alone in peace. Ron was about to say something but decided to keep his mouth closed. Harry on the other hand, could not believe every word he said. But he knew it was the right thing to do. He wasnt going to allow himself to continue being stuck to Ginny. He was going to do the right thing: MOVE ON. He promised to himself that he wouldnt make things hard on Ginny anymore. Though he still loved her, he wanted her to be happy. She found happiness in Calebtherefore, Harry backed off. But mate? Harry looked at Ron. Yeah? Ron leaned forward, a thoughtful look on his face.

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Are you telling me youre going to force yourself to love some other girl when you know youre in love with someone else? That was something to think about.

Harry rubbed his hands together, hoping to warm himself, as he looked around. He looked at his wristwatch: 3:05 PM She was supposed to be here five bloody minutes ago He and Cho were supposed to meet at the Leaky Cauldron at three in the afternoon. Harry had arrived fifteen minutes earlier than the arranged time, hoping he could get himself together before Cho arrived. Now time was ticking and he was getting very impatientHarry! Opposite him, the door swung open to reveal a pink-cheeked Cho Chang. Hello, Cho, greeted Harry. He began to walk towards her, his insides somehow filled with butterflies. He could not believe this was happening. Once he was an inch away from her, he wondered if he was supposed to hug her. Im sorry Im late, apologized Cho, I hope I didnt make you wait long. Its alright, said Harry, Shall we get going then? Do you have a place in mind? she asked. Harry grinned sheepishly at her, To be honest, I have no idea where the best place would be, he said. For a split second, it was as if Harry spotted a sparkle in Chos eyes. There was a quirky grin on her face. I think I know where, she said, Follow me. Cho went ahead of him, leaving Harry to stare at her back. For a moment, he wanted to stay.

It was amazing how Harry maintained his composure. Even if he was tempted to fall apart He eyed the falling confetti with unease but he forced himself to smile. Taking a sip of his coffee, he couldnt help but be amused and nervous at the same time. He wondered to himself if Cho was being nostalgic or if she was humoring him. Out of all the places they couldve gone, they ended up in Madam Pudifoots tea shop, which incidentally, was the place where they had there somewhat disastrous first date.

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The past hour was spent on eating and talking at the same time. It amazed Harry that they never ran out of things to discuss, whereas in the past, it was hard for them to talk about anything at all. It boggled Harry that he never managed to talk with her during the days he consistently watched Ginnys matches. Probably because he was too engrossed with his girlfriend and his work. It was obvious that the fact he never got to talk with her matches before he and Ginny broke up was because he stopped showing up to Ginnys games. In fact, their conversation now was better than their conversation during their dinner. Now, Harry found himself looking at Cho, who was busy gazing outside while sipping her cup of coffee. She was pretty much the same Cho he last saw personally three years ago. Same raven black hair which she wore in a bun, same dark piercing Asian eyes, same fair skin Of course, she had matured. She was prettier compared to before. He saw a strand of her hair fall to her eyes as she continued to gaze outside. As he stared at her, Harry began to remember why he was attracted to Cho in the first place. There was no question that she was his first love, not Ginny. It was Cho who made his innocent, 13-year old heart experience its first beatings. Cho must have felt him staring at her as she returned her eyes at him. Are you okay, Harry? she asked. Eryeah, he said, sipping his coffee again. Cho smiled and leaned forward, placing her face on top of her hands. So Harrybeing the head Auror must have its perks, she said. Her face was close. Harry gulped but he maintained his composure. Yeah, it does. Free coffee, he said, making Cho laugh. Lucky you, then. Not only are you the so-called Chosen One, youre the Head Auror. Youre one of the luckiest men on earth, she said. Not really, said Harry, shaking his head as he placed his cup down, Im not a gifted Quidditch player like you. At least you ended up with the Tornadoes. And I eventually resigned, added Cho. But still, you were still on an actual team, said Harry, Thats something not everybody can achieve. Being on an English Quidditch team is hitting pay dirt. Cho laughed. As she did, Harry recalled those times he would be thoroughly pleased when he managed to make Cho laugh, despite the fact that she was still in mourning over her first boyfriend, Cedric Diggory. You couldve made it too, you know, she said, But I guess you were too busy saving the wizarding world that you became an Auror instead. Too busy saving the wizarding world The phrase sounded too familiar. Harry shook his head. He told himself not to think of Ginny when he was trying to move on. It wasnt going to help him at all.

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He merely chuckled as he stirred his coffee. I guess you can put it that way. After all, kicking dark wizards arses is loads better than flying around a broom and getting knocked off, he remarked. He watched as Cho smile at him, her eyes shining. Harry expected to feel a chill the moment Cho smiled at him. Her sweet smiles usually sent shivers to his spine, especially when he was hopelessly in love with her. Cho was no doubt beautiful and quite eye catching and Harry truly wanted to feel those chills once more. The problem was She wasnt Ginny Weasley. But it was no use, realizing she wasnt Ginny. He had accepted the fact that he could never have her. The only thing to do was get better or else, stay bitter. Harry was not looking forward to the last option. Are you happy right now? she asked all of a sudden. Harry almost choked on his coffee at the surprising inquiry. Why were people asking him the same question over and over again? Eryeah, I am, he said, Why did you ask? Cho was observing him. Well, theres this part of you that seems quiteunsure. I dunno, I must be dreaming or something. But I cant help but notice that - then she trailed off. That? She hesitated for a moment, That something is bothering you, she said. Harry took a sip of his coffee. Was his unease obvious on his face? It was beginning to disturb him that people were noticing the difference in him. He smiled at her, Im okay, Cho. Maybe Im just tired, he explained. Cho merely nodded her head and resumed drinking her coffee. Harry racked his brains for another topic. How come a pretty girl like you isnt going out with a decent bloke? he suddenly asked. For a moment, Harry felt dumb and sorely wished he could take the question back. He feared Cho would be offended. Cho blushed as she looked down at her cup of coffee. I dated in the past but none of them seemed to be the right person, she answered, They werent the ONE, actually. I guess you can say Im pretty picky when it comes to matters like those. Her eyes suddenly landed on him. He felt them piercing himand he wondered i f it was a good thing. I bet a lot of blokes lined up in front of your doorstep, he teased. Not really, most of them lined up outside of the arena, offering me a ride home with their broomsticks, she said, then she rolled her eyes, Like I need one. They both laughed at this remark. How about you, Harry? she asked, I heard about theuhfallout. There was uncertainty in the tone of her voice; it was as if she was regretting she had asked him the question. He knew what Cho was talking about. Harry merely shrugged as he looked down at his cup. He didnt feel comfortable talking about the break up. It reminded him of what he had lost. It was pretty much my fault, he heard himself answering, I messed up, you see. I guess Ginny was pretty much fed up. Oh Harry, Im sorry, said Cho.

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You dont have to be sorry, he said, I deserved it. I became too much of a workaholic and Ginny deserves someone better. I mean, I wouldnt the same thing to happen to me if I were in her place, either. She already has a boyfriend, right? Harry nodded his head, Yep. Caleb Andrews, he said. Youve met him? Even had lunch with him, Cho was at a loss for words. Harry could see the sympathy in her eyes. He was starting to feel like an idiot once more but he wasnt about to let that overcome him. He was going to be strong. I respect Ginnys decision. Shes better off with him. Hes a nice bloke and pays more attention to her than I ever did, said Harry, I guess thats life for me. Live and let live. Im moving on day by day. If you call three years of burying yourself under loads of work living Harry suddenly felt something warm touch his hand. He looked up to see Cho holding his hand, a sympathetic expression on her face. She gave him a gentle squeeze, comforting him for his lost. Harry was touched by the action You mustve loved her, she said. Still do Harry shrugged and grinned weakly, I did but I wasnt enough, he said, Its just the way it is now. Cho had not released his hand. Her warmth had somehow comforted Harry. Her hands were still soft and silky like he remembered of her during their Hogwarts days. Dont worry, Harry, she said, Its not over for you yet. She gave his hand another squeeze. He looked at her and saw that sweet smile of hers, hoping she could send him the chills again. Harry smiled, squeezing her hand back. I know, but Ill probably focus on work more than ever, he told her. As they say, there are plenty of other fish in the sea, she said. Harry realized she was still holding his hand. It was somehow awkward for him to hold her hand once again after many years of separation. He gently released his hand from hers and smiled gratefully at her instead. Im not focusing on that for now. There are more important things in life than messed up lives, he told her, But thanks for the encouragement. Cho smiled back at him, It wont take long. Youre Harry Potter anywayloads of women would fall for you, she said, making Harry chuckle. He ran a hand thru his hair. But it will take some time to know if shes the ONE, he replied. Absolutely, seconded Cho. Once again, they took a rest from their conversation. Cho once more diverted her gaze outside, giving Harry the chance to stare at her without her noticing.

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He was beginning to think of the possibilities. Although he was going to focus on his work more, Harry figured a life lived without love was somehowdull. It was a mystery to him why he had never realized this during the three years of his so-called living. He decided he was not going back to his workaholic days. Ginnys comeback had awaken various realizations and chances for him and he figured it was about time for him to turn a new page of his life. Cho was right. There are other fishes in the sea. He was gazing at her profile once more. He continued to look at her that way even when their conversation had begun once again. It was amazing how the past few years molded her into this brand new person. The last time he was alone with her ended up with Cho becoming frustrated at him and bursting out crying. Now, they were merely chatting animatedly, eager to hear of each others stories. It was as if Harry was able to connect with her He watched Cho as she threw her head back, laughing at a joke he had just shared. Her eyes were twinkling with delight. If he was some other bloke, he wouldve been attracted easily and decided that Cho was a woman hed consider a relationship with. Unfortunately, he wasnt some other bloke. Are you telling me youre going to force yourself to love some other girl when you know youre in love with someone else? Rons voice rang clear as a bell. He had a point and Harry knew that. He was forcing himself to fall in love with the girl he had fallen out of love already in order to forget the girl he was still in love with. It was pretty crazy. But it was also a desperate attempt. As he looked at Cho, Harry thought of one thing. He had to keep on going forward.

I thought I was going to die of humiliation! Harry threw his head back in laughter as he appreciated Chos story of her embarrassing moment with a muggle saleslady. It was already close to six and they decided to take a walk down Hogsmeade before they part ways. The wind was blowing gently on their faces, making their cheeks pink. The butterbeer they had consumed had managed to keep its effects in tact as they walk down the road, warming them. For a while, Harry had forgotten the reason why he asked Cho out. He was actually enjoying spending time with her and he wasnt pretending.

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He found himself laughing with her, teasing her and even poking fun at her. It was actually a good feeling. Remind me never to ask for a size eight shoe, then, he said. Cho giggled as they rounded up the nearby corner. Harry shoved his hands inside his coat pockets for warmth. He glanced at her hand. He tried to recall what it felt like when he held her hand. You know, Ive missed Hogwarts a lot, she said, breaking his thoughts, Ive had a lot of good memories at school, especially with the D.A., Harry nodded, smiling as he recalled his fifth year. He remembered how seeing Dolores Umbridge made him want to hex the living hell out of her. His scar tingled at the thought. He also recalled Dumbeldores Army or the D.A. for short. Harry had never encountered a happier lot than them. Yeah, those were the times, said Harry, I do miss cooking up schemes to kick Umbridges arse. This made Cho laugh. Harry found himself pleased with her reaction. She looked at him. You were a great teacher, Harry. I certainly learned a lot, she said. I was just lucky, Cho nodded her head and suddenly adopted a somber expression on her face. You know, I now understand why you got angry with me when I sided with Marrieta, she said, You had a point. She did somehow mess up and I was a prat to follow along her. The D.A. sure was something. Sokay, I sort of understand her now, too. Her mum works at the Ministry at that time, so she knew she had to do the right thingeven if it was stupid, said Harry. And it involved punishing her fellow D.A. members, added Cho. Harry merely shrugged as they continued to walk along the path. Ah well, life goes on, right? asked Cho, We cant always wallow in the past. Yep, its the best thing to do, said Harry. They continued to walk down the road, Harry being cautious and sensitive along the way. The day had reminded him of the first time he asked Cho out only this time, she didnt run out in tears. It gave him a pleasant feeling. Cho? Hmm? she asked. Harry suddenly stopped in his tracks. Cho, noticing this, also stopped walking. She looked up at him. What is it, Harry? He smiled down at her. It was nice to see you again, he said, Its been years. He saw a hint of pink creep on both sides of her face. She looked quite shy for a moment but returned

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his smile. Yeah, its nice to catch up with you Harry. I enjoyed this day, she said. Is it alright with you if we go out some more? As friends, of course, he suddenly asked, acting on impulse. She giggled, Of course, as long as the tabs on you, she said, her eyelashes fluttering. Was she flirting with him? Thats settled then, said Harry as he continued to walk. Cho followed beside him. Somehow, he felt uneasy inside once more. There was a sense of betrayal in his mind. Why should I feel that? Im not betraying anyone I guess its time for me to go, said Cho, breaking his thoughts, Its nearly six. Alright then, do you need some accompaniment? he asked. Cho bit her lip and smiled, Temptingbut I think I need to sort things out in the flat, she said. Harry grinned at her as they continued walking. They stopped at the sidewalk and prepared to cross the streetOUT OF ME WAY! An obviously hurrying fruit vendor suddenly barged in the way, knocking Cho off her feet, causing Harry to catch her in the nick of time. She immediately grabbed hold of Harrys neck to avoid stumbling. Harry found himself face to face with her. For a moment, he allowed himself to stare at her eyes, drowning in their darkness. It was as if he could finally conjure the feelings for her that he buried underneath. At least for a while Cho was also looking back at him. For a second, he was tempted to become impulsive again. Harry! His gaze at Cho was broken as he heard the voice that called his name. He looked at the direction where it came from. His eyes widened in surprise. Opposite them was Caleb Andrews, a look of surprise also on his face mixing with his grin. His hand was raised in greeting. The person beside him shocked Harry more. Ginny Weasley stood next to Caleb; she wore an expression torn between disbelief and- could it be?disapproval? Her eyes were also wide with surprise and bits of questions were evident on her face. Harrys heart gave a thud. It was about to get more complicated.

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Chapter 11: XI. So Close Yet So Far

As they ate, Harry remained silent. He could somehow feel Ginnys cold gaze at him. And it made him none too comfortable An hour ago, Harry was discovered by Ginny and Caleb across a street at Hogsmeade. At that time, he had just saved Cho from falling by catching her, which ended up with Harry staring at her and eventually being found by Ginny in an awkward position. Caleb, who somehow sensed the tension, invited Harry and Cho over for dinner. However, Cho declined, stating that she had to settle things at home, leaving Harry with Ginny and Caleb. And now, he sat across the couple in a nearby restaurant, supposedly having dinner but instead feeling uncomfortable as Ginnys eyes surveyed him. Well Harry, said Caleb, breaking the silence, That girl you were with a while agothat was Cho Chang right? A Quidditch player too? Eryeah, she used to play for the Tornadoes, he answered. Interesting, said Caleb, Was she an old school friend of yours? Harry scooped his mash potato and inserted it in his mouth. He wasnt in the mood for answering questions at the moment. The way Ginny was looking at him made him feel quite guilty. He felt like he was caught cheating by his girlfriend More like his ex-girlfriend. Yes, he answered shortly. I see, said Caleb, She mustve been a very good friend of yours. Then he slyly winked at Harry. Harry on the other hand, returned a grin so unsure. Ginny on the other hand, almost choked on her Iced Tea, spluttering as she gasped for air. Are you okay, Love? asked Caleb urgently, gently thumping Ginny in the back. Im okay, Im okay, said Ginny, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. She set her glass down as she rubbed her chest. Take it easy on the drinks, pet, suggested Caleb, We dont want you choking. Ginny smiled at him as she drew in breath and sighed. She looked at Harry for a split second then took her eyes off him. Harry suddenly felt tensed. It was as if he was back to his first lunch with Ginny and Caleb, the lunch where Ginny was inexplicably showing off her coldness. Only this time, Harry didnt know why. At least, he pretended not to know Anyway Harry, we should invite Cho out for lunch sometimes, huh? suggested Caleb, She seems like fun. What were you two doing out? Harry speared his chicken and took a bite from it.

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We just had coffee and basically caught up with each other, he said, Its been years since we last saw each other. I bet catching up with your ex-girlfriend sure is fun, huh, Harry? asked Ginny, a somewhat steal edge in her voice. Before Harry could answer, Caleb had intervened. Ex-girlfriend? he asked, Really, now? Blimey Harry, you must be some kind of a Casanova! Harry was looking at Ginny. He didnt understand what was wrong with her. He thought they were finally cool with each other but then why in the world was she acting up? He shrugged and said sheepishly, Not really. It was a really short-lived relationship, actually. He saw Ginny scoff for a moment as she sipped a spoonful of her soup. Caleb however, took no notice. Interesting. Well, forgive me for asking but who ended it? he asked. Its quite odd actually, said Harry, We just sort of fell apart. No closure or anything. A sly grin suddenly spread on Calebs face. No closure, eh? That means it can be re-opened again, he said, After all, I reckon shes still single. Harry grinned sheepishly and resumed eating. He felt quite uncomfortable talking about Cho right after they were caught in an awkward position. Calebs suggestion of re-opening his relationship with Cho added to his unease. He felt like he wasnt ready yet When will he ever be? Probably, he just said. Probably? Then you really do have a chance with her, said Caleb, I think its about time the great Harry Potter took a break from his regular routine by having a girlfriend by his side, dont you think so, Love? he asked Ginny. Ginny looked at him, quite unsure of what to say. She resolved to smiling at Caleb instead. Yeah, I think so, she replied then she resumed eating her salad. You see, said Caleb, We both think its a good idea, Harry. Im not sayin g you date her now. You give it some time and see how it plays. How about it, eh? Harrys eyes looked at Ginny. Her eyes did the same thing. For a moment, they were both unsure. Thatll be great, was all Harry said. Caleb grinned contentedly as he returned his attention to his roast beef. Ginny on the other hand, did not remove her eyes from Harry. There was a question written on her face and it was bothering Harry. There was doubt. For a split second, Harry wanted the evening to end. An hour later, Harry along with Ginny and Caleb, exited the restaurant in order to go home. Looks like rain, said Caleb, looking up at the clouds, Got your coat, love?

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Ginny smiled fondly at him, Yes. Do you have yours? she asked. Caleb lifted his gray coat and nodded his head. Going somewhere Harry? he asked. Harry was on the other side, hands inside his pockets. In reality, he had no idea of where to go. He considered going home early for a change. Not sure, he replied, You? Ginny and I will be apparating at St. Ottery and take a long walk while I take her home, he said. Long romantic walks, huh? Harry forced himself to smile. Thats wonderful, he said. I know, nothing beats romantic walks, said Caleb, putting a hand around Ginnys shou lder. Harry was sorely tempted to close his eyes. Then Ginny turned her face at him and smiled. Youre going to be alright, Harry? she asked. Yeah, he said. He will be alright, hes Harry Potter! exclaimed Caleb as he removed his hand from Ginnys shoulder and began rummaging inside his bag. Damn, he suddenly muttered. Something wrong? asked Harry. Caleb continued digging his hands inside his bag, Ive forgotten the papers I should be signing tonight, he said, Damn. I have to get them back. I can go home alone tonight. Its okay with me, said Ginny. There was a fallen expression on Calebs face that made Harry want to gag. But weve never missed a walk home, Gin-Gin, said Caleb, Maybe I can get them done tomorrow. But you have to meet the deadline, Caleb. I cant let you miss a deadline again for the nth time, Ginny, its already night. You cant go out wandering alone, Ginny tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear, Im going to be fine, Caleb. I have a wand, she reasoned. Caleb still looked unsure, But I just cant bear the thought of you being alone - I can take her home. The words stumbled out of Harrys mouth. For a moment, he wished he could take them back. There was a look of surprise on Ginnys face. Harry decided it was already too late so hed better just continue talking.

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I can take her home if Ginny being alone makes you feel uncomfortable, he said, I know their house and Ill get her home safely. He was crossing his fingers behind his back. At the back of his mind, he figured Caleb would protest since he knew about his and Ginnys past relationship background. But he was only doing it out of goodwill Wasnt he? Thats a great idea! Oh would you, Harry? Caleb was obviously ecstatic with the idea. Ginny on the other hand, was torn between confusion and amusement. Harry was speechless at the moment because of the shock. He was not expecting that reaction. Eryeah, Id be glad to, he said. Caleb smiled as he closed his bag. At least I have peace knowing that my Ginny will be safe, he said. Eryeah. Caleb then kissed Ginny, making Harry look away, Ill be seeing you tomorrow, Love. At least I know that youre not alone, he said. He smiled a grateful smile at Harry. Take care of Ginny, will you, Harry? said Caleb, Thank you so much for accompanying her. I just cant bear the idea of seeing Ginny walking home alone. Its okay, said Harry. Caleb then pulled his coat and grinned at them. See you tomorrow! he said, waving his hand as he began walking away, leaving Harry and Ginny under the streetlight. It took Harry about a minute to realize that he was finally alone with Ginny. He could feel her presence behind him and he started to feel the butterflies fluttering inside his stomach. Shall we get going? Her voice startled Harry. He turned around and saw her looking up at him, her arms crossed at her chest. Uh, yeah, I reckon we should, he said. Ginny nodded her head and Harry followed her as she headed to a dark alleyway in order to apparate away from the eyes of muggles. They stopped in the middle of the alleyway and faced each other. Harry was able to perceive Ginnys brown eyes even in the dark. Ready? Yes, A second later, they were gone.

There was a slight exploding sound heard not far from St. Ottery. Harry dusted off his pants as he fixed his glasses, lopsided from apparating. Though he has been apparating for years, he still hasnt got the hang of it. Ginny on the other hand, fixed her coat and ran a hand thru her hair.

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The stars shone above them as they slowly began walking thru the fields. How come you dont apparate directly to the Burrow? asked Harry. On nights like these, I prefer taking a long stroll home. Its kind of a routine for me, actually, she said. Really? asked Harry. He wasnt able to recall any moment referring to what she said. Ginny nodded her head, Ive taken a liking to walks like these. It gives me time to think you knowto reflect on some things if you could actuall y believe it, she said sheepishly. Harry chuckled as he buried his hands inside his coat pockets. I didnt know Ginny Weasley was a reflective person, he said. He saw Ginny smile slightly as they continued walking. The night was calm and silent. The moon had risen to its proper place in the sky, emanating a silver glow. The leaves of the trees swayed lazily against the gentle winds. Harry heard the croaking of frogs nearby. It was a solemn night Soyouve bumped into Cho again, huh? asked Ginny all of a sudden. Harry looked at her and wasnt quite able to read the expression on her face. Yeah, he said. How is she? Is she enjoying a solemn life with the family business or is she missing the action of the field? I think shes fairly satisfied with the business but I reckon she misses the action, too, he said, I can see the longing in her eyes when we talk about Quidditch. I cant blame her. Shes missing a lot, thats for sure, remarked Ginny. After that, silence hovered between them once more. The croaking of frogs was audible throughout the night. It was the only sound that broke the awkward silence. So I guess you followed my advice three years ago, said Ginny. Harry looked at her, Advice? What advice? he asked. She smiled weakly and looked at the stars above her. Dont you remember? I told you onthe night that we, wellfell of she said, her voice trailing off. Harry began to rack his brains. He tried to recall that memory he had buried underneath because of the maximum pain it inflicted on him whenever he would recall. And then it hit him Youll be free to date other girls again. I heard Chos free It was what she said on the night they broke up. Ginny told him that he would be free to go out with other women because he was no longer tied to her. And Ginny had even suggested Cho Ohyeah, I remember now, he said. Ginny nodded her head and placed her hands in front of her, rubbing them for warmth. Harry was sorely tempted to hold them like he always did whenever she was cold. Soare you-? Well, are you dating her? she asked. Harry thought about it for a while. He began to wonder if going out twice was already considered as

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dating. And if he was dating, he should be deeply interested in Cho. He was interested in Chobut was he THAT interested? Did he even fancy her? He chuckled, I wouldnt call it dating, actually. Its more like catching up, I guess, he told her. Catching up, repeated Ginny, It seems like it was ages ago when the two of you dated. I c an still remember that lovestruck look you had. Harry was somehow caught off guard by Ginnys comment. He had never discussed his crush at Cho with Ginny when they were at school. It seemed peculiar to him that she had noticed when they were not close friends yet during that time. Really? Was I that obvious? he asked. Ginny laughed, A bit actually. You always look smitten during the DA meetings, she replied, And you couldnt take your eyes off her. He saw the smile vanish a bit in her face. Well, I thought I was in love with her. Guess I was wrong, though, But its never too late for a second try, Harry, Harry stopped in his tracks. Its never too late for a second try? Ginnys words struck him. He realized how wrong she was. He was late for a second try and she did not realize it. Ginny, noticing Harrys sudden stop also froze in her tracks and looked at him. Harry? Are you alright? she asked. Harry looked at her, his mind still buzzing at what she had said. The realization stung him where it hurt. II just had a cramp, he lied, Sorry, Im just stretching. Do you need help walking? asked Ginny. No, Ill be fine. Cmon, lets get going, he said. He began walking towards her, her flowery scent filling his nostrils. They were surrounded with nothing but fields. Harry was able to spy the small ray of light a distance away. Sohows work? asked Ginny. Harry ran a hand thru his forest of hair, Stressful as always but nonetheless straightforward, I guess, he said. I can see youre thoroughly enjoying it, she said, Being the head Auror and all, youve got almost everything under your palms. Not really, disagreed Harry, Being the head Auror grants me the right to look like a zombie almost every day without anyone giving me a bloody damn because Ill hex the hell out of them if they did. This made Ginny laugh. Harry found himself grinning widely. There was something magical in Ginnys laugh that made him feel better when he hears her.

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How about you? Hows life as a Quidditch player? he asked her. Oh its nothing that exciting. I dont go to work looking like a zombie though but I always look harassed and windswept, said Ginny, I guess getting scratched in a game is the least exciting part of my job. I bet you love it when you hear the crowd screaming your name out, said Harry. He watched as Ginny tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear. I have to admit, their screams give me the energy I need to play. They keep me going, she said modestly, Im sometimes amazed by their sheer number I mean, Im not even as good as Gwen - Youre a bloody brilliant Quidditch player, Ginger, said Harry indignantly. Then he realized what he had just said He called her Ginger againafter three years of separati on. It was the first time he had called her by the nickname only he was allowed to use. He felt so comfortable at the moment that he had the nerve to use the nickname he had created for her when they were still together. Harry slowly began to recall how Ginny was easily annoyed when other people called her Ginger. How come others dont call you Ginger like I do? Does it bother you? she asked, lacing her fingers with his hair. No, Im just curious, he told her, Ive never heard Ron and Hermione call you Ginger. I thought theyd follow up once they heard it from me. She laughed melodiously as she sat up. Its quite silly. Youre going to laugh, she said. Harry found himself sitting up beside her, looking at her. Oh cmon, tell me, Ginny bit her lip and suppressed a laugh. She looked back at him and Harry saw spots of pink on her cheeks. Well, it sounds sweet whenever YOU use it, she said, It adds charm to my name. Harry wrapped an arm around her, Ginny or Ginger, its the girl bearing the name that charms the mickey out of me. With that, Ginny playfully punched him on the arm as she rested on his chest. Harry snapped out of his reverie. It was as if he could see the memory from a looking glass. It felt so newso fresh He heard Ginny laugh. He looked at her and saw her clasp her mouth with her hands, a look of surprise on her face. Something funny? he asked. She slowly removed her hands from her mouth and shook her head, Nothing, its just thatits been long since you called me by my nickname, she said. Harrys eyebrow raised, But Caleb calls you Gin -Gin, doesnt he? he asked. Gin-Gin is not the same as plain Ginger, said Ginny, Besides, Caleb doesnt use it often. He prefers to call me Love as I do to him. How come you never called me Love?

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Oh, thats rathercute, said Harry. He saw Ginny flush red at his remark. It can be kind of pathetic though but youre right, it is cute, she said, Why did we end up talking about nicknames in the first place again? I dunnowe got lost, I reckon, he said, looking at the stars. There was a quiet rumble of thunder in the skies. You know, you and Cho would make a good couple, said Ginny. Why did she bring it up again? Harry bit his lip. He was bothered deep inside with the comment Ginny had given. She said he and Cho looked good together. Did that mean she was actually encouraging him to pursue Cho? Did he really mean nothing much to her? Looked like it. I wouldnt know about couples but as far as Im concerned, me and Cho are friends for now, he said. For now? she asked. Harry heaved a sigh. Only time will tell, Ginny, he told her, Unless youre a seer and you can predict the future for me. But you can act on it if you want to, she said, You can make it happen. I dont think Cho would say no. He really couldnt believe it. Ginny was actually convincing him to go after Cho. He didnt know if she was being barmy or she was seriously after his own good. Maybe so, he said, giving up and finally consenting to run over the possibilities. Shes pretty and ruddy good at Quidditch too, said Ginny, Every blokes dream girl then her voice trailed off. She looked at him. There was this unsure yet solemn look on her face. Youre beautiful. Divine, actually. And youre one of the best Quidditch players Ive ever seen Harry was sorely tempted to bring his thoughts into words but he could not do so. Something held him back and it was killing him. All he could do was nod and agree with her. It suddenly made him sad, knowing that Ginny felt Cho was much better than her. How wrong she was A drop of rain disrupted Harrys thoughts. One by one, they fell. Until it started to rain hard The thunders roared and lightning struck. Rain poured all over Harry and Ginny, soaking them wet. Lets hurry Gin, well get soaked! he said, pulling her by the hand and running thru the dirt road. The rain poured harder as Harry and Ginny ran thru the fields in search of a temporary shield from the rain; the raindrops blurring both of their visions. He did not let go of Ginnys hand. He didnt want to leave her behind. The muddy road made the way quite slippery, therefore giving them a hard time running.

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Harry! Where are we going? she asked loudly. He spotted a shed nearby. I see a shed! Cmon! he told Ginny, grasping her hand tighter to prevent slipping. They ran towards the old wooden shed. The moment they both set foot in the shed, they stopped to gasp for air. Harry had finally let go of her hand and leaned on the wooden wall as he held unto his chest, rubbing it for comfort. Ginny sat on the dusty floor, head inside her arms and breathing deeply. Harry took one look at her and noticed she was shivering. She was consistently rubbing her hands for warmth and pulling her soaked coat nearer her body. He regretted to not have learned the spell Dumbledore used on him when they had emerged from the lake. It bothered Harry to see Ginny shaking from the cold rain. Immediately, he took off his coat and wrung it dry, aiming to wring as much water as he could. Seeing he could not wring more, he approached Ginny and draped his coat over her, hoping to give her some warmth. Ginny looked up at him. Your coatits cold- No, Im fine, lied Harry. He was shaking inside but he dare not show it to her. He controlled his teeth from gritting due to the cold. Ginny stood up and removed the coat he had given her. She approached him and gently draped his coat over his shoulders. You dont always have to be a gentleman, Harry, she said, Sometimes you have to think about yourself. Her hands were still touching him as she helped him get into his coat once more. He felt that satinsmooth skin brush his neck. Ginny then brushed off some dirt from his shoulder and took a step back. Sometimes, youve got to save yourself before you save others, you know? she continued. He was looking at her once more. Harry found himself magnetized by Ginnys brown eyes, something he was never able to resist. Sorry, he said, Thinking of others first has become a reflex for me. Ginny smiled. I know. For the past ten years Ive known you, I do know for a fact that you love putting others in front of you, she said, Even though its becoming stupid. Heroic, yes, but stupid. Harry merely chuckled at her remark. Is that a bad thing? he asked her. She shook her head. Its actually one of the many things I like about you, she said, then she stopped. It was as if she had said something Harry was never meant to hear. Hearing those words come out from her mouth meant a big deal to Harry. She actually admired something about him. It enlightened him somehow. But he said nothing. Harry refused to let Ginny know his thoughts. He merely smiled at her. Well at least I know that someone appreciates my stupid, heroic deeds, he said. Ginny giggled at his

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remark, making him chuckle along with her. It felt so good to laugh along with her. It brought Harry back to their Hogwarts days, even before they started dating. Though he and Ginny belonged to different crowds, there were certain moments they shared together. He remembered fondly of how they would joke and laugh behind Rons back, how they enjoyed the summer, along with the Weasleys and Hermione, how they exchanged smiles and winks whenever they could Harry realized he had a long history with Ginny. A beautiful, bittersweet, history It was no wonder she was a part of him. No wonder he felt incomplete without her The rain continued to pour down outside of the shed. Harry found himself looking down at Ginny. She was so close But there was a barrier that kept them from becoming closer. She was oh so close Yet still so far She now had her own life with her family, her career and with Caleb. He now had his own life with his friends, his godson, his work and possiblywith Cho The gap was screaming inside his brain. Ginny was also looking at him. They exchanged no words. Simply looks I thinkI should go, she finally said, lowering down her eyes. Go? But its raining cats and dogs outside, said Harry, Youll get soaked with rain. WellI am a witch, Harry. I can always apparate, said Ginny, a teasing smile on her face. Oh right Harry forced a smile at his own forgetfulness. Right, he said, Yeahapparition. Forgot about that. Ginny patted him on the shoulder, I guess Ill be seeing you sometime again, Harry, she said, Ill just be at the Burrow whenever you need me. But I need you now Sure, he said, Same here. But Ill be at my flatnot at the Burrow. Ginny laughed and her laughter rolled in Harrys ear. It gave him such a pleasant feelinga feeling he had not experienced for quite some time. Goodbye Harry, said Ginny. Harry gazed into her brown eyes once more A second later, she vanished. She was gone.

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Just like that. Harry leaned on the wooden wall. He ran a hand thru his soaked, tangled mess of a hair. His heart was pounding against his chest. The rain continued pouring heavily outside. Harry Potter remained inside of the shed, alone with his thoughts. Both hands covered his face He and Ginny They were so close Yet so far

Chapter 12: XII. Get It Right

Have some more butterbeer, Harry, Harry gratefully accepted the bottle offered. The rain continued pouring heavily outside. After being left by Ginny in the shed, Harry decided he did not want to go back to his flat, where he was alone. He wanted to talk to someone, to pour what he had inside. Going back to the flat did not appeal to him. So, he decided to apparate At Hermiones home. It was lucky for him that Hermione was still up. The moment he landed on Hermiones doorstep, he had doubts on ringing the doorbell. He didnt want to be a bother. But when he saw Hermione from her window, alert and awake, he immediately rang. And now, there he sat on Hermiones couch, butterbeer in hand and thoughts in disarray. He was truly grateful for having Hermione as a friend. She never failed to grasp the opportunity of consoling him, though it was already the dead of the night. He was wrapped in thick terry cloth towel that dried him up from walking in the rain. Feel better? she asked. Loads, thanks a lot, Hermione, said Harry, taking a sip of butterbeer. Hermione took a sit on the cushion opposite him, an inquisitive look on her face. Harry knew he was going to be subjected to an inquiry. Whereve you been? Why did you walk in the rain? asked Hermione. I didnt walk in the rain, I just ran thru it when it started dropping, said Harry. Hermione frowned at him. I was asking a sensible question, Harry. Theres no need to be a smartass, she said, Where have you been? Harry gulped. The night had made him somewhat sarcastic and reckless. For the past hour, scattered thoughts wandered around his brain. He was disoriented once more and it wasnt quite fun for him. And it wasnt fair to be an ass in front of Hermione who already took him in when he was in need of a friend. Im sorry, he said, Im just a bit disoriented tonight.

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Hermiones frown softened, her eyes searching him. Its alright Harry, she said, Now I want to know what happened to you. Harry sighed. Must he recall the night? Not wanting to upset Hermione any further, Harry told her of what happened during the day and the night. As he did, he felt his heart burst open once more. Re-telling everything did not help. Hermiones face broke into a blank expression as she listened intently to him. When he was finished, she let out a sigh. Yes, Ron did tell me about your date withCho, she said, But I too wouldve never dreamt that the night would end with you and Ginny in a shed. Neither did I, said Harry, taking a sip of butterbeer. He certainly did not expect he would be alone with Ginny that night. He played with the idea that it was a twist of fateor just his mere imagination. Hermione was twirling a lock of hair in her finger. Harry watched as she processed what she had just heard. There was that intent look on her face that said she was studying his case. Why exactly did you ask Cho out again? she asked. Harry sighed, Honestly, it was out of impulse when I asked her out again, he told her, I didnt know what exactly went inside my head. I just asked. You just asked, repeated Hermione, skepticism in her voi ce. Her tone annoyed Harry. Look Hermione, you have to believe me when I tell you I didnt know what exactly I was doing, he snapped, I wasnt thinking about anything else. It just came into my mind, alright? Hermione remained silent after his explosion. Harry on the other hand, finished his bottle and took a deep breath. He felt guilty once again as he set his eyes on his best friend. She was already there to help but he was offending her every single time. Im sorry, Hermione, he said, Im justout of my wanker tonight. Well, if youd continue being a prat for the rest of the night, I might kick you out Harry Potter, she said. Im really sorry, apologized Harry, running a hand thru his hair and rubbing his forehead, Im just really cranky and confused. I dunno whats happening to me. I think Im going bonkers. And youre telling me Ginny and Cho are the causes of your confusion, right? Harry nodded his head. It felt pathetic to console with your female best friend about your girl troubles. It made him feelpathetic. More than pathetic He buried his face in his hands, hoping that the ground would swallow him alive. He wished something would knock him unconscious and remove him from the state of mess he got himself into. Let me ask you something, Harry, Whats that, Hermione? Hermione had sat upright and was eyeing him intensely. It made Harry felt as if he was being interrogated for a murder or robbery. What did you feel when you were out with Cho? she asked.

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Just like that. Harry thought to himself. What did he feel when he was out with Cho? It feltit felt good, actually, he said, Shes this new person, Hermione. She wasnt as dramatic as before. But thats because youve been out only once- Twice, corrected Harry. Alright, twice, said Hermione, She wouldnt show you her weepy side from the start, Harry. I think your fall out with her has taught her that lesson. But Im telling you Hermione, shes changed. Shes loads different from the Cho I knew years ago, he said, Shes a lot easier to be with todaya lot easier to talk to. Hermione held her hand up. There was a sly smile on her face. Okay, Cho has changed, I get it, Harry, she said, You dont have to fuss. Fussing- Im not fussing, said Harry defensively, Im just saying it as it is, Hermione. You wanted me to tell you everything, remember? Hermione merely covered her smile with her hand as she nodded her head. Alright then Harry. Next question, she said, Well, did your little rendezvous with Miss Chang spark anything? Any new feelings or such? If you call the newfound ease some sort of new feeling, then yes, he said. Hermione sighed, Thats not what Im talking about, Harry, she said. She looked at him and Harry knew she was trying her best to read him. He knew perfectly well what she meant- he was just avoiding his answer. Because he might not be able to believe it himself... He rubbed his forehead, I found myself at ease with her, Hermione. It was as if I could laugh a gain, alright? She smiled a lot and I felt quite light when she did. I was somehow attached to her he said. Harry was beginning to feel quite frustrated with himself. He didnt know what to do anymore. There were times when I was staring at her, he continued, I felt like I was thirteen again and meeting her for the first time. There was silence between him and Hermione. He could see her processing what he had just told her. So youre telling me that youre slowly falling for Cho again? asked H ermione. Falling? Its- well, its not like that, he said. Hermiones eyebrow shot up in query, Youre not falling for Cho? But Harry, the way I see it from your answer, its as if youre slowly falling for her again. Why else would you feel somehow attached to her? she asked. II Harry was at lost for words. He didnt know what to tell Hermione. She had a point.

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His mind was whizzing into several directions and it was making him uncomfortable. Harry didnt know what to think anymore. Hermione had bluntly told him what she observed. Harry knew that most of Hermiones observations were accurateand it made him think. A sudden realization popped in his head. Hermione? Hmm? He set his bottle down, eyes on the table. He took a deep breath. Do you think Im fooling myself to fall for Cho to forget Ginny? Hermione was taken aback by his question. He saw her eyes widen in surprise; her mouth unable to give an understandable explanation for his sudden question. HarryI- Do you? he asked again. He watched as Hermione thought it thru. She was hugging her pillow as she racked her gifted mind for an answer. Harry was sorely desperate for an explanation and he figured it was only Hermione who could give it to him. Harry? Yes? Hermiones brown eyes sought him. Promise youll listen? He nodded his head. She sighed. This is what I think of the situation, Harry, she said, In my opinion, you have a life. What the hell? He was about to ask once more but Hermione held her hand up, silently telling him to let her finish. As I was saying, you have a life. Your life does not revolve around Ginny neither does it revolve around Cho or around any woman for that matter. You decide whats best for you, she said, Arent I right? Yeah, but-? Listen, said Hermione, Harry, you live your life according to what you think is best for you. Everyone does, including Ron and I. Youre no different, Harry. You choose options that you consider good for your life. Harry found himself confused with Hermiones answer. He wasnt able to understandany of it. "Hermione, I dont understand- Harry, look at all your choices in a positive light, even if theyre right or downright stupid. Youre asking me if youre choice to get to know Cho better is merely a ploy to block Ginny out of your mind. For me, I think its only normal for a heartbroken bloke like you to seek for something (or someone) to make you feel better, said Hermione, If were going to be honest, Harry, I think you kno w perfectly

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well that youve been living the past three years similarly to the living dead. Am I right? Wellyes, admitted Harry, shivering at the memory of him dragging himself for work, empty as a shell. That means you have every right to set your life straight again, even if it means finding someone new to patch you up, she continued with fierce passion that was somehow freaking Harry out, Ginny has found Caleb already. You cant drag yourself and live with the misery of seeing them together fore ver, Harryyou have to live. But Hermione, its not that easy, And it will never be, Harry. All Im saying is, you have to face the truth. Ginny is with Caleb. You on the other hand, cant wallow around in the shadows. Think of all the choices you ma ke as positive influences in your life, said Hermione, No matter how stupid they are or how brilliant. Look at me. Years ago I told myself I would marry a man who is interested in the same things as I am and that I would never marry a bumbling prat becau se I thought life would be complicated. But now, Im a month away from marrying a bumbling prat whos my complete opposite yet I love him like crazy. Do you get my point? Harry was beginning to see what Hermione meant. She was right. All the choices he made in life will be for his benefit. He shouldnt wallow around for the past. He should live for the present. He had to live. Harry then found himself being engulfed in a hug. Apparently, Hermione had gotten up from her seat and wrapped her arms around him. He closed his eyes, thankful at the heavens for sending him a best friend like Hermione. Harry, Ron and I hate seeing you down and confused, she whispered, For the past three years weve been hoping youd get out of this funk, Harry. We want you to be happy. He buried his face in Hermiones tangles of hair. Even if it means me forgetting about his sister? he asked. His heart panged at the idea. Hermione gently pulled herself away from Harry, a look of comfort on her face. Harry, you know perfectly well that all Ron and I could ever do is just support you. Your decisions are your own. Ron will have to accept it, no matter what it is, she said then she trailed off Even it involves you forgetting about his sister Harry looked down at Hermione who was kneeling on the rug. How he sorely wished he and Hermione were siblings by blood! She knew and understood things about him that Ron failed to grasp. He smiled at her and patted her hair. Thanks a lot, Hermione. Im really grateful that youre putting up with a git like me, he told her, I wouldnt be sitting here if it werent for you and Ron. Hermione socked his shoulder, a playful grin on her face, You wouldnt be alive if it wasnt for the both of us, Potter. You owe us a lot, she joked. Dont worry, Ill make it up with a golden wedding gift, said Harry. Ill be looking forward to it, said Hermione. At the mention of the word wedding, both he and

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Hermione diverted their conversation to future wedding plans, which amused Harry for a bit. He already pitied Ron for the future he was going to have to face with all of Hermiones plans. At the same time, looking at Hermiones pleased smile, he felt envious of his two best friends. They were finally getting married. After all the wrong relationships with the wrong people, horrific events and near-death experiences, Hermione and Ron managed to find each other and survive thru it all. As he continued listening to Hermione, Harry was sharpening his decision. He was going to get a life.

and they found no leads, no attempted murder or any such, sir, Harrys eyes widened in disbelief. No leads? No, nothing whatsoever? he asked his assistant. None sir, said Tyler, All the Quidditch officials knew was that the e quipment keeper admitted to being drunk while he minded the Quidditch equipment. Theyre saying it was reckless imprudence. Harry sighed as he rumpled his hair. Tyler was discussing the investigation about the rogue bludger that attempted to knock Ginny off her broom during the Harpies match. He could not believe it was only the result of someone elses recklessness. Have you checked it thru? he asked Tyler. The assistant nodded his head, breaking Harrys spirit. The keeper admitted his mistake, sir. Also, the other Aurors found nothing suspicious of the incident, said Tyler, "There were no signs of bewitchments or whatsoever either." Harry perused the papers once more and gave up. Sothe case is finally closed, then? he asked. If theres nothing suspicious, then I think so, sir, said Tyler. Harry closed the folder of parchment and sighed. He was quite disappointed with the case outcome. Alright, thats it then. Case closed, announced Harry as he got up from his chair, Ill be out for a while, Tyler. No problem, sir, said the assistant as he gathered the folders. Harry stretched his arms and stifled a yawn as he went out of his cubicle. His fellow Aurors acknowledged his presence by polite greetings and smiles as he passed them on his way out of the office. It was already afternoon and Harry wanted to stretch his legs, which were stiff from all the sitting down. He was racking his brain for a pleasant afternoon getaway. Harry? Hearing his name, Harry spun around to see Cho Chang standing outside the Auror office. Cho? Cho smiled at him as she slowly entered the office. Her sudden appearance startled Harry and made

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him wonder why she came to the Ministry. What are you doing here? he asked. He saw a blush of red appear on her cheeks as she suddenly fidgeted with her hands. Harry pretended he hadnt noticed this sudden action. Well, I waspassing by and I wondered ifyoud like to take a walk with me, she said, Im waiting for afriend and well, shes taking too long. So I figured, since I was just around, maybe youd like to take a walk with me. She was playing with her hands. If there was one thing Harry learned about women, playing with their hands often meant something. He smiled at her. Sure, Id love to take a walk. The wind blew into Harrys ear. He shoved his hands inside his coat pockets, hoping for some warmth. He smiled down at Cho who was walking quietly beside him. Noticing his smile, Cho returned his grin. Harry was beginning to feel he was going mad. He never thought hed be walking alongside Cho Chang in a park. They had made small talk the moment they stepped out of the Ministry walls. Harry was truly amazed at the change Cho was displaying. She was more open and quite a lover of humorous tales and jokes. She wasnt the same reserved and emotional Cho he dated during his fifth year. She actually reminded him of Ginny. Harry brushed off this thought as he silently walked beside her. Walking outside truly relieved him some of the stress work had loaded him. He breathed in the fresh air the filled his nostrils. It was a wonderful feeling. Feel better? asked Cho. ErIm sorry? asked Harry, clearly confused with her question. Feel better? What did she mean? She smiled, looking away from him, You looked tired when I saw you a while ago, she said, I reckon that you really needed some time out from work and and all the other stresses of life. She gave a small chuckle. Other stresses of life? Really now? he asked, Do I look that bad? She shook her head, Not really. You just look tired andsomehow off, she said. Harry touched his face. Were his problems finally revealing themselves thru his appearance? If they were, it wasnt a good sign. Well, how do I look now? he asked again, looking at her. Cho stopped in her tracks and took the moment to gaze at him. Harry felt her eyes surveying him from top to bottom. As she did, there was a certain feeling emerging inside of him. He just couldnt point his finger at it.

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Better, she said, after observing him, Loads better. Thanks, he told her. Cho nodded her head and continued to walk; Harry following behind her. Silence floated around them, following them and increasing Harrys unease. He knew he had to break the silence. Ron and Hermione are getting married in a month, he said. This made Cho stop once more. A vibrant smile was painted on her face. Really? Thats wonderful! she exclaimed. Harry laughed, I know. To be honest, I never expected they would end up wi th each other. With all the rows and arguments theyve been thru he said. True, although I personally dont know them well, I think they make a good couple. They compliment each other, said Cho. Ill just have to prepare myself to save Ron whenever Hermiones after his neck, said Harry, making Cho laugh. Youd probably have to be accomplished with shield charms to pull them apart whenever they row, she added. Both laughed harmoniously at the thought. When is the date? she asked. September 27th, Cho nodded then she twirled a lock of hair in her finger. I reckon youre the best man, she said. No other bloke, remarked Harry. He saw Cho smile. You fit the part perfectly. I bet you cant wait to wear those dress robes made for you, she teased. Id look like an idiot, he said. I think youd look handsome, she said. Harry looked at her and saw her stop at the thought, her cheeks blushing red. He was beginning to wonder if he was imagining things. Really? he asked, heading to a nearby bench, I dont think I look good in dress robes. Cho shook her head as she dusted off the bench and took a seat. You looked dashing in your dress robes during the Yule Ball, she remarked. The Yule Ball? Harry was taken aback by the comment. The Yule Ball happened seven years ago and she was busy staring at Cedric Diggory during that time. He could not believe she noticed what he wore. Funny enough, Im going to wear the same color, he told her, taking a seat beside her, Bottle green. Cho smiled, I think its perfect. It matches your eyes, she said. Matches your eyes

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All of a sudden, Harry was brought back to the dress shop, standing behind Ginny and gazing at her beautiful reflection. He recalled how her golden dress brought out the sparkle from her chocolate brown eyes, how her flaming red hair cascaded behind hair like waterfall, how her porcelain skin looked so smooth How she gazed back at him when he gazed at her Harry? Harry? Are you okay? Harry was brought back to reality by Chos voice. She was looking at him, concern all over her face. Yeah, was just thinking, he said. Cho heaved a sigh as she watched the leaves dance in front of her. Judging from her facial expression, it appeared as if she was in deep thought. A part of Harry wanted to know what went in Chos mindwhat was she thinking about? I saw Ginny yesterday, she said. Chos eyes suddenly lit up in embarrassment, as if shaming herself for her lack of tact. Really? asked Harry, hoping to relieve Cho the embarrassment. Eryeah, she said, I saw her at Diagon Alley yesterday withsomeone. Harry knew perfectly who that someone was. It was Caleb, wasnt it? he asked. Blond hair, blue eyes and manic grin? she asked back. Harry nodded, No one else, he remarked. Cho smiled as she began playing with her hair. He watched her as she did, and a thought popped inside his mind: what did playing with the hair mean? He recalled how Ginny used to play withOnce again, Harry brushed away this thought of Ginny. He seemed like aweird type of bloke, said Cho, He was sort of hyper when I saw him. Harry chuckled, Caleb has his waysbut hes a nice bloke. Very friendly and sociable, he said. Chos face took a more serious expression as she watched the sceneries of the park. I see that Ginnys doing well. Shes changed, she said. Harry merely nodded his head. What Cho said was true: Ginny has changed. She was no longer that old Ginny he dated three years ago. She was a brand new person. Sadness suddenly poured inside of him Oh Harry! Im so sorry, Chos sudden apology stunned Harry. Sorry? For what- Ive been so tactless, she admitted, Why am I talking about Ginny and her boyfriend whenwhen I know that- I used to be with her? he added helpfully. Chos eyes mimicked fear and concern as she looked at

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him. Im so sorry, Harry, she apologized again, I shouldve never brought that up when I knew perfectly well youd be rather uncomfortable with it. Harry cracked a small smile. Its alright, Cho. Im not uneasy with it, he told her, Im trying to move on, remember? A smile had swept across Chos face, Yes. Im sorry, Harry, Im being barmy today, she said. Thats rubbish. Youre just being concerned, no need to get bleeding worked up on it, he assured her. Silence once more hovered above them. He remembered how Ginny would never fuss whenever she had done something that might have bothered him. She would simply apologize and continue the conversation. That was Ginny Weasley: straightforward and calm. But Cho wasnt Ginny. They were two different people. How was he ever going to move on if he kept making mental comparisons? Cho? Yes, Harry? She had looked at him and Harry was gazing at her once more. Will you be doing anything on the 27th? he asked. September 27th? Harry nodded his head. I dont think so, she said, Why? I was hoping maybe youd like to come with me to the wedding, he said, Were allowed to take one guest and Im sure Ron and Hermione would like to see you. I dont knowI didnt know them well, before, she said, They might wonder why Im there. Harry figured this was sort of true, but he shook his head, They wont. Believe me. Come on, itll be fun, he said. Cho was considering the offer. Harry on the other hand, could not believe he actually asked Cho to accompany him at the wedding. He knew the reason behind it but he darent confess it. She tucked a stray hair behind her ear, Alright then, she said, As long as theres food. A teasing smile spread on her face. Dont worry bout the food. Mrs. Weasley will make sure everyone gets stuffed, he told her. Ill look forward to it then, she said, a gleam in her eyes. Harry merely smiled at her He was also looking forward to it

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Almost

An hour had passed. Despite the temporary unease they experienced due to bringing up Ginny Weasleys name, Harry and Cho managed to kill the time with inexplicable laughter. Yet as the conversation progressed, he couldnt help but allow Ginny to crop inside his mind. It made him feel weak and pathetic. But on the other hand, hearing Chos laughter had somehow alleviated some of the stress. As he watched her throw her head back in laughter, he couldnt help but ponder of the fact that maybe his reunion with Cho meant something. Probably it would help him escape the pain I think I should go home now, announced Cho after looking at her watch. I reckon too. Its been an hour and a half, said Harry, We successfully killed time once again. Cho giggled as she took her bag and slung it on her shoulders, I think were getting pretty good at killing time, she said, We deserve an award. Together, they stood up from the bench and began walking away. Once they were at the exit, it was time to say goodbye. Goodbye then, said Cho, smiling at him. She turned around to walk away. Hey Cho, I noticed that friend of yours never showed up, said Harry. Cho turned around to face him and suddenly blushed red, Ohyeah, she said. Wouldnt she be looking for you by now? he asked as he placed both hands inside his coat pocket. ErHarry Yeah? Cho closed her coat and smiled embarrassedly at him, I wasnt really waiting for someone, she said. Wasnt really waiting for someone? Erwhat? he asked, confused. Cho smiled sheepishly. I guess I was just looking for an excuse to spend time with you, she said, See you sometime, Harry. Then with a swift move, she turned her back and began to leav e, leaving Harry astounded at what she had just said. He recalled her voice. I guess I was just looking for an excuse to spend time with you What did that mean? Harry adjusted his glasses as he watched Chos retreating back.

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I guess I was just looking for an excuse to spend time with you I was just looking for an excuse to spend time with you For an excuse to spend time with you To spend time with you With you... It boggled the wits out of his mind. Could he be actually making progress? Sighing, he turned around. He wanted to confine himself inside his cubicle for a while in order to sort out his thoughts. Probably signing papers would helpHarry stopped in his tracks. His hands slipped out of his coat pockets. They told me Id find you here Her locks of fiery red hair swayed with the wind as she gazed back at him. Harry didnt know if he should look away. Opposite him was Ginny with an unreadable expression written on her facelocks of hair covering her face. She looked around him and Harry saw her watch Cho as she continued to walk away, causing Harry to somehow panic inside. He was manically worrying and wondering if Ginny was right behind him the entire time he said his goodbyes to Cho. I was just out for some air, he explained. Ginny nodded her head, still expressionless. Mum wanted me to invite you over for supper, she said, So I came. Harry was unable to meet her eyes. He felt as if he was caught in the act of robbery. Ersure, Id love too, he told her, But my stuff- Ginny lifted his bag to see that she had apparently told his colleagues where he was going. Lets get going, then, she said. Harry nodded his head and together they headed to a deserted alleyway to apparate. All the way, he noticed she was deep in thought. He gulped. They stopped in the middle. Ginny took his hand in order to apparate. And when she did, There was a firm pressure in her touch.

Chapter 13: XIII. A Part of You

Harry was looking at Ginny from the corner of his eye as he sav ored Mrs. Weasleys delicious mash potato.

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His insides were cold and unsure. On their way to the Burrow, she didnt say much and it made Harry feel quite nervous. Although she provided an explanation for her silence (Im just tired, Ive been harassed in the field all day.), he still wasnt able to get a grip on himself. Now he was seated opposite her, silently eating his mash potatoes while her mother bustled around in the kitchen. She began by asking Harry about his day and had now arrived at her da ughters physical condition. Apparently, Mrs. Weasley was oblivious to the tensionor it was probably Harrys paranoia.

need to eat more, Ginny! You look thinner than before, said Molly Weasley as she laid a dish of pudding in front of her daughter, Are you sure youre not being overworked?" Ginny sighed exasperatedly. For the nth time Mum, Im not overworked. Im not malnourished, either. Im doing fine, Mum. Theres no need to fuss, she said. She looked at Harry as she shook her head. Id like to have a chat with Gwen- Mum, dont bother Gwen, please. Shes rather busy with other things. Dont get all barmy all of a sudden, complained Ginny. Shes thinner, isnt she, Harry dear? asked Mrs. Weasley, taking a step beside Harry, Look at her! Harry found himself looking at Ginny who was rolling her eyes as she ate. I reckon she does need to eat more, he said, But she doesnt look sick, Mrs. Weasley. She looks fine. Mrs. Weasley had dived into an endless rant about health and how its vital for a Quidditch player to remember it. Harry was quite sure that Ginny was no longer paying attention to her mother as she continued stuffing herself and miming her mothers chatter behind Mrs. Weasleys back. Harry bit his lip as he withheld his laughter. It was so natural of Ginny to mimic her mother whenever she went into one of her rants. It also made him laugh. Not wanting to get her into trouble, he forced himself to become silentand ended up choking on his mash potatoes. Harry! exclaimed Mrs. Weasley as she rushed to his side, thumping his back. He saw Ginny holding her laughter as she watched her mother busy herself over his back. Coughing, Harry massaged his neck and gulped some air. Are you alright, dear? asked Mrs. Weasley. Yes, much, thank you, said Harry as he took a glass of water and drank it. Mrs. Weasley quickly refilled his glass as she continued soothing Harry, making Ginny suppress a mischievous grin behind her mothers back. Well, if you insist that youre fine, Harry dear, Ill just be out to feed the chickens, said Mrs. Weasley, Dont hesitate to ask for anything. Ronalds coming round so you just wait for him here. With a swift move, Mrs. Weasley disappeared from the kitchen and headed towards the Weasley backyard, leaving Harry and Ginny to eat in peace. As soon as the door closed behind Mrs. Weasley, silence hovered between the two of them. Harry looked up from his plate to look at her.

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At the same time, Ginny also looked up from her plate to look at him. It seemed quite awkward for the both of them. So began Ginny, Had a lovely time with Cho? Harry stirred his pudding, Yes, he answered shortly. His eyes were watching Ginny as she forked a piece of chicken and chewed on it, her eyes thoughtful. There was no coldness in her eyes neither was there any sense of betrayal. She looked like she had a splendid time, said Ginny, Where did you two go? Just the park, said Harry, She erwe saw each other at the Ministry and we decided to have a stroll. Mustve been quite a romantic stroll, she remarked. Harry swallowed his pudding, It was just a stroll, I think. Nothing much, he told her. He was wondering if Ginny was coming up with some point he could not see. She looks well, she said. Yeah, she told me she saw you and Caleb days ago at Diagon Alley, said Harry, wondering he felt quite uneasy discussing Cho with Ginny. A look of surprise appeared on Ginnys face. Really? I dont recall seeing her, she said. She did and she said you looked well too, said Harry. I see, she said shortly. Harry found himself staring at his pudding once more. Silence hovered over them once again. Wheres Caleb? he asked her. Inside, he was cursing himself for asking the same question every time they see each other. Hes at work, she answered shortly. How is he these days? I havent seen him much, he said. Ginny sighed, His boss has been making his life a living hell. He reckons Calebs some sort of machine that could work all day with no rest, she explained. I see. Silence. It was getting uncomfortable by the second. Harry wasnt sure of the atmosphere between them. Ginny was not cold neither was she warm. She wasnt mad neither was she that welcoming. It perplexed Harry. Harry? Her voice made him look up at her again. Yes?

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Ginny was looking outside the window. Harry was wondering if she was watching her mother feed the chickens or the moon rising behind the mountains. Are you tired? she asked him. Ernot really, he answered, Whyd you ask? Her eyes riveted back to him. A small smile formed on her face. Are you up for a quick game?

Clutching the broom Ginny had lent him, Harry looked around as they walked. It was somehow a familiar sight. Huge trees surrounded the fields and Harry watched as the wind blew on their leaves, making them dance along. He heard the birds twittering above them, flying in a pattern he found amusing. Where are we? he asked. Ginny stopped in the middle and dropped the box she was holding. She lightly dropped her Cleansweep X on the dirt ground while she rummaged around the small box. You dont remember? she asked, standing up and brushing away a stray lock of hair. Harry looked around, attempting to rack his brains for a memory. Not really, he confessed. Ginny smirked as she threw him a pair of Quidditch gloves. "It's the place where we played Quidditch with Ron, Hermione and the others. Remember?" she asked. Her words brought back the memory Harry was searching. Images of him and Hermione against Ron and Ginny began to return to him Blimey, youre right, he said, looking around, The trees look larger than before. No wonder I couldnt remember. Ginny laughed as she wore her gloves, Its been years since we last played here, she said, Obviously, it wouldve grown old too. I remembered playing with Ron and Hermione here, he said. Ginny giggled as she recalled the particular memory. That was probably one of the worst yet hilarious games Ive ever been, she said. I think it was well-matched, said Harry, I mean, Hermiones never really that good with a broom - And Rons not the ultimate Quidditch hero, said Ginny as she stooped down to put her hand inside the box, I get what you mean. Harry laughed as he recalled the particularly even match between the four of them. He had been paired with Hermione and Ginny was paired with her brother. Seeing that both Ron and Hermione were not that good at the game (Ron with his Quidditch nerves while Hermione with her lack of Quidditch skills), Harry and Ginny were able to make up for their partners loses. Its been long, he thought fondly as he watched Ginny.

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Her hand dug into the box once more and she retrieved something inside. What are we playing again? asked Harry. Ginny stood up and opened the palm of her hand to reveal a golden ball. Harry knew instantly what it was: a golden snitch. Were going to chase the hell out of this golden snitch, she said, First one who claims it wins. Loser would have to treat the winner to dinner. Best of five A quirky and challenging smile appeared on her face. Harry ran a hand thru his hair as he chuckled. It felt so good to know that Ginny was slowly returning to her old self. "Why are we doing this again? he asked Ginny merely shrugged, I just need to unwind, I guess. Trainings been stressfulits the reason why Ive been quite passive moments ago, she explained. Training was the reason why Ginny was cold moments ago? She was stressed? For a split second, Harry was disappointed. At first he thought she was upset that she saw him and Cho together But he was wrong. Instead, he just smiled at her. Right, I reckon a good game will cheer you up, he said, It always did with me. You might have to swallow your pride though, said Ginny, a sly grin on her face. Swallow my pride? Fixing her hair into a bun, Ginnys eyes flashed as she continued smiling at him. You do know youre up against a Harpies player? she asked him. There was a challenging tone in her voice. Harry looked at her. It was as if he was once again face to face with a 15-year old Ginny Weasley. The very same Ginny Weasley who found every challenge the adventure of a lifetime The teasing tonethe cheeky vivaciousness It brought a sense of dear familiarity Harry had longed to feel for years. He smirked, Well, you do know that youre up against the head of the Auror department, dont you? he asked her back, mimicking her tone. Ginny released the snitch in the air. The golden ball flew rapidly amongst the trees, hiding from its hunters. There was a gleam in her eyes as she looked back at him. Youll never win, she told him. Not bloody likely, he shot back. Lets shake then, Harry advanced towards Ginny. She held her hand out and Harry firmly shook it. Her hands were oddly comforting and familiar

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On the count of three then, he said. Ginny nodded her head. One Two THREE! They both flew off at top speed as the search began. Holding the grip of his broom tightly, Harry flew past the trees, his eyes looking for a glinting golden ball. As he did, a rush of memories filled his head. Seeing Ginny competitive and free-spirited reminded him of the 15-year old Ginny he had fallen in love with. He recalled how clueless she was of his growing admiration of her and how he was panicking inside when he realized he was slowly falling in love with his best friends sister. Brushing past the trees, Harry smiled as he recalled the 11-year old Ginny he had first met within the walls of the Burrow. She was so shypractically clumsy whenever she caught herself near him. She was also the very same 11-year old girl he saved from the clutches of Lord Voldemort. Harry could still see the fear and the fresh tears from her eyes It was hard to believe that that shy little 11-year old would turn into a feisty, popular and well beloved 15-year old girl to an enchanting and vivacious 20-year old woman with whom Harry was still sorely in love with And is trying to move on from He heard Ginny flying within his radius. He saw a flash of red near his right and he found himself grinning. Have you seen it? he yelled at her. Wont tell you if I did, Potter! she yelled back as she diverted her broom to another direction. Harry felt the adrenaline rush in his veins as he sped past the trees. He hadnt played a decent Quidditch game in years. It felt nice to be on a broom and chasing a golden snitch. It reminded him of his happy days at Hogwarts. He saw flashes of red near him. Harry knew Ginny was within reach. I think you should quit now, Weasley! he told her as he dived forward. Never in Merlins pants, Potter! she yelled back, diving after him. The snitch was nowhere in sight and Harry was trying to catch a glint of the tiny ball. The wind brushed past him, giving him the feel of excitement. Memories of his Quidditch games at Hogwarts came rushing back to him. How he missed the cheers and the yells of the Gryffindor crowd whenever the Gryffindor Quidditch team would be up against one of the three Houses. Aboard his broom, Harry felt like his 16-year old self again. The same 16-year old Harry Potter who was named Quidditch captain of the team. It felt so good to feel young again. A flash of gold appeared in front of Harry, distracting him from his thoughts. The snitch He grinned. He had found it.

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No you dont! she said. Apparently, she had also found it. Harry smirked as he flew towards the snitch. Ginnys competitive spirit was raising up his adrenaline. He gripped his broom tightly as he sped past the trees, merely a blur from the distance. He zoomed under the rays of the sun, his eyes squinting and keeping its focus on the golden snitch flying away from him. He truly felt as if he was back in the Quidditch field, aiming to win a match. Through his peripheral vision, he could spot Ginny racing against him, her hair flying behind her. She was magnificent to watch. She looked quite majestic and fierce atop her Cleansweep X. He could see the fierce determination in her eyes and it made Harrys heart skip a beat. The snitch was within his grasp. Harry motioned his broom to move faster, his right hand stretching. Ginny was able to fly right beside him. She was three inches away from him; Harry could feel her presence ever so near. You better give up, Harry, she told him. Never, he told her, Not on your life, Weasley. Ginny flashed him a smile, still looking at the snitch. Harry found his eyes momentarily leaving the snitch and landing on her instead as he flew. There really was none like her: Ginny. She was the only one in the world. The way she flew was none like the rest. There was an aura of passion whenever she flew on her broom and it struck Harry where it mattered. The way her eyes would flash when she was within her goalthe way her hair would fly behind her Everything merely became a haze in the background to him. It was as if he could only see Ginny and nothing else. His mouth stretched into a satisfied grin. She was right. Playing Quidditch with Ginny did alleviate the stress he felt. Seeing her laugh and compete with him gave him a wonderful feeling. He wondered if it would have the same effect if he wasnt playing with Ginny Look out! came Ginnys shrill voice, breaking his thoughts. But it was too late. The moment Harry returned his attention to his front, he met the bark of a tree. And crashed And eventually fell off his broom And landed flat on his face For a moment, he could not move. He was lying face down on the dirt, his body beginning to ache.

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Ouch he moaned. He heard the rustle of the leaves within earshot and felt a sudden breeze as a broom flew down. He felt rushing footsteps towards him. Harry? Harry? A pair of hands touched his shoulders and turned him around. The suns rays blinded his closed eyelids. Opening his eyes, Harry was greeted by a blurred image of a face looking down at him, fiery red hair falling beside her face. Are you alright? asked Ginny. My glasses he said and grunted another moan. She momentarily left his sid e and came back with his glasses, gently shoving them in his face. Opening his eyes once more, Ginny Weasley came into focus. Did I just fall? he asked her. He was disoriented. Yes, you crashed into a tree, she answered, holding him up, Cmon, try to sit up. With her help, Harry sat up on the ground. He was feeling the sore spot on his chest. Touching it, he cringed. It was utterly sore indeed. He leaned on his good arm, trying to raise himself. Does it hurt? asked Ginny, placing her own hand on his chest. Sort of, he said. Do you need any first aid? she asked. Not really, he said, rubbing the sore spot. His fingers touched hers. It suddenly occurred to Harry that her hand was an inch away from his. She had placed her hand near his heart. He was suddenly alarmed. His heart was beginning to pound against his chest. He was wondering if she could feel it. He looked up at her, and he felt terrified. Her face was also an inch away from his very ownsame distance when they stared at each oth er at the dressmakers. Ginny removed her eyes from her hand, which was placed on his chest, then looked at him. Her eyes piercing his emerald marbles brought back more memories. He had forgotten the number of times Ginny would immediately fly down from the air whenever one of her teammates would fall from playing. Harry remembered sharp images of Ginny being the first to aid the injured player up. It was one of the many things that caused 16-year old Harry Potter to realize he had taken Ginny Weasley for granted. Harry was speechless as he stared at her chocolate brown eyes. The wind blew past the both of them Ginny then blinked and said, Erlet me help you up, she said, holding his left arm and her other arm supporting his back. Harry slowly yet steadily got up on his feet. The moment he was up, he smiled at Ginny. Thanks, he said, Youre a lifesaver. Ginny smiled back as she dusted off the dirt from his clothes, No problem. Hey, guess what? she said, her eyes sparkling.

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Harry ran a hand thru his hair. What? he asked. There was a mischievous glint in her eye as she reached for her back pocket and pulled out the golden snitch. I win, she declared. Harry smirked as he took the snitch from her. You said best of five, remember? Yes, she said, I win game one. I reckon you should surrender now, Potter. Youre injured. Harry shook his head as he went to pick up his fallen broom. He mounted it and held the snitch up. He looked at her. Games not over, Weasley, he said. Then he released the snitch.

Laughter echoed throughout the entire forest. The brooms were propped on the trees and the golden snitch was safely deposited inside its box, which was laid neatly beside the brooms. Harry was seated on the grass, looking up at the stars. Beside him was Ginny, who was indignantly wearing a smug smile on her face. The outcome of the game was Ginny winning three out of five games. She owed it to sheer luck and skill while Harry thought it was an unfair match: he was often distracted by her. Now Harry owed her dinner. They decided to take a break and both resolved to sitting on the grass and looking up at the stars. the last time I would accept a dare from you Ginny Weasley. Ginnys sweet laughter echoed in his ears once more. She fl ipped her fiery red hair behind her back as she smiled smugly at him. I told you so, she said, You never challenge Ginny Weasleyor it will be the last bloody thing you will ever do. Harry nodded, Duly noted, he said. Both laughed once more. Once the laughter had subsided, silence hovered over them. Harry rubbed his hands together for warmth. Beside him, Ginny was busy looking up at the sky, clearly mesmerized by the stars. I cant believe stars are actually balls of fire, said Ginny. Why not? asked Harry, looking at her. Ginny closed her left eye then closed her right eye. No matter how I look at them, they appear small, sparkling dots. I cant imagine them as massive balls of fire, she said. Harry followed her suit. He closed one eye then closed the other. Well, I guess things are not as they seem, he told her, What you see may not be what you always get. Really now? asked Ginny, So the stars we see are not what we perceive them to be?

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Harry shrugged, Yes. Its a lot like life, actually, he said. Ginny chuckled, So the great Harry Potter is now a self-proclaimed guru, she remarked, Tell me then, o great one, how on earth can you not get what you see? She laid herself down on the grass, still not taking her inquisitive eyes off Harry. He could feel her eyes piercing him. He copied Ginny as he lay down on the soft grass. The stars hovered above them, twinkling in their own glories. Sometimes, there would be loads of things in life that would disappoint us. I mean lets say youre looking for a box to fit yourself in to kill time. You find one and you think to yourself, Hey, I reckon that box fits me right. So you find yourself approaching that box and to your disappointment, its actually smaller than what you first thought, he said. Ginny laughed, I dont see how fitting yourself in a bloody box can be actually applied to what youre trying to say, she said. Harry continued. Look at it this way then: say theres this one thing that you really want to have. In your mind, you know you can get it and that you will get it no matter what it takes. Youre really convinced that thing you see will be the very same that youll get, he said, But what if life buts in all of a sudden? What if you fail to get that thing that you really want? He looked at Ginny to see if she understood. She wasnt looking at him but at the stars but he knew she was listening. Youre disappointed then, she answered. Exactly, said Harry, There will be moments in our lives when we dont get what we think we deservewhat we want the most, and when we dont, we cant help but feel shattered and disappointed. I see, said Ginny, I reckon you know a lot about stuff like that. Harrys lips stretched into a small smile as he chuckled. SuddenlyIt suddenly hit him. His grin slowly faded. He did know a lot about what he said. His words of wisdom came back to him in form of memories. Memories that were none too friendly at all He remembered the night Ginny left and he was left alone in his flat. Shell come backshell come back It was what he told himself for consolation. He recalled sitting on his bed, face buried in his hands and tears cascading endlessly from his eyes. Though a part of him told him it had ended, there was another part that believed in the opposite. At the back of his head, Harry knew she would come back. The mess would be fixed and all would be well tomorrow. But he was wrong Bits of hope flashed his way when she did come back three years later. At the sight of her, Harry figured he was given a second chance and he was determined to make up for what he did.

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He thought that he could finally start something new with the woman that he loved. Since she was back, possibilities flooded his mind. Yet he was wrong again What he saw as an opportunity was not what he thought it was for bitter reality came and crushed the remains of his hope He was too late. Knowing all these, Harry heaved a sigh. Harry? Are you alright? Ginnys voice brought him back to his senses. He looked at her and saw that she was leaning on one hand and looking back at him. Uhyes? he asked. You look like youve been struck, she commented, Is there something wrong? Harry, realizing he had been wearing a blank expression on his face, shook his head and smiled weakly at her. Just thinking, he told her. He watched her bite her lip as she thought over what he said. She looked like a child whenever she bit her lip. Harry felt his heart tingle. You gave me something to think about, Harry, she said, Thanks for the thought. No problem, he said, Pleasure to serve you with daily reflections. Inside, Harry was still aching at his discovery but he refused to let it show. He resolved to staring at the stars above instead. He heard Ginny heave another sigh. Looks like life is bleeding complicated after all, she remarked. Harry turned his eyes towards her. She was also gazing at the stars and Harry could see a thoughtful expression on her face. He continued staring at her. What was it about Ginny Weasley that made him attached to her? What was it about her that drew Harry in? What was it about her? Its got bloody detours and trials that make things more difficult, she continued, Its so damn complicated. She heaved another sigh as she continued gazing at the stars, unknowledgeable of the fact that Harrys eyes were on her. Harry chose the moment to sit up. He straightened his back as his eyes moved towards the skies. I guess the complication is what makes life worth living, he said, The complexity of it makes us stronger and better people. Ginny had also sat up. She tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear. Harry could feel her looking at him. No wonder everyone admires you, she said. Harry looked back at her to see a sincere look in her eyes. I dont reckon they all do, he said, Im not bloody perfect.

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I know, said Ginny. There was a certain tone used in the way she said I know. Of course she knew. His imperfection was the reason they fell apart. She flashed him a small smile. No one is perfect, Harry, she said, But imperfection is what makes you who you are. Because even the great and good Harry Potter has his own flaws. Next thing Harry knew, she had placed her hand on top of his. Harry looked at his hand, then at Ginny. The feeling of loving warmth was growing inside of him and it was one of the best feelings Harry has ever had. Harry, I know weve hadissues in the past, she began to say, But I wanted you to know that That? he asked. Her hand was still on top of his. Ginny looked at him, That youll always be a part of my bloody complicated life. Even if weve had those issues, what you are to meit never changes, she told him, Even if we both have flaws, well always be in each others lives, right? Harry placed her hand inside of his. Absolutely, he said. Even when we grow older, and eventually marry she said. Harry wanted to cringe when she said the word marry. He knew she meant marrying different persons. and have children, watch them grow and eventually grow older and look back at the old days, she continued. As he looked at her, Harry desperately wanted to hug her and hold unto her forever. Youll be there for me always? she asked him, her eyes piercing him. He nodded his head, Always, he answered, You can be sure of that. A satisfied grin spread on her face. Thanks so much, Harry. Amazing, you are, she told him. Silence hovered between them. Her hand was still enveloped in his and Harry didnt want to let her go. How he wished they could stay like that foreverpeaceful and together HARRY! There was bustling in the bushes. Both Harry and Ginny, wands out, stood up in sudden alarm once they both heard the voice. HARRY! WHERE ARE YOU? A minute later, a red-faced, sweaty Ron Weasley emerged from the darkness. There was a look of panic on his face as he looked at his sister and his best mate. Ron! Whats wrong? asked Harry. Ron held unto his knees for a moment as he gasped for air. He was breathing heavily and as he faced Harry, Harry knew immediately Ron brought no good news. Sosomeones bebeen attacked, gasped Ron, Urgent.

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Who? asked Ginny. Ron looked up and the alarm was spread all over his face. Harry felt the fear inside his own system. Cho Chang

Chapter 14: XIV. Torn

Harry silently sat on the stool placed beside the bed. There was a mix of emotions conflicting inside of him as he remained speechless. His eyes fell on the frail body of Cho Chang laid to the bed next to him. She wasnt a pretty sight. Three hours had passed since Ron barged into the forest to tell Harry that Cho had been attacked inside her very own house. After that, Harry and Ron wasted no time in disapparating to St. Mungos to find an unconscious Cho being rushed to the emergency ward. Now Harry sat on the stool beside Cho, alone. Ron had gone back to Chos flat in order to investigate the crime scene. Harry had already ordered a team of professional Aurors to aid Ron in the investigation. As he con tinued gazing at Chos unconscious and weak frame, he cringed as he remembered how she looked the moment they first arrived at St. Mungos. Blood fresh from her forehead had soaked Chos delicate face. Her skin, already fair in color, was deathly pale and her body was frighteningly motionless. It was as if one could perceive the blood vessels behind her skin. One look at her was enough to convince a bystander that she was a corpse. Harry cast another glance at her. There was also a reason why Harry, being the Head Auror, was absent from the investigation. They had found out that Chos mother was still in Scotland, visiting her ill mother and was completely oblivious to the fact that her daughter had been attacked. Harry had ordered one of his Aurors to send an owl to Scotland immediately in order to inform her mother of the incident. It was then Harry realized that Cho was alone. No one would look after her. After what had happened to her, she was with no one. There was a feeling that suddenly emerged from the corner of Harrys heart when he realized this fact. He decided he would stay with her. Harry gazed at Cho as she slept. The Healer-in-charge, Blythe Stevenson, had assured Harry that Cho would be alright and was slowly recovering. She said that Chos injuries were most surely sustained from harmful offensive spells. It was as if the suspect did not aim to kill her but merely torture her, was what Healer Stevenson said. The question was still roaming inside his mind. Who would try to torture Cho Chang?

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And why would they want to torture a helpless woman? He moved closer to the bed. There was a part of him that pained to see Cho in that state. She wasnt the bubbly and happy Cho Harry was beginning to get used to. The Cho lying on the immaculately white sheets was not even the Cho Chang he knew. Harry continued watching her. Hello Cho, he whispered, Its alright, Im here. The turn of events for that day was quite bizarre. Harry could not believe that he had just spent the afternoon walking in the park with Cho, the early evening staring at the skies with Ginny and ending up at St. Mungos, looking after an injured Cho. Speaking of Ginny The moment Harry heard the news of Cho Chang being attacked, he sprang to action, immediately following Ron and leaving Ginny behind. It wasnt as if Harry left her all of a sudden. In fact, Ginny pushed him to hurry. You have to go see her, she told him. He buried his face in his hands as he heaved a sigh. Harry was beginning to think he had imagined the evening with her. It was as if everything was just a dream. And Cho Chang being hospitalized was the sudden reality. A soft moan broke Harry from his reverie. Lifting his face from his hands, Harry saw Cho stir slowly from her unconsciousness. The warning signals screamed inside of him. Cho? he asked tentatively, immediately holding her hand, Cho, can you hear me? Her eyes were beginning to open, yet Harry sensed she was having a hard time. He saw her flinch for a moment. She mustve finally felt her injuries. Her head began to loll helplessly from side to side as she blinked from the blindness. She stared at Harry with uncertainty. HHarry? Isthat you? she asked weakly. Her eyes were not fully open. It was as if she was looking at him thru closed eyes. Cho! exclaimed Harry, Youre awake! He stood over her. Chos weak eyes looked up at him and Harry felt the pity tingling in his heart. What bastard would do this to you? Whawhat happened? she asked once more, trying to look around her. You were attacked, Cho, he told her, How do you feel? Cho took a deep breath, My bodys bloody aching, she said shortly.

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Dont move, Ill get tell the healers, said Harry, making a move for the door when Cho held his hand. No she whispered, Stay But Cho- Please murmured Cho, Dontleaveme Her hand weakly gripped his. Harry could sense that she was slowly falling asleep once again. Dont leavedont then her voice faltered. Looking at her, he saw a tear roll from her eye as they began to close. He stayed put and sat down once again on the stool beside her bed. Cho had drifted to sleep. Im here, he whispered, Im not leaving A small smile parted her lips as she fell asleep. No luck mate, bloody bloke got away, Harry removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes as he felt disappointment with the news Ron had brought him. He and Ron were outside of Chos room. The hallways were silent as the two Aurors discussed the event that just happened. Ron shoved a hand inside of his pocket. I dunno mate, it looked ruddy complicated when I got there, he said, Her whole living room was messed up and blood smeared on the floor. If some muggle police went there, theyd reckon Cho just went berserk and tried to kill herself. Did you recover her wand? asked Harry. Yep, we uncovered the spells she used during the attack. We found the usual, said Ron. Erthe usual? Defensive spells, answered Ron, Proves that Cho wasnt suicidal. Proves the fact that someone was trying to do her in. Harry chewed his inner cheek. He could not believe that someone would torture an innocent woman for no reason. Who would want Cho Chang dead? We have to wait for Cho to wake up again, remarked Ron, looking at the closed door, Only she can answer the questions regarding the incident, mate. Just dont ask her immediately, give her some time, said Harry, I dont think it would do her good if we bombard her with questions the moment she wakes up. But mate- Ron, no, said Harry firmly, We dont ask her IMMEDIATELY, understand? She looked like hell, mate. I dont think shell take it well. Chos fragile at the moment. Cant we ask her after three hours when she wakes up? There was a surprised look in Rons face. Alright then, mate, no need to get mad, he said, It was just a suggestion.

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Im not mad, said Harry, I just want her to rest. Shes been thru a rough day. Ron had a slight look of suspicion on his face but probably chose to let the matter rest as he sat down on the nearby chair. If you say so, mate, he said, then he looked at his watch, Blimey, its already 4 in the morning. Havent had a decent sleep in three days already. Ron stifled a huge yawn as he stretched his arms. Why dont you go home, Ron? suggested Harry, Ill do the office work, tomorrow. You should get some rest too. Arent you going to have some sleep, too? asked Ron, Youre no superman, Harry. You need some shut-eye. Harry shook his head, Dont worry, Ill get som e tomorrow. In the meantime, you can go home now. You can always cover up for me when I need some time off, he said, a weary smile on his face. Ron hesitated for a moment but the look on Harrys face convinced him. He stifled another yawn and got up. Ill be seeing you in the afternoon then, he told Harry, Mate, just get some sleep while youre watching her, alright? Harry nodded his head as he clapped Rons shoulder. Dont want to look tired for Hermione, he said. Ron chuckled as he tapped Harrys shoulder too and began to walk away. Harry watched as Ron disappeared from his view. He took a deep breath as he rumpled his forest of hair. He could feel his eyes threatening to close. He went back inside of the room to see Cho still sound asleep. Her bruised face was so serene and calm. Her eyes were closed and there was no trace of weariness. Just serenitythe serenity she deserved. Harry took a seat on the stool beside her. His muscles were tired and he wanted to fall asleep. He watched Chos silent breathing and took her cold hand in his. Youre going to be alright, he told her, Youre going to be alright. A few minutes later, Harry himself drifted to sleep. Harry felt the small pressure. He slowly opened his eyes and was greeted by darkness. His vision was quite blurry at the beginning but it slowly began to focus. He felt the pressure in his hand. Harry Immediately, he lifted his head. He fixed his glasses, which were askew. Cho Chang came into his focus. She was sitting up, her back on a pillow. Compared to last night, she no longer looked deathly pale. There was some color in her cheeks and she looked quite fine, except for the bruises. Cho, said Harry, Howre you? She smiled weakly at him, I feel fine today, she answered, A bit aching in some places but fine. Harry rubbed his eyes with a hand. Thats good to know. Do you need anything? he asked her. Cho politely shook her head. Thank you, by the way, she said.

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For what? She lifted up her hand, which was apparently still enclosed in his very own hand. For staying here last night, she replied. Harry suddenly felt embarrassed at his act and figured Cho would remove her hand. But she didnt. Erit was no problem, he told her. Mmm said Cho. Silence came in between of them. Harry was wondering if he should let go of her hand or not. Hows your head? he asked her. Cho gently removed her hand from his; much to Harrys split feelings of relief and disappointment. She touched her forehead and cringed when her fingers touched a bruised spot. Still hurting, she said, But Ill be okay. How about you? What about me? he asked. There was a look of concern on Chos face. Are you okay? You look very tired, she said. Harry chuckled as he attempted to fi x his hair. Im alright, Cho. Tired, yes but Im okay, he said. Guilt suddenly painted in her eyes. I feel terrible. You shouldnt be here, Harry and yet youre here. Ive dragged you into this mess, she said, Im sorry. Sorry? You dont have to apologize for what happened to you, Cho. You didnt want this to happen, am I right? he asked. Of course not, she said. Then you dont have to apologize. Just get better, he told her. Chos lips parted into a small smile which immediately vanished as she sighed. Does Mum already know? she asked. Weve sent an owl to your mother. Shell be here today, I expect, said Harry, In the meantime, Ill be staying with you. Harry, I think I can manage, she told him, You can go home now. You look really tired. Im okay now. You dont have to stay. Im not leaving till your Mum comes here, Cho, he said firmly, Its one of my responsibilities as an Auror. But you stayed all night, Harry fixed her pillow and smiled, It doesnt matter Cho. I have to make sure youre safe, he said, Do you really want me to leave? Cho smiled sheepishly at him, Well, if you insist on staying she said. Harry chuckled as he stood up and stretched his arms. He crossed over to the room and found himself facing the window and looking outside. Its been hours since he saw Ginny. It seemed surreal that he played a quick game of Quidditch with her and that he lay under the skies watching the stars with her.

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It seemed oh so surreal. Thats odd, Harry turned to look at Cho. Whats odd? he asked her. Cho tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear, You havent asked me anything about the attack, she said. Harry shoved his hands inside his pockets as he began moving closer to her. I reckon I shouldnt bombard you with questions when youre stillfragile, he said, You might become stressed. He approached her bed and looked kindly at her. Unless youre ready, he added. Cho sighed and looked at him, I hope you wont be disappointed though, she said, Bec ause I honestly do not remember a lot. Harry returned to the stool place beside Chos bed as he listened intently to what she had to say. What do you remember, then? he asked her as he sat down on the stool, If youre up to it, tell me everything you can remember last night. Cho rubbed her forehead as she tried to recall. I remember walking in my flat after going to the market for a short while. The lights were on so I thought that Mum had finally come home from Scotland, she narrated, So I went to my bedroom. What happened when you got to your bedroom? Ron said they found you lying unconscious at the foot of your bed, said Harry. This is where the fuzzy part comes, Harry, she said, I remember sitting on my bed because I suddenly felt tired. I was waiting for Mum to appear by my bedroom door to tell me about Gramma. But then all I can remember is the sudden flashing of lights. As Harry watched her, he noticed that her eyes suddenly twitched when she recalled the flashing of lights. After the lights, what else do you recall? he asked. Cho closed her eyes and took a deep breath. All I can recall is the darkness and feeling nothing. It was as if I was zapped and dropped in an instant, she said. Harry was confused. The Healers who attended to Cho while she was unconscious said that she was obviously a victim of torture. Even Ron said that there were evidences of torture in the scene. He could not understand why Cho was saying she was unconscious in an instant. You dont recall being tortured? he asked in shock. Chos eyes widened in alarm. I was tortured? she asked, Really? I dont remember being tortured. But the healers reckon that whoever came to your house was trying to do you in, said Harry, Your wand showed evidence that you tried to fight back. Fight back? she asked incredulously, I remembered being stunned once then it was over, said Cho. Harrys eyebrows furrowed. There was something wrong. The findings and Chos statement did not match. He considered the possibility that her memory might have been modified but he was not ready to jump into conclusions.

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Can you remember the face of the attacker though? he asked. She thought for a while, thinking hard. The attacker she murmured. All of a sudden, she screamed in pain. Her eyes closed, Cho started wailing uncontrollably. Tears were streaming down her face as she twisted and turned in the bed. Harry immediately seized her arms and placed his arms around her. Cho! he exclaimed, EMERGENCY! SOMEBODY! I NEED HELP! Cho was thrashing in his arms. She continued sobbing and wailing in pain. Harry kept a firm hold on her as he continued yelling for help. It was as if she was being tortured by an invisible stranger. For a moment, Harry felt very helpless. Chos wails echoed in his ear and they affected him greatly. SOMEBODY!! A minute later, Healer Blythe, accompanied by another healer, entered the room. Her wand was pointed at Cho. Thespio! she said. There was a blast and Cho became motionless in Harrys arms. Her thrashing arms became limp and her breathing became even. Her head lolled helplessly from side to side till it settled on Harrys chest. Her eyes closedfinally in rest. Whwhat happened? asked a rattled Harry. Sweat beaded on his forehead an d rolled down his face. Healer Blythe immediately approached Cho and placed a hand on her forehead. What happened before she started wailing? asked the healer. We were talking about the attack. I was asking her details and when I asked her if she cou ld remember the suspects face, she started screaming and wailing, answered Harry. The healer checked Chos pulse and nodded her head. Ddo you reckon someone was using the Cruciatus curse on her? asked Harry, She looked like she was being tortured. Healer Blythe shook her head. I doubt it. It may seem as if someone was using the Cruicatus curse on her but I think its a different kind of curse, she said, Did you say that you were asking her about her attacker before it happened? Yes, then she started thrashing her arms as if she was in pain, answered Harry, Whats going on? Whats happening with Cho? Healer Blythe looked at her fellow healer. The look in her eyes gave Harry the feeling of uncertainty and slight fear. It appears as if the curse is triggered whenever she tries to remember the suspect, said Healer Blythe, It is a complicated type of curse. The one who cast it must have been someone quite good at spell-casting and truly intended not to be found out. Soyoure telling me that whenever Cho tries to remember who attacked her- She will undergo the same type of pain, finished the healer. Harry bit his lip. His eyes fell down on Cho who was resting in his arms. Her steady breathing proved that she was in peace. Pity echoed inside his heart as he looked at her. I shall come back for her later again, announced Healer Blythe, Do let me know if something wrong

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happens again, Mr. Potter. Will do, said Harry. Healer Blythe, along with her fellow healer, left the room, l eaving Harry alone with Cho and his thoughts. He cradled Cho in his arms. She was so helpless Well figure this out, he murmured, Well figure this out, Cho. During that timeonly one thing mattered to Harry: To give Cho the justice she deserved.

Harry tucked the blankets around Cho. She had been asleep for hours already and Harry did not dare to wake her up. He did not want to disturb her in her slumber. He looked down at her once more. He tucked the stray lock of hair behind her ear. After that, he headed to the window once again. His thoughts were crowding his mind. He needed some time for himself. Except, he couldnt leave Cho alone. There was a knock on the door. Come in, he said, turning around to look. The door slowly opened an d Harry was greeted by a pair of blue eyes. Hello, Harry, greeted Caleb. Caleb, said a surprised Harry, What are you doing here? Caleb smiled sheepishly and stepped aside to reveal Ginny behind him, holding a fruit basket. Harry felt a strange feeling inside of him at the sight of Ginny and her red locks of hair and brown eyes. We came to see Cho, said Ginny, We heard what happened. A terrible thing, commented Caleb as he and Ginny went inside of the room, Mind if we stayed here for a bit? Oh, not at all, said Harry, offering the nearby stool, Have a seat. Ginny laid the fruit basket on the table as she sat on the stool while Caleb took a look at Cho. She glanced at Harry and gave him a sad smile. Harry felt the butterflies fly inside his stomach as he returned her smile. Poor thing, said Caleb, What happened to her? We heard she was tortured. Thats what we assume. The crime scene showed evidences of torture and Chos wand apparently performed shield charms to protect herself, said Harry as he crossed over to the other side of the room. Ginny was also looking at Cho and saw pity in her face. She looks terrible, she said, Who would want to torture her? Have you got any suspects? asked Caleb.

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Harry shook his head, Quite odd, actually. She doesnt recall being tortured at all and the healers say shes under a curse, he told them. Curse? Whenever she tries to remember the attackers face, she suffers from pain, answered Harry. He saw Ginny bite her lip and Caleb become pale at what he had said. Thatsthats justinhumane, said Ginny, looking at Cho, What kind of monster would want to hurt someone like Cho? Caleb placed a hand on Ginnys shoulder. I agree, love. I dont personally know Cho but I dont thin k she deserves this kind of pain, he said. And it makes the case even more difficult to solve, added Harry, Cho is the sole hope we have to finding the culprit and she cant even tell us. Silence echoed in the room. Harrys eyes landed on Ginny. She was looking at Cho with eyes that mirrored pity and sadness. A lock of hair fell on her face and she tucked it behind her hear. She heaved a sigha sigh that felt hopeless. The afternoon with her now truly seemed surreal. It was as if it never happened. A sad feeling entered Harrys heart as he realized this truth. Yet he told himself he could not mind shallow things like that He had to mind Cho. Realizing the silence was beginning to feel awkward, Harry broke it. Glad to see you free from work, Caleb, he remarked. Caleb flashed him a gleeful smile, eyes twinkling and all. Right you are, Harry, he replied, Feels good to be free for a short while. I thought I was going to transfigure into a work dog if I stayed at work for another minute. Harry gave a short laugh. At least you can fulfill some of your pleasures for a while, he said. Caleb nodded his head and placed both his hands on Ginnys shoulders. True that, now I can spend time with my Ginny, he said with a smile on his face. Harrys face threatened to wipe away the grin on his face but he held his smile. He did not want to show signs of any discomfort. Good for you, he said, then he proceeded to Chos bedside in order to be distracted. How long have you been here, Harry? asked Ginny. From the moment Cho was rushed here, he answered. Ginnys eyes widened in surprise. Youve been here all night then? she asked. Harry nodded his head. A sly smile splashed across Calebs face. So, youve been watching over Cho, havent you, Harry? Ersort of, said Harry, Her Mum hasnt arrived from Scotland and wellshes alone. He looked at Chos serene face again, his mind working silently playing with Calebs words. Was Caleb trying to tell Harry something?

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Lucky girl, remarked Caleb, Having the good, great Harry Potter watch over you must be an honor. A small chuckle escaped Harrys lips but he said no more. At the back of his mind, he was silently wondering of what Caleb was trying to imply. He was also thinking if Cho would be honored to be tended by the good, great Harry Potter when in exchange, she had to be badly tortured. Harrys eyes fell upon Ginny once again. She too, had also said nothing. Her eyes were transfixed on a sleeping Cho. He wanted to know what went inside her mind that moment. If only he could read minds A soft moan broke Harrys thoughts. Her fingers started moving. Chos eyes began to flutter, at first trying to block out the blinding light then finally opening as widely as they could. Cho? asked Harry. Cho started to look around and her eyes landed on him. A small smile escaped her lips. It gave Harry a sense of relief. After smiling at him, Cho realized she had other visitors. Ginny she said in a small voice that still echoed surprise, Whawhat are you doing here? I came to visit, silly, said Ginny, a smile on her face, We heard what happened to you. Ron told me. Cho nodded her head slowly and Harry saw her looking behind Ginny, probably wondering who the blonde stranger at the back of Ginny was. Ginny must have sensed what Cho was trying to do. Oh Cho, this is Caleb, said Ginny, pulling Caleb closer, Caleb Andrewsmy boyfriend. Harry was sorely tempted to cough. He watched Caleb extend a hand and his lips stretching into a warm smile. Hello there, Cho, he said pleasantly, Heard so much about you. As she shook Calebs hand, Cho glanced quickly at Harry. Her look meant something and Harry was able to catch her drift. He merely shrugged at the weird look Cho wore on her face. Its nice to meet you, Caleb, she said. She let go of his hand and returned her attention to Ginny. Its been a while since we last saw each other, said Cho. I know. Sorry, havent got the time to chat, said Ginny, How are you feeling? Cho heaved a sigh as she placed one hand on top of her forehead. A bit better, actually. Still sore, but better, she said, then she smiled widely at Ginny, Its so nice to see you here Ginny. Thank you for visiting. You too, Caleb. Im sorry for the bother you had to go thru. No bother at all, Miss Chang. Or would you grant me the permission to call you Cho? he asked. Cho giggled slightly. Cho would be fine, Caleb, she replied. Her eyes once again sought Harry. Do you need anything? he asked her. Cho shook her head. Nothing. You dont have to keep on tending to me, Harry, she said, I already feel guilty for dragging you into this mess. Have you taken a rest? You look tired.

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Harry smiled sheepishly, Im used to it, Cho. Dont worry. I had a decent sleep last night, he told her. But you were sleeping while sitting. I didnt think you were comfortable, she said, guilt flashing in her eyes, Why dont you go home, Harry? Im not leaving you here, Cho, he said firmly, Im staying here. Another wave of silence hovered around the air. It was an awkward one. Harry felt all three pairs of eyes stare at him. He looked up to witness three different types of reactions. He caught Caleb biting his lip, as if suppressing another sly smile on his face. His blue eyes were shinning in, if Harry was not mistaken, some sort of delight. Cho, on the other hand, seemed quite teary-eyed. Harry had the impression she was touched with what he said. A small tear beaded in the corner of her eye and she hastily wiped it away with her hand. She smiled at him and touched his hand. And then there was Ginny. She wore no cold expression neither did she hide any expression of slyness. She simply looked at him and then looked at Chos hand on his. Ginny showed no sign of affected emotion. She returned her gaze at Harry. Her lips flashed a small smile. Harry found himself hopeful as he returned her smile. Hey Cho, said Ginny, breaking the silence, Would you like to eat something? I have a basket of fru its for you well bring you loads of fruits again tomorrow. Harry saw Cho flash a grateful smile at Ginny. Thanks so much, Ginny, she said, Means so much to me. Then Chos eyes returned to Harry and he saw sparkles in them. Well try to drop by every chance we get, said Caleb, You might want some more company. AlthoughI reckon Harrys already good enough for a companion. Another sly wink. A faint blush appeared on Chos cheeks. ErI guess youre right, she said, surprising Harry. Harry pretended he did not see and instead resolved to run a hand thru his hair. Ginny did not also speak. She busied herself by arranging the fruits in the basket. Harry looked outside the window It was going to be a long day, wasnt it? Would you like some more? asked Harry, offering another spoonful. Cho shook her head, No thank you, I feel quite queasy already, she said. Its been three days since Cho was found unconscious in her flat. Three days since Harry was smeared with her fresh blood

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Three days since he spent some hours of the night with Ginny under the stars As Harry settled the porridge bowl on the nearby table, he couldnt help but recall Ginny and Calebs visit. The remaining hours the couple spent with Harry and Cho were mostly filled with conversations and chewing on food. They avoided talking about the attack since Harry figured it would affect Cho once more. Although the day had been pleasant, there were some awkward incidents. Caleb often made remarks about Harry and Cho that made Cho blush and Harry quite uncomfortable. During these instances, Harry pretended he had not heard or he would pretend he did hear and pretend he didnt mind at all. Oh, the pretenses As for Ginny, she remained quite happy throughout the day. She helped Cho in changing her clothes and basically tried to assist in every way she could. She also shared stories about the Harpies and the Tornadoes to Cho since both women loved the same field: Quidditch. It was a Friday night already and Harry heaved a sigh. The only time he had left Cho was yesterday when he went to the Ministry to check on the case. So far, it was one of the most complicated criminal cases Harry encountered. The evidences found were unreliable and the crime scene showed nothing that would lead them to the suspect. Their only key, Cho Chang, was unable to tell anything that could be considered helpful at all. Once he had returned, Harry decided he would not bring the incident up to Cho. The healers advised him to keep Cho stress-free. In the past days, they have been trying to discover the remedy to the curse placed on Cho but ended up with no solution at all. The best that Harry could do was to keep her happy and help her regain her strength. Would you like some water? he asked h er. Yes please, said Cho, gladly accepting the glass of water Harry offered. Finishing the water, she returned the glass to him. Healer Blythe said shell give your potions in an hour. She said youd be taking two doses of the Mending Solution today, informed Harry. Cho flinched. The sour-tasting one? she asked. Harry chuckled as he nodded his head. Itll help you get better, he told her, Do you feel anything? Cho touched her forehead then her arms. Nothing that sore today although I do have recurring headaches. I think Ill be fine today, she said. Harry smiled at her then turned his back as he stared outside the window. He was getting used to the St. Mungos atmosphere and he was starting to get used to looking out the window for some com fort. Harry? Harry turned around at the mention of his name. Yes? he asked. There was an unreadable expression on Chos face. She was looking at him with a slight tender look on her face.

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Would you mind sitting here? she asked, patting the small space on her bed. Harry obliged to her request and sat down beside her. Harry saw she was playing with her hands in discomfort. Something bothering you, Cho? he asked. For a moment, Cho was not able to speak. She kept biting her lip and just looking at him. Harry wanted to know what went inside of her mind. Cho, are you-? Do you think Ill get better? she asked him. As she did, Harry saw the fear in her eyes. You will be. The healers say you will be, Cho. Youve already made progress, he said, Look, youre injuries are getting better. He held out her arm for her to see the vanishing bruise. Cho glanced at her arm and gulped. ButIIm cursedarent I? she asked once more, II know, Harry. Im under a curse, arent I? Harry sighed. Wellyes you are, Cho. But you need not worry. Were doing everything we can to break it, he said, You wont stay cursed forever. Harry saw the worry in her eyes and he fervently hoped he could at least assure her. Cho took a deep breath and flashed a weak smile, Im sorry, Im just being barmy today. I quite glad youre not getting sick of me, Harry, she said. Not at all, said Harry, shaking his head, And youre not being barmy. Youre just worried and thats normal. But I have to tell you Cho that you have nothing to worry about. Youll be back in shape, I promise. What about the case? she asked, Because of the curse, I cant even help you. You tell me I was torturedbut in my head, I know I wasnt. And I cant even tell you what the suspect looked like. As she said those words, a dawn of helplessness fell on her face, making her look paler. Cho, please, dont worry yourself, said Harry, holding her shoulder, You need to think of yourself first. You need to get well, do you understand? But Harry, what if you never find the culprit and whoever that was does the same thing to another poor soul? Id feel ashamed for not being of answer to anything at all, said Cho. Harry looked at her straight in the eye. Cho, you cant save everyone. Sometimes, you have to think of yourself, first. Do you get me? he asked her, Nows not the proper time to worry. You have to get well. It suddenly struck him that his words sounded oddly familiar. Sometimes, youve got to save yourself before you save others, you know? Didnt Ginny Weasley say those exact same words to him? He brushed away this thought of Ginny for a moment. He wanted Cho to realize that she had to think of herself for the time being. He wanted to assure her that everything will be alrighteven if he himself was not sure. Because his thoughts were crowding his attention, Harry failed to notice Chos eyes on him. Harry? Harry looked at her. Yes? he asked. Why are you here?

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Her question was direct and simple yet Harry sensed it contained a chockfull of meanings. I beg your pardon? Cho bit her lip then repeated her question. Why are you here? I mean, arent the people in your department already looking for you? she asked. Ive told them I wouldnt be present for days because I need to attend to you first. Im also here for your protection, explained Harry. Thats what Id like to know, Harry, said Cho, sitting upright, Why is it that youre the one protecting me when you can send other Aurors to stay? For a moment, Harry was dumbfounded. Her question did make sense. Why did he insist on staying with her and not just send some other Auror to stay outside of her room for protection? Why did he keep on coming back? Did that mean anything? He heaved another sigh and looked at Cho straight in the eye. I honestly dont know, Cho. All I know is that Im here to keep you from harm and I would like to accompany you while youre here, he answered her. Silence hovered between them. Cho was speechless for a second and Harry diverted his gaze to the window once more. Harry? Harry once again looked at Cho. Thank you, she said, Thanks so much. Youve been here ever since I was admitted and I have to tell youIm quite touched. He smiled at her. You dont have to be. Dont act like you owe me anything, Cho. Im doing this out of free will, he said. Cho returned his smile. I know. Youve always been the good, great Harry Potter, she said, Thats what Ive always admired about you. Well, thats what EVERYONE likes about you. Harry chuckled, I dont think everyone like me, but thanks for the thought, he said. But really, Harry, said Cho, You could be at the Ministry at this time of the day or taking a breakbut youre heretaking care of me. Harry did not break his connection with Cho. What did she want to imply? What was she trying to tell him? Are you regretting that I stayed to take care of you? he asked her. Cho shook her head, No, not at all, she amended, Thats not what I meant. Im act ually glad that youre here. Harry chuckled as he stood up from her bed. ActuallyIm glad that I found you again Chos words suddenly struck him. What? he asked.

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She suddenly appeared quite nervous. She was not looking at him anymore and appeared to be fixated with her hands. Im glad that we saw each other again, she said, I meanwe did reach a not so good ending years ago. ImIm glad that wereIm sorry, Im being silly. Then she drew her blankets, hiding under them, Dont mind me, Harry. Forget I said that. His curiosity shot up. He sat beside Cho in her bed. Cho, you can tell me anything. You dont have to be embarrassed, he told her. Her head slowly appeared from the sheets. Harry could see bright red spots on her cheeks which she tried to conceal from him. He was quiteconfused with her. But he was sort of getting a hint And it made him feel queasy. Well, Im just really glad youre here, she said, Im glad that I saw you againIve always wanted toreconcile with you, after with what happened to us. Harry gave her an assuring smile. Cho, its alright. Lets leave the past behind. Its already over he told her, Were friends now. Youre a very good friend, then, said Cho, Taking care of me like this when y ou have loads of work at the Ministry. He once again looked at her eyes. What can I say? Its why Im hereto make sure youre alright, he said, Im here for you. Silence once again. Harry was wondering where the conversation would be heading toWhen the inevitable happened. Cho had gotten up all of a sudden and the next thing Harry knew, his lips met with hers. She kissed him. Harrys wide opened eyes were filled with shock as he gazed at Cho. A part of his mind screamed that it was wrong and he should not be in that position, yetWhy wasnt he pulling away? He found himself closing his eyes. His mind flew different bizarre directions, conflicts exploding inside. He did not know what to do. Yet it felt so good. For a split second, Ginny flashed in his mind. What about her? The sound of the door closing abruptly broke Harry and Cho from their kiss. Oh, was the first word murmured by Cho. Harry saw her cheeks blushing furiously and her eyes looking as if she too cannot believe what she had

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just done. Her face replicated fear and embarrassment as she looked at him. IIm sorry, Harry, she apologized, Ithat wasnt supposed to happen. I acted upon impulse. Im sorry. Then she once again hid under her blankets. Harry was still dumbfounded. For a moment, he was speechless, unable to say a word. His mind was still disoriented and confused. He found himself staring at the door. Looks like a healer was about to go in, was what he said. Chos face appeared out of her blankets. She was still red-cheeked and embarrassment was still evident on her face. Ohoh really? she asked. Harry smiled at her and tapped her hand. I think its time for your potion, he said, Ill go fetch her back. Cho nodded her head and buried herself under her blankets. Harry on the other hand, turned his back and proceeded to the door. The moment he closed the door, he let out a loud sigh. Harry found himself leaning on the wall, head buried in his face. What the hell just happened? Now he was confused more than ever. He touched his lips, as if he could still feel Chos lips. He was wondering if he liked it or not. If it meant something to himif he actually cared Damn, he muttered. A healer had passed him and gone inside of Chos room yet Harry took no notice of it. He was still preoccupied. Half of him actually felt quite good about the kiss. But the other half felt uncertain and it was beginning to disturb him. Ginny or Cho? Cho or Ginny? Harry sat on the nearby chair as he attempted to recollect his thoughts. The world was spinning. Harry? A voice broke his thought. Looking up, Harry had his eyes on the owner of the voice. He was sorely tempted to gasp. Hello Ginny For a moment, Harry wanted to explode.

Chapter 15: XV. Making Meanings

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Harry? A voice broke his trail of thought. Harry looked up to see Ginny Weasley looking at him. He noticed the locks of red hair that tumbled on her shoulders and the basket of fruits she carried on one hand. Hello Ginny, he greeted. Mind if I sit down beside you? she asked. For a moment, Harry did not answer her. He was merely gazing at her. Moments ago, he was kissed unexpectedly by Cho. His feelings were still stirring inside and his mind had still not found the peace it craved. He could still recall the feeling of Chos warm lips on top of his. It gave him a good feelingyet it also bothered him. Did her kiss imply something? Did she kiss him because she felt something for him? Was it a sign? Harry? Hello? Harry blinked as he noticed Ginny waving her hand in front of him, breaking his trance. Ohsorry, he apologized, Yeah, you can sit here. He moved over to the left side, giving space for Ginny to sit. She sat beside him, placing the basket between them. SILENCE. Harry glanced at Ginny, who was silently looking at her shoes. It was surprising to see her at St. Mungos at that time of the night. Is Cho asleep? she asked. I reckon, he answered, A healers inside, giving her potion. Oh. Another silence. Harry was beginning to sense awkwardness in the air. It was as if there was something standing in between him and Ginny, and it wasnt the basket of fruits. He knew they were over that awkwardness stageSo why did it feel awkward? What brought you here at this time of the night? he asked her. Ginny tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear. I just wanted to visit Cho. I couldnt sleep tonight and Ron said youd be here, so I figured I should go, she said, I hope you wouldnt mind. NoI dont mind at all, said Harry, Cho would be glad to see you. They heard a door close nearby. Both Harry and Ginny were greeted by the healer. Shes asleep now, said the healer, You can go back and see her. Then without another word, she left, leaving Harry and Ginny alone together.

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Is she doing well? asked Ginny. Getting better, actually. Were hoping she could be discharged tomorrow morning, said Harry. He saw Ginny flash a small smile. You mustve taken good care of her, then, she said. Harry shook his head, I didnt heal her. I owe it to the healers, theyve done a brilliant job, he said. I think you had your part, insisted Ginny, I noticed Cho gains more color whenever youre around. I think you mustve noticed. Harry suddenly felt alarmed at her words. He did not want to touch that subject yet. He wasnt ready. Really now? he asked, I dont think so. Ginny wasnt looking at him. She was looking at the white walls of the hospital. I do. She brightens up when she sees you. She has these red patches on her cheeks whenever youre near, she said, I think you and I both know what that means, Harry. He did. But he refused to acknowledge it for the time being. Harry shifted his position so that he was facing Ginny. What are you getting at, Gin? he asked her. She let out a sigh. Nothing, dont mind me. Im just being barmy, Im just tired, she explained, smiling at him. For a second, Harry wondered why he wasnt convinced with her smile. Something felt quite off Then he realized he had just kissed Cho Chang and was now facing Ginny Weasley. No wonder something felt off. Why dont you go home? You can come back tomorrow. The healer said that Cho had already fallen asleep, he suggested. Although a part of him wanted her to stayeven if one part of him did not want to see her. She hesitated. WellI also came here cause I reckonyou might need company, she said, Ron told me to check on you also. But if you want to sleep, its okay for me, Ginny. I can manage, he told her. Ginny looked at him. Her brown eyes pierced him deeply. Harry thought he was hallucinating Because her eyes looked as if they were betrayed. Are you alright? he asked. Ginny nodded her head. Im fine, she said, And Im not quite ready to sleep yet so I thought maybeI could keep you company while you wait for Cho to wake up. I take it youre not going to sleep yet?

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Not really, he said, chuckling. She gave a small smile. Coffee? she asked. The aroma of coffee gladly wafted around Harry s nostrils. He gazed at his cup, staring at the swirl of cream on the surface of the light brown liquid. Closing his eyes, Harry inhaled once again the sweet scent of the coffee And a light hint of lavender scent. He opened his eyes and cast a look at Ginny, who was seated opposite him. She too was quite absorbed in drinking her cup of coffee. Neither of them spoke. Harry thought that it was probably due to the fact that it was almost midnight and the both of them were tired. But there was that unease building up inside of him that didnt help. Wheres Caleb? he asked her. Ginny sighed, Hes at home. He wanted to come, actually but I told him he needed rest. He looked quite peaky, she said. Hes not sick, is he? Over fatigued, she answered, He hasnt had a decent sleep in days, too. Harry nodded his head and quietly sipped his cup of coffee. Both of them became quiet. The only sounds they heard were the voices of the healers and the rushing of magical stretchers. Its good to know Chos doing better, said Ginny, She must be excited to go home. I reckon, said Harry, I would be too if I stayed in St. Mungos for more than three days. Ginny chuckled as she sipped her coffee. Then her face became serious. Ron says theres still no luck with the case so far, she said, Theyve been coming up blank for the past days. Harry rubbed his forehead. I know. The moment I get back, Ill be focusing on that case, he said, It cant go unsolved. True, but its quite complicated, isnt it? There was no magical evidence left in the scene, said Ginny. It doesnt matter. We will catch the culprit no matter what it takes, he told her, Cho deserves justice. Whoever tortured her deserves punishment. An odd look flashed on Ginnys face. Youve grown quite attached to her, havent you? she asked. Harry finished his coffee and looked at her. What do you mean attached? he asked her. Ginnys eyes looked down at her cup and Harry sensed some sort of discomfort. She smiled, still not looking at him. Im not blind, Harry. I know that somethings developing between you and Cho, she said, Its quite obvious already. For a moment, he was gobsmacked. He could not believe Ginnys words.

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I dont get what youre saying, he said. Her eyes looked up at him, the small smile still on her face. I have a feeling that you and Cho are sharing something special. And to be honest Harry, Im happy for you, she said, Chos a brilliant choice. He finally understood. But, were not togetheryet, said Harry. Yet? She brushed away a stray lock of hair, But there is something developing between you. I can feel it. Whenever she looks at you, theres this feeling of longing in her eyes. And whenever you look at her, I see attachment, explained Ginny. She gave a small chuckle. Who wouldve thought, eh? she asked. So Ginny concluded that there was something between him and Cho. He rubbed his hands. Harry was not sure if he wasnt going to believe what she was sayingor if what she was saying actually made sense. I dont know he told her, Im not sure. Not sure? asked Ginny with disbelief, Why not? Harry looked at her. He was speechlessbut his mind was screaming. Because I know that in a way Im still in love with you. Because I still dont know what feelings I have for Cho. Because Im torn in a waybecause you keep appearing in my dreamsbecause I want to move on yet Im not sure if Cho is the onebecause youre still in my heart Because of her Because of you But all Harry was able to answer was: I justI dont know. Things are complicated, Gin. Ginny looked thoughtful. It was as if she was running Harrys answer in her mind. You know, you and Cho would look lovely together, she told him. I know, youve told me before, he replied. Ginny gave another small laugh. Well thats because you do, she said, You both complement each other. Its as if you fit together perfectly. Harry managed to smile back at her, even if he was becoming uneasy once again. He could not find the proper words to tell her. But in a way, he was interested to know what she had in mind. How so? he asked her. Ginny pulled her sweater closer as she shivered for a moment. Harry was sorely tempted to put an arm around her. I noticed that Chos like thisdamsel -in-distress. Shes the type of girl a bloke would eagerly save from a burning tower or from the clutches of a crazy dragon, she explained. She stopped for a moment as she took a sip of her coffee.

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What about me? asked Harry. At the back of his mind, he had a hunch of what she was going to say. Who else? The bloody hero, of course, said Ginny in a matter-of-fact tone, Youre the one who saves damsels-in-distress like Cho. Its common knowledge to everyone that the h eroes end up with the damsels they rescue. Harry gazed at her. He was biting his lip, unable to believe what she had said. Ginny moved her face closer to his, looking at him straight in the eye. You dont have to hide it from me, she told him, I know that in somewayyoure already attached to her. He did not answer immediately. Harry merely looked at her then looked down at his empty cup. He mind was filled with numerous question marks. So many questions still left unanswered and continued puzzling him. He tried processing Ginnys word but he found himself split into two. One part actually believed that she made sense. Why else would he willingly allow Cho Chang to kiss him and not even making an effort to pull away if he wasnt attached to her? Why else would he be staying by her side, tending to her and fervently hoping that she would get well already? Why else would his teeth grit whenever he would remember the day she was attacked? Why? He checked himself. Could he possibly be falling in love with Cho? Did Ginny realize something he refused to acknowledge? Harry cast another look at Ginny, still speechless. His mind was not done and was still restless. He found himself scanning her face, taking in every detail. Her beautiful marble-shaped, chocolate colored eyesher flaring red hair that fell on her shouldersher porcelain skin His thoughts pondered on the other realization. If he was truly falling for Cho Then why was he still thinking about Ginny when she was right in front of him? Why then would he feel guilty after kissing Cho? Good question. Was it possible to love two people at once? Or was he merely deluding himself? Harry? Ginnys voice brought him back. He blinked and raised his eyes up to her. She was still lo oking at him and he saw question in her eyes. Are you alright? she asked.

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He ran a hand thru his hair, Oh, eryeah, Im finejust lost for a moment, he said. Are you feeling sleepy already? He blinked again. His eyelids began to feel droopy. He was beginning to crave sleep. But his body remained glued to his chair. A bit, he replied, How about you? Ginny didnt answer immediately. She glanced at the clock. Its already one o clock in the morning, she said, Who wouldve thought wed become nocturnal? A small smile spread across her lips. He chuckled, Guess time flies when youre having fun, he remarked. His eyes landed on Ginny once more. He watched as she looked at the clock again. I reckon I should go, she finally said, Its dead of the night. She began to stand up and Harry immediately followed her suit. You need to get some sleep, he told her, I bet you have practice tomorrow and you know Gwenshe fires bludgers at groggy players. Ginny laughed quietly, I know that very well. Its good to know you remembered that, she said and handed the basket of fruits to Harry, Take this to Cho, will you? Im sure shell love them. Of course, She ran a hand thru her locks of hair and looked at him meaningfully at him. Tak e good care of Cho. She needs youand you know that, she said, You should be with her. For a moment, Harry wanted to contradict but he found no strength to do so. Instead, he smiled at Ginny and simply nodded his head. Shell be okay, he said. Silence hovered between them. Slinging her bag on her shoulder, Ginny moved closer and looked up at him. Take good care of yourself, alright? she said. Harry found himself looking down at her. I will, he promised. Before he knew it, she wrapped her arms around his neck, enveloping him in a hug. Harry buried his face into her hair, inhaling the familiar lavender scent she usually wore. His arms encircled her waist, tempted to pull her closer. He closed his eyes. Stay with her, she needs you, Ginny whispered in her ear. He chose not to reply but merely slowly nod his head. The very feel of her warmth against him gave the comfort he had been craving for days. Slowly, Ginny pulled away from him. She gave another small smile and began to walk away, leaving Harry to watch her wistfully.

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Goodbye, Ginny Weasley, he whispered. He was left alone in the room. The moment she stepped off, there was a sudden feeling of coldness surrounding him. He began to wonder if that had something to do with Ginny leaving. Stay with hershe needs you Immediately, Harry was reminded of Cho. Harry? He turned around. Speaking of Cho She was standing at the opening of the door, peeking. She was still in her St. Mungos dressing gown and wore no slippers. She was looking at him. Cho, why are you out of bed? he asked her, quickly alarmed at the sight of her barefoot and looking tired. She looked quite embarrassed. II woke up. You werent in the roomI figured you left, she said, I was looking for you. Looking for me? Cho tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear, unable to meet his eyes. She nodded her head. Harry pushed the chair towards the table and made his way towards her. She was still unable to meet his gaze once he was beside her. Harry saw that she needed sleep. Stay with hershe needs you He wrapped an arm around her shoulder. Come on, Cho. You need to go back to sleep, he told her. Cho looked up at him, uncertainty in her eyes. Harry nodded his head. For a moment, he saw Cho glance at their back then looking at his eyes before letting out a sigh. She rested her head on his shoulder as they both slowly made their way back to her room. As they walked, Harry found his mind crowded. Stay with hershe needs you Apparently, Cho needed him And Ginny no longer did. Thank you so much, Mr. Potter! I am truly grateful! Harry buried his hands inside his robes as he smiled sheepishly at Chos mother. Youre welcome, Mrs. Chang, he answered politely. Mrs. Chang kept on bowing in front of him, tears of gratefulness pouring from her eyes. Harry was beginning to feel uneasy with every bow. Behind her mother was Cho, obviously embarrassed for her mothers act. Cho had been finally discharged from St. Mungos. Harry made it sure that he wo uld be able to escort her safely back to her home where her mother was anxiously awaiting her arrival.

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Compared to the past week, Cho had become better. There was some color in her still pale and quite sunken cheeks and the bruises on her body were slowly vanishing. She still limped for a bit but was able to walk on her own. I do not know how I could thank you enough, Mr. Potter, remarked Mrs. Chang. Please, call me Harry, said Harry modestly, And it was no problem, Mrs. Chang. I was just doing my job. You stayed with my daughter, looked after her and took care of her needs while I was away. I dearly wish I could repay you in some way, Harry waved his hand, No payment is needed, maam. Like I said, I was doing my job. And besides, Chos a good friend of mine. Im sure she wouldve done the same thing for me, he said, then he looked at Cho. Her eyes met his and Harry saw the spots of pink appear on both her cheeks. How are you feeling? he asked her over her mothers shoulder. Im feeling better, she answered, smiling. He smiled back at her. Would you like some lunch, Harry? asked Mrs. Chang, Its the only thing I can offer now. Harry shook his head, Im sorry Mrs. Chang, but I have to go back to the Auror office now. My department missed me, you see, he explained, Maybe I will come some other time. Cho can tell me. He saw the flash of disappointment in, not only Mrs. Changs, but also in Chos eyes. A feeling of guilt burned in his chest. Oh well then, next time, said Mrs. Chang, Thank you so much again, Harry. Cho and I would be forever thankful! Please do make time for the lunch. It would be an honor. Flashing another smile, Harry nodded his head. I will maam, I promise, he looked at his watch, Well, I better go now. He looked at Cho once more. Take good care of yourself. If you need anything, Ill be at the office. You know where to find me. Dont hesitate to look, he told her. I will, she said. He saw her eyes shine. He gulped. Ill be seeing you then, goodbye, With a swift turn, Harry was headed towards the gate of the Chang residence. He was finally going back to the Ministry, after spending a week at St. Mungos looking after Cho Chang. He was finally going to be able to distract himself with the mountain of workload awaiting himand the case of Chos attack. Harry! Hearing his name forced him to stop in his tracks. He turned around. Cho was opposite him. What is it, Cho? he asked her. She took small steps towards him. Harry could sense she was embarrassed yet there was a message

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behind that embarrassment. Of course there would bethey kissed not too long ago, did they not? She took more steps towards him until she was looking up at him. Harrys eyes looked down at her. There was something innocent about Cho. She looked so delicate. Harry felt that if he touched her, she might fall and break into pieces. She appeared to him as a little girl, even if she was a year older than he was. Thank you, for everything, she said, I wouldnt be here if it werent for you and your team. Glad to be of service, he said, smiling down at her. Harry saw she was slightly fidgeting and playing with her hands. Just remember what Healer Blythe told you to do and get well, Cho, he continued, Dont think about the attack. When youre ready, well be inviting you back to the Ministry for questions. Will you be able to catch whoever did this to me? she asked. Well do everything we can, Cho. Its not going to be easy but we wont give up searc hing for the suspect, he assured her. Silence. Chos eyes were piercing him. She was giving him a look that there was something she wanted him to know. Harryabout the umthe kiss Oh no. He readied himself for what she was about to say. Cho rubbed her arm as she looked away from him. I wanted to apologize. It was impulsive, you see. I acted upon impulse but I know I shouldnt have done that, she said, It wasnt proper. Cho- But you know what, Harry? she asked. Her eyes returned to look at him meaningfully. He chose not to speak. I meant that kiss, she told him, If I would have to do it all over again, I would. BOOM. If Harry was seated on a chair, he knew full well that he would fall over. The feeling rushing inside him was not normal. He could not understand it himself. He didnt know if he was tornor not. Silence hovered above them once more. ChoI dont know what to say- Dont say anything, she said, I just wanted you to know. Another silence.

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She stepped forward, tipped on her toes and planted a kiss on Harrys cheek. Harry felt his eyes enlarging and his cheek burning the moment she stepped away from him. She flashed a small smile. Thanks again Harry, she said, Ill be seeing you. With a swift turn of her back, she left Leaving Harry with his thoughts His lifted his hand to touch his cheek. His fingers brushed over the spot that remained warm after she kissed him. Harry knew he had to do one thing. And that was toSHE KISSED YOU?! Ron! Harry looked around the surroundings of his cubicle, dearly hoping that no one heard his best mates sudden exclamation. Opposite him was Ron, eyes wide with disbelief and mouth hanging open. It looked as if Ron had just heard that Hermione had chosen to leave him and run off with Kingsley Shacklebolt. Can you not say it aloud? asked Harry in a whisper, I dont want the whole department to be buzzing about this. Ron was still frozen. Harry suddenly wondered if he shouldve approached Hermione instead of Ron , figuring her reaction wouldve been completely different from her fiances. Ron managed to find his voice again. II just cantI cant believe it, he stammered. Harry sighed, fixing the parchments on his desk, You and me both, he remarked, runn ing a hand thru his hair. Ron rubbed his chin, a thoughtful look on his face. The shock was still evident in his eyes. Matedoes that mean what I think it means? What? Ron bit his lip, Could Cho Chang be actually falling for you? he asked, Merlins beard, I cant believe I just said that. Harry rubbed his forehead. Cho Chang? In love with him? Really? I honestly am not sure, Ron, he told his best mate, Its complicated. Ron shuddered, I hate that word, he said, Did she kiss you once? Twice, one on the lips and another on the cheek,

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Ron slopped down his chair, Bloody hell, he remarked, I dont believe it. Harry sighed once again. He didnt know what to think of either. But mate, Id like to ask you one question, Harry looked at Ron, who was already sporting a serious look on his face. Harry felt as if he wanted to shudder. Whats that? he asked. Well, how do you feel about it? Feel about what? Ron rolled his eyes, Dont play dumb, Harry. I know you. Im asking you if you feel anything about ityou know, he said, If you feel like returning that feeling shes giving you. How did he feel? Harry spared a moment to think. He recalled the feel of Chos lips on his. He remembered how her smooth hands touched his face, bringing him closer to her. Truth be told, Harry did feel something when they kissed. It wasnt the usual fuzzy feeling. It was more. In fact, it was something intense. He remembered also wanting to pull her closer but something held him back. It was probably the fact that he was unsure back then. His memory shifted to the moment when Cho said that she meant that kiss. What did that mean? Did she really imply that she had feelings for him? Already? Harry? Rons voice broke Harrys trail of thought. Blinking, he looked at his best mate who was looking at him and awaiting an answer. I dunno Ron. If Im going to be honest, I will say that I did feel something when she kissed me. I just dont know what it really means to me, said Harry. How can you not know? asked Ron. Harry gave him a look that suggested he should know the answer. Ron thought for a moment, racking his brain for an answer while Harry awaited the light bulb to light up in his friends mind. Its Ginny, isnt it? asked Ron. Before Harry was able to answer, Tyler had arrived. Im sorry to interrupt, Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley. But Vance from Magical Inspection department is here with their findings and is looking for you, sir, he said, looking at Harry, Its about Miss Changs case.

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This alerted Harry. Send him in, he told Tyler. A minute later, a wiry-haired Auror entered Harrys cubicle and nodding his head to acknowledge Ron and Harrys presence. What have you got for me Vance? asked Harry. The Auror named Vance placed a mound of paperwork on Harrys desk, which both Harry and Ron leafed thru. Mr. Potter, weve confirmed that evidences of dark magic were indeed used on Miss Chang. Its clear that her memory has been modified, which explains why she cant r emember her attacker, let alone the fact that she was attacked, said Vance. There was a thoughtful look on Rons face. I reckon her memory wasnt just modified, he said. True, shes cursed, said Harry, looking at the reports, Whenever she tries t o remember her attacker, she cant. Do you have any idea about this curse, Vance? McDonald and Stevenson are both on it, sir although they admitted to having difficulty in determining what curse was used, said Vance, Its advanced dark magic and seems as if it wascreated. She was tortured, no doubt about it, said Ron. Question is why the suspect would want to torture Cho Chang, asked Harry. There was silence as all three Aurors processed the information. Harry sat back, both hands near his lips. So our suspect is a genius, he said, Hes going to be difficult to catch. Or a she, said Ron, Never underestimate the power of a woman, Harry. Harry took the stack of parchment and looked at Vance. You may leave now, Vance. Come back tomorrow when you have something for us, he said. The Auror nodded his head and left Harry and Ron to contemplate. Ron sighed as he rumpled his hair. Harry knew that the case was also bothering his best friend. This is barking mad, said Ron, Weve got a case thats going to be bloody difficult to solve. Our star witness isnt even fit to tell us what happened to her and there arent enough evidences. All we know is that Cho was tortured but we have no damn idea on why and who. Harry took his glasses off as he settled back and closed his eyes. His head was beginning to throb and he felt his nerves aching one by one. He gave a deep breath. Well figure this out, Ron. Dont worry, said Harry in an assuring yet tired voice, Well catch the one behind this. You dont have to stress yourself too much. I can handle this. Just think about your wedding. The word wedding immediately lightened up Rons spirits. Harry saw his best mates eyes light up in sudden excitement. I know. Three weeks till D-Day, eh? asked Ron, making Harry laugh.

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Dont let Hermione hear you say that, he said. Dont let me hear what? Both Harry and Ron were startled at the sound of Hermiones voice. She appeared in front of them, a questioning look on her face. Nothing! exclaimed Ron, Wh...what are you doing here? A suspicious look flashed on Hermiones face as Harry bit his lip, holding his laughter. He definitely had no intentions of Ron getting reprimanded by his fiance. I just wanted to visit, said Hermione, entering Harrys cubicle and sitting on a chair, How are you Harry? Im fine, Hermione, said Harry, clearing his desk of parchment, How about you? Excited for the big day? A blush crept on Hermiones cheek. Ron held her hand and smiled. Harr y on the other hand, was on the verge of laughing. Couldnt be more excited mate, answered Ron, Can you imagine it? Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Bilius Weasley. Yes, Im looking forward to becoming a Weasley, said Hermione, Food security becomes one of you r privileges when you become one of them. Just hope I dont get fat. Nah, you wouldnt. Trust me, said Ron, then he patted his stomach, You dont think Im fat, do you? Hermione rolled her eyes. Trust me, Ronald. You wouldnt want to know what I think, she said. Harry gave in and burst into laughter, making the heads of his co-workers turn. Rons face was redder than his hair while a smug look was on Hermiones face. It felt good to have Hermione and Ron together, especially when they tease each other. Apparently, Hermione scored this one. Hermione wrapped an arm around a red-faced Ron as she laughed. Just joking, she said, Dont tell me youre offended. Am not, said Ron, hiding his embarrassment. Laughing, Hermione pecked Rons cheek, the refore causing him to blush even more. Harry on the other hand, was tempted to look away. So Harry, hows Cho? asked Hermione, Is she recovering? The subject of Cho once again brought the heavy feeling in his heart. He couldnt help but become uneasy again. He was hoping dearly that Hermione wouldnt notice. But Hermione was Hermione. Removing her arm gently from Ron, Hermione leaned forward. Harry? Is there something you want to tell me? she asked. Harry avoided her eyes and sought Ron who was seated behind her. Ron nodded his head, as if to say, Go on. You knew this was coming. But Harrys tongue was tied. He couldnt get himself to repeat the story again. He looked at Ron once more, hoping he could do something. ErHermione, I forgot to tell you something, said Ron, We need to meet with the caterers todaythey want to know if we still want those African canaps.

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But- And Mum says we should see her today. You dont want her to fuss again, do you? asked Ron who stood up all of a sudden. Thank Merlin for Ron. Hermione glanced at Harry for a moment, her eyes searching him. Go on, said Harry, Ill tell you some other time, dont worry. But Harry- You dont want Mrs. Weasley to launch in her full-blown rants again do you? he asked her again, Im fine, Hermione. Go and worry about your wedding plans. He was relieved when Hermione chose not to bother him anymore and stood up. Clutching Rons arm, she cast him another meaningful look. Well be seeing you, mate, said Ron, Oh by the way, youve got to come on the 24th, its my bachelor party. Just you and me. Harry laughed, Duly noted, mate. See you both, he said. Ron and Hermione left his cubicle, with Hermione looking at him once more and finally giving up. Alone in his cubicle, Harry was left to ponder with his thoughts. Closing his eyes, Harry remembered the scent of lilac. Cho. Along with that scent of lilac, he recalled the scent of lavender. Ginny. He groaned and rubbed his forehead. Bloody hell, he murmured. Bloody hell indeed He needed to get out of the office once again. He needed a distraction. UNCA HAWEEEEE, WHEE-BEE! WHEE-BEE! An elderly witch chuckled fondly as she watched Teddy point his stubby finger at a box of Fizzing Whizbees. What an adorable child! another witch exclaimed. Harry managed to smile back as he shifted his position while carrying his godson. Teddy was wiggling in his arms, pointing at the variety of candies offered by Honeydukes. His hair kept changing color tones, attracting more eyes and more cooing. WHEE-BEE! WHEE BEE! exclaimed the tiny tyke, pointing at the shelves. His waving arms caused Harrys glasses to be lopsided.

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Okay, okay Teddy, hang on for a moment, said Harry, approaching the shelves. Slingin g the excited boy on his back, Harry grabbed a box of Fizzing Whizbees along with another box of Chocolate Frogs while Teddy laughed merrily in his arms. Nothing like distracting yourself with your godson. Harry figured that Teddy was the perfect distraction. He adored his godson and Teddy never failed to delight his godfather during times of confusion and distress. In order to relieve himself of the stress, Harry decided he would visit Teddy and bring him to his favorite shop in Hogsmeade: Honeydukes. At the back of his head, Harry was already worrying about the sugar rush that may cause his godson to go haywire. Carrying Teddy and the candy, Harry approached the counter. The smell of sugar and peppermint wafted under his nose. Good morning, Mr. Potter! greeted the shopkeeper, Well, hello there Teddy. Morning, greeted Harry, laying down his purchases. Teddy was still giggling and smiling as he hung on his godfathers shoulder, charming the witches behind them. Harry could hear them ogling and cooing. Lets hope Teddy doesnt become a Casanova when he grows up. After paying, Harry and Teddy left the candy shop. As soon as he was immediately given a Fizzing Whizbee, Teddy immediately ripped the wrapper of the sweet and proceeded to devour it like a hungry hippogriff. Take it slow, Teddy. You wouldnt want a stomachache, said Harry as he walked down the streets of Hogsmeade. As usual, people greeted him as he walked and some were still awed at the sight of him. Harry chose to ignore this yet he kept on smiling to anyone who smiled at him. He didnt want his awful mood to show. So, where should we go Teddy? he asked his godson, Want to have some tea? Tea! Tea! exclaimed the excited boy, Unca Hawee dwink tea. Teddy eat candy! Harry chuckled as he made his way thru the streets. He patted himself on the back for the brilliant escape plan. Nothing cheered him up better than taking Teddy out. It helped him clear his head. Just walking down the streets of Hogsmeade, with nothing but him , Teddy and some candy Harry chose to have tea at Madam Pudifoots shop. At the sight of the tiny tea shop, Harry was once again reminded of Cho. He gulped. Dont think of that, he told himself, Youre just going to have tea. Yes, he was just out for tea. As he was about to enter the shop, Harry heard his name. Harry! The voice sounded familiar. His heart gave a thud.

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Turning around, Harry saw the owner of the voice. Problematic as he was, he smiled. Hello, Cho. Cho Chang was right across the street and made her way towards him. She was carrying a bag of goods on one arm and wearing a sweet smile on her face. Harry was beginning to feel the unease inside his system but he chose not to show it. Cho looked healthier compared to the last week. He didnt dare spoil it. At the sight of Teddy, she gave a small gasp. Oh! Whos this? she asked. Harry looked at Teddy who was also ogling the new stranger. Cho, this is Teddy Lupin, my godson, introduced Harry, Teddy, this is Auntie Cho. Say hi. For a moment, the boy said nothing but continued staring at the raven-haired woman. Harry didnt know if he was either terrified or mesmerized. He was relieved when Teddy lifted one hand, offering it to Cho. Hello, greeted Teddy in a polite voice. The smile on Chos face widened as she took Teddys hand and shook it. Hello there, Teddy. Arent you adorable? she asked. Harry glanced at his godson once more, hoping hed respond. Teddy had become unusually quiet. UntilThe boy suddenly giggled and his hair tone changed to black, mimicking Chos hair. The color of his eyes transitioned from brown to black. Choey! Aunt Choey! he said. Teddy, its Aunt Cho, corrected Harry. Teddy was laughing gaily in his arms while Cho couldnt help but fawn over the boy. May I carry him? she asked. Sure, said Harry, handing Cho the 4-year old. She eagerly scooped him in her arms and covered him with kisses, much to Teddys delight. So, how are you doing, Cho? Harry asked as he watched Cho coo ove r Teddy. She looked so radiant as she fawned over his godson. She tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear as she smiled at him. Im feeling better, Harry. The potions given by Healer Blythe were quite helpful, she said, How about you? What brings yo u here in Hogsmeade? To clear my headironically, it involves you. I just wanted some fresh air, and Teddy wanted some Fizzing Whizbees, answered Harry. WHEE-BEE! exclaimed Teddy, wagging the remains of his Fizzing Whizbee at Cho, Whee bee, Aunt Cho! Look! Cho giggled as she held Teddy closer. Hes such an adorable boy, she remarked, I wonder whom he takes after.

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A smug smile widened on Harrys face. From his godfather, who else? he said. Cho laughed and Harry saw her eyes twinkle. Was it true or just vain imagination? Cho looked at the opening of the tea shop. Were you about to have tea too? she asked. Eryeah, Well, since were both here, why dont we go in together? she suggested. Another tea moment with the girl who just kissed him days ago? That would be great, he said, his insides screaming in alarm. Cho flashed him a smile and together, they both approached Madam Pudifoots tea shop. she commented. I know, maybe its the place where were always meant to end up, Har ry added. Im okay with it, as long as Im with you, said Cho. Harry felt his hands become cold at her words. The torn feeling was rising up in his chest. He did not reply. Instead, he just smiled at her as he ushered her inside the tea shop. He allowed Cho to enter first, Teddy in her arms. Well, look at that! exclaimed a voice. A very familiar voice. The moment Harry himself stepped inside the tea shop, he was greeted by the blinding smile and vivid blue eyes of Caleb Andrews. Hello there, Harry! greeted Caleb. Hello, Caleb, Harry greeted back. He saw Caleb looking at Cho and Teddy. Why, hello there Miss Chang. Might I say you look better today? complimented Caleb, making Cho blush. Thanks, Caleb, she said, You too. Oh and little Teddy. Howre you little tyke? asked Caleb, ruffling the boys hair, You know from afar, you and Cho look like mother and son. Same hair and same eyes! At the same time, Caleb winked slyly at Harry. Harry found himself at odds with Calebs comment. Cho and Teddy appeared like mother and son? If they did and Harry was with themthen he was theHe didnt even dare finish his thought. Instead, he just smiled at Caleb and chose not to reply to the comment. Just then, a thought popped into his head. If Caleb was there, then he was most certain thatHello Ginny! greeted Cho. Ginny had appeared behind Caleb and it was obvious that she was surprised to see Harry and Cho.

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Hello Cho, she greeted back. Auntie Ginny! squealed Teddy, squirming in Chos arms. His hair had turned vivid red at the sight of Ginny and his eyes mimicked her chocolate brown marbles. He began reaching out for her. Caleb chuckled as he swung an arm around Ginnys shoulder. Looks like youve enchanted the little tyke too, love, he said. Harry saw Ginnys cheeks blush at the remark. She held out her hands for Teddy to play with. How are you, Cho? she asked, Youre looking better. Im doing well. Thanks for the fruits by the way, said Cho, They were delicious. Thank you so much for them. No problem, said Ginny, then her eyes met Harry, Hi Harry, good to see you. A small smile spread on her face. Good to see you too, he said, So, what are you two doing here? Oh we were just out for some tea, answered Caleb, Weve barely spent some alone time for the past days so Ginny and I decided wed have tea here. How about you two? What brought you here? Harry could still feel Ginny eyeing him silently behind Caleb. ErI was just out shopping with Teddy. I sort of bumped into Cho and we decided to have tea, said Harry. Tea, remarked Caleb, I have a brilliant idea. Why dont the four of us -? I think we should leave Harry and Cho alone, Caleb, interrupted Ginny. She said what? Harry was much sure that there was a stunned expression on his face. Did he hear right? He was not the only one stunned. Caleb was left speechless for a moment. He tugged on his collar and cleared his throat. Ginny on the other hand, remained as if nothing shocking had happened. Her eyes were not on Harry but on Teddy, who was wiggling in Chos arms and trying to reach out to her. Besides Caleb, we have someerstuff, to talk about remember? added Ginny, looking up from Teddy and smiling at Cho. She held Calebs arm and was attempting to pull him away. A light bulb had struck Caleb. Oh, right on, I forgot, he told her, then he looked at Harry and Cho, Sorry, but Ginny and I do have to discuss things right now. Maybe well have tea next time. Enjoy your time together! Erwill do, said Harry, looking uncertain at Ginny. She flashed him an encouraging smile as she pinched Teddys little cheeks. I guess Ill be seeing you when you come to the Burrow for your bachelor night with Ron, she said. YeahI reckon too, he told her.

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She smiled again and waved to the both of them. See you around, Then with one swift move, she and Caleb proceeded to a table located at the right side of the tea shop, leaving Harry with his thoughts. Harry? Chos voice broke his reverie. Teddy was tugging on his sleeve and Cho was gazing at him, question on her face. Do you want to sit down now? she asked him. Oh, yes, lets go, he said, accompanying her to a table at the left side. After helping Cho to her seat, Harry sat opposite her. Incidentally, he sat on a chair that allowed him to see Ginnys face a meter away. As he sat down, Harry found himself staring at Ginny as he watched her talk with Caleb. He saw a lock of hair fall from her headband and unto her face. She tucked it behind her ear would you like to order? Huh? Harry saw Madam Pudifoot smiling down at him, a quill and note pad floating beside her and awaiting his order. ErIll have some tea, he said, With honey. Same, said Cho, And well have a batch of cookies for this little boy, please. She cuddled Teddy in her arms, making Madam Pudifoot smile as she went away with their orders. Harrys lips widened into a smile as he watched Cho and Teddy. There was something about them that made him somewhat happy. But when his eyes went past Chos shoulder and at Ginny Weasley, there was that feeling of uncertainty once again. Ginny has grown into something, huh? Harry saw Cho looking at Ginny and Caleb then looking back at him. What do you mean? he asked. She shrugged, Well, she has come a long way from where she used to be and where she is now, remarked Cho, You have to admit, that is quite impressive. Harry glanced at Ginny once again. Truly impressive, he said absentmindedly. She used to be so quiet whenever I saw her around Hogwarts, she continued, stroking Teddys hair, which had turned brown, I would never have guessed that she would become a feisty young woman loved by all. Neither did I, said Harry. They were quiet for a moment. Madam Pudifoot had arrived with their tea and a plate of cookies, which caused Teddy to go berserk with joy as his pudgy hands found their way towards the plate.

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Cookie! Teddy loves cookie! squealed the 4-year old as he munched on a cookie. Harry helped himself to the sweet treat and savored the chocolate chips melting on his tongue. He dearly hoped the sweetness of the cookie would distract him from his thoughts. No wonder a number of people fawn over her, said Cho, Especially Caleb. Harry sipped his tea, Yeah, no wonder, he said. He didnt notice that Cho was looking at him with a concerned look on her face. Looking up, he saw her eyes. Are you alright? he asked her. I reckon I should be asking you the same thing, she said, You seempreoccupied. Is there something wrong? You shouldnt be acting like thistheres nothing wrong with you Just thinking about work, he told her, Dont worry about me, Cho. In fact, you should be worrying about yourself. How are you doing? Are you getting better? She sipped her tea and managed to smile as she fed Teddy a cookie. There are times when I feel quite nauseous but most of the time, I feel perfectly fine. Ive been taking the potion Healer Blythe gave me and its helped a lot, especially with the bruises, she said. Harry spotted a purple bruise on her skin. Do you have enough rest? Healer Blythe said you shouldnt overwork yourself, he said. Cho waved her hand off him. Harry, Im telling you, Im fine. When I get better, I might be able to recover from whatever happened to me, she said, In the meantime, we should just relax, dont you think? He took another sip of tea. Its no easy matter, Cho. You were attacked and Id like to make sure youre okay. Its a part of my job, you see, he said. Removing her left hand from Teddy, she reached out the table to touch his hand. I know, Harry. But please, dont stress yourself. Lets just be quiet for a while and not mind heavy matter. Its one way you can help me recover, she said. She was looking thoughtfully at him, her hand still on top of his. She was trying to assure him. But why didnt he feel assurance? He smiled at her and nodded his head, patting her hand with his other one. His eyes once again shifted gaze from Cho to over her shoulder. Surprisingly, he saw Ginny looking at his direction. Immediately, she withdrew her gaze and was now busy sipping her tea. What the-? It was no mistake. He saw Ginny looking over at him and Cho. Harry wondered why this discovery of his boggled him. Ginny was only looking over. Hadnt he done the same thing for the past moments? Once again, he found himself looking at Ginny and Caleb on the other side. He was hoping that Ginny

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would look againeven if the idea sounded stupi d in his head. Why would she? If she did, she probably did for other reasonsnot the reason Harry had. He thought he was being rude to Cho. He kept looking over her to look at Ginny who was obviously busy with Caleb. Then it happened. Ginny had once again looked at Harrys side, but this time, they locked eyes. Brown and green meteven at a distance. Harry didnt know what feeling emerged the moment his eyes locked with Ginnys. All he knew was there was a mixture of emotions within him. She didnt withdraw her eyes from him. She merely looked at him the way he looked at her. For a moment, Harry felt as if he could just look at her forever. But as all moments go, this one had to stop. She flashed him a small smile, then returned her gaze at Caleb, who had begun talking. Unca Hawee, want cookie? Harrys attention was taken by Teddy who was shoving a cookie to his face. He saw Cho smile encouragingly at him. He obliged and took a bite. He could still feel the warmth from Ginnys gaze. He was sorely tempted to look over again but he restrained himself. He didnt want to offend Cho and he didnt want to arouse an issue with Caleb. He glanced at Cho who was watching him as he took a sip of his tea. There was a look of concern on her face, which she easily masked with a smile once she caught him looking at her. Do you still want to come with me to Ron and Hermiones wedding? he asked her. Of course, she said, I wouldnt miss it. At the thought of the wedding, Harry laughed. Whats funny? asked Cho. I just remembered I had a bachelor party with Ron, he said, Only me and Ron, that is. Cho chuckled as she wiped Teddys mouth with her hand. That would be fun, she said shortly. It would be fun, he said. They both smiled at each other and resumed drinking their teas. As he sipped on his chipped cup, Harry permitted himself to glance at Ginny once more He could do soforever will you be okay? Cho nodded her head as she handed Harry his godson who had fallen asleep in her arms. They were outside of the teashop, saying their goodbyes. Thanks for letting me hold him, she said, stretching her arms, Hes truly adorable. No wonder many love him.

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What do you expect? Takes after his godfather, joked Harry as Teddy rested h is head on his godfathers shoulder. His hair color changed into a raven black. Harry saw Cho smile a sweet grin at him. What? he asked. She rubbed her arms and saw spots on her face, Youd make a good father, Harry, she said, Just by looking at you and Teddy. Harry was quite sure his cheeks reddened at the comment but chose to brush it away. Im just a good godfather, Cho. But not sure on the dad stuff, he said. Cho shrugged, Well, youre a good man and Teddys lucky to have you, she said, th en she looked at her watch, Its time for me to go. I have to help Mum with the house now. Ill be seeing you around? Yes, Ill be checking up on you, as expected, he teased. Cho smiled and tucked a stray lock of hair of Teddys behind his ear. I want to thank you for the time, Harry, she said, I hope we can have tea again. Just visit me at the Ministry. You know where to find me, he told her. Cho nodded her head. She stepped forward and planted a kiss on Teddys cheek. Ill be seeing you again little man, she said. She looked up at Harry, flashed him another smile and kissed him on his cheek, leaving him struck. Thank you, she whispered, then without another word, she left. Harry watched Cho as she walked away from him. His left hand touched his cheeked and felt the warmth of her kiss. He wasnt surprised anymore but the rush of emotions had once again invaded his space. She looks happy. Startled, Harry turned his back to see Ginny standing behind him. How long have you been there? he demanded. I didnt think it was proper to intervene, said Ginny, Dont worry, I just came here. She approached him and patted Teddys small head. At that instant, his hair color changed into a vibrant red. Wheres Caleb? asked Harry. He already left, answered Ginny, You were too busy with Cho to notice. There was a small teasing smile painted on her lips. She continued stroking Teddys hair while Harry was looking down at her. SILENCE. Its good that youre making her feel better, she said, She needs the love and attention. She is feeling better, said Harry, I did what you told me. Ginny looked up at him and he saw meaning in her eyes.

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You did, she said, And the results are undoubtedly good. She needs you, Harry and I m proud of you for keeping her company. She continued stroking Teddys hair and there was a tender look on her face. I heard youre coming on the 24th, she said, Rons bachelor party. Only you and him. Yeah, you heard right, Well, I bet Rons going to tell you every dirty secret he wouldnt want Hermione to hear. Youre going to have to make his transition from singleness to married smooth, she said. Really now? asked Harry, I guess Im looking forward to it. Ginny smiled and withdrew her hand. Well, Ill be seeing you then, she said, Goodnight, Harry. She touched his arm, then turned her back And left Harry was all alone, carrying a sleeping godson and pondering with his thoughts. Something felt off. He once again glanced at Ginnys retreating back. He had a feeling he would know at Rons bachelor party.

Chapter 16: XVI. Terrified

paler and thinner! Harry managed to smile as Mrs. Weasley fussed over him. It was already September 24th; a Saturday night like any other. Harry had gone to the Burrow for Ron's one-on-one bachelor party. The plan was Harry was to spend the night with Ron so that they can remember the times they had with each other and practically celebrate Rons last days as a single bloke. He was standing at the Weasley doorstep and was greeted by Mrs. Weasley who started fussing over his pale aura and thin structure. Are you sure theyre not overworking you, dear? she asked him as she stepped aside to let him in. Not at all, Mrs. Weasley, said Harry, Im actually feeling loads better tonight. They stepped inside the Weasley living room and Harry was surprised to see it deserted. It was a sight that he found quite unusual. Where is everyone? he asked, Wheres Mr. Weasley? Mrs. Weasley hung his coat and approached him, Hes at work, dear. Hell be back later tonight. George is in his flat with Angelina while the other Weasleys are quite busy with their jobs. Besides, I think they want to give Ronald some privacy, she said, Would you like some soup?

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Yes please, said Harry. Together, they proceeded to the kitchen where a bowl of soup was already prepared for him. Eagerly, Harry sat down and began to eat Molly Weasleys delicious cream of corn. They heard the backdoor open and a minute later, Ron had appeared. You doing alright, mate? he asked, sitting beside Harry. Dandy, replied Harry, before taking another sip. He heard footsteps above them, making him wonder. Wasnt the Weasley household supposed to be almost deserted? How was work today? Sorry I wasnt able to come, George wanted me to help out with the shop. He was experiencing trouble with those bloody teenagers, explained Ron as he sipped the soup his mother had just ladled for him. Hell, said Harry, You wouldnt want to look at your cubicle, mate. Its filled with parchment you wouldnt want to read. Ron cringed as he took another sip. Proves that you two deserve a break, said Mrs. Weasley, Youre no wanking muggle machines. Its no wonder both of you are thinner and in need of proper nutrition. Ron rolled his eyes while Harry bit his lip from laughing. Mum, give us a break, said Ron, Were fine. Harry and I are going to stuff ourselves tonight in my room, alright? Were not going to die of hunger. Mrs. Weasley merely frowned at her son and resolved to picking up the basket of laundry and heading out to the backyard to hang clothes. The moment she left, Ron gave out a sigh of relief. Trust me mate, I love my mum. I just hate it when she fusses on things she shouldnt fuss on, he said, finishing his bowl of soup. Harry heard the sounds of footsteps descending from the stairs. Turning around, he was greeted by"Harry! Hermione? Hermione, wearing a pair of green pajamas, smiled as she proceeded to the kitchen and gave Harry a hug. Harry gave Ron a questioning look. What was Hermione doing in their bachelor party? She gently released him from her hug and settled down on the seat opposite him and beside Ron. What are you doing here? asked Harry, I thought this was supposed to be a bachelor party with me and Ron only. Grabbing an apple, Hermione smirked as she took a bite. Well, Im having my own bachelorette party too. Ginny and I will be shacking in her room to celebrate my last days as a single woman, she said. The moment her name was mentioned, Ginny Weasley also appeared in the kitchen, already clad in her pair of pink pajamas printed with tiny hearts. Hello Harry, she greeted. Harry found himself looking at her, top to bottom. He couldnt help but smile. Nice pajamas, he said. Ginny flashed him a small smile as she sat on the last chair beside him and Hermione.

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Theyre having a slumber party, explained Ron, Pretty juvenile if you ask me. Hermione punched Ron on the shoulder while his sister merely rolled her eyes and also grabbed an apple to eat. So both of you are having your bachelor parties under one roof? asked Harry. Dont worry mate, said Ron, Well have complete privacy. Me and Mione swore we wouldnt barge into each others parties. Itll be like the old days, you know. The times when you and Hermione would spend the summer here. Harry nodded his head as he finished his bowl of soup. He could feel Ginnys presence and he felt quite awkward yet comfortable at the same time. She glanced at him and gave him a small smile. Those were the good old days, remarked Hermione, Simply looking forward to Hogwarts and nothing else. Easy for you to say, countered Harry, I had Hogwarts and Voldemort to look forward to. This remark made Ron and Ginny laugh while Hermione simply stuck her tongue out at him. Harry couldnt help but grin. It was a familiar sight: the four of them playing fun at one another. Well, why dont we get started then? asked Hermione, Come on, Ginny. I think these two are settled where they are. We wouldnt want to spoil their fun. Ginny stood up from her chair. See you both, she said. Together with Hermione, they both proceeded to the stairs. Dont lie about me, Hermione! called Ron as the two headed upstairs to Ginnys room. They heard the door shut close. Harry pushed away his bowl and looked at Ron. Shall we get started? he asked, I havent brought any pajamas though. Ron socked him in the arm as he laughed. I dont think pajamas are appropriate for what were going to do, remarked Ron as he stood up and approached the kitchen cabinets. He took out a bottle of firewhisky and two goblets. Nothing like spending your last single days with a drink, he said, handing Harry t he other goblet. I think we should do this upstairs, said Harry, Where no one, not even your mum, can hear the stupid things were about to say. Ron laughed. Here, here! he said, Cmon mate, lets go and celebrate whats left of my singleness be fore I become serious and married. Well said, Ron, well said... and I ended up puking slugs! Merlins beard! Harry laughed uncontrollably, making himself fall over Rons bed. A red -faced Ron on the other hand, was also bursting with laughter as he poured himself another glass of firewhisky. It has been three hours since they started their one-on-one bachelor party. One goblet of whisky led to another and the next thing they knew, Harry and Ron were laughing their rockers off as they recalled their youthful adventures.

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That was terrible. But it looked hilarious at the same time, remarked Harry, Howd the slugs taste, Ron? Rons face scrunched into a disgusted expression. Disgusting of course! Worse than dragon dung! Dragon dung? Howd you know? Have you tasted dragon dung? asked Harry. Ron thought for a moment. I might have, Silence. Then another burst of uncontrollable laughter. Harry was rolling on Rons bed, his jaw aching from all the laughs. He felt like he was young once agai n and he and Ron were making fun of Draco Malfoys pointed chin or Severus Snapes slimy hair. Justjust proves were prats, mate, said Ron as he gulped his whisky, The good old daysh! Yeah, the good old times, said Harry, pouring himself another goblet of whisky, We used to be so free. And we were admittedly idiots. Ron rumpled his hair as he settled his goblet down. Who wouldve known, huh? he asked, You know what mate? If you told me Id be marrying Hermione Granger ten years ago, I would ve hexed you into oblivion even if I was only 11. I mean, truth be told, I really didnt like her. She was this stuck -up know-it-all who bugged the guts out of everyone. Can you believe it? I know, agreed Harry, With all the rows you two had, I wouldve never thought you two would get married, even get together. Its really unbelievable. Ron stood up on wobbly knees and made his way beside Harry. He threw himself on his bed and let out a sigh. I really cant believe it, he said, What is it about Hermione? Remember during sixth year, I was out dating Lavender Brown? Harry let out a snort as he finished his whisky. Yep, one of the worst decisions ever made by Ron Weasley, he said, Why? I only made that stupid decision because I was annoyed that Hermione snogged Viktor Krum, admitted Ron, I dunno. I knew Lavender had something for me so I figured, Why not? Turns out, I was going to experience dating the Giant Squid. Laughing, Harry also laid on Rons bed. The two friends were gazing at Rons orange ceiling. His Chudley Cannon posters still hoarded every space of the wall, bringing back more memories. Now, Im marrying Hermione, the girl I never thought Id fall for, continued Ron, You think she slipped me love potion, mate? I dont think so, said Harry, Hermione would never sink that low. Besides, I reckon you werent her first choice either. Ron snorted. Yeah, it was the Bulgarian bom-bom, Viktor Krum, he said, Guess she didnt expect to fancy a git like me. Harry grinned as he gazed at Rons posters. It felt as if they were talking about their younger siblings. Harry could not believe he had already lived

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twenty-one years of his life and now, his best mate was about to marry his other best friend. It all seemed surreal We were never the ladies men, werent we, Harry? asked Ron, I meanwe werent anything like Cedric Diggory or Krum. Nope, said Harry, I dont think so. Ron sat up and was looking at him. You were, though, he said, Remember all those girls w ho tried following you after that commotion at the Department of Mysteries? Remember Romilda Vane? Harry scowled as he sat up, That girl who tried to give me a love potion? he asked, That was nothing, Ron. They were just playing. Playing? asked Ron, No bloody hell, mate. No girl would kid around if she used a love potion. That was serious! You my friend, were hot stuff. You were the Boy Who Lived, mate! Girls did go gaga over you. Harry brushed off that comment. Girls did not go gaga over me. If I recall properly, they thought I was a freak, he said. Ron shook his head as he filled his goblet with another batch of whisky. Dont kid me, Harry. Cmon, youve had girls falling for you since you werehmmmwell, since you were - twelve! he exclaimed as he drank. Twelve? Ron grinned a mischievous and drunk smile. Dont pretend you dont know, Harry. You know what Im talking about, he said, My sister. Who else? Remember second year? The thought of an 11-year old Ginny Weasley had suddenly made Harry somewhat sober. He remembered well how she ran out of the room when she first saw himhow she stuttered and fidgeted when he was within her presencehow she stared at him with her innocent brown eyeshow she wrote about him in Tom Riddles diary. It all seemed like a blur now Rons boisterous laughter broke his thoughts. Merlin, I remember how she talked about you all summer. It drove me out of my wits. I couldnt believe a girl her age could talk about a boy for hours, he said, It was amazing. Really now? he asked, pouring himself another goblet of whiskey. He was going to need it. Yeah, said Ron, patting Harry on the shoulder, You know what, mate? Ginny was the only girl I knew who was that drawn to you. She was something different, even for an 11-year old. She made it clear that she liked YOU. Even if it drove me bonkers. Harry was beginning to feel his soberness. The topic about Ginny was just something alerting. Ron continued as he slung an arm around Harry and one hand aroun d his goblet. I dunno what happened to the both of you. You two looked so perfect together, mate. Its bloody creepy sometimes, its like you two were meant for each other, he said, And then she comes home one night looking all torn up, telling me that she needs some time alone. The next thing I knew, she vanishes out of thin air! Bloody messy, I tell you! Harry bit his lip as he remembered that night so well. He remembered sinking on his knees, scrunched up in one corner, his eyes bleeding red from the tears

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He didnt do well either. And then she meets this creepy bloke named Caleb, continued Ron, To be honest, mate, I have nothing against the bloke. Hes nice and all, sometimes his kindness freaks me out. But when I see him with GinnyI dont see the same thing I saw with the both of you. Really-? Hey Harry, cut Ron, Tell me something. Are you still in love with my sister? The question caught Harry off guard. ErRon, arent we supposed to be talking about you and Hermione-? Aw, cmon! Dont evade the question! exclaimed Ron, a drunken look on his face, I just wanna know, mate. Cause I know that you dont have a damn for Chang. Surprise caught Harry. Ron knew that he didnt give a damn for Cho Chang? Did he really not give a damn? Sighing, Harry drained his goblet and rubbed his forehead. I dunno, Ron, he answered, I have no idea. What do you mean you have no idea? demanded Ron, I see it perfectly, mate! You cant lie to me. Dont think I dont see that look in your eyes whenever you see her with Caleb. I can see it. Harry rumpled his hair. So Ron knew things he himself didnt know. All it took was firewhisky for his best mate to rattle everything he had kept secret. Was Ron actually right? Look Ron, I seriously have no idea, he said, I dunno what my feelings for Ginny are, alright? Everything seems complicated and blurred. My heads filled with things I cant resolve and I dunno how to handle them all- Rons snoring had interrupted Harry from his monologue. He gazed at Ron, eyes closed and all, as he snored away in slumber. For a moment, he envied his best mate. Ron seemed so careless about the world now. He had a fairly good job, a loving family and he was about to get married to the woman he loved the most. Although both he and Ron never expected that the woman would be Hermione, what mattered was Ron was about to experience joy Harry might never have. He looked at Rons peaceful face. Youve got it all, mate, whispered Harry, Stay like this forever and youll be happy. He took the fallen goblet from the floor and decided to clean things up a bit or else Mrs. Weasley might dive into one of her rants the following day once she sees Rons room. He fixed Ron on his bed and draped the blanket over him. Next, he picked up the empty bottles and goblets and decided to bring them down to the kitchen to be cleaned. He quietly made his way out of Rons room and slowly stepped down the stairs. He could hear the snores of Mr. Weasley as he passed their room. Gently, he took little steps down the second floor, hoping he wouldnt wake anyone up. His drunkenness was making his knees wobble as he tried to walk

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as silent as possible. A strain of light was emitting from a room with the door closed slightly. It blinded his slightly blurred vision. It came from Ginnys room. Hermione and Ginny are still awakethought Harry. He could hear their murmurs. There were also sounds of clanking goblets and a bottle being settled down. weve drank enough, Harry smirked. So the ladies were having their own drinking session As he was about to pass Ginnys room, he heard something that made him stop in his tracks. So, why are you pushing Harry and Cho together, then? asked Hermione. He heard Ginny laugh shrilly and settled a goblet on the floor. Becausewell, they look bloody good together, dont they? replied a drunken Ginny. She hiccupped once and giggled once again. I dont think thats the main reason, Gin, said Hermione. Harry found himself slowly backing from his steps and slowly stepping to the side of Ginnys door. He held his breath as he peeked. Hermione was looking seriously at Ginny who was seated opposite her. She looked sober, though pink in the face. Ginny on the other hand, was clearly high with wine and she was smiling like crazy. Ginny poured herself another goblet of wine and drank. What do you mean thats not the main reason? she asked, That is my bloody reason, Hermione. Besides, you shouldve seen Cho when she was with Harry. She looked ballistic with happiness. Harry saw Hermione brush her hair as uncertainty crept on her face. So youre telling me that youre doing this for Chos sake then? she asked Ginny, Youre some kind of a matchmaker now? Ginny giggled. Not really, she replied, NoIm not doing it for Cho. No, not at all. Who then? Drinking another glass, Harry saw Ginny stare at Hermione, head cocking and all. Im doing it for Harry, she said shortly. Shes doing it for me? Shes patching me with Cho for my sake? Harry was confused. He couldnt understand what Ginny was telling Hermione. For Harry? Youre doing this for Harry? asked Hermione, Has he told you that he wants to be with Cho? Apparently, Harry wasnt the only one confused. Not really, said Ginny, But you just have to look in his eyes and you can see that hes clearly attracted to Cho.

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But Ginny, Ive asked Harry about his relationship with Cho. I dont think theyre sharing something special- Is that what he told you? HA! said Ginny, sarcasm in her tone, Of course he wouldnt tell you outright, Hermione. I cant believe he told you he doesnt give a damn for Cho. Ginny, I dont get it. How can you be so sure that Harry has feelings for Cho if he hasnt told you anything about it? I mean, this is Harry were talking about, said Hermione. Ginny drank another glass. This is Harry were talking about, the bloke who can be damn unpredictable, she said, Remember how hard we tried to figure him out? Hes not exactly the super transparent type, Hermione. Okay then, so youre telling me that Harry has feelings for Cho. What made you say so? Wheres your proof? asked Hermione, pouring herself another glass of wine. Harry watched as Ginny settled her goblet and wiped her mouth with her arm. The smile had gone away from her face. She was looking at Hermione with a serious expression on her face. Then she removed her gaze and was suddenly staring at the floor Becausewell she said, WellI saw him kiss Cho. The goblet fell from Hermiones hand, making small thud as it hit the wooden floor. Her mouth was wide open and her eyes filled with shock. What? Ginny nodded her head. She looked up and Harry saw her flash a meek smile at Hermione. When? asked Hermione. When I visited Cho late one night, said Ginny, I opened the door and wellI saw them. I figured I shouldnt bother them so I closed the door and left, waited for Harry to come out. Harry felt his hands becoming cold. His breath was drawing short at the realiz ation He vaguely recalled hearing the door close behind him and Cho that moment she first kissed him. He wanted to gasp. It was Ginny who saw them, not a healer. His insides suddenly became cold. He had to stop himself from falling or else they would discover he was eavesdropping. He bit his lip. Sothey have kissed, said Hermione. Yeah, said Ginny, taking another goblet of wine, They have. Now, tell me, does that still tell you that Harry doesnt feel anything for Cho? There was a short silence. Harry saw Hermione hug her knees. He recognized that thoughtful look on her face as she decided her side on the matter. He on the other hand was beginning to feel his heart racing. Harry feels something for Cho. Hes just not sure, continued Ginny, Deep down, hes attached to her. And Im just doing my part by bringing them together. She drank her wine and laughed. Once her laughter died down, Harry noticed that Hermione was surveying Ginny. It was as if she was trying to figure something out.

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What do you think about it, Gin? About Harry and Cho being together? she asked. For a moment, Ginny was speechless. Harry saw her drain her goblet, settle it down and tuck a stray lock of hair behind her ear. She wasnt looking at Hermione; her eyes onc e again settled on the floor. What I think? About Harry and Cho? Yes, Ginny reached for the bottle and quietly poured more into her goblet. She looked thoughtful as she gave her goblet a shake and drank from it. I thinkI think theyre good for each other, she replied, Harry would be much happier with Cho. Theyve had a history togethermaybe they can patch their mistakes now and, you knowget it right this time. Harry couldnt believe the words he was hearing. He saw that Hermione had remained silent. She was looking at Ginny, trying to read her. Ginny on the other hand, was staring at her goblet. Im happy for them, she continued, Im happy for Harry. If Cho Chang is what it takes for him to be happy again, then so be it. Another wave of silence. Only the sound of goblets being settled down Ginny. Yes? Hermione was gazing profoundly at Ginny. She had that look that indicated she was about to ask something deep. Correct me if Im wrong butI cant help but notice that youre feeling down with something, she said, Is there something youd like to tell me? Tell you? About what? About Harry. Harrys heart stopped. What was Hermione doing? He felt his hands become colder. Look Ginny, its no secret that you two broke up in not so good terms, she continued, I know that theres something youre not telling me. Harry saw Ginny bite her lip. He couldnt watch anymore. He withdrew his eyes from the scene but stayed put in his position. He had a feeling he had to hear what she was about to say. A sigh had escaped Ginnys lips. I knew this would happen, she said shortly. Harrys hands were bundled up with one another as he held his breath. If only you and Ron werent getting married, I wouldve never come back, she continued, To be honest, I had no intentions of coming back at all. I planned on staying at Cumbria, occasionally visiting the Burrow in discreet.

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But why did you come back? Because my brothers getting married, Hermione, to you, said Ginny, I had Ron in mind. Three years ago, I left the Burrow without a word of where I was headed too. I knew I owe Ron. I had to come back for him. Alrightso why didnt you want to come back? Another sigh. I was happy at Cumbria, Hermione. I was happy with living the quiet life, away from all the flashes and the fame as a Quidditch player. I was happy with Caleb, answered Ginny, Because coming home would mean facing the pastit meant facing Harry again after three years. Harry felt as if his heart was caught in his throat. A heavy feeling had settled in his heart. And it happened. On the first night I came back, I saw him, she continued, We met again after three years. I didnt think seeing Harry again would cause you a burden, said Hermione, It onl y means that he inflicted a great impact in your life. Of course he did, Hermione, snapped Ginny, Why wouldnt he? Were talking about the bloke I fancied since I was eleven. The very same bloke I hoped I would have my happily ever after with. Hermione, he was my boyfriend and we broke up because his job mattered more than me. Of course he would make an impact! Goblets clattered on the floor. Harry could sense Ginnys frustration and it made him more uneasy. Seeing him again after three years made me want to turn my back and run away. But I didnt. I thought it would be immatureinappropriate, she continued, But I thought again that I was there because of you and Ron, not him. I brought Caleb along with me with the hope that his presence would take my mind off Harry. There was another air of silence. Harry heard the pouring of wine and Ginny drinking once again. I swore to myself that I wouldnt be the Ginny he used to know. Im different now, not the Ginny who used to cry every night because she knew that her boyfriend prioritized other matters than her, said Ginny, I wanted to show him that he didnt affect me anymore. But he still did, came Hermiones voice. Ginny snorted. I wanted to stay away, Hermione. I really did, she said, I tried my best not to get close to him. But then that rogue bludger knocked me off my broom and who should save me from falling? None other than the great Harry Potter himself. She let out a frustrated sigh. Harry clutched his chestevery word was beginning to weigh on him I dunno, Hermione. I dunno why I was still drawn to him, said Ginny, I figured maybe I was being too harsh on him. Past is past, as they say. So I decided to forgive him and at least maintain a friendship. I couldnt live my life knowing I hadnt forgiven him. Harry quietly shifted his position to peek at the door once again. Hermione remained silent and was still gazing at Ginny, waiting for her to speak. Ginny on the other hand had her eyes on the floor She began to speak again. I knew there was this awkwardness still hovering between us. I didnt want to experience it every time we were together. I tried to break itI wanted us to be friends again. I just couldnt live with the awkwardness

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Of course there would be awkwardness, Gin, said Hermione, You two shared something in the past. I thought I had surpassed that. But there were times when you can just feel it snapping between us, said Ginny, Then Cho came around and I saw she was interested in Harry. I figuredmay be she was the answer. She hugged her knees. Her flaming red hair fell unto her shoulders like water I wanted Harry to be happy, Hermione. I really did and still do. It was the least I could do forfor leaving him three years ago, said Ginny, If Cho was the answer to his happiness, then I would be happy to lead him where she is. Silence hovered in the air. All of a sudden, Ginny laughed shrilly. Harry saw her pour herself another goblet of wine and drink it greedily. Harry Potter, she said, The Boy Who Livedthe Chosen Onela-di-da Her finger was twirling a lock of her red hair and there was this somewhat manic expression in her eyes. Harry was wondering if that was caused by the alcohol she was consuming. What is it about him, Hermione? asked Ginny, moving closer towards Hermione, What is it about Harry Potter? Why are women like Cho attracted to him? She was waving her goblet. It was clear that Ginny was drunk, drunk than Hermione. Hermione was looking at her friend with a sympathetic expression on her face. Ginny, maybe you should stop drinking, she suggested, slowly removing the cup from Ginnys hand. She withdrew. No, no, said Ginny, You havent answered my question yet! But Ginny- Why is it about Harry that makes him so great, women fall down on their knees? she asked again. Hermione became silent. Harry saw her rub her hands as her eyes continued staring at Ginny. She was contemplating, Harry was sure of it. He knew she was thinking of something to say that would surely knock Ginny off her rocker. Well, if I am going to be honest Ginny, all I can tell you are the reasons why Harry is a good friend and brother figure, she said, I was never attracted to Harry in the way youre pertaining, therefore, I cant answer you accurately. Ginny did not speak for a moment. She appeared to be gobsmacked. But then, she broke out laughing once again as she poured herself another goblet of wine. Really now? she asked, Are you truly sure you cant tell me any reason at all? Hermione shook her head as she straightened her back. She edged forward and was looking at Ginny, face to face. Why dont you ask yourself, Ginny? she asked, After all, you were once attracted to Harry. Silence Harry bit his lip. He knew Hermione had hit a nerve. She was quite good at that. For a second, he couldnt look at Ginnys face. He couldnt see what expression she wore on her face. His heart was

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pounding wildly against his chest. He took a second before he looked again. He saw Ginny frozen, her face not showing any emotion. She was thinking. Why was I attracted to Harry? she asked herself. Harry saw Hermione eyeing Ginny, waiting for a response. Well? she asked. Ginny looked up at Hermione. Harry felt his heart was going to burst from his chest. Well, because there was no bloke on this bloody planet like him, she answered, Because hes none like other, I guess. After answering, Ginny took another drink. Harrytheres just something about him that draws you to him. Hes like some sort of puzzle you have to figure out yourself. He breaks your expectations. He does the opposite of what you first had in mind, she continued, But thats his charm. The way his mind works challenges you. Really now? asked Hermione. Ginny was already staring into space. She appeared to be still contemplating on her answers Yeah, she said, And when he smiles at you, all of a sudden you feel as if everything is going to be alright. When he cares about others, you know full well that he does because he will show you how much he cares. Even if it costs him his life, Harry will do it for the one he loves. Pouring herself another goblet of wine, Ginny brought it to her lips. Hes an idiot, she went on, A self-sacrificing prat who often forgets his own sake. He always places other people in front of him before even bothering to care for himself. No wonder he ends up getting the worst end of whatever tragedy there is. He doesnt bother to save himself at all. Seems like you know a lot of amazing things regarding Harry, Ginny, remarked Hermione. There was a flash in Ginnys eyes. Thats because he is bloody amazing, even if he rejects the idea, she answered, Its bleeding creepy, already. Ever since he was born, people know hes amazing. Its not an oblivious fact, Hermione. But I can see you know more about him, said Hermione. Arent you the best friend? Shouldnt you know more than I do? Ginny shot back. Well thats because you and I have different point -of-views, Gin, answered Hermione, I saw Harry as a brother. You saw him as something else. Oh, I definitely saw him as something else, said Ginny, He was the most beautiful thing I ever saw when I was eleven. Can you believe it? I almost worshipped the ground he stepped on and watched his every move. It was somehowamusing and pathetic at the same time. Hermione nodded her head. Its a shame that you two ended what you had, she said, Such a waste. Harry caught his breath. His heart stopped. Hermione

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Hermione had dug a subject that was never to be discussed. He saw Ginny and apparently, she was also thinking of the same thing. Yeahit was a waste, she said. There was a sudden forlorn look on Ginnys face as she drained her goblet of wine and settled it down on the floor. Its funny actually, she continued, When the Battle of Hogwarts ended and everyone was doing fine and already at peace, I thought Harry and I would be together forever. Voldemort was no longer in the way. There was no reason for us to be apa rt anymore. Her fingers found their way to her lips. But I was wrong. Harry bit his lip. He knew this was coming. The worst was yet to come. It was as if he could hear the rain pouring once again and he was once again huddled in the dark corner of his room. His job came between us. He became too absorbed with work said Ginny, Hed come and see me and Id know that his brain is literally floating around like dust. He was busy most of the time and when he wasnt, hed still be thinking about his job. It was frustrating. True, Harry was a workaholic, said Hermione. Hed become annoyed whenever I would try to point out that he was prioritizing his job over me, telling me I was being barmy and such. I had enoughI knew it had to end. So I ended it, she told Hermione. Wobbly, Ginny stood up on her feet. She made her way towards her bed and simply threw herself on it. Why bother staying in a relationship when the other one doesnt give you the attention you need? she asked, It was best to end it rather than both of us to suffer. Harry loved his job more than he loved me, so I let him go. You dont know that, said Hermione, Probably he was just caught up with it. Caught up? Caught up? asked Ginny sarcastically before laughing, He was not caught up with his job. In fact, he was obsessed with it. I barely existed. I was like this invisible air floating around him. Harry felt his heart throb. He knew she was right. He remembered those days wellwhen he took her for granted and broke her expectations. He wasnt exactly proud of them right nowin fact, he regretted them. Oh Merlin It seems to me that youre still deeply affected, Ginny, said Hermione. Ginny snorted. I can still remember them clearly, Hermione. Every damn thing, she said, Why wouldnt I be affected? Harry heard Hermione laugh as she drained her goblet, It seems to me Ginny, that you are not only affected by the past, she said, No you are not. Ginny had sat up, a drunken bewildered look on her face, hair messed up. What are you talking about?

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Harry saw a small smirk play on Hermiones lips. I thinkyou are affected by Harry himself, she said. There was an expression of shock and confusion on Ginnys face. Nono, you got it all wrong, Hermione, she said. I have not, said Hermione, I can see it clearly, Ginny Weasley. Ive seen it ever since you two first saw each other again. What do you mean youve seen it before? I am not affected by Harry now, said Ginny, We are in a stable platonic relationship. But trust me when I say that sometimes I can spot a haunted expression in your eyes whenever you are faced with Harry, said Hermione, When we talk about him, your mood changes swiftly, therefore indicating that you are still unsure of something. I know for a fact that his very presence affects you. Ginny did not answer immediately. She appeared to be gathering her thoughts as she bit her nails. Is that what you think? she asked Hermione. Thats what I see, Ginny Weasley, said Hermione. Ginny was chewing the inside of her cheek. Harry was not that eager to hear her answer. He knew he would not like what she would say. So I have been obvious What the-? Harry can feel his eyes widening as he watched Ginny clear her throat and look up. Obvious? asked Hermione, What do you mean by that? Ginny laughed a little, Youre right Hermione, she said, You are absolutely correct when you say that Harry still affects me. She stood up. Harry edged a bit away from the door, concealing himself from their eyes. He peeked once more and saw Ginnys back at him. Its silly isnt it? she asked Hermione, I may look as if my past no longer affects me anymore. But deep inside, whenever I see Harry, it comes back and haunts me from the gra ve. Harry felt as if his heart had just burst out of his chest. He was holding his breath. Ginny hugged her arms. Whenever I see him, I remember everything clearly. Every damn thing that involved him, good or bad she said, I can still remember how I turned his back that nightthat night that I told him I couldnt take it anymore. Her hands had curled into fists. Harry saw that they were shaking. Hermione, you know that I love Caleb, right? she asked. Well, yes, replied Hermione. You know that I fell for him and I am in love with him? Yes.

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Ginny walked away from the door and stood by the window. Her hand touched the window pane as she watched drops of rain slowly make their way towards the grounds. She closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead. Then can you please explain why I am still utterly drawn to Harry Potter? Her question caught Harry off-guard. He couldnt help but silently gasp. Shes drawn to me? When you say drawn, in what way? asked Hermione. Ginny released a frustrated sigh. It feels like Im still connected to him, Hermione. From the moment I first saw him, I could feel it being revived once more. When I left, I killed that connection but when I came back, it sprung to life, she explained, Its like theres a bloo dy thread that is tied between me and him. She continued staring out of the window, watching the rain as it fell with progress. Harryhes this presence that should it go missing, I can feel it. Even though we havent talked for three years, the line between us is brought back in an instant, even when I tried pulling away, she continued, I would always find myself ending up where he is. Its becoming bloody difficult to stay away. Do you not feel the same way about Caleb? asked Hermione. Ginny did not speak for a moment. Her head leaned on the window pane. I do, Hermione, she answered. Hermione knew otherwise. But you do not share the same connection, I assume? she asked. Ginny lifted her head and laughed once again but this time, Harry spotted a tear roll down her cheek. Her tears betrayed her smile. Would you believe? Believe what, Ginny? Ginny wiped away the tear and smiled. Behind that smile, Harry could sense the pain. Would you believe that I am still in love with Harry Potter? Oh my god Harry found himself frozen. He could not move his body. His mouth hang open and his eyes enlarged at what he had just heard. Would you believe that I am still in love with Harry Potter? I am still in love with Harry Potter? still in love

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With Harry Potter? A number of emotions had burst within Harry. He was doubting what he had heard. Ginny was still in love with him? The connection that she was talking aboutit had sprung to life because he still meant something to her? Harry felt his heart pounding wildly against his chest. He simply could not believe it. All this time, Ginny had been hiding something from him. She had been keeping her feelings from him She had been holding back all along Ginny was still in love with him and Harry had spent the last few months believing that he no longer meant anything to her When he still did Harrys thoughts were broken by a goblet that fell on the wooden floor. Apparently, Hermione had also taken the news with surprise. GinnyII cant believe she stammered, You are serious? Ginny nodded her head. As much as I hate to admit it, its the truth, she said, Its the reason why you can see I am still drawn to him. Hermione clutched her arm. Apparently, she was still processing the news. But youre in love with Caleb I am, said Ginny. But youre also in love with Harry Ginny laughed painfully. Her smile was not happy and another tear had rolled down her cheek. I didnt say I wanted to be. Harry caught his breath once again. Cold sweat had poured on his forehead. What do you mean? asked Hermione. Ginny sighed once more. It simply means that I dont want to be in love with Harry, Hermione, she answered. She removed herself from the window and headed to her desk. Harry saw her caressing an object he cannot see. Another tear had rolled down her face What happened between us three years agoit traumatized me, Hermione, she explained, I can still remember crying myself to sleep. I can still hear the argum ents between the two of usall the excusesthe lieseverything. The pain I feel is none too comfortable. The hurt comes back to me. She sniffed and faced Hermione. Falling in love once again with Harry has brought feelingsheavy feelings. I dont want to dwell in

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them once again because I know we would end up with the same situation again, she continued, Harry and I would take each other for granted. We would argue all over again and we would suffer at each others hands. Ginny, you dont know that- I know that, Hermione, countered Ginny, I used to tell myself that all those arguments and other commotions would never happen again. But they didthey always did. We would eventually bicker and be at each others throats. But Ginny, Harry has changed these days. He hasnt become obsessive with work lately, said Hermione. Ginny sat down on the bed once again, her face inside her hands. I know that, whispered Ginny, I know that hes not the same Harry I was with three years ago. But theres something within me thats pulling me back. Something inside me is screaming, telling me its very wrong. If this is about Caleb- Yes Hermione, Caleb is one of the reasons. I am betraying him of his trust, snapped Ginny, But cant you also understand? I do not want to fall in love with Harrynot anymore! As she said those words, Harry could feel his heart breaking into two. The unbearable reality had sunk into his heart and its tearing him into pieces. He could see the tears consistently rolling down Ginnys cheeks. Im terrified, Hermione. Im terrified because Im still in love with him, she confessed, When we fell apart, I swore to myself I would never attach myself to him because I knew the pain would be severe. But here I am, constantly thinking about him even though I have someone else already. Still worrying about his well-beingstill concerned with every little thing he doesstill aching to see him Her fingers brushed away the tears. Im terrified to fall in love with him again, she continued, I dont want to wreck the friendship I have with him. Theres just too much that time cannot erase. The painthe hurteverything. I just cant fallI cant And with that, she broke. Her quiet sobs rang into Harrys ears. He saw her cling unto Hermiones comforting shoulder as if she was holding unto dear life. I cantI just cantCalebI cant fall again Shhyoure going to be alright, Ginny I just want to forgetforget what we had and start anew withCaleb, sobbed Ginny, I want I want to be free He saw Ginny, hurt and broken And it was because of him. Harry looked away. He could no longer stand watching Ginny suffering because of him. The truth had been exposed.

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She was still in love with him. But she was terrifiedand no longer wanted to be. Quietly, he stood up from his hiding place and cast one last glance at Ginny. She was still enveloped within Hermiones arms, sobbing quietly and releasing all repressed emotions. She had no idea that Harry now knew that she held back and that she had suffered because of him. She had no idea that Harrys heart was also breaking Im sorry he whispered, looking at Ginnys crumpled form, Im sorryGinny Harry swiftly turned his back and moved away. He never looked back. As he proceeded downstairs, he was greeted by the darkness of the Burrow. It was also deafeningly silent. Harry could truly feel that he was alone. And he wanted nothing but to be alone Silently, he proceeded to the squashy sofa in the middle of the living room. His head was buzzing with questions and his chest was bulging with emotions. All the revelations he had heard in Ginnys room were too much for him to handle. He sat quietly on the chair, feeling the emptiness of his surroundings. Because it mirrored what he was feeling at the moment Empty. The effects of the whiskey were truly worn out as Harry sat there. He was completely aware and sober. He was truly sober that he could feel the pain ever so clearly. He couldnt help but rewind what he h ad learned that night. Ginny was still in love with him. She held it back. She was terrified that she was in love with him She was suffering because of him. Harry buried his face in his hands. He was like a man beaten up into pulp, except in reality, his heart was beaten till it could no longer move. He could not think properly Im sorryIm so sorry he murmured. He realized now that he was truly in love with Ginny. But the complications had settled and reality was now knocking on Harrys door. He and Ginny can never be together. Because Ginny herself refused to be with him. Im terrified to fall in love with him again, Im so sorryIm sorry He no longer wanted to cause her pain. He wanted her to be happy and freejust like what she wanted. He wanted her to experience life without complications like him Even if it meant him being erased from her life

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IIm sorry And without warning, Harry broke down. All the pain and the withheld emotions were finally released. Tears fell from his eyes as Harry buried his face in his hands. His body was shaking with emotion as he silently poured out everything. He could no longer take ithe had to let it out. He had repressed a lot for so long Im sorry The great and brave Harry Potter that witches and wizards had come to know had finally succumbed to his emotions As his tears cascaded down his face, the rain poured outside of the Burrow. Im sorry The rain continued to pour harder Just like it did three years ago

Chapter 17: XVII. The Wedding

He found himself under a tree meticulously decorated with vibrantly colored pixies whose bodies illuminate the leaves of every branch. He could not take his eyes off a certain spot. At first, he assumed he was just dazed or probably thoughtful due to the numerous events that had occurred in the past days. But then, he admitted to himself that he was just making up an excuse for the real reason behind his stare. The merrymaking around him seemed almost like a blur as he stood there under the tree. His eyes were only set on oneand that one was a person. The dancing and the laughter did not mean anything to him as of that moment. One did. And it was her. Dont be scared to go after what you truly want, Harry As he stood there watching her, he saw her eyes meet his And form a connection with him. His head throbbed as he recalled the events that brought him to that moment.

September 27th, 6:00 AM The day had finally come. Harry was gazing at his cup of coffee as he rubbed his forehead.

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It was the day anticipated by a number. It was the day that Ron Weasley would be marrying Hermione Granger. A small smile spread on Harrys face as the image of Ron and Hermione appeared inside his mind. He still found it hard to believe that they were actually going to marry each other but as all else, Harry was nonetheless happy for his best friends. He could already envision the day. The thought of Ron wearing dress robes brought early morning laughter to Harry. He knew his best mate was no fan of dressing up and he knew Ron would be pulling his collar endlessly. His face would be redder than his hair once his mother dives into her endless fuss and rants. Mean as it may sound, Harry was actually looking forward to it. But thinking of Ron also reminded him of September 24th. How he left that early morning, leaving Ron a note that said he received an urgent owl from the Ministry and he had to leave immediately Which was a lie. What really happened was Harry could no longer stay within the confinements of the Burrow after hearing a revelation from Ginny that utterly crumbled him into pieces He knew he had to leave. He couldnt face Ginny the next morning when he had overheard her confession to Hermione. Harry knew he wouldnt be able to communicate with her properly and would result into awkwardness. So he left, without another word. Harry sighed as he sipped his cup of coffee. He was hoping that his eyes would not look as red and as tired as they were that morning he left the Burrow. He recalled looking at himself in the mirror once he got home and only one word described him properly: Hell. His hair was messier than usual. Dark circles were found under his bloodshot eyes. His skin was pale and he looked truly beaten up. He di dnt carehe simply threw himself on his bed, fervently hoping that sleep would wash away his hurt. Now, he sat on his table, preparing himself for his best mates wedding. A wedding was supposed to be a happy occasion. Harry knew he had to fix himself b ecause he didnt want to ruin Ron and Hermiones special day. Hed rather stick himself up a pole. Smile, he told himself as he drained his cup. Harry was somehow still tensed with the fact that he would be seeing Ginny in a few hours. He knew he had to keep his act together because he did not dare fall apart in front of her. He was hoping that Chos presence would distract him. If that was possible Standing up, Harry took a deep breath. Today was the day he was going to turn over a new leaf. He wouldnt be heartbroken Harry in Ron and Hermiones wedding.

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He would be the honorable best man who would stand by Rons side as he watches his best mate marry the woman he loves. And he wouldnt take notice of the maid-of-honor He would try his best not to. As Harry walked towards the front door of the Burrow, he could smell the fresh dew on the leaves of the freshly mown grass. Looking around, he saw a gigantic cream-colored marquee standing on the Weasley backyard. Birds twittered above him and butterflies flew their way. Arriving at the front step, Harry took a deep breath as he knocked on the door. Who is it? came a motherly voice. Its me, Molly, said Harry. A second later, the door flew open and Harry found himself facing a joyful Molly Weasley. She was already dressed in her emerald green dress robes and a glimmering witchs hat on her head. Harry! she exclaimed, engulfing him in a hug. Behind her, Harry saw Andromeda Tonks dressed in a cream-colored dress splashed with stars and butterflies. Hello there, Harry, she greeted politely. Hello Andromeda, said Harry as Mrs. Weasley released him from her hug, Great to see both of you looking beautiful. Oh, Harry! said Mrs. Weasley, tapping him on the shoulder, Save the compliments for the bride. Shouldering his rucksack, Harry looked around. He saw Mr. Weasley outside with an older man Harry presumed was Hermiones father. George and Bill were also outside, wands out and raising chairs. There were already a number of people outside the Burrow and it made Harry nervous. Where are Ron and Hermione? he asked. Rons in Georges old room with Teddy. He said he needed the company while you werent here, said Andromeda, Hermione is in Ronalds room with her mother. Speaking of H ermione, I do need to return upstairs to help. Ginny had just left, you see. At the mention of Ginnys name, Harry gulped. Whwhere did she go? he asked. She left an hour ago with Caleb Andrews, said Mrs. Weasley, Theyre out to pick some of the supplies I needed. Apparently, Ginny will be getting ready at Calebs apartment. Getting ready at Calebs apartment? Oh, I see, said Harry, Ill go and help out Ron, then, I suppose. Do so, dear, said Mrs. Weasley, patting his cheek, Ronalds in n eed of his best man. He refused to allow me to help him in dressing up. Well, lets just see if he doesnt manage to look like a bumbling idiot down the aisle. Harry managed a laugh as he proceeded towards the stairs. He climbed them up and spotted the door to Georges room. He heard tiny giggles and a stumble within. Harry smiled as he opened the door. Need help? Harry!

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Ron was standing in front of a mirror and aboard his shoulders was Teddy. Unca Hawee! squealed the 4-year old as he reached out for his godfather. You look sharp Teddy, said Harry as he reached for his godson and carried him in his arms. Teddy was already wearing his set of tiny dress robes completed with a tiny bow tie. The child laughed as he wrapped his arms around Harrys neck. Sharper than me, I look like a mess, said Ron as he looked at himself in front of the mirror. His dark dress robes were quite ruffled on some parts but nonetheless, he looked very dashing and decent. Harry found himself staring at Ron. Sothis is it then, he said. This is what? asked Ron. Harry took a few steps closer towards his best mate and eyed the mirror. Looking good Ron, remarked Harry, staring at Rons reflection, Better than the Yule Ball. Oh shut up, said Ron, mildly punching Harrys arm, I looked like hell back then. But nowwell, I can say that I am probably the handsomest bloke on the planet. Harry smirked and at the same time let out a laugh. It was hard to believe that Ron was finally getting married. He was the very same freckled and red haired Ron Harry first met at the train on the way to Hogwartsthe very same Ron he had flown a magical Ford Anglia withthe very same one who saved his life and killed the horcrux It was just hard to believe they had all grown up. Hey Harry, mind helping with this damn tie? asked Ron, whose fingers were fidgeting his tie. Harry had to smile. Sure, still no luck? he asked as he approached his best mate. Nope, thats why youre here, mate, said Ron, Youre the best man. Best mannot best servant, said Harry as he fixed Rons tie. Whats the bloody difference? Harry smirked as he straightened the tie and brushed off. He looked at Ron in the eye. He knew Ron knew what he was thinking about. Its bloody weird, aint it? asked Ron, Am all dressed up in dress robes and about to get married? Yep, said Harry as he stepped back and grabbed his set of dress robes from his rucksack. I cannot believe that this day has come. Im going to wear dress robes again just for you. Ron laughed as he watched Harry strip himself of his clothes. Teddy was giggling as his godfather took the white inner shirt and began buttoning. Hey Harry, called Ron again as he stared at himself in the mirror. Hmm? asked Harry as he buttoned the last one. I need a favor, mate, said Ron, You seeMum and the other women in this house sort ofbanned me from seeing Hermione since last night. They said if I kept on seeing her, I might spoil the bloody thrill. So I was wondering

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What? Harry saw Rons face become red with embarrassment. Well, Im dying to see Hermione in her dress but they wont ever allow me, he said, SoI was hoping you could see her for me. After all, theyd allow you to see her. You can make some excuse like telling them you want to have a word with the bride. Harry laughed at the simplicity and the humor of Rons request. So what youre saying is, you want me to go upstairs and take a peek at Hermione then come back down and tell you what she looks like? asked Harry, Will that satisfy you? I mean, youll be receiving it second hand. Salright mate, at least youd be giving me the heads up, said Ron, Cmon, Harry. Please? Ill watch Teddy for you while you go upstairs. Harry fought the urge to laugh once again at the sight of Ron pouting his lips like a child. Alright, Ill go and peek at Hermione for you if it makes you happy, he said. Ron leaped in delight. Thanks a lot mate! Harry shook his head as he wore his dress robes. Oh and by the way, Harry? Yes, Ron? There was a warm smile on Rons face. I just want you to know thatbeing marriedit doesnt change anything, mate, he said. It was obvious that Ron was quite embarrassed with his own words. They were never too emotional: Harry and Ron. They rarely showed their emotions to one another but the occasion seem to call for it. It was then that Harry realized that once he was married, Ron would be Hermiones. Much of his time would be required by his wife and in the future, by his kids. No longer can they stag and simply hang out for hours like before. To hear Ron tell him that his being married wont ever change anything, it meant a lot to Harry. Harry smiled and approached Ron. Without another word, he hugged his best friend. It wont mate, he whispered, It really wont. He heard Teddy laughing behind them. When they broke apart, Harry could spot another sheepish smile on Rons face. Ill hurry up so I can take a look at Hermione for you, said Harry.

Harry dusted his dress robes and attempted to tame his hair as he stood in front of Rons room. Inside, he could hear voices of women, eagerly talking and chatting the noon away. He felt quite nervous, feeling as if he was trespassing. But he wasnt Ronso he had nothing to worry about. Clearing his throat, Harry knocked.

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Who is it? Its Harry Potter, answered Harry, I was hoping I could speak with the bride. There was an outbreak of giggling inside the room, making Harry quite buggered. Come in, Harry! Opening the door, Harry was greeted by a group of women, most of them with familiar faces. But his jaw dropped at the sight of the beautiful woman standing in the middle with her hair in a bun and wearing a splendid white dress. Wow Hermione Hermione Granger stood there, surrounded by women who were also gushing at her beauty. She blushed as Harry approached her. Joy was emanating in her aura. How do I look? she asked shyly. Harry smiled. Absolutely gorgeous, Hermione, he answered. It was then he realized that they were not alone. Harry has confirmed that we have done a splendid job, ladies, announced Mrs. Weasley who was holding out her wand and adding finishing touches to Hermiones dress. With her were Hermiones mother and Andromeda. Truly, said Harry, smiling at them, She looks beautiful. Rons socks would be knocked off. Which is why we have banned him from seeing her till he meets her at the altar, said Andromeda, Surprise will be good for him. Laughter rang inside the room. As he was laughing, Harry saw Hermione throw him a meaningful look. It was the look she gave him when she knew something that he should know. Umif you dont mind, said Hermione, handling her dress, Harry came here to speak with the bride. Mind giving us the time to spare? she asked the women who surrounded her. Mrs. Weasley and the others obliged as they began to vacate Rons room. Mrs. Granger pecked her daughter on the cheek before leaving her with Harry. A speck of silence surrounded the two for a moment. Excited? asked Harry. Hermione beamed at him, making her look ever so radiant. More than youll ever know, she said, Im quite glad this day has finally come. She looked so blissful and joyful it hurt Harry to look at her. Her cheeks were as pink as petals and her eyes shone like stars. This was Hermione at her most glamorous state. Im happy for you, Hermione, said Harry, Rons lucky. Ive told him that over and over again. Just be happy, the two of you. Itll make my day. He spotted a tear develop in her eyes. She opened her arms, Come and give me a hug, Harry, she said. Harry obliged as he wrapped his arms around his female best friend. He could smell the wonderful scent of daisies as he enveloped Hermione in his arms. He felt like he was about to give his sister away to the man of her dreams. Harry, theres something Ive been meaning to tell you, she whispered in his ear. Removing herself from Harry, Hermione looked up at him with a meaningful expression on her face.

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Whats that? She was uncertain at first, biting her lip. Harry was wondering if she was to tell him that she wasnt sure if marrying Ron was the right thing to do. I know that you were outside of Ginnys room that night of the bachelor party, she said . Harry was momentarily stumped. Hermione knew. She knew he was outside of their room that night. He felt his hands become cold once again at the memory of that night. II dont know what you mean- Oh cmon, Harry, theres no use lying now, said Hermione, I saw you. He tried to maintain his composure. He wouldnt allow his emotions to reveal themselves in front of Hermione. I was just passing by, he lied. Hermione rolled her eyes, No, you werent. I know for a fact that you were sitting outside the room, she said, Then the next day, Ron told me you left already, leaving him a note telling us that you left due to Ministry work. Harry could not look at her. He was racking his brain for excuses he can tell her. But this was Hermionehe knew it would be pointless. She was eyeing him, piercing his surface. I thought otherwise, she continued, then her hand touched Harrys shoulder, How much did you hear? Harrys eyes finally met hers once more. She was not reprimanding him nor rebuking h im for what he did. It was as if she was merely expressing her concern and was attempting to soothe him. All of it, he answered shortly. Hermione heaved a sigh and shook her head while Harry looked outside of the window. The memory of that night began haunting him once again and he could feel his insides churn unpleasantly. She was drunk, Hermione, said Harry, Ginny was probably off her rocker - I dont think so, countered Hermione, I for one believe that she was blatantly telling the truth she had hidden from us all these months. Goblets of wine enabled her to finally release what she had inside. How would you know? asked Harry, Hermione, all those things she saidthey dont make sense. They cant be possibly true. She cant be in love with me. She loves Caleb. Its enough to believe that all the words she said were drunken illusions. Yes, they are, Harry, she said, If you yourself believe that everything she said was a hoax then why are you deeply affected? Harry looked at her. Im not affected, he said. Yes, you are. I can see it in your eyes, said Hermione, Harry, you and I know full well that you believed every word that she said and youre trying to deny it. He was about to argue but Harry chose to close his mouth. Hermione was telling the truth and she was

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flinging it to his face. It was true that Harry did believe every word Ginny said that night. It was why he was experiencing pain Im not denying- Harry, please. You dont have to lie to me, said Hermione. Silence filled the room once again. Harry found himself unable to look at Hermiones eyes, fearing he might expose more than he wished. Harry Potter, just answer this, said Hermione. Harry held his breath. He was preparing for the worst. Do you still love Ginny? The question was direct and blunt. He had been asked the same question for a number of times and he had never answered any of them directly. Most of the time, he would sway or practically avoid answering it. He considered it taboo to answer it. But this timeBreathing deeply, he answered. Yes, said Harry, I still do. And Im stuck. Hearing himself say those words created a wave of emotions within him. The fact that he had just admitted by word the unbearable truth had caused him of his momentary happiness. Youre stuck? Harrys lip quivered, Yes, he said, Im stuck because Im in love with her but I cant do anything. I cant tell her, I cant get her back. The reality came crashing down as he uttered these words. All this time, Harry realized that he had been trying to erase his affections for Ginny by distracting himself: Teddy, workCho. All it took was this confession of his to make him realize that he was not successful. It was clear to him now that he will forever be in love with Ginny. Even if he dated Cho or any other girl for that matter, his heart will always be attached to hers, even if her heart was already attached to someone else. She was the only woman he ever truly loved. Harry, Her hand on his shoulder tightened its grip. I know that Ginny wasnt lying when she told me she still loves you, said Hermione, I could see it in her eyes, Harry. She was telling the truth. What do you want me to do, then? he asked her. Hermione frowned. Im not telling you to do anything. Im just saying theres hope- Hope? Harry asked incredulously, Hermione, there is no hope. How can you tell? Harry took a deep breath, Shes happy with Caleb. You heard her. She loves him, he said.

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But she loves you too- And shes not happy about it, right? asked Harry, Remember? She said she was terrified that she was in love with me. Hermione, she doesnt want to be with me anymore. She doesnt want to go back to those dark times His voice faltered as he recalled Ginnys voice Theres just too much that time cannot erase. The painthe hurteverything. Ive caused her too much pain, Hermione, he continued, I cant bear the bloody fact that Im the reason behind her tears. She knows that Ill mess up again. I dont want her to wallow in disappointment over and over again. But Harry, you dont know youll mess up again, No, Hermione. She knows, said Harry, LookI dont want her to suffer because of me. I may be still in love with her but I know that I can never cross the boundaries. Ill just have to accept that fact. Hermiones hand found its way to his face. Can you move on with that? she asked. For a moment, Harry did not speak. Was it even possible? Maybemaybe I dont have to move on, Hermione, he finally said, I dont have to move on, after all. Harry- If it makes everything easy, then be done with it. Ill have to live with it, said Harry, I dont want to be a bother to Ginny or to any one for that matter. Hermione, I just wa nt her to be happy I want her to be free Tears threatened to fall from his eyes. Harry did not dare to let this show to Hermione. He wanted Ginny to be free. He wanted her to be happy Even if it caused him his own happiness. He took another deep breath then he forced himself to smile at Hermione. This was her wedding day; she shouldnt be bombarded with depressing tales. Harry did not dare to ruin her day with his problems. He touched the hand on his face. He looked at her. Hermione, please, this is your day, he told her, Youre getting married to Ron. You and Iwere supposed to be talking about happy things. Dont bother yourself with my troubles, please. The last thing I want is for you to be disturbed while youre at the altar with Ron. Harry, youre my best friend, she explained, I love you like Id love a brother. These past three years, I was always hoping youd find your peace. Telling me youd rather stay downcast for Ginnys sake makes me worry more for you. I cant live knowing youre not okay. I will be, eventually, Hermione. All I need is time, said Harry, I may not be alright now but I will be. Okay?

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He looked at her with assurance. Cmon Hermione, he continued, You dont want Ron to see you frowning, do you? Hermione looked at him once more and managed a smile. Alright then, Harry, she said, Just promise me youll try to get better. Harry nodded his head and Hermione pulled him in for another hug. He could feel something wet on his chest. Apparently, they were tears from Hermiones eyes. When they broke apart, he could see her crying and smiling at the same time. He wiped away the tears. Be happy, he told her in the same manner she told him the same words months ago. Hermione nodded her head and pecked him on the cheek.

Harry stared at himself in the mirror. He wasnt able to go back to Rons room and report what he had seen for Mrs. Weasley was already busy fussing and fixing her son. Passing by the twins old room, Harry only managed to smil e encouragingly at a distressed and somehow annoyed Ron. He was already downstairs by the kitchen. Looking at himself, Harry deemed himself as quite presentable for the wedding. He brushed off the dust on his robes and attempted to tame his hair with no success. The wedding was about to start in an hour and Harry was tasked to help in ushering the guests in. He made his way towards the door and finally outside. The huge marquee caught his eye and he saw that a number of guests had already arrived. Harry saw many familiar faces as he headed towards the garden. He saw Fleur Dealcour Weasley busy carrying her 3-year old daughter who was already a striking image of her. Next to her was her husband, Bill, who was also occupied with the minister who was to head Ron and Hermiones wedding. Not far from them was Luna Lovegood who was wearing her vibrant yellow dress and beside her was a man Harry thought of as Rolf Scamander. Harry also spotted a number of classmates from Hogwarts and he was about to approach them whenHarry? Harry stopped in his tracks at the mention of his name. He turned around Cho, In front of him was Cho Chang who looked incredibly beautiful in her blue dress. Her hair was plaited behind her and the suns rays bounced of them. She was smiling radiantly at him. You look dashing, she remarked, looking at him from top to bottom. Thanks, he replied, You look stunning, Cho. A blush crept unto her cheeks. Well, how are the preparations? she asked, looking around, Everything looks gorgeous. You should see Hermione, said Harry, Shell probably outdo everything else. Cho smiled as she stepped forward. Harry felt that the moment called him to hold out his hand and

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escort her inside. He did. He took her hand and they began walking inside of the marquee. He felt her hand enveloping his totally. Are you feeling alright? he asked her. Quite woozy at times but I am taking those potions, said Cho, Any luck with my case? Harry shook his head. Were suspecting that whoever did that to you was quite skilled with the dark arts. Traces of dark magic were evident. However, the motive is still unclear and wewell, we have no clue that will lead us to the suspect, he told her. Im really sorry Im not of much help, she said, Ive been trying to recall what really happened but I often pass out when I do so. Harry patted Chos back, Salright, Cho. Dont force yourself. Youre mum would get worked up, he said. He ushered her to a seat nearby the opening of the marquee, hoping she would get some fresh air. Harry saw her looking around at the guests. Its quite an important occasion, isnt it? she asked, I see that most of the Ministry members are here. Well, both Ron and Hermione are well -appreciated in the Ministry, said Harry, And most of the members are quite fond of the two. Rons quite the comedian of the Auror Department and Hermiones an important asset to the Law Enforcement. I can see that, remarked Cho as she watched the guests chatting away, Weddings are beautiful, arent they, Harry? She turned her head to look at him. Harry saw that Cho was quite enchanted with the occasion. Her eyes were sparkling. Yes, they are, he said. Cho sighed wistfully. Ive always enjoyed weddings. Theyve m ade me hope that I would have mine someday, she said, Ive always imagined myself donning a white gown and walking down the aisle and marrying the man Ive always loved. She smiled at him. Can you imagine it? Saying yes to that person and spending forever with them, she continued, It doesnt have to be easy, yes. But just being with that one person till the both of you grow oldits just a wonderful thought. Dont you think so, Harry? For a moment, Harrys smile threatened to fade at the thought. Cho was right when she said that marrying the person you love was the most beautiful experience a person could have. It saddened him to realize that he might never achieve this dream. He suddenly imagined Ginny in Hermiones dress. The image perceived in his mind was priceless. She would look beautiful as he would expect. He imagined her smiling sweetly as she would walk towards him, clutching her fathers arm down the aisle. As she would walk, Harry could see himself envisioning his forever after with the only woman he had truly loved There was a pang in his heart. Yeah, it would be wonderful, he said quietly.

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His eyes wandered around the marquee. Everywhere he looked, he saw people chatting merrily or sharing laughter. Luna was standing on one side, a dream expression on her face as she talked with Rolf. Harry reminded himself to go talk to her once he had time. On another corner, he spotted his old professor, Minerva McGonagall looking disdainfully at gamekeeper and a dear friend of the trio, Rubeus Hagrid, as he spilled mead on his robes. Nearby was minister of magic Kingsley Shacklebot, who was in a deep conversation with Ministry officials. And by the opening of the marquee Harry momentarily froze. By the opening of the marquee was Ginny Weasley and the sight of her made Harrys stomach churn. She was radiantly beautiful as she stood there. The golden dress Harry saw her fit herself at the dressmakers brought out the natural fairness of her porcelain skin. A small crown of white flowers was placed on top of her flaming red hair, which tumbled gently on her delicate shoulders. The small bouquet of flowers in her hand completed the image that simply swept Harry. For a short while, Harry saw no one but her. Everything became a blur to him. H e only saw Ginnyher delicate figure, her brown eyes, her fiery red hair Her. She looked so beautiful it hurt Harry to look at her. It was as if he was a blind man who saw the sun for the very first time in his life. Harry? UhmHarry? Harrys gaze was broken by Chos hand, which was waving in front of his face. He looked at her Im sorry, were you saying something? he asked. He was silently reprimanding himself for the lack of tact. There was a look of suspicion on Chos face. Are you alright? she asked. Im fine, he told her, Im justwas just thinking actually. He was sorely tempted to glance behind him once more. The image of Ginny was stuck in his mind and he couldnt get rid of it. The way the locks of her fiery red hair fell on her shoulder Youre thinking rather deeply, commented Cho, still not taking her eyes off him. Harry managed a smile but deep inside, he knew she was right. Inside his head, Ginny was dancing around its surfaces, blatantly making him remember every single detail he had witnessed for a short second. I guess I am, he replied. There was a short silence between him and Cho. She was looking around the marquee but Harry felt her eyes on him every now and then. Harry, I think they need you now, she said. What? She smiled at him. I can see Rons brother trying to catch your attention over there, she said and pointed behind him. Harry looked and he was thankful to see that Ginny was no longer standing by the entrance but George was beckoning him to come.

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Thats my cue, I reckon, he said, standing up, Will you be alright here, Cho? Smiling sweetly, Cho nodded her head. Ill be fine, Harry, she said, Go on. Harry noticed a sudden look of hidden uncertainty appear on her face. He felt as if Cho was hiding something from him. He touched her shoulder. Cho? Is there something youd like to tell me? he asked. There was a look of hesitation on her face but she resolved to smile at him instead. Im okay, she said, Theyre waiting for you. Ill meet up with you later after the wedding. She touched his arm and urged him to go. Harry hesitated to leave but when he saw George waving to him, he slowly made his way towards the opening of the marquee. Witches and wizards greeted him as he passed and Harry returned their greetings politely as he approached George Weasley. Everything alright, Harry? asked George, clasping Harry on the back. He was dressed in jet black robes complimented with a polka-dotted bow tie. It was truly a George Weasley ensemble. Looking smart there, George, replied Harry, also patting George on the shoulder. Ah well, with and without dress robes, I still look amazing, said George, making Harry chuckle, Sorry to cut our jokes short, mate, but Mum says you should take your position now. You wouldnt want Mum to hex you, would you? Harry grinned as he shook his head. Id like to fulfill my role as the best man if you please, he replied. Then youd better take your place now, intervened a small, playful voice. Harry turned around and saw Ginny standing right behind him, wearing a radiant smile on her face and twinkle in each eye. He was gobsmacked at the sight of her. She looked even better now that she was right in front of him. Hhello, Ginny, he greeted, attempting to maintain posture, You lookwonderful. Wonderful was an understatement. Ginny blushed as she looked down at her dress. Thanks, she said, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear, You look dashing yourself, Harry. Thanks, he replied. There was silence between them. Awkwardness settled within Harry as he avoided staring at Ginny. Her voice during that fateful night replayed endlessly inside his head. He couldnt help but feel conscious and uneasy in Ginnys presence. Yet Ginny had no clue that he had heard her during her drunken state. He knew that she didnt deserve his unease. She flashed a small smile, Reckon I wont trip in this dress? she asked as she twirled for him to see. As she did, Harry caught a whiff of her trademark flowery scent.

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He laughed, I dont think so, he said, In fact, Im more worried for Ron. I know your feet are steadier than his. A laugh escaped her lips and Harry found himself magically drawn to the sound of it. Though he couldnt help but feel the awkwa rdness within him, he also experienced happiness unlike any other at the sound of Ginnys laughterat the sight of her smile Harry, theres the good chap! A hand had clasped his shoulder. Turning around, Harry found himself face to face with a blond and blue-eyed Caleb Andrews. Another cold feeling had erupted within Harry at the sight of Caleb. Hello there, Caleb, he greeted, forcing himself not to express any unnecessary emotion, How are you? Caleb flashed a smile, Been pretty well actually. Stressed out with work but I know I cant complain about it, he said, I must say you look dashing in your attire, Harry. Spiffing, actually. Thanks, said Harry, You look well yourself too. Me? asked Caleb as he looked down at himself. He was donning navy blue robes which also brought out the color of his eyes and brighten his teeth, Ah well, I look like every bloke in this room. You my friend, are an exception. He gave a short laugh which stopped as he proceeded next to Ginny and wrap an arm around her. Now thisis true beauty, he remarked, Dont you think so too, Harry? YesI think so toomore than you know Yeah, said Harry. Caleb smiled as he planted a kiss on Ginnys cheek. Ill be by the front, love. Looks like youre about to begin, he told her, We can meet up later at the reception. Alright then, said Ginny. Harry? asked Caleb, stepping forward, Keep my Ginny company here, will you? Harry forced another smile on his face. Will do, he said shortly. Caleb clasped his shoulder once again, Thats a good mate, he said, Well, Ill be seeing you both later. Ginny, love, would you be needing your hanky later on? Ive got it in my pocket. Ginny nodded her head, Ill get it from you later. Why dont you take a seat now? Theres a vacant one in the front, she told him with a fond smile on her face. On my way, love, he said, See you later, Harry. Caleb made his way inside the marquee. Harry found himself staring at his retreating back, mind crowded with thoughts. Hes rather thoughtful, isnt he? he asked Ginny. Spots of pink appeared on both of her cheeks. Quite more than I deserve, actually, she said. Harry watched Caleb as he took a seat in the very front row. He must really love you, he said unknowingly. Ginny nodded her head, Well, yes, he does, she said.

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Another wave of silence floated between them. Harry! Ginny! The sound of Mrs. Weasleys voice broke the silence. Clad in her emerald robes, Molly Weasley hurried to their spot, a frantic and alert expression on her face. Take your positions, she told them, Harry, you are up front before Ronald. Hes on his way. Ginny, to the living room! Hermiones waiting for you there. Before she left, Ginny touched his shoulder. Ill see you later, Harry, she said, And Id like to sayyou look dashing. She smiled at him and without another word, proceeded to the Burrow. Harry watched her retreating back, her dress flowing behind her and her flowing hair swaying. You look dashing There was something in the way she said those words. Harry could not help but replay her voice inside his head over and over again. He felt his ears tingle at the memory. Mate! Harrys reverie was broken by Rons voice. He saw Ron heading towards him, looking co mpletely happy. He was practically skipping in delight. Behind him was his father, Arthur, who was donning dark mauve robes for the occasion. This is it, said Ron as he stood beside Harry, No turning back, eh? Harry grinned and momentarily forgot about Ginny. He clasped Ron on the back. Its your day, Ron, he said, Probably one of the best days in your life. Yep, and Im glad youre here to spend it with me, mate, said Ron, Makes me feel less nervous. Before Harry could even reply, Mrs. Wea sleys cry stopped him. Oh Ronnie! she cried, We must take a picture of you and Harry! Photographer, photographer! Over here! Before the wedding starts! The wedding photographer came bustling towards them. Say cheese en, he told them gruffly, awaiting Harry and Ron to resume positions. Ron merely shrugged as he placed an arm around his best mates shoulder. Cmon, before Mum loses her sanity, he whispered, nodding to his mother who was already crying. Harry laughed as he flashed a smile for the camera. A string of music began to play in the air. Harry heard the guests inside the marquee settling in their seats and the chattering within had also stopped. They knew and Harry knew The wedding was about to begin. The wedding procession had taken their proper places. Harry was the first one to walk down the aisle. Off you go, mate, Ron whispered in his ear.

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Harry grinned at him once more then faced the opening of the marquee. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He made a small step. He took anotherthen anotherand another one Harry was finally walking down the magically decorated aisle. As he walked slowly, he could see white butterflies flying above him and the wedding guests beaming at him. He saw Cho smiling at him as he walked. Flashes from cameras blinded him slightly but Harry did not stop walking. He kept his smile. He proceeded towards the right side of the altar and his grin widened as Ron, accompanied by both his parents, began to walk down the aisle. Harry heard George, seated by the back, wolf-whistle as Ron made his way towards the altar. Rons smile was from ear to ear. It was truly evident that this day was one of the most joyous days in his life. Mrs. Weasley was clutching her youngest arms son tightly and tears were streaming down her cheeks as she waved and smiled at relatives. Mr. Weasley on the other hand held his head high as he beamed proudly at the guests. Once Ron had reached the end of the aisle, he kissed his mother on the cheek and clasped his fathers shoulder. Mr. Weasley escorted his already sobbing wife to a nearby chair placed in the very front. Ron proceeded to Harrys immediate left side. Overkill, huh? he whispered. Harry only managed a small laugh as he watched the opening of the marquee and Fleur accompany her 3-year old daughter and flower girl, Victorie, down the aisle. Little Victorie threw white flowers in the air which stayed magically afloat. Her blue eyes, like her mothers, shone as she and Fleur made their way towards the end of the altar. The crowds attention was again drawn to the back of the marquee where a loud laughter of a childs was heard. Harry grinned as he watched his godson Teddy begin to walk down the red-carpeted aisle. Smiling widely, the 4-year old walked by taking one big step forward and pausing for a second. In his small hands, he held the pillow which held the wedding bands. Harry heard oohs and awws as the wedding guests watched the ring bearer flash his charm and beaming proudly as he made his way down the aisle. Near the end, Harry held out his hand for Teddy to reach. The child squealed in delight at the sight of his godfather once again and hurriedly reached for Harry, barely letting the pillow fall on the floor. This earned a number of laughs from the wedding guests. Harry held his godsons hand as he heard the music swell. It indicated that the bride was about to arrive. His eyes diverted once more at the back, to the opening of the marquee. He knew the person who was about to walk down the aisle. The music had taken a dramatic turn and butterflies became more abundant within the marquee. The flap of the tent opened and beautiful figure emerged. Ginny Weasley stood at the very end of the marquee, a beautiful and radiant smile on her face. She was holding a bouquet of flowers in one hand and a white balloon on another. Harry found himself breathless once again as he watched her slowly walk down the aisle. It was as if he was finally facing a dream that had materialized from his mind. The crown of flowers on her hair gave Harry the image of a glamorous nymph or an enchantress living on her fortress of gold. Ginny was smiling sweetly as she took one step after the other, pausing in the middle. The music continued to swell to the extreme and Harry could feel his heartbeat pulsing and rushing. This was the dream. This was his dream.

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Ginny made eye contact with him as she smiled directly at him. Once again, everything became a blur to Harry as he gazed at Ginny. The moment was only between him and hero nly the two of them. She released the white balloon in the air, which exploded and released a number of white doves and more butterflies and flower petals. She was signaling the arrival of the bride. Behind Ginny, the flap of the marquee opened once again to reveal the blushing bride. Harry heard Ron release a small gasp. Hermione, dazzling and blissful, began to walk down the aisle. She was accompanied by a teary-eyed Mrs. Granger and Hermione was clutching her fathers arm. Harry had never seen Hermi one that beautiful in his entire lifetime. She was emanating a joyful aura which lit up her face and emphasized every delicate detail. Once Hermione was near her, Ginny began to walk once again. Harry could not take his eyes off her. She was smiling around at everyone and Harry was quite sure that she was charming the mickey out of them. He watched her wink at Caleb who was smiling buoyantly at her. Harry felt his skin tingle at that sight but he did not dare to remove his eyes from her. He slightly glanced at Ron and saw that his best mate could not also take his eyes off the woman of his dreams. Ginny made her way towards the left side of the altar, opposite Harry. Her eyes lit up towards him and flashed him a smile that made his heart melt. Harry was so enamored by Ginny that he failed to notice that Hermione had finally arrived beside Ron. She gave her father and mother a huge hug before they released her to Rons waiting arms. Ron held out his hand for her to reach. Hermione, already teary-eyed and concealed behind her veil, grabbed hold of his hand and together they stood in front of the altar where the minister stood. She handed her bouquet of flowers to her maid-of-honor. Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to celebrate the magical union of two faithful souls, Ronald Bilius Weasley and Hermione Jean Granger As Harry watched Ron and Hermione, he couldnt help but glance every now and then at Ginny. She wasnt looking at him; rather she was quite focused on her brother. His eyes would alway s wander towards her direction and it gave Harry a hard time to focus on the ceremony. as Ron and Hermione declare their vows to one another in the presence of their loved ones and slip on their rings Harry stood erect as he began to listen to his friends vows to one another but everything surrounding him were blurring once more. He was sorely tempted to just stare at Ginny and never take his eyes off her. and as your husband, I swear that I will make it one of my goals to annoy you less as possib ly as I can. Although Im going to need your help with it, Ron was saying. Laughter erupted from the crowd and Hermione was also giggling behind her veil. Harry saw Ginny merely roll her eyes at her brother. Once the laughter had subsided, Ron continued his vows. I promise to protect you at all times, to accompany you whenever you are alone. I will always be there for you, Hermione, always. My entire bloody life will be spent only with you and our future children. I will always be with you. I will always be your best friend and I will love you forever, Hermione Jean Granger. Always Harry spotted a tear roll down Hermiones cheek as she beamed at Ron as he slipped the ring on her

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finger. Mrs. Weasley and Mrs. Granger were quietly sobbing down the front row and their husbands were constantly comforting them. It was a very emotional moment and Harry found it somehow odd to see Ron very serious and very in love. Yet he knew it was one of Rons finest hours It was Hermiones turn. As she began, Harry ha d once again allowed himself to look at Ginny. She was also teary-eyed like a number of the guests. She was smiling serenely as she watched Hermione declare her wedding vows to Ron. She finally caught Harry looking at her and at first; Harry thought his heart would jump out his mouth. She merely shrugged at him and continued watching the ceremony. and I promise to keep you in line whenever you lose your head. I promise to also try to control my temper and be more patient with you, said Hermione, laughing and sobbing as she did, I promise to stay by your side and always accompany you whenever you need me. I will always look after you, take care of your physical and emotional needs. I promise, not only to be your loving wife, but to remain your loyal and caring best friend. I love you, Ron, and I will love you and only you forever and ever Harry glanced at Ron, who was already sniffing as he gazed lovingly at Hermione, who was slipped his wedding band on his finger. Now, it is time for the both of you to declare your joint vows to one another, said the minister. Harry chuckled quietly as he watched Ron gulp. The joint vows were the promises Ron and Hermione made and memorized together. They were about to recite that vow in front of the congregation and Harry knew Ron was not comfortable with it. He saw Ron puff his chest and nod at Hermione. Together, they recited their joint vows. From this day on, I am forever yours Harry found himself gazing once again at Ginny. He allowed Ron and Hermione s voices echo behind him. You and I will stand together, no matter what and no matter where Apparently, Ginny had felt his gaze. Slowly, her eyes lit up and gazed back right at him. The smile on her face slowly faded as she looked at him. It was not a sign of anger or coldness. I promise to be by your side at all times, your best friend. I promise to be your confidant and to be the comforter you deserve Harry and Ginnys eyes locked at that moment. Ron and Hermiones vows floated behind them yet it was as if the vows were striking themor they were at least striking Harry at least. His breath fell short as he gazed at Ginny. He was completely aware that she was returning his gaze. For a brief second, Harry wondered if there were hidden words behind her look. to never take you for granted and to remember your worth in my life Harry saw Ginnys eyes lit up at that particular sentence. Her gaze at him was boring thru his soul. He saw her bite her lip and a sad expression dawn on her face as she looked at him. He knew she was trying to tell him something. I will be with you wherever you go. Decisions in life will be made by the both of us and I promise to respect your point-of-view. I promise to cherish you and to let this be known to everyone who will pass our lives

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Harry could hear the audience sighing and he could spot their smiles from his peripheral vision yet he did not dare take his eyes off Ginny. He felt his godson tugging his sleeve and moving below him but he didnt pay any attention. I promise to love you and only you for the rest of my life It struck Harry. I promise to love you and only you For the rest of my life Realization had once again settled within him. That exact phrase described what Harry felt about Ginny. Their eyes were still locked and he best hoped that she could see his feelings thru his eyes. A teardrop fell from her eyes. He loved heralways had and always will. Even if she was contented settling into someone elses arms, Harry knew that he will always love Ginny, no matter what the circumstance was. And he fervently hoped that she knew about it. Do you, Ronald Bilius Weasley, take Hermione Jean Granger as your lawfully wedded wife? In richness and in povertyin sickness and in health, till death do you part? Ron grinned as he answered, I bloody do. Laughter and crying was heard amongst the guests as they waited for Hermiones turn. Do you, Hermione Jean Granger, take Ronald Bilius Weasley as your lawfully wedded husband? In richness and in poverty, in sickness and in health, till death do you part? Hermione sniffed. She smiled as she cried and Harry saw her grip Rons hand tighter. I do, she answered. The minister pointed his wand at the couples entwined hands. A golden thread issued from the tip and slipped around their hands. By the magical power vested in me by the Ministry of Magic and by the witnesses, I now pronounce you man and wife, he said. The golden thread continued to link Ron and Hermiones hands and their eyes remained on one another. The minister smiled warmly at the two as he withdrew his wand. You may now kiss the bride, he said. Ron slowly removed the veil and revealed a teary-eyed yet ever so beautiful Hermione. She was smiling up at him as tears rolled down her cheeks. Ron leaned toward her and kissed her, his wife. The audience burst into applause and wolf-whistles as the newlyweds continued to kiss. Ron lifted Hermione off her feet without breaking their kiss, further amusing the guests. Harry was clapping along with everyone as he watched his best friends enjoy their piece of bliss and happiness. Teddy was jumping and dancing at his feet and kept on tugging on his dress robes. Opposite him, Harry saw Ginny smiling and also gazing at her brother and her new sister-in-law. Her gaze then slowly returned to Harry.

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They shared a quiet moment as they stared at one another. For a second, Harry forgot that he was in a wedding. As he stood there, he felt as if he was in a room and opposite him was Ginnyonly Ginny. The sound of rejoicing brought them back to reality as Ginny flashed a small smile at him. She nodded her head towards the two lovebirds and began to move towards Hermiones right side, leaving Harry in his dazed and frozen state. He felt something during that silent moment with Ginny. He knewhe felt something. It was no lie. Oy mate! Harry blinked. Rons voice broke his reverie as he saw his best mate indicating him to move closer. Hermione was also looking back at him, flashing the most radiant smile he had ever seen. There was a twinkle in her eyes Ginnys back now faced him. He still felt a tingle as he gazed at her. Cmon mate! said Ron, Time for the pictures! A photographer had positioned himself in front of them. Setting aside his thoughts, he joined Ron and Hermione. He clasped an arm around Rons shoulder as he smiled at his best mate then smiled for the camera. But deep insideHarry remained lost in his thoughts. He could still feel that warmth Amidst all the cheer and laughterhe was still lost. Lost in Ginnys eyes

A festive mood had spread throughout the marquee as the tables were pushed aside and the guests flocked thru the middle. There was dancing, eating and merrymaking all around as the reception had begun. Left and right, witches and wizards were seen chatting and merely remembering the enchanting union they had just witnessed moments ago. Ron and Hermione were seated in a table elevated at the end of the marquee. Everyone could see the newlyweds simply not minding their surroundings for a while and just gazing at each others eyes. Waiters were bustling around, offering canaps, butterbeer, firewhiskey and the like to guests. Outside the marquee, Harry Potter stood and was gazing at the sky, which was beginning to darken by the night. He was holding a wine glass in one hand and was absentmindedly shaking it. He was breathing evenly as he stared at the clouds, attempting to sort his thoughts. His mind was still occupied with the same content. Ginnys eyes The way they locked with each other during Ron and Hermiones vows He heaved a deep sigh as he placed one hand inside of his pockets. Harry?

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Harry turned around to see Cho heading towards him. At the sight of her, he felt instant guilt. His thoughts of Ginny had made him forgot that Cho was with him. Cho, he said, Are you alright? She smiled at him as she stood beside him. Feeling fine, she answered, then she glanced at him, It was a beautiful wedding. Harry nodded his head, Yeah, it was, he said shortly. Everything seemed so romantic I know. He could feel Cho looking up at him. I must say that you played your part as the best man quite well, she remarked. Harry gave a short laugh, Think I could open a best man service? he asked. Cho laughed beside him. Youd do well Maybe so. Cho sighed once again, It was truly beautifulI saw the love Ive never seen before Momentary silence followed. He could hear her breathing silently by his side. The warmth radiated from her skin. Harry, theres something Id like to tell you He looked at her. Cho was gazing up at the clouds, a serene smile on her face. Whats that? he asked. Cho rubbed her hands together as she continued staring at the sky. Ive truly appreciated the concern youve expressed for me these past few weeks. To be honest, Im completely touched. I have never met anyone who cares just like you, Harry, she began to say, You truly are a selfless type of person. Harry sucked his breath. Although he too was touched at her words, he couldnt help but feel alarmed at the same time. What was she about to say? She didnt take her eyes off the sky. For the past weeks, ever since I first saw you again after many years, I have to say that youve grown on me, Harry, she said, In fact, I can honestly say that a day without seeing you feels ratherincomplete. He didnt take her eyes off her. He refused to show her that he was beginning to feel quite uneasy. He didnt want to hurt Chos feelings Cho shrugged, I guess you could say that Ive actually developed some feelings for you, Harry, she said, The very same feelings I had for you when I was sixteen. Harry was frozen. His insides churned unpleasantly and his hands became cold. Cho- She held her hand up.

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Let me finish, she said. Harry closed his mouth although he was sorely tempted to speak. She continued to gaze, her smile remaining on her face. Im beginning to care for you, Harry. Ive grown quite attached to you, she said, I want you to be happy. Saying this, she finally removed her eyes from the sky and turned to him. She placed both of her hands on his shoulders. Harry, for everything youve done for me, I want you to be happy, said Cho, Like I said, I care for you. Ive grown to care for you. You matter to me and now that you do, theres something I need to tell you. She pulled him close, so close that her lips touched his ear. Her breath tingled his senses. Dont be scared to go after what you truly want, Harry she whispered, Even if it means defying boundaries. She slowly pulled away from him and saw the confused expression on Harrys face. He was puzzled with Chos wordsalthough, he was beginning to somehow see what she was talking about. I know you love her, she continued, indicating towards the opening of the marquee, Ive always known. And when I saw the way you looked at her today, I knew you would always be hers. Emotions stirred within Harry. He was deeply touched with Chos act. Cho- She pulled him again for a hug. Thank you for everything, Harry, she said, Youve been a delight to me these past weeks. The least I can do is encourage you to go after what you really want. Because if youre happy then so am I. They pulled away from one another. Harry stared at Chos eyes and he could spot a tear beading in them. He wiped them away. She smiled at him, Ill be going now, she said. So soon? he asked. Cho began to walk away. Itll make it easier for you, she told him. She flashed him another smile as she made her way out, Goodbye Harry, see you around. Cho, wait. Cho stopped in her tracks and looked back at him. Thank you also, he told her, Ill be visiting you sometime soon, alright? She nodded her head, Ill be waiting, she said and began to walk. Then she stopped once again, Oh, and Harry? Yes? There was a twinkle in her eye. Seeing Ron and Hermiones vows wasnt the only evidence of true love that I saw at the altar today, she said. Without another word, sh e turned her back and disapparated before his very eyes, leaving Harry astounded and lost in emotions. He was pondering over Chos words.

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Dont be scared to go after what you truly want, Harry Dont be scared He gazed at the spot where she disapparated. Dont be scared, he murmured. He looked back at the opening of the marquee and caught a flash of flaming red. That sight caused him to remember a pair of brown eyes At that very moment, Harry knew what he had to do. He would follow what Cho told him. He took one step and then another towards the marquee. His heart was beating wildly against his chest but he knew he had to overcome his fear. He would have to swallow his pride Because the truth shall set him free

Chapter 18: XVIII. Magic Works

The merrymaking continued inside the cream-colored marquee. Waiters were moving around, offering famished guests refreshments and food for the stomach. By the corner, the children were running around, chasing the pastel-colored pixies that were abundant inside. Harry was seated on one of the chairs. He watched the dancers in the middle of the marquee. He found himself smiling as he saw Mrs. Weasley waltzing around with her beloved Mr. Weasley. Luna Lovegood was waving her arms in an odd manner as she danced with Rolf Scamander. She caught Harrys eye and gave him a wink. His godson Teddy was running thru the parade of guests as he was being chased by Victorie Weasley. The music being played by the band (The Weird Sisters according to one warlock Harry had asked) was somehow fast paced and jumpy. Witches and wizards everywhere were shaking their bodies and some were jumping to the tune. Harry saw Ron flashing awkward dance steps that made Hermione laugh. Hermione in turn, began to twirl in her new white, knee-length dress, laughing as she did and falling once again in Rons arms. Harry took a sip from his goblet as he looked around. Everywhere he looked, he saw nothing but happiness, laughter and pure enjoyment. He had to smile. His eyes returned to the dance floor once more and this time, he felt his heart fall. Ginny was smiling as she watched her boyfriend Caleb dance in front of her. He held his hand out to her and twirled her into his arms. Harry bit his lip. Ginny laughed as she tried to dance to the beat, her hair swaying behind her. As he sat there watching her, Harry could hear Chos voice once again. It rang inside his head, becoming louder every time he recalled. Dont be scared to go after what you truly want

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Ginnys laughter rang in his ears. He saw Caleb spinning her around and pulling her ever closer to him. Harry watched them as they stared into each others eyes and Caleb apparently whispering something to her. His stomach turned unpleasantly. He began to doubt the courage he earned the moment he stepped inside the marquee after Chos departure. Seeing Ginny and Caleb together, smiles and all, made him wonder if his attempt to express what he had inside would be a brilliant idea. He didnt want to hurt anyone yet the yearning within him was beginning to grow stronger ever since Chos encouragement. He knew he couldnt fight that feeling any longer. Yet he was still holding back. He tried to distract himself by watching the other guests but whatever attempt h e did, Harrys eyes would often return to Caleb and Ginny. Caleb whispered something once again in Ginnys ear and Ginny nodded her head. Kissing her on the cheek, Caleb left her in the middle of the dancing. Harrys heart stopped as Ginny looked around, greeting and talking to the wedding guests that flocked around her. Teddy had appeared right beside Ginny and was tugging her dress. Harry saw Ginny bend low so that she and Teddy were of the same height. The little boy whispered something in her ear and apparently whatever Teddy said made Ginny smile. She stood up and held out her hands for Teddy to reach. Together, they danced. Harry could feel his heart melting at the sight. He was torn. A part of him was eager to go straight to her, face his fears and tell her what he would like her to know. Yet the other side of him refused, his fear overshadowing his courage. Every time he would attempt to stand up and face her, he could feel his confidence shrinking and a dozen of excuses would form in his mind. The mix of emotions was too much for Harry to handle. He could feel his insides bursting. He couldnt take it any longer. Without another word, Harry chose to leave his seat and moved away from the guests as fast as possible. He headed towards the back exit of the marquee which lead straight to the Weasley garden. He knew he needed some air to think properly because he felt like suffocating with confusion inside. He approached the nearby tree, which was decorated not only with fairy lights, but also with the pastel-colored pixies the children were chasing inside. Leaning on the tree, Harry rubbed his forehead as he sought to sort his thoughtshis disoriented thoughts. What was stopping him? All he wanted to do was let Ginny know what he truly felt deep inside. He stared at the opening of the marquee. The dancing progressed and the laughter rolled as the guests continued to enjoy the occasion, oblivious to the fact that the good great Harry Potter was right outside, attempting to face his fear. He saw the lights within the marquee dim. The noise began to decline in volume, followed by a soft melodious tune. A deep voice spoke. This goes out to all the lovers out there Apparently, the slow dancing was about to begin. Harry watched as some of the guests began pairing up with their significant others. Fleur was nestled cozily on Bills shoulder as they began to move side

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to side. He also saw Molly Weasley playfully punch her husband as they swayed along the melody. Ron and Hermione were also present as they danced in the middle of the marquee, enjoying the romantic scenery of the night. One by one, each of the guests had apparently found their partners. There was a nudge within Harry. A second later, Ginny appeared to his view as she stood by the opening of the marquee, apparently watching as the couples swayed to the soft, romantic music. She stood there, her hands folded neatly and quite unaware that Harry stood not quite far from her. For a moment, Harry merely gazed at her. The music continued to swell in the air yet he made no movement. He simply stood there, eyes on Ginny and no one else. Dont be afraid He didnt expect to see her eyes look towards his direction. Harry felt his breath fall short. Ginny was looking at him. A small smile appeared on her face and she gave a small wave. His head throbbed but Harry knew it wasnt the proper moment to run away. In fact, he was quite sure that he wouldnt run away. Before he knew it, he was taking one step and then another. His shoes were slowly leading him to the place where it knew he wantedright where she stood. He was no longer reasoning with himself. He knew that if he did, he would think of a dozen reasons to retreat and give up. He wasnt going to run away Not anymore. All it took was a minute for him to find himself facing Ginny Weasley. He closed his fists. Wonderful night, dont you think? she asked, returning her gaze to the people dancing in the middle. She did not realize that Harry was still gazing at her, his interest not with the people. Yes, splendid, he remarked, resolving to also gaze at the dancing. The pixies and the petals set the aura off nicely, said Ginny, Everything looks so romantic from here. She heaved a sigh as her hands rubbed her own arms. Though he could not see it, Harry knew there was a dreamy expression painted on her face. Ginny loved weddings, he had this sure knowledge of her. Yeah, very romantic, actually, he said. More romantic than Harry wanted. The urging within him strengthened. He could feel that nudge becoming more frantic and urgent. And dance your final dance This isyour final chance Harry gazed at Ginny as she stared wistfully. He knew he shouldnt waste another moment.

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To hold the one you love You know youve waited long enough Ginny? Hmm? She withdrew her eyes from the crowd to look at him. Harrys heart pounded madly against his chest but he refused to let it show. Care to dance? he asked, holding out his hand towards her. Harry somehow spotted a small look of hesitation on her face. She appeared to be considering the offer and it made him nervous. Could she possibly reject his simple question? He was relieved when she smiled at him and gave him her small hand. Id love to, she said, Just pardon my terrible dancing. He grinned at her, I can bear with that, he said, Not that good either. Instead of leading her inside the marquee, he brought her to the garden. The music could still be heard and there werent much of the guests staying. Harry knew it was the safest choice. If Ginny was wondering why Harry brought her to the garden, she didnt let it show on her face. Instead, she went with him. They paused under the tree decorated with pastel-colored pixies. Ginny looked up and giggled at the sight of them. Harry felt warmth upon hearing Ginnys small laughter. Shall we? asked Harry. Ginny nodded her head. Lets get this over with, she said jokingly. Slowly, Ginny placed both her hands on Harrys shoulder. Harry gently placed his han ds around her tiny waist, hoping this act wouldnt cause any awkwardness. Though she appeared unmindful and comfortable, Harry wondered if Ginny was somehow feeling rather uneasy inside, like he already was. Their faces were inches away from each other. Ginny looked up and Harry gazed into her beautiful brown eyes. Together, they danced. Sobelieve that magic works Dont be afraid of being hurt They werent waltzing. They were merely swaying on the spot. At first, Ginny could not look directly at him. She would glance at him then her eyes would wander off. Harry on the other hand, simply couldnt take his eyes off her. Dont let this magic die The answers there Oh, just look in her eyes Finally, Ginny managed to look at him directly in the eyes. Harry thought he was imagining things but he was quite sure her eyes were trying to tell him something.

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The wedding was fabulous, wasnt it? she asked him. Harry nodded his head, Yeah, bloody beautiful. First time I saw Ron emotional like that, he said, Never gonna get that image out of my head. Ginny laughed. Youll have to recall that moment over and over again so you wont forget, she said. Harry let out a short laugh. A short moment of silence followed. He saw Ginny looking around, as if she was searching for someone. Sowheres Cho? she asked casually, I havent seen her since the ceremony. Well, she left already, answered Harry. Oh, said Ginny, How are things with her, Harry? Are you two alright? Harry merely smiled at her. Cho is doing well. Shes recovering quite fast, he said. They continued to sway under the tree, the pixies flying around like floating fairy lights. Thought it was night, Harry could see an unsure smile on her face. Shes an amazing woman, isnt she, Harry? she asked, Cho, I mean. He nodded his head, Thats true, he said, Id be lying if I said otherwise. She is an amazing woman. Ginny smiled at him. No wonder then, she remarked. No wonder, what? There was a coy smile on her face. But behind that smile, Harry sensed there was this unsaid emotion hovering over it. No wonder you love her, she said. Love? I dont- Come on, Harry. Theres no use lying to me, said Ginny, I can see it in your eyes whenever you look at her. Youre drawn to her. Harry chose not to speak for a moment. He allowed the music to drown both of them into silence. However, Ginny continued. Im not saying its a bad thing, Harry. Im really happy for you, she said, Chos a lovely woman. I know Ive been saying this for quite a number of times but I really think you two suit each other. Harry smiled down at Ginny as they continued spinning slowly. I guess youre right, he told her, I do love Cho. He felt Ginnys arms around his neck loosen at those words. Really now? she said, Thats wonderful. He sighed, I know. I do love Cho. And do you know how much I love her? Ginny smiled at him. Harry thought he was somehow hallucinating because he sensed that she was beginning to feel uneasy. Her eyes left his face and suddenly noticed the pixies and butterflies flying around them.

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How? He smiled at her once more, I love her as I would love a friend, Ginny, he said, Shes one of my friends. She may be not as close as Ron and Hermione are but shes still one my friends. And I love my friends. She looked up at him once more, Youre friends? But you looked so good together. Looking good together doesnt really mean were in love, Ginny, he explained, Cho and Iwere just friends. We always have been ever since we first saw each other again. I reckon she knows the same thing. But I thought she waswell, falling for you, said Ginny, The way she acted around you, it was as if she wanted to be with you. I never noticed, said Harry. Ginnys eyes sought him. I saw it in your eyes, too, she said, Those tender looks you gave herthey were quite unmistakable. Harry looked at her eyes, gazing at them. Reckon you need to look at my eyes again, he said, They beg to differ. She gazed at him. There were no words able to describe that moment. Well, thats too bad, she said, I thought things were going well between the two of you. What happened? Harry shrugged. I guess Cho and I were never meant to be more than anything, Ginny, he said, Shes amazing, I tell you but shes not the sort of woman I can see myself spending the rest of my life with. For an odd moment, Harry felt as if he was 12-years old again and he was explaining something to an 11-year old Ginny. The way she innocently looked at him and how he explained it to her gently Oh, I see, she said, You think shes amazing but you dont think shes right for you. Right, said Harry, nodding his head, Cho will always be my friend. Ill always see her as a friend. Ginny smiled at him. I guess there are other women out there, she said, Maybe youll find someone out there whos right for you. Thats going to be a problem, then, He saw Ginnys eyes lit up with question. A problem? Why so? And make your final move Dont be scared He took his eyes off her. Harry could not bear to look at her, knowing the words he was about to say could cause mayhem he wished not to cause. He let out a sigh. Because shes not out there, Ginny, he told her, Shes not out there.

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Her eyes widened. Not there? Harry, what do you mean shes not out there? Harry chose not to answer immediately. He was sorting out his thoughts, picking the right words to say. Right, sincere words Have you ever felt emotionally attached to somethingthat even though as time passes and other things offer themselves for replacement, you find yourself going back? he asked her. Ginnys eyebrows scrunched up as she appeared confused. II dont get what youre trying to say, Harry, she said. They stopped spinning. Ginny slowly removed her arms from his neck and placed them at her sides as she waited for his answer. Harry also withdrew his arms from his waist as he contemplated on his answer. What Im trying to say isno matter how many times you tell me to look for some girl out there, I wouldnt be able to do so, he said, Because as far as I know, I can never love someone else. Harry, you dont know that. His eyes fell upon her once again. She said those words with indignation yet there was also a hint of hesitation. Yes, I do know that. Her hands went to her hips. What makes you so sure? He bit his lip. Its hard You must be brave Because theres only one girl I could ever love, Ginny. Dont let this moment slip away He saw her indignant look falter. Who is it then? Dont be afraid Afraid of being hurt Harry took a deep breath. It was the moment he anticipated and feared at the same time. It had to happen sooner or later. You. The moment that singular word was released from his mouth, Harry felt as if a gigantic thorn was removed from his chest. Ginnys hands fell from her hips as she stared at him with an expression of shock. The wind blew from behind them, the fairy lights swinging. The music within the marquee continued to play, covering the silence between the two of them. He said it.

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He finally said it. Neither of them spoke. The moment was quite heavy for the both of them. Harry looked at Ginny, attempting to read her expression. So far, it wasnt the kind of expression that made him feel comfortable. Harry she began to say, but then she faltered. Her mouth closed and no words came out. I know this is a lot to take in, he said, ButI know that I cant hide it any longer. Ginny still did not speak. Her eyes were mixed with fear, surprise and confusion. He stepped closer to her, hoping that he would be able to convey himself properly. Its one of the reasons why I can never love Cho, or for any other girl for that matter, he continued, I cant see other girls anymore, Ginny. I dont see them the way I see you. He saw her bite her lip. Her eyes mimicked disbelief and shock. Harry could see that she was processing every word she had just heard. This must be a mistake, Ginny finally said, This this cant be happening. Youre pulling my leg, arent you Harry? Harry took the time to heave another deep breath and buried his hands inside his pockets. Im sorry Ginny, but Im not. Ginny made noises of disbelief. She appeared to have become unsteady on her feet. Her delicate hand flew to her forehead as she leaned on the tree. She did not look at him. Harry could feel his insides becoming cold at this sight. It cant beno, it just cant be, she said, Merlin knows it cant happen. It has, countered Harry, It has happened. Actually, it never stopped, Ginny. Harry, this cant be. Youre probably hallucinating or just too tired. Maybe you need some rest - Im fine. But youre talking nonsense, she insisted, Maybe you should go home and take a nap or- Ginny, like I told you, Im not sick. Im in my right head, said Harry, Im not being barmy. or you should go to the Burrow. Maybe Mum can give you some potion or anything to make you feel better- LISTEN! Harrys booming voice forced Ginny to stop from her mindless babble. He saw her complexion become pale and eyes dilate even more. Listen to me, he said, softer this time, Please, just listen. She looked as if she wanted to argue but one l ook at Harrys face was enough to silence her against her will. Harry took the time to fix his thoughts but at that moment, he felt detachedas if he was afloat and nothing bounded him. Inside his head, he knew that nothing can stop the words he was about to say.

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Look Ginny, he began, Im not barmy nor am I out of my wanker. Im not sick and tired. These things Im telling youtheyre true. Theyre not lies. Im telling you the truth. He stopped and sighed. When I said that I cannot love any other girl because of youI wasnt lying, he said, Just please, let me explain. Let me tell you everythingeverything Ive been keeping inside me for the past three years. Pleasejust listen. Ginny said nothing. She was merely gazing at him but the look of fear was still present in her eyes. Harry glanced at the stars above. He couldnt stare at Ginny at his state. He found it difficult to face her as he began to unravel everything he had inside him. Ginnymy life ended the night you walked out of my door three years ago, he said, When you told me that you couldnt be with me anymore because I chose my job over you, I was crushed. When you left meI thought I would never get my life back again. The next thing I knew, you vanished. You left me, then you disappeared. Without a trace. No one knew where you wereand frankly, I told myself that from that moment onI would forget about you, he continued, I would live my life as if you never existed. His eyes diverted from the stars to Ginny. He saw that she was still listening to him. Apparently, I was lying to myself, he said, When you came back, I saw that you were happy with Caleb. I was going to leave you alone, I swear. But no matter how much I tried, I couldnt - Harry please, cut Ginny, This isnt right. This shouldnt be happening. She stood there in front of him, her face mirroring the fear Harry wished he didnt have to see. There was hesitation and confusion in her eyes and Harry could see that apparently, she had heard too much. You cant be in love with me, she said, Its been three years, Harry. Three years. Ive been gone for yearsyou cant possibly be in love with meafter what Ive done to you then her voice faltered. Silence hovered above them once more. Neither one of them spoke. Ginny was nervously rubbing her arms, her eyes unable to make contact with Harry. Harry on the other hand, stood his ground. Ginny gave a short, nervous laugh. This is mad, she remarked, Mad. I just cant get a grasp of it. Merlin knows how mad this is. This time, she looked at him and he could feel it was as if she pleading him to tell her that he was indeed losing his head. But of course, he begged to differ. I guess Im mad then, he said shortly. This wiped off the smile on her face. She was tornHarry could see that. He began to advance towards her once more. Im mad because despite the fact that weve fallen out for three years already, here I am telling you that Im still in love with you, he said. He found himself three inch es away from her, looking down at her brown eyes. Im sorry, Ginny, he continued, But I really cant hide it anymore. Im not asking you to love me backI just want you to know. She was staring up at him. He couldnt read her emotions during that mom ent but he saw her eyes blazing at some unforeseen feeling.

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Youjust want me to know, she said. Harry nodded his head, Yesbecause I know I can never ask for more, Ginny. She bit her lip. Harryeverythingits ruddy complicated, she told him, And now, youre telling me this. Ginny, I told you that Im not asking for anything more, Harry explained, I simply want you to know because hiding it has been killing me. I know that youre happy with Caleb and Im not trying to sabotage your relationship. I also know that I messed up three years agoand that I can never have it back. As much as it hurt, Harry knew what he was saying was true. He will forever be suffering the consequences of his past mistakes to her. Now that he had finally told Ginny what he felt, all he had to do was to live with his life and find a way to move on. He heard Ginny heave a frustrated sigh. She had turned her back at him. The music continued to play behind them. The guests were oblivious to the fact that Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley were right outside of the marquee, dealing with an issue both of them find difficult to face. He stepped forward and tentatively placed a hand on her shoulder. Im sorry, Gin, he said gently, Im sorry you had to know this. But I sti ll want to be friends. I swear I wont interfere with you and Caleb. Ginny turned around to face him. HarryI dont know what to say anymore, she said. You dont have to, he told her. She was gazing up at him, her brown eyes piercing his emeralds. He knew he had probably ruined her night and she had every right to hex him. He didnt know what he was doing but deep inside, it felt right. He loved her. She had to know. Nothings going to change, Ginny, he said. She said nothing but continued to gaze up at him. She looked so troubled and Harry was tempted to comfort her. He knew it was his fault. He touched her face. And smiledhoping that this was enough. And before he knew it, he found himself moving closer toward hertheir faces an inch away from each other. He was moving his face near hers. He stopped for a second and saw that she had closed her eyes. When she did, a single tear drop fell. Insides churning and warning signs yelling, Harry ignored all of these. He followed his heart. Time stopped. Motions became blurred. Nothing else mattered. His hesitation vanished the moment his lips touched hersfor the first time after three years. He had forgotten the wonderful feeling that constantly emerged during magical moments like this. It was revived when he took that leap of courage. He wasnt going to turn back anymore.

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And dont believe that magic can die No, no, nothis magic cant die. He could feel her tears cascading down her face. Harry hoped that he could take away every pain he had caused her. He kissed her, not with passion, but with all the unsaid emotions he wanted to convey. Her hands found their way on his chest. He could feel her tugging them, as if she was needed him. The pastel-colored pixies were flying around them, petals landing on the grassy floor. Truly, nothing mattered to Harry at that time. Only her. Ginny. She was the only real thing in the world. But apparently, the magic was never meant to last. He felt her abruptly pull away from him. Ginnys face suddenly mirrored shock and horror that made Harrys stomach churn in fear. She stepped away from him. Oh my god, she said, Ohmy god. She was touching her lips. Ginny, he said, Im sorry, I acted on impulse. No, this isnt right, said Ginny frantically, Oh MerlinI messed up. Oh my god. Harry reached for her, Ginny, its not your fault. Its mine. Im sorry- No! she exclaimed, Merlinoh myHarry, Im so sorry. II cant be doing this. I she stepped back from him once again, Cant you see? This is wrongoh my god. She leaned on the tree, unable to believe what she had just done. Harry was thoroughly disturbed by this. He had never seen her look so guilty and uncomfortable in his entire lifetime. Oh Merlin, she kept saying, never removing her hands from her mouth, What have I done? Oh my godthisits wrong. Bloody wrong. Ginny, Im sorry- She was sobbing. Disbelief was slowly eating her up. Harry reached out for her and held her arms. Ginny please, he said, Dont do this. Its my fault. I still love you. She looked at him and Harry would never forget that look in her eyes. They flashed with every negative emotion she felt at that very moment. Im sorry, Harry. I cant love you. That was it. His hands slowly slipped from her arms as Ginny backed off from where they stood. Im sorry, she said, beginning to edge away, II cant do this. II have to leave.

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Without another word, she immediately ran past Harry, hands still covering her tear-streaked face. She ran towards the marquee and the next thing Harry knew, she had vanished among the sea of people Leaving him alone, standing there The wind blew and touched his skin. The leaves were swaying and the pixies slowly left the garden and flew to the marquee. There was silence. The music all of a sudden became unclear. The fairy lights grew dim As Harry Potter stood there in the middle of the garden A tear fell from his bright emerald eye. So dance your final dance Cause this is Your final chance

Chapter 19: XIX. Missing

The cold wind blew harshly on the window pane, leaving a small mark which eventually vanished seconds later. Leaves flew along. As the dark clouds approached, the streets remained empty. It was a common scenario, especially during the arrival of a very bad weather. Residents preferred to remain within the confines of their warm homes and in the presence of their loving families. A rainy day was the best time for people to simply stay and enjoy the comforts of home. But not for everyone. Harry Potter lay on his bed, blankets and pillows everywhere. Despite the cold atmosphere, he had chosen to lay shirtless on his bed, completely ignoring the fact that he was shivering. His glasses were carelessly placed on his bedside desk, next to his wand and white flower petals. His dress robes lay on the floor along with his shoes. Complete silence enveloped his room. Not a sound was made, not even Harry. He was gazing blankly at the cream colored ceiling of his bedroom. His green eyes bore no emotion, no flash. They were merely staring upwards into nothingness. There was also no evident expression on his face. At one glance, one might be able to convince the self that he was looking at a pitiful corpse left carelessly on the bed. The only sign of movement inside was the rising and falling of Harrys chest as he took steady and slow breaths. Other than that, everything remained motionless. Drops of rain began to fall one by one as the wind continued to blow. A clap of thunder echoed in the skies. And yet Harry made no move or gesture. He remained on his bed and blank with his thoughts, the very same state he submerged that night he kissed Ginny and left all of a sudden.

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He closed his eyes, hoping he could erase the painful memory. He felt beatenthe very same feeling he had when she stepped out of his life three years ago. A man could only take so much. He turned to his side and sighed. He was alone. Ron and Hermione were already on their honeymoon. He couldnt possibly bother them with his troubles. He knew he would have to keep this one inside him and handle it himself. He felt his heart pounding silently inside his chest. It still ached. The rain began to pour outside of his flat yet Harry made no movement. He held his pillow tighter as he buried his face. Go to sleep, he told himself. Harry fervently hoped that once he had fallen asleep, he would forget everything that caused him the happiness he hoped to achieve Even if it meant forgetting her. As Harry succumbed into unconsciousness, his left hand fell to the floor and unknowingly touched an object that had been laying there ever since he came back It was a picture of Ginny with the glass broken.

2 weeks later. Working at the Ministry must be quite stressful, then. Harry gave a short grin before he partook of his butterbeer. True, he said, Especially if you have loads of paper works and raids on your sleeve. The woman opposite him giggled as she took a sip of her butterbeer. She tucked a stray lock of blonde hair behind her ear as she flashed him a pearly-white smile. Her blue eyes sparkled as she gazed at Harry, not even bothering to conceal her awe. You truly are a very interesting person, Mr. Potter. Im so glad I was able to meet you in person, s he said. I told you, call me Harry, said Harry, waving a hand, I prefer being called by name. And might I just say that you are also an interesting person. The woman giggled once again as she blushed. Thank you, Harry, Harry flashed another smile as he sipped from his goblet.

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The woman took a look at her watch and gasped. Oh, is that the time? she asked, I should get going then. Really? Where to? She closed her bag, Diagon alley, she said, Im off to see my mother. She has been both ering me to see her. You should be going then, said Harry. The woman smiled at him, But Id rather stay here and talk more, Harry chuckled, No, you should go. Mothers are important. She nodded her head as she stood. Well, Im off, she said and she extended a hand, It was nice meeting you, Harry. I hope I could bump into you again. He shook her hand, It was a pleasure meeting you too, he said, Have a safe trip. Before she left, she flashed one last flirtatious smile and waved. After that, she apparated. The moment she left, Harry drained his goblet, smacked his lips and sighed. Tyler, dont ever do that again, he said. Behind him, his assistant gave a sheepish smile. Sorry sir, but I reckon you needed the company, he said. Harry gave Tyler a stern look, Well, arent you my company? he asked, Tyler, I asked you to accompany me here in the Three Broomsticks to talk away from the Ministry, not to have you introducing me to some random woman. Tylers head slowly bowed, Sorry si r, but you looked so spaced while we were talking that I thought you were bored with me, he explained, I figured that maybe you wanted the company of someone else. Harry rubbed his forehead, I wasnt bored, Tyler. I was justthinking of other matters, he said, But that still doesnt give you the right to match me off. But you seemed interested in her, sir, said Tyler. Blimey, havent you ever heard of being polite? asked Harry in an annoyed tone, The conversation had already started and I couldnt blow a woman off, could I? Merlin, I dont even remember her name. Maureen, sir, Harry rolled his eyes, Yes, whatever, he said, Just do me a favor and never do that again, is that understood? Yes, sir, said Tyler, Im sorry. Sighing, Harry stood up from his stool. Ill be going now, Tyler, he said, I have to catch up on papers. Ill see you tomorrow. Eralright then, said Tyler, Im really sorry, sir. I swear, Ill never do it again.

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Harry nodded and patted his assistant on the back as he made his way thru the patrons of the Three Broomsticks who were absolutely busy with their merrymaking. He exited the pub without anyone noticing his disappearance. The cold wind blew against his face, making him shiver. He pulled his coat closer and swung his scarf around his neck. Burying his hands inside his pockets, Harry began to make his way down the streets of Hogsmeade. Drinking at the Three Broomsticks was one of his ideas of killing spare time. It had been two weeks since Ron and Hermione left for their honeymoon and as of the moment, Harry was quite alone. His coworkers would occasionally ask him out for the night but he didnt always agree to this arrangements. Spending time with people who knew you full well was far better than being with co-workers and pretending you actually enjoyed their company. Harry chose to walk on the farthest sides of the road, keeping his head bowed and fervently hoping he wouldnt get stopped. He wasnt in the mood to chat with strangers at the momen t. In fact, he was hoping he could slip by like a phantom, unnoticed, as he made his way. The weather for the past weeks has not been friendly. It rarely gave the people a glimpse of the warm sun but often provided the dull and cloudy atmosphere. The streets were almost never dry as it rained on most days. Harry figured that the weather was merely mirroring his emotional turbulences. As he was about to cross the street, he saw a sight that made him stop. A little girl about 11 had tripped and fallen in the middle. Tears began gushing down her cheeks as she moaned in pain. Her small hand constantly rubbed the sore spot on her injured knee. She was approached by a raven-haired boy who knelt down on his knees and offered her a hand. The girl shook her head and kept pointing at her wound. Harry saw the boy place his hand on top of hers. Youll be alright, said the boy, Trust me. Im here. The little girl stared at the boy with her wide, tear-stained eyes. She slowly nodded her head as the boy tucked a stray lock of auburn colored hair behind her ear and slowly aided her in standing. The scene struck the very image of Ginny Weasley in his mind. It has been two weeks since he last saw Ginny. After that night she left him under the tree, Harry had not heard from her. He expected this to happen for he knew how awkward it would be for the both of them once they saw each other after what had just happened. It would be uncomfortable, not to mention, painful too. The morning after, Harry pretended that nothing happened that night. He made himself believe that he didnt admit his love for Ginnythat he didnt kiss her That he didnt hear her say that she can never love him. The memory was too painful he had to repress it. He told himself not to think of Ginny or anything that reminded him of her unless he wanted to be masochistic or suicidal. Instead, he buried himself with work, raids, the Ministry and basically, WORK. The very same thing he did three years ago But this time, Harry gave some moments for himself. He didnt torture himself with stressful duties rather there were moments where he would just stop, take a deep breath and succumb into rest. It gave him the time to be alone with his thoughts, to sort them out in order to avoid going haywire and eventually breaking down.

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True, he avoided thinking about her these past two weeks and he was grateful he hadnt seen or heard from her. It aided his recovery. Yet at the back of his mind, Harry couldnt help but wonder where Ginny is now. Had she vanished once again? Had she taken off to some province to think? Is she gone for good? Blinking, Harry realized he had been standing like an idiot. The children had long disappeared from his sight and he had not moved for a minute. Shaking his head, he crossed the street yet he didnt stop wondering. Was it possible that Ginny would not show herself again for three years? Ormaybe even never? He could picture Ginny sitting on the edge of a rock, staring at the sea with the wind blowing her hair and thoughts scrambled inside her mind. Probably Caleb was with her. Harry had not seen him for weeks also. Maybe theyre planning a life together already he thought. They might be somewhere in Cumbria, staring into each others eyesprobably standing in front of a minister and being declared as husband and wife. He considered the fact that Ginny might take any measure to escapethe incident. She was the kind of person who would do so. Thinking of it made his heart twinge. Would Ginny attempt such a thing to prove to Harry that she no longer loved him? Would she go to such lengths? He sighed. Everything had become more complicated than he expected. What he hoped to be a refreshing confession turned out to be a messy, complex affair. As he approached the public restrooms, which was the secret entrance to the Ministry, he chose the moment to stop and close his eyes. He had to refocus. He was going to work for Merlins sake. He needed to clear his head. Stop it, Harry, he told himself, Get over it. Shes not coming back She never will Stepping inside the Auror office, Harry felt a great sense of relief for the warmth. He had been shivering relentlessly outside, despite the fact that he was wearing a coat. The office was in a buzz as he entered. Aurors left and right were occupied with papers or planning operations that only some noticed Harrys appearance, acknowledging it with the usual greetings. Morning, Mr. Potter, Hello, sir. Had a nice evening? Good day, sir. Coffee? Cocoa? Harry returned these greetings with his usual replies. As he went inside his cubicle, he was greeted by

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a person he did not expect to see sitting on his chair with legs raised up on the table. Hows it going mate? Ron! Opposite him stood Ron Weasley, fiery red hair ruffled as if he had just rolled out of the bed, skin sunkissed and definitely darker, and wearing a smile that reached his ears. Missed me? he asked, standing up and clapping Harry on the shoulder. Its good to see you again, said Harry, How was it? You look great! Ron laughed, Yep, I look like some bloke who had just rolled out of bed and didnt even bother to take a bath, he said. Looks good on you, mate, said Harry, You look like you just slept under the sun. Youre bloody darker. Rons hand ran thru his hair as he smirked, Hermione enjoys the tanned, macho bloke look, he said, flexing his arms and making Harry laugh. Hows Hermione? Did she enjoy the Caribbean? asked Harry. He imagined Hermione in a sundress, hair swaying with the wind and skin as dark as Rons. She sure did, said Ron, Ive never seen her so intrigued with crabs and all those sea creatures. And by the way, you shouldve seen her argue with this warlock we met at a local pub who wanted to pursue hippogriff executions. Never seen her bloody angry with anyone in my entire life. Harry laughed as he laid his bag and took a sit on his chair. I can see that you thoroughly enjoyed your honeymoon, he said, When did you get back? Just yesterday. Me and Mione moved in to our very own flat and decided to surprise Mum, said Ron, Trust me when I say that unpacking stuff can be murderous. So, said Harry, Hows married life suiting you? Ron heaved a sigh as he pocketed his hands, a dreamy expression on his face. Its been awesome so far. I mean, I was used to waking up alone in my bed every day. But now, when I open my eyes, I see Hermione snoring next to me, he said, It sort of feels weird but very good at the same time. Im not alone, anymore. For a slight moment, jealousy reared its ugly head inside Harrys heart. He wished he could be happy as Ron. His best mate looked as if he had no problem in the world as they spoke. Your Mum mustve been so glad to have you back, he said. Ron rolled his eyes, Yep, pretty much. The way she hugged us, you wouldve thought we came back from some sort of exodus. Overkill as usual, he said, Speaking of my mum, theres something I want to ask you, Harry. Whats that? He saw Rons expression become serious. Well, Mum said that Ginny hasnt been coming home for weeks since the wedding, he said, The last time Mum saw Ginny, she was sort of hurrying. Said she had to go back to her flat or something. That was it, actually. And till now, Mum hasnt heard anything from Ginny. Rons eyes looked at Harry.

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Do you have any idea where she could be, mate? he asked, I mean, I reckon you were one of the few people she talked with that night. Harry gulped. He knew Ron was bound to ask that question. Sorry but I havent got any idea on that, he said, trying to keep calm, Maybe she went out to have some time with Caleb? Ron seemed to have considered this. Thats possible. Ive told Mum the same thing but she was off her rocker, worrying herself. I told her: Ginnys all grown up now, Mum. She can do things on her own, said Ron, Yeahshe might be with Caleb. I havent seen that bloke yet. Harry gave a short smile as he avoided Rons gaze. Reallywell, maybe you should check with him, he said, Im sure Ginnys fine. There was a short silence. You alright mate? asked Ron, who had suddenly moved forward, You look like you have loads of things on your mind. What? asked Harry, then he suddenly realized the dumb look on his face, Oh, no, Im okay. Just thinking. Had to organize a number of raids and investigations today. Ron reached over and clasped Harrys shoulder. You should give yourself a break, mate. Youre no super wizard. All the stress must be taking their toll on you, he said, You wouldnt function properly if you keep on torturing yourself. Harry nodded his head, Dont worry, Ron. Im not overdoing it, I swear, he said, Im balancing it. Believe me. Ron grinned as he settled back on his chair. Thats more like it, he said, At least youre not beating yourself up. Harry merely smiled as he began stacking the piles of parchment on his desk. He felt no need to inform Ron of what really happened that night before Ginny disappeared. He refused to wreck Rons joyous aura. It really wasnt necessary. A sudden commotion had broken Harrys trail of thought. Just outside of the office, he perceived a frantic voice and arguing. But I need to see him now! Really now, Mr. Potter is preoccupied at the moment and Im sure that he wouldnt- Dont tell me Harrys bloody busy! I need to see him NOW! The roaring voice sounded quite familiar. Both Harry and Ron stood up to see who the frantic voice was. Whats going on? asked Ron. Harry did not answer as he also had no knowledge of the answer. You cant just go barging in! Harry heard the receptionist snap but apparently her attempt had failed when he was visited by guest in alarming state.

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Red-faced, sweaty and catching his breath, Caleb Andrews appeared right before Harry. He looked as if he was chased by a hippogriff right across the street. There was such an alarm in his eyes that Harry couldnt help but sense that something terrible has just occurred. Harry, said Caleb, finally finding his voice, Thank Merlin I found you. He staggered his way towards the cubicle. Tinsel suddenly appeared behind Caleb, a horror-stricken look on her face. Im so sorry, sir. He just came barging in, she apologized, I tried to stop him. Its a blood emergency, woman! snapped Caleb. But you cant just-! Harry held his hand up to silence Tinsel. Its alright, Tinsel, he told her, Ive got this covered. You can go back to your desk now. Tinsel hesitated at first but the stern look on Rons face was enough to con vince her to begin walking back to her place. Together, Ron and Harry aided a huffing-Caleb inside the cubicle. Caleb, whats wrong? asked Harry. Caleb held unto the nearby chair, gasping for breath. Harryyouve got to help me, said Caleb as he caught up with his breath, Youre the only person I could go to. Whats that? asked Harry, Caleb, whats happened? You look like youve been chased by a Dementor. More like a death eater, said Ron, He looks bloody terrified. Do you want some whis key, mate? To calm the nerves? Nono need for that, he murmured. Caleb was shaking his head and he was also pulling his hair. One look at him was enough to convince an innocent bystander that Caleb had just been a victim of such a vindictive crime. His state was enough to also bother Harry. Calebwhats wrong? he asked. The bloke buried his face inside his hands. He was shaking. Harry saw him attempt to speak but he suddenly began to break down. Caleb? he asked again. Caleb took the time to catch his breath. His grief-stricken face appeared and his tormented eyes faced Harry. Itsits Ginny, he spattered. Harry and Rons attention were both grasped the moment Ginnys name was uttered. What about Ginny? asked Ron, Caleb, what happened to her? Calebs face was still buried in his hands, his sobs muffled. He was shaking in his seat, unable to speak for a moment. Oh GinnyGinny As Caleb sat there moaning, a number of horrendous thoughts began to circulate Harrys mind. They began to play cruel tricks of him. His eyes looked down.

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What could have happened to Ginny? Looking at her boyfriend, Harry was convinced that something frightening had happened to Ginny. He tried not to think of horrible ideas but they kept coming. Was she trapped somewhere? Was she hanging off a cliff, helpless? What? Harry looked up. Caleb remained speechless. He saw that Rons impatience got the best of him. Damn it, Caleb! Tell me! he demanded, What the bloody hell is wrong with my sister? Calebs head emerged from his hands. Harry saw his eyes scarlet and his face pale. He felt his stomach churn unpleasantly for he knew the next words he was about to hear would not be good news. Ginnys missing. Time stopped. Everything simply became motionless. There was a cold silence in the air. Harrys fingers slipped from the edge of his desk at Calebs words. He became detacheddistant. It was as if his soul had been suddenly sucked out from his body. His entire being crashing to its downfall. Ginny was missing. Whatwhat do you mean missing? asked Ron, breaking the silence. Harry saw his best mates face lose its color; the excitement from his eyes was extinguished. Caleb took another deep breath as he wiped his eyes. He was still unable to speak. Harry understood. He himself could not utter a single word. Caleb, said Ron, straightening up and approaching Caleb, What happened? Tell us. What do you mean missing? The poor man looked up at them and Harry saw torment. His bloodshot eyes were filled with pain beyond imagination. II havent seen her for two weeks, he began, sniffing, The last time II saw her was at thethe wedding. I had excused myselfbut when I came back for hershe was gone. Harrys heart began to pound wildly against his chest. Calebs words reminded him of the incident he was attempting to forget. His hands became cold. Caleb rubbed his eyes as he continued, II was surprised to learn that shehad left. Just like that. I reckoned thatshe might have decided to go homewithout me so I didnt bother, he stammered, But when I came back to my flat, there was this. He dug inside his pockets and fished out a rumpled piece of parchment. He handed it to Ron who opened it. Harry was gazing at Rons expression. It remained blank as he handed Harry the parchment. The moment the piece of paper touched his skin, Harry felt his insides freeze. He hesitated for a moment. Sucking his breath, Harry read.

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There it was, written in Ginnys perfect scriptthe following words: Im so sorry, Caleb. Harry felt his eyes glued on the parchment. Im so sorry His hold on the paper had tightened, to the point a part of it had crumpled. He couldnt find it in himself to look at Ron or at Caleb. And this was because he had a hunch that he somehow knew why Ginny was sorry And probably why she went missing. For a second, that very night came back to his memory. His confession. Her hesitation. Their kiss. Ginny pulling away and the fearful look on her face It was lying on my table when I got home, continued Caleb, breaking Harrys reverie, When I saw it, I immediately dissaparated to her flat. Itit was locked. I knocked for hoursbut she didnt answer. I thought maybe something happenedand sheshe wanted to be alone. He buried his face in his hands once more. Harry on the other hand, became increasingly uncomfortable, as every second passed. He still could not bear to look at Caleb as the guilt began to inject itself in his system. Calebs face emerged once again as he rumpl ed his hair. He looked utterly confused and hurt. I have no idea on what happened to her, he said, A week had passed and I had not heard from her. Her flat remained locked and II went to the Burrow and Molly said that sheshe wasnt there. I said nothing to MollyII didnt want to bother her. It wasduring that time that I became suspicious Harry gathered the courage to look up. He saw Ron, all focused and serious, as he gazed at Caleb. Harry could see the worry lines building up on his forehead as he listened. His sister was missing after all. Suspicious? asked Ron. Caleb managed a weak yet sarcastic smile, Yes, wouldnt you be suspicious? Deep insideI knewI knew that something was wrong, he said, Something wasnt right. He stopped for a moment to breathe. I went to her flat once again but this timethis time Caleb stopped as he bit his lip. He was unable to proceed with his story. Harry sensed this was the part where everything became complicated, which was the reason why Caleb was sitting right in front of them, troubled and in pain. Caleb released a frustrated sigh as he banged his hand on the wall. The door was open, he said, Her doorit was open. I went insideand I saweverything was trashed. Tables were overturnedand vases broken Unable to contain it anymore, Caleb broke down. Ron immediately wrapped an arm around the bloke as he began to sob uncontrollably. The whole Auror department became silent as Calebs wails echoed within the office.

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She was gone! wailed Caleb, She wasnt anywhere inside. II looked for her that moment she went missingI thought maybe it was a robbery. But II couldnt find her anywhere. He stopped, taking in deep breaths. IIve looked for her everywhere, he continued, Ive asked her friendscolleagueseveryone! I didnt tell them what I sawI didnt want to trouble them allthats whythats whyI came to you, Harry. I dont know what to do anymore Ron gave Harry a searching look as he rubbed Calebs back, comforting the bloke. What bothers me the most isI never found outwhat happened to her that night said Caleb, When I was looking for hera friend told meshe had gone outand seemed sosoupset. I reckonwhatever that wasit has something to do with this There was another silence. Inside, Harry was screaming and basically pulling his hair out. Damn you! Look at what youve done! Idiot! As he watched Caleb breaking down and Ron looking troubled, Harry could feel his insides rambling. He was staring at the mess he had created. He had no idea that a single mistake could create such a chaos. Oh Ginnymy Ginny moaned Caleb, Whats happened to you? He was clutching Ron like he was holding for dear life, making Harry feel worse as the seconds ticked. He knew it was his fault It was always his fault. His recklessness has resulted to Ginny locking herself away and suddenly disappearing with no trace. His impulsive nature has lead to Caleb being crushedCaleb who had done nothing wrong against him. He felt like a hypocrite. Harrys head was spinning. He couldnt take all the events anymore. There was only so much he could handle. My Ginnywhat couldve happened to her? said Caleb, I wishI wish I knew why she ran away that night. I wish I ran after herto know what made her so upset Caleb, I bet whatever that was doesnt have anything to do with her going missing, said Ron. No, you dont understand, said Caleb, I feel soashamed. Terrible. She needed me that night. Something happened to herand I wasnt there. He broke down once more. You have to find herno, weII have to find hermake it up, he moaned, trembling. Harry felt his hands shaking, his stomach churning. The guilt was beginning to settle within his entire being. He knew he had to do something. Caleb he began, Theres something I need to tell you.

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Caleb looked up at him, his blue eyes red with tears and searching for answers. Ron was also looking at him and it made Harry feel even worse. He hoped he could steal Caleb away from Ron but he knew better. Ron would want to be involved. After all, it was his sister that went missing. Harry could feel his fear bubbling inside of his as he rubbed his arm. Whawhats that, Harry? asked Caleb. Harry bit his lip. He heaved a sigh. II can tell you what Ginny was upset about that night, he said, But I dont think its related to her disappearance. Caleb was looking at him, his eyes filled with sudden hope. What is it, then? he asked. Harry gulped. Before I doI just want toerapologize first, he said, Because what Im going to tell youit may sound unpleasant. He did not dare to look at Ron, whom he knew was gazing curiously at him, despite the fact that he was beginning to worry over his missing sister. Harry focused his gaze on Caleb. His heart was banging wildly against his chest, his nerves wrecking. What? asked Caleb, his tone becoming impatient, What is it, Harry? Harry took another deep breath. I was the last person Ginny was with that night, he began, I was with her the moment she ran away. He can see the confusion stirring in Calebs expression. Whatwhat do you mean? Harry bit his lip once more. His hands were stone cold but he knew he must tell the truth. There was no turning back. IIm the reason why she ran away, he said shortly. He saw Rons hand slipping from Calebs shoulder and Caleb straightening up, the tears on his face all dried up. You? asked Caleb, Whatwhat did you do to her? What happened? Harry was finding it hard to look at the two of them. The heavy feeling in his heart began to take its toll on him. He took another deep breath, praying that Caleb, and even Ron, would understand. Harry? Caleb was already looking at him. Harry faced him, ready for the worst.

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I told her I loved her. That was it. There was a cold silence within the cubicle. Rons jaw had dropped, his eyes mirroring disbelief at what he had just heard. Caleb, on the other hand, showed no expression. He was still listening. Harry continued, his insides shaking. II told her that I still loved her. It came out of me, he explained, I know it was wrongbut I couldnt fight it anymore. And then II he faltered. For a moment, his strength failed. No words came out from his mouth. His fear bubbled. But he knew perfectly well he had to say it. I kissed her. Ron released a tiny gasp of shock. Harry looked at him, his eyes beseeching his friends. He was hoping that Ron would not judge himyet instead, understand him and his problems. His eyes moved away from Ron and landed on Caleb. There was no expression of shock or any sort of surprise. His grief was no longer evident on his face. His lips were pursed together and he was in sudden deep thought. He was not looking at Harry. His eyes were glued to the floor. You kissed her, he murmured. He wasnt facing Harry; therefore Harry could not get a read of Caleb. Yes, said Harry, And Imsorry. It was wrong. I shouldve never done that. Calebs hands were clasped together. He appeared t o be contemplating. The silence broke out once more. Youkissed her, he repeated. Harry felt his heart pound harder. CalebIm sorry. At that moment, Caleb lifted his head and stood up. The next moments were merely a blur. Before he knew it, Harry felt a strong force hit his face, making him fall from his chair unto the floor. What the bloody hell?! blurted Ron. Harry touched his face. He felt the blood dripping from his lip as a result of Calebs blow. Ron had leapt from his position and quickly took hold of Calebs arms. The commotion had caused a stir among the employees who had already surrounded the cubicle, wands out and all, ready to aim at Caleb. Dont! Harry exclaimed, tasting his own blood as he spoke. Caleb made no attempt to thrash or escape Rons grasp. In fact, after punching Harry and being held

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by Ron, there was an expression of disbelief on his face. It was as if he couldnt believe what he had just done. He looked at his closed fist then his eyes landed on Harry. IIMerlin was all he murmured. He was still looking down at Harry, on the floor and sporting a bloodied lip. There was no hate in his eyesand it bewildered Harry even more. He did not mind the blood spilling from his lipor the sore he was beginning to experience. He was focused on Caleb. ImIm sorry, Harry, began Caleb, Its just thatI bloody trusted you. I cant believe youd do this to meafter all Ive been to you. I trusted you. Calebs words stabbed Harry in the heart. I trusted you. All it took was four words to break Harrys surface. This is how you repay the kindness I had for you he continued, And to think I held much respect for you. Calebs face was ashen and his eyes fell downward. His look tormented Harry to the bone. It m ade him realizethe hypocrite he was. Caleb, I- Im sorry, I should have not punched you. It was wrong, cut Caleb, An hour ago, I thought coming here was the proper thing for my dilemma. NowIm thinking all of this was a mistake. He slowly removed himself from Rons grasp. Ill find her, Ron, he said, eyes covered by his hair, I will find her. He turned his back to Harry. Pairs of eyes were looking at him but Caleb did not mind any of them. He simply stood there, arms on his sides and fists closed. Forgive me, Harry, he said, But I would no longer be requiring any of your help. Without another word, Caleb made his way out of his cubicle and out of the Auror department, leaving Harry bloodstained on the floor with a number of people staring at him, wanting answers to their questions. There was another cruel silence in the air. Harry contemplated on Calebs words once more. I trusted you. At that moment, he felt like the worlds biggest prat. Alright, theres nothing to see here, said Ron, breaking the silence and waving his hands, shooing the bystanders, Everyone get back to their jobs and no questions! Rons roaring command forced the employees to return to their posts without another word but Harry could still hear them murmuring. Their whispers were like the buzzing of bees in his ears; he couldnt hear them properly. He wondered if that was an effect from the blowor if his mind was not functioning well at the moment.

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He felt Ron pulling him up. Cmon mate, get up, he sai d gently. Ron aided Harry back to his chair. As he sat down, Harry was still dazed, not only because of Ginnys sudden vanishment, but also with his own hypocrisy. Are you alright? asked Ron. Harry looked directly at Rons eyes. He was sorely tempted to say: Do I look okay to you? But he knew he had no right to do so. Amam alright, he managed to say, fixing his posture. His face was still warm with embarrassment yet his heart began to settle down. He could not look at Ron directly in the eye. He was still ashamed with all the discoveries he had revealed. Mate? Harry looked up. There was no hint of anger or resentment in Rons eyes. When youre up to itwell talkalright? said Ron, For the meantime, I have to go and set up a group of Aurors to start looking for my sister. Alright, said Harry. Ron clasped Harry on the shoulder and gave him a little shake. Ill be backto look for my sister, he said, Were going to fix this. Harry merely nodded his head. Ron said no more as he exited the cubicle. He called on three Aurors on his way out. I have an assignment for you, he said. The rest of his words no longer stuck to Harry as he sat there, motionless. His thoughts were scrambled, in disaaray. Calebs betrayed face replayed in his mind. I trusted you Over and over again. Ginny and Caleb faces whirled inside his head, his heart getting heavier by the moment. He knew he had done wrong. As he sat there, Harry knew there was one thing he could do He had to set things straight. I have to find Ginny, he murmured to himself. He was going to find herto look for her.

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But he would be doing it not for himself But for Caleb. For all the wrongs he had done against the innocent bloke. Without hesitating, Harry immediately got up from his seat. He took his coat and tucked his wand inside his pocket. He would let Ron be in-charge for the wide search He would look for Ginny on his own. Without any help It was the only thing to do. Harry took a deep breath as he stood on the threshold. His right hand was raised and poised to knock but he stopped. He stood in front of the doorunable to decide. Before beginning his single search for Ginny, Harry decided that he would pay Caleb a visit. He wanted to apologizeto repent for the wrongs he had done. Calebs face haunted him as of that very moment and it encouraged him more to knock and explain. Caleb deserved it. Harry planned to apologize humbly and swear to Caleb that he will find Ginny no matter what it takes. When he finds her, hell avoid making any contact with her. Hed cut off any relations with her He would erase himself from their life. Even if it hurts. He wouldnt bother them. He wouldnt bother Ginny. He would stay away. Harry knew that this day would come. Ever since he first saw Ginny once again, he knew that he should have never made a connection with her because it would cause more trouble than he asked. As much as it pains him, he knew he had to do it. Caleb did not deserve his treatment. And certainly, Ginny didnt. Taking another deep breath, Harry straightened up. He would do this. He raised his right fist once more And knocked. But the moment his hand touched the door, Harry found out that it was already open. The door swayed lazily.

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Harry stopped. If there was one thing he learned in his years as an Auror, ajar doors may mean trouble. He slowly took his wand out as he leaned, listening for any suspicious sound. None came. Only the sound of the door. Taking small steps, Harry quickly entered Calebs flat as silent as he could. Darkness was everywhere. Lumos, he whispered, lighting the tip of his wand. The sight before him made him freeze. For the love of Merlin he murmured in shock. Things were strewn on the floor. Furniture overturned. A broken vase lay at his feet. Looking up, Harry saw a smear of blood on the wall. His hands became cold. He gripped his wand as he made his way towards the living room. His breathing became even and he heightened his senses. Caleb? he asked. There was no movement in the room. He passed a table that now lay on its sides. Judging from the look of everything, Harry caught signs of struggle. The smear of blood on the wall was enough evidence. Caleb? he asked again, wand at the ready just in case. A second later, Harry found himself standing in the middle of the living room. As he expected, everything was trashed. More broken fragments everywhere and furniture laying on their backs. He looked around, his breath coming short by the second. His heart pounding wildly against his chest There were signs of struggle everywhere he looked, Harry was sure of it. He bended on a broken piece of glass lying nearby. What the hell happened here? he asked himself. He was completely alone. He h eard no voices or other sounds inside the flat. He kept his wand at the ready in case he was attacked. He lifted his gaze at the blood smeared on the wall. He stood up and slowly made his way, pointing his wand at the wall. He placed a finger on the blood. It was still freshsomehow. Harry was trying to figure out if the blood was Calebsor Ginnys. A lump had formed in his throat. He was beginning to feel uncomfortable with the situation. What the hell? he asked once more. His attention was caught by a piece of parchment that fell on the floor. Harry bended on his knees and picked up the parchment. He turned it over. He read what was written on it.

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A second later, Harry dropped the parchment. His blood continued to race within his veins, his heart beating faster than ever. His fists began to clench themselves. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead. He never expected that his day would close in this manner. Straightening up, Harry gripped his wand tighter. He took a deep breath as he closed his eyes. Merlin help me, he thought. The fear began to bubble inside him. He clenched his fist once again. He knew he had to do something- FAST. Or he might be too late. Without wasting another second, Harry began to walk away from Calebs ruined living room. His pace quickened as the faces of Ginny and Caleb spun inside his head. As he closed the door, Harry couldnt help but ponder on the words written on the parchment. He had a hunch on whatever happened to Caleb. And he certainly had an idea on the r eason behind Ginnys disappearance. All it took were the words on the parchment. So you think you can save her?

Chapter 20: XX. Hero

So you think you can save her? Harry ran his fingers on the edge of his desk. The glow illuminating from the moon was his source of light within the darkness of the Auror department. It was already eleven in the evening and Harry found himself alone in his cubicle. Silence surrounded him. It gave him the space he desired as he sorted out his mixed-up thoughts. He had an idea on what happened to Caleb after he left the Auror department. He could see it clearly. As he stared blankly at the walls of his cubicle, Harry could picture his hypothesis. The note was strong evidence that Ginny had been indeed kidnapped. It must have been placed in Calebs flat prior to his arrival from the Ministry. When he first stepped in Calebs deserted flat, Harry sensed that a charm had been cast before his arrival. He knew it was a hex; one that can be placed on an unsuspecting victim as a trap. That explained the wreck caused in Calebs flat. The suspect must have cast it upon placing the note. Harry could picture Caleb seeing the note and reading the words written on it. He could envision the fury Caleb must have experienced and the sudden attack of the spell placed upon his home. He had explanations But there were still unanswered questions.

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The blood smeared on the wall Whose blood was it? Caleb? Or Harry felt a lump on his throat. He decided to disregard the latter choice. Where was Caleb? Was it possible that he survived the hex in his flat and that he ran afterwards, still searching for Ginny? And the last questions Who on earth would want to kidnap Ginny Weasley? And why? His head throbbed. For a moment, Ginnys face appeared in his head. Her eyes closed and single tear drop cascading down her smooth cheek. Her face when Harry kissed her for the first time in three years. A painful feeling erupted within him. Two weeks ago, Ginny leaving him and saying she no longer loved him was the most painful blow in Harrys life. Now, the thought of Ginny kidnapped replaced it. His fist clenched. Harry racked his brain for the possible suspects behind this. He simply could not figure out anyone who would hold a grudge against the lovable Ginny Weasley. He trembled at the thought of Ginny being held in captivity. Her hands bound behind herher captor pulling her hair and sneering at her, taunting her. Her tears running down her faceher voice crying for help. No, Harry murmured, erasing the terrifying thought in his mind. A small sound broke the silence within the department and startled Harry. He looked up and saw a figure approaching his cubicle. Harry? Opening his lamp, Harry saw Ron walking towards him. What are you doing here this hour of the night? asked Ron. Harry wasnt able to answer right away. His eyes gazed at Ron. The difference between the Ron he encountered that morning and the Ron that stood opposite him was quite remarkable. Weariness was painted all over Rons freckled face. The glow he had hours ago vanished. His hair was rumpled and Harry could still see evidences of sweat on his temples. Where have you been? asked Harry. Ron heaved a deep sigh.

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Searching for my sister, of course, he said, I havent told Mum anything about it. I dont want to cause panic. Weve been at Ginnys flat and searched the whole area. Did you find anything? Ron shook his head. Nothing. Not a single hint of anything. All we know was her flat was trashed. There was no fingerprint or anything reliable at all, he said. Harry nodded, Same scenario at Calebs, he said. The expression on Rons face changed. Calebs? What the-? How? What were you doing there? Harry stood up. I dropped by after you left, hoping I couldapologize to him. But when I got there, the door was open. The place looked as if it was bombedand there was a smear of blood on his wall, he said, And a note. A note? What note? there was urgency in Rons voice. Harry bit his lip. The mere memory of the note panged his heart. There was this piece of parchment lying on the table, nearby the bloodstained wall, said Harry, All it said was: So you think you can save her. Cold silence. Harry could feel his skin breaking into goosebumps. He shivered at the thought. So you think you can save her, repeated Ron. Yes, said Harry. Another cold silence. Harry ran a hand thru his messed up hair. He heaved a frustrated sigh. Whats that got to do with Caleb? And his flat being trashed? asked Ron. When I went inside his flat, I felt something odd. The flatit felt cursed, said Harry, I think that cursewhen Caleb stepped in his flat, was triggered. It may explain the smear of blood on his wall. Soyou reckon the blood is Calebs? Exactly, said Harry, The suspect must have placed it there as he placed the note. What about the note? Harry bit his lip. Caleb found it, he said, He mustve found it. When he didI can only guess that he ran off to look for heror he was kidnapped by the attacker. There was a pause. The images appearing in Harrys mind were none too pleasant. He had a bad feeling he would be seeing them in his dreamsor more likely, his nightmares. SoGinnyshe really was kidnapped, concluded Ron. Yes, said Harry.

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Ron groaned and sat down on the nearby stool. He buried his face in his hands, despair surrounding him. An unpleasant feeling settled within Harrys stomach. He felt pity for Ronwho was so happy when he first arrived, only to be greeted by the disappearance of his one and only sister. Harry approached him and held his shoulder. Im sorry this had to happen, mate, said Harry, But well get to the bottom of thiswell find Caleb. Well find Ginny. Ron looked up at him. Harry could see the grief in his eyesbut there was also a spark of hope. I hope youre right, mate, he said. Trust me, said Harry. There was silence between them; the sounds of their breathing were the only signs of life in the room. Harry knew the burden Ron was now shouldering for he too was carrying it. Well find her, he said, No matter what it takes. Ron nodded. We will, he said, Cmon. Lets go back to my place. Hermiones waiting. Dark Too dark. Harrys eyes had difficulty in adjusting to the darkness. He touched his eyes. He was wore no glasses and yet, despite the darkness, he felt he could see things just fine. He was quite disoriented for a moment that he failed to realize he was shivering. His skin had broken into goosebumps and his hands were stiff. Where am I? he asked outloud. Was he standing in Ron and Hermiones dark hallway? If he was, what was he doing, out of bed? Wasnt he supposed to be resting his already weary body? Not far from where he was, he heard distinct sobs. Harry first thought of Hermione. What could she probably be crying about? Did she and Ron have a row? He took small steps down the dark hallway. He still found it odd that he could see without his glasses. He walkedyet something bothered him deeply within. He just couldnt point his finger at it. As he got farther, the sobs grew louder. It was then he realized it wasnt Hermione sobbing. He stopped in his tracks. He looked around his surroundings once more. What the bloody hell? he murmured. He turned around. He realized that he wasnt walking down Ron and Hermiones hallway. It was some sort of underground tunnel. The sobs he was hearinghe was dead sure they didnt belong to

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Hermione. He felt his heart pick up pace. It was banging wildly against his rib cage. The unease began to build up The sobs continued. He began to walk fast down the dark passage. Though he had no idea who the crying woman was, his instincts told him he must hurry. Before he knew it, he was running. His feet began to accelerate in speed and beads of sweat formed on his forehead. His breathing became heavier as he gulped for oxygen. Harry had no idea where he was off but he knew he had to be somewhere. A moment later, he found himself face to face with a wooden door. He could hear the sobs within the room, opposite the door. In an instant, they became quite familiar to him. Too familiar His hands began to shake as he held the bronze knob of the door. His heart continued to pound hard against his chest. With one swift move, he opened it. The sight made him freeze. No he said. In front of him was Ginny. Her hands were tied behind her back. Her skin was covered with scratches and fresh wounds. Locks of her flaming red hair were plastered on the skin of her face. Smudges of dirt on every inch of her porcelain skin. Her appearance wasnt the sole reason behind Harrys disturbance. It was the look in her eyes. There was such fear in her dark brown eyes as she looked at Harry. Tears began to roll down her cheeks Harry she choked. Harry was still frozen. He longed to run towards herbut his feet were stuck to where he was. He could not move. Ginny was all he was able to say. He watched as she looked at him and said the following words tearfu lly Im sorry. And before he could say a word, a jet of green light blasted and hit Ginny Weasley mercilessly straight to her heart. She gave a small gasp before casting Harry one last look. One last piercing look

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He saw her eyes close as her lifeless body fell to the dusty ground. In an instant, Ginny was no more. Her frail body was drained of its natural color. Her chest no longer moved, the only sign of her breathing. Her flaming red hair covered her motionless face. She was dead. The rage and pain burst within, searing Harrys veins. He was numb and tortured at the same time. His hands balled into fists as he stared, horrified, at Ginnys corpse. Tears began to form in his now bloodshot eyes. It was as if a piece of him was ripped off in an instant. The fury continued to rage within him. Harry could not take it anymore NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! NOOOOOOOOO!!! No GINNY! NOOO!! Ginny Tears ran down her pale, cold face Dead. Forever gone NOO! Harry! HARRY!! He experienced a sudden shaking. No No HARRY! Wake up! He opened his eyes. Darkness surrounded him. His blurred vision could make out a figure hovering above him. He felt a pair of hands holding his shoulders, shaking him. Harry? Harry? The jerking sensationfelt so real. It was all a dream. Hermione? he asked the owner of the voice. A sudden flash of light forced Harry to shut his eyes once more.

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Wear your glasses, instructed Hermione, who shoved his glasses on his face. He moved himself up, straightening his back against the headboard. He felt his head throbbing. Slowly, Harry opened his eyes. Hermione was kneeling beside his bed, her face painted with worry. She had turned on the small lap sitting on the table beside him. She handed him a glass of water and her hand found his face, feeling his temperature. Thanks, said Harry as he drank the water gratefully, satisfying his thirst. Nightmare? she asked, then she took his empty glass and handed him a face towel, Wipe your face. Youre sweating like hell. Harry touched his face, and true enough, he was sweating like hell. He also realized that his breathing was somewhat troubledheavy. He felt like someone who had just ran the marathon or a person chased by a rampaging hippogriff. He rubbed his forehead. Harry Hermione had placed her hand on his shoulder. What were you dreaming about? she asked. Did I wake you? Im sorry, said Harry, evading the question. No, not really, said Hermione, I was actually up to get a glass o f milk when I passed this room and I heard you moaning. I went inside and then I saw you thrashing arounnd. At first, I thought you were having a seizure or something. I was? he asked, all of a sudden incredibly embarrassed, Im sorry for the bother, Hermione. I ruined your decent nights sleep. Its alright, Harry. No trouble at all. Now, back to my question, she said, What were you dreaming about? Harry buried his face in his hands. Dare he remember the tragic image he had just seen? It wasit was Ginny, Hermione, he said, I dreamt about her. He saw Hermiones eyes widen in alarm. What about her? He gulped. The words seem stuck in his throat. Sheshe She? Harry bit his lip. He began to shake at the thought once againthat hor rendous thought. She was dead, he answered. He heard Hermione release a small gasp. Her hands covered her mouth. His hands clenched into fists. The mere thought of a stranger raising a hand to hurt Ginny Weasley

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caused his blood to boil and his heart to pound faster. Seeing her cold and lifeless on a dusty groundwas hell. Harryitsits just a dream, said Hermione, recovering from her shock. He ran a hand thru his hair. I know it is, he said, But it seemed so real, Hermione. It seemed soreal Oh Harry, you dont know that. She cant be. There was a short silence. She cant die he muttered, If she diesII dont know Harry Harry took a deep breath. I wouldnt know how to live, Hermione. Before he knew it, Hermione had wrapped her arms around him. Oh, Harry, she whispered, Everythings going to be alright. Everything will turn out right. Her hands were soothing him, her fingers lacing his hair. Hermione was rocking him gently. For a moment, Harry was numbfrozen. His muscles could not move. That small thought had affected him greatly. Well find her said Hermione, and he could hear her sobbing, Shell be alright. Slowly, Harry found himself laying his head on Hermiones shoulder. His weakness began to reveal itself. He knew. He simply knew. He could never live properlyif Ginny Weasley no longer existed. He could live with the fact that Ginny was with Caleb or with any other man. He will continue to breathe even if she gets married and has a family of her own. He can exist even if Ginny decides to erase him from her lifecompletely. He can deal with those. As long as she was alive, he was too. But if she wasnt Harry didnt know what would happen. He was so preoccupied with these thoughts that he failed to notice a single tear roll down his cheeks. He was shakinghis hand holding Hermiones back as if he was holding unto dear life. Oh, Harry, said Hermione, Let it out. Let it all out He expected himself to burst into tears, to wail out in desperationto simply let it all out. But as he stayed in Hermiones comforting arms, he found himself quiet and still. Yes, he was still shakingbut he wasnt goin berserk.

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The image of a lifeless Ginny kept replaying inside his mind. Hermione? Yes, Harry? He took another deep breath. He clutched her tighter If this doesnt end well, he said, I wouldnt know what to do anymore. Harry! sobbed Hermione. He did not bother to reply anymore as Hermione cried. It was the truth. He really wouldnt know. Search for evidence. Anything reliable. Anything. Rons voice echoed in Harrys ears as he stood outside of Calebs empty flat. He saw that the place looked the same as he had left it days ago: trashed and a complete mess. Three Aurors had already gone inside with their wands out, searching for any reliable evidence. Ron was still orienting the remaining Aurors to return to Ginnys flat to re-scan and search once more. Harry stood there absentmindedly. The rushing of his fellow Aurors in front of him were merely a blur. Nothing much was going on inside his mind as of that moment. Last nights encounter with Hermione had taken its toll on him. He could still feel Hermiones tears on his shoulders. Harry? Mate? Harry noticed something waving in front of him. Rons hand was waving up and down in front of his face. Huh? asked Harry. Are you alright? asked Ron, Youve been blank for a while now. Is there something wrong? Erno, just thinking, said Harry, hoping his answer would amend his mistake, Lets go inside. He went ahead of Ron, hoping to escape further questioning. As far as he knew, Ron had no idea of Harry and Hermiones talk the previous night. He had asked Hermione to not mention it to his best mate; he didnt want anymore of the drama. Aurors were scattered inside Calebs empty flat. Most of them were performing revealing charms with the hope to discover any evidence. Harry saw that the blood smear was still on the wall and one of the Aurors had the note he had dropped previously. They were running it over their wands. The blood on the wall is Calebs, informed Ron, One of the Aurors matched it with his hair strand. Uh-huh, said Harry. Think he mightve put on a fight? asked Ron. Harry headed to the walls and touc hed it. He might have, he said, Ill be going inside his room. You stay put here, alright, Ron? Of course, said Ron. As Harry was about to leave, he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned around. Mate, are you sure youre alright? asked Ron, his forehead creasing, Youre not yourself today.

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Harry forced a weak smile on his face. Im alright, Ron, he lied, You should stop worrying about me and worry about your sister instead. This statement must have convinced Ron because he released Harry and merely gave him a nod. Ill be in Calebs room if you need me, he told Ron. He left Ron with the other Aurors and made his way to the bedroom, looking as if he was searching for more evidence when in fact he just wanted to be alone. Looking at all the mess only reminded Harry that Ginny was missing and it gave him an unpleasant feeling in the stomach. He opened the door and revealed a somewhat nicely kept room. Apparently, Calebs bedroom was left untouched during the attack. Everything was in their proper placeor so Harry assumed. Nothing seemed suspicious. He went inside and closed the door behind him. There was nothing much in Calebs bedroom. Scraps of parchment and Daily Prophets were scattered on the floor. He picked up one of the issues. GINNY WEASLEY RETURNS TO THE HARPIES; HARPIES FANS REJOICE, blared the headline of the Prophet he was holding. It was the very same Prophet held in his own hands when Ginny returned after three years. He watched as Ginny zoomed in and out of the frame of the picture. His stomach gave another unpleasant jolt. He looked down at the other Prophets lying on the floor. He caught a glimpse of one that had his face on the front cover with the headline: POTTER DECLARED HEAD OF AUROR MINISTRY . It was dated three years ago. Before he could reach for the paper, something caught his eye. There on Calebs desk was a picture of Ginny with a rose on her hair and laughing. Harry stood up and approached the desk. He took the picture frame, his eyes glued on Ginnys i mage. She was wearing a dress printed with daisies. It was Harrys favorite dress of hers. She was laughing in the picture, her hands playfully moving. He watched as her, though the black and white picture did not show it, brown eyes twinkled and her white teeth flashed. For a second, his heart skipped a beat. Its been long since he saw Ginny laughed. Not just any laugh thoughthe kind of laugh she used whenever she was truly joyous. It was the laugh he was watching at that very moment. He recalled those magical moments when he would hear her sweet laughter. He remembered spending time with her by the lake at Hogwarts, both of them keeping away from the eyes of their schoolmates. He remembered moments when they would simply fool around with each other: teasing, chasing one anotherand her laughter would echo in his ears. His fingers caressed the precious photograph. Odd as it may sound, it gave Harry small comfort, seeing her soundless laughter. He traced her face with his finger. Ginny he whispered. He missed her so much. A part of him wished dearly that he didnt kiss her that night. If he hadnt, Ginny wouldve not probably

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run away and instead, hed be seeing more of her. Ginny wouldnt have any knowledge of his true feelings, yet she would be safe. He would see her. The guilt returned to his heart. He placed the frame down as he felt the heaviness settle inside him. He backed away from the desk and ended up sitting on Calebs bed. He never expected that everything would end this way. Harry regretted the mistake he had done three years ago. He didnt know that the consequences of his negligence would come back in a more sever form. If only he hadnt taken her for granted, if only he had paid more attention to her If only He knewhad he not messed up, Ginny wouldve never left him three years ago. She wouldve never left for Cumbria, meet Caleb and ending up in love. They wouldve never come back to Londonand Harry would not have to suffer from all of the horrors. If only At the end of the Battle at Hogwarts, Harry figured he was headed into a blissful oblivion. No more Voldemort. No more Death Eaters. No more pain. All he had to look forward to was a beautiful life with Ron, Hermione, Teddy And Ginny. But apparently, life had other plans for him. His thoughts were disrupted by the sound of flapping. Harry looked up and saw a barn owl standing by the window. At the sight of the bird, he wondered where the post must have come from and who it was for. He slowly got up from the bed and approached the barn owl. As he got closer, he spotted an envelope tied to its feet. Let me get it, he gently told the bird as he began to remove its delivery. The moment it was relieved from its package, the owl took flight, leaving Harry by the window. Harry sensed that something felt odd as he watched the barn owl fly and disappear behind the clouds. It was then he remembered the post he was holding in his hands. It felt thick and he flipped it over to reveal the receivers name. Mr. Harry James Potter, it read. Thats odd, he thought to himself. The mail didnt look like post from the Ministry. The envelope was worn-looking and the script was unrecognizable. He began to rip the opening of the envelope, wondering deep inside who on earth would send him a message. When he ripped it open, two things fell out from the envelope. Both landed on the floor. He knelt down to pick one up. The moment he took it, he flipped it over.

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When he did, he froze. He began to stiffen in sudden shock. The emerald eyes behind his glasses widened in horror and disbelief. No the word escaped his lips. He could feel the cold fear rising inside his chest as his gaze was frozen. He immediately grabbed the piece of parchment that fell on the floor. He flipped it over and read the words written on the parchment. His fear became more concrete. His hands began to shake and he became unstable. He trembled. The door opened all of a sudden. Harry, McKinnon and Ross found some smudges in the kitchen. They wanted you to see it yourself- Ron was saying when he stopped at the sight of Harry. Matewhats wrong? he asked as he stopped by the door, Whats going on? You look like youve seen a ghost. Harry faced Ron. He found himself speechless. He couldn t utter a single word. The shock was too much. Ron slowly approached him. Whats that? asked Ron, pointing at Harrys hand. He gulped. Harrys breathing became uneven. It was addressed to me, he said shortly. He noticed his voice had become wobb ly and that he was still shaking. What is it? persisted Ron. Harry knew that Ron was not going to like the evidence he had just received. This, He handed it to Ron, whose eyes widened in the same horror Harrys had done moments ago. Bloody hell muttered Ron, looking at Harry in disbelief, Oh bloody Merlinis this -? Harry nodded his head as he returned his gaze to the evidence. It was a tattered photograph of a beaten-looking Caleb Andrews. His hands were bound to the chair where he was seated. Harry and Ron watched as he lolled his head helplessly from side to side, his eyes semi-closed and a piece of cloth tied to his mouth. Its Caleb, said Harry, Im sure of it. Ron was peering at the photograph, unable to believe it. Sohe was kidnapped too,

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Possibly, Where is he? He looks bloody terrible, said Ron, staring at the picture, hoping to recognize the location, Hes a mess. The worst isnt over, Harry said, his voice suddenly trembling, Theres also this. His hand did not stop shaking as he handed Ron the parchment. He watched as Rons blue eyes ran over the words. A second later, the look of horror was painted on his face. Oh my godno said Ron, This is...Merlin Harry took the note from Rons frozen hands. He re-read it while clutching the rising terror he had inside. Always the hero Who never saw it coming at all Every second wasted, More blood will be spilled Are you strong enough to save The one you love the most? The handwriting was almost unrecognizable but Harry could feel his heart wrenching in pain. He knew the note was talking about Ginny. It explained why she was gone. You think itsits my sister? asked Ron. Harry simply nodded his head. Ron sank down on Calebs bead, burying his head inside his hands. This cant be happening, he said. Harry remained standing, frozen on the spot. He too, could not believe what was happening. Who would want to do this? asked Ron. Why would they want to do this in the first place? said Harry. He saw Ron rub his forehead. I reckon its some ploy to get your attention, mate, sai Ron, The note and the photographtheyre addressed to you. Harry took the photograph of Caleb from Ron. It may be a ployor a warning, he said. Ron straigtened up, A warning? They want something, finished Harry, Its clearthat they want something for me, or better yet, they want me.

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Ron asked with disbelief, But Harrywhy would someone want to go after you? Unless theyre some of those crooks weve captured years agobut still. It doesnt seemI dunnoMerlins beard. There was silence. Things were heavier as they seem. He knew Ronwhoever this ishe or she knew that Ginny was the person I love the most, he said, figuring it was useless to lie to Ron about his feelings at the situation, It was written there. Are you strong enough to save the one you love the most? He knew. Sothey used Ginny, Harry nodded his head. But I dont get it, mate, continued Ron, You said the notethe first onewas found here, in Calebs flat. If all of this was meant for youthen why in the devils name would the suspect leave the first note here? Probably because the suspect knew that he was Ginnys boyfriend. Maybe they knew that he too would go after herand when he did and he got kidnapped, they knew that I would run after both of them, said Harry, Double the price, you see. He gazed at the leaves of the trees, swaying lazily to the wind. Blimey mate, remarked Ron, It all seemsplausible. But I really cant think of anyone who would do that. There are a number of possible suspects, Ron. We fight crime, remember? We make enemies when we do our duty, said Harry. Ron bit his lip. Sothis is payback? Harry heaved a frustrated sigh. Call the others, he said, not answering Rons question, Were returning to the Ministry. He sensed Rons hesitation but Ron followed his orders anyway and was out of the room in a second, leaving Harry with his thoughts. He knew that he was being placed within dangers radius. But when you were Harry Potter, Danger was nothing new.

Harry ran his gaze over the photograph over and over again. He was trying to analyze the setting of Calebs probable location. His eyes went over the murky background towards t he wooden chair where Caleb was strapped. It truly wasnt a familiar location. He had the other Aurors run spells over the note they received. Others were running over the files of previous crooks who were recorded to have threatened Harry in the past. Harry had Ron head that procedure of the investigation and as of that moment, there was no progress yet. Harry was alone in his cubicle, his wand still pointed at the photograph.

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He had tried every revealing charm he knew to uncover any evidence, which led to absolutely nothing helpful. It was already ten o clock in the evening and they made no progress. Frustrated, Harry threw down the photo on his desk and sat down on his chair. He buried his face in his hands. He was dead tired but his weariness did not disturb him as much as the fact that as of now, Ginny and Caleb were still missing and horrible possibilities kept cropping in his mind. His head was beginning to ache and he knew he needed some sleep. But he couldnt. He wouldnt. I need some space, he thought. He got up to escape the confinements of his cubicle and of the almost empty Auror department. It bothered him that they werent having any leads on the case. They had no firm evidence or any thing that will direct them to Ginny and Calebs whereabouts. His head throbbed once more. Closing his eyes, Harry willed himself to apparate to the lobby of the Ministry, by the magical fountain. He sat down on the smooth surface of the fountain, rubbing his forehead, hoping to ease some of the throbbing he was experiencing. He was thankful that the lobby was almost deserted. No one would witness him at his weakest. The sound of the water flowing behind him somehow had a calming effect. He closed his eyes and continued listening to it. For a moment, everything was quietpeaceful. He was alone. For a while, nothing bothered him. Ginny The image of her lovely face popped up in his mind. She was somewhere out there, being held captive by an unknown stranger. It pained him to realize thathe wasnt able to do anything. He knew it was hopeless to wallow. It wasnt going to bring Ginny back. It wouldnt be able to save her. All of thesethey didnt make any sense to Harry. Why were they even happening? Was the universe holding a grudge against him? He opened his eyes and blankly stared at the lobbywhen something caught his attention. Thats odd, he suddenly thought. Harry got up from where he sat and began approaching a worn-out boot sitting in the middle of the lobby. Whats a manky old boot doing in here? he asked outloud. He began to look around for anyone who was missing a boot. He figured that someone must have left it while hurrying. He looked around once more. Seeing that nobody appeared to be looking for a lost boot, he decided that he would take it to the Lost and Found station based on the third floor. Hed rather do some small good than wallow. He picked up that manky old boot

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And when he did, It happened immediately. The sensation was similar to that of being pulled by a hook behind his navel and moving forward. He was speeding in a howl of wind and he consistently saw spirals of colors. He felt asif he was being jerked into a portal of nothingness. At that very moment, he knew that the manky old bootWas a portkey. But he realized it too late. He slammed unto the musty-smelling ground. He was lying, face down, on what felt like grass and dirt. He groaned as he struggled to get up, his muscles aching due to the impact of the fall. He raised his head, looking around and trying to perceive his new environment, when he realized that he was missing his glasses. He sat up immediately and felt the ground with his hands until he felt the surface of his glasses. Immediately, Harry shoved them unto his face. His vision became better and he began to look around. He hoisted himself up, his muscles still aching. He was surrounded by overgrown hedges. Darkness hovered above him and there was no person in sight. Lumos, he said, holding out his wand, which began to emit light. He sear ched for the portkey that brought him there when his attention was suddenly drawn by the single source of light that suddenly lit up not far from where he stood. He held his wand out towards that direction. He perceived what seemed like an abandoned barn. Though he couldnt understand, Harry found himself walking towards that barn, wand out and all. His instincts told him he must gothey told him that he would find what he was searching for. He walked briskly, constantly looking from left to right and being sensitive to his surroundings. He heightened his senses. The wind blew harshly but Harry made no notice. His senses told him to keep on moving, to never look back. His feet began to walk faster, till he was running. There was a sense of urgency. He was halfway near, when he saw an image that made him stop. He froze. No The sight made him run faster towards the opening the barn, hoping to confirm his first suspicion. He stopped and he saw that by the single lit candle, which was the source of light he had seen earlier, there was a body sprawled on the floor. Its back was facing him It was a man, no doubt. A man with blond hair Harry gasped. He never saw this coming at all.

Chapter 21: XXI. Vengeance

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Harry froze in his tracks. The sight of the fallen figure right before his very eyes made his heart stop. The blond hair Was it-? Caleb? He gazed at the body and noticed that it was wearing the very same clothes Caleb had worn that day he came to the Ministry, asking for help. A lump had formed inside Harrys throat and his skin became cold. Rain began to pour down behind him. Harry kept a tight hold on his wand. It couldnt be He walked towards the body, hoping that he was wrong. When the door closed behind him Harry turned around immediately. The wooden door of the barn was closed and bolted. His instincts began yelling at him, telling him that he was placed in a dangerous position. The barn was suddenly covered in darkness, only lit by the single candle and the tip of Har rys wand. He felt something move behind him. He twisted with his wand. Show yourself! he exclaimed. There was no answer. Sweat beaded on his forehead. His hands began to shake and his insides started to shiver with fear. He knew at that very moment that he was in the proper placehe was close to getting the mystery solved. Problem was, it was going to cost him much. There was another movement nearby. Suddenly, balls of fire lit up, draping the barn in a flood of orange. Harry gained his sight once again. His eyes landed once more on the motionless figure lying before him. Everything appeared the same right before the light went off. The only thing different was The hooded figure standing above him, on the second floor of the rickety barn. The dark hooded figure reminded Harry of his past and it made his stomach churn. He pointed his wand at it. He knew he was face to face with the suspectthe one behind it all. Who are you? he demanded, What do you want?! The hooded figure made no other movement nor spoke. Harry kept his wand at a ready as his gaze shifted from the figure to the body lying on the musty ground. What did you do to Caleb? demanded Harry. It made no other sound or other movement. It simply stood by the edge of the second floor and Harry could spot a grin on its face.

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Slowly, Harry approached the body. Every step his took, his heart pumped wildly. His instincts told him he was faced with grave danger. The sweat rolled down his temples and his hands became stone cold. He knelt down on the ground and placed a hand on the bodys shoulder. Cold. Dead. He gulped. Caleb couldnt be dead. His conscience weighed heavily upon him. He would never forgive himself if Caleb died because of him. He took a deep breath. He forced himself to take courage. He turned the corpse. It wasnt Caleb. Thisthis isnt Caleb, he managed to say. The dead mans gaze glazed upon Harry as his turbulent mind attempted to register every disturbing fact he was receiving. This isnt Caleb, he repeated again. He heard a rustle. Harry looked up and saw that the hooded figures hands touched its hood. He felt his stare frozen above, his heart continued pounding wildly against his rib cage and his senses telling him to run. The figure pulled down its hood, and when he didOf course its not me, came a voice. Harrys jaw dropped. No he whispered in shock. Standing on the edge of the floor, donning a black hooded cape, was none other thanCaleb Andrews. Caleb? Harry asked in disbelief, Caleb Andrews? He saw Caleb emerge from the shadows. Hello, Harry, he greeted. Caleb, whats going on? asked Harry, Whereve you been? Just here, answered Caleb. Weve got to get out of here, said Harry, Somethings not right. Caleb, I feel that someones out to get us. He indicated to the body lying on the ground. Caleb merely smirked at the sight of the corpse, It deserved dying. Trust me, I killed it with pleasure, he said. Harry looked back and forth from Caleb to the dead man. His head couldnt wrap around the shock and the disbelief. Caleb? He simply couldnt believe it. Youyou did this? asked Harry, indicating to the dead man on his knees. Caleb laughed, Of course, had to dispose of him once he had served his purpose, he said, Wasnt

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much of a good photographer, was he? Too shaky. Photographer? asked Harry, then it came back to him. The black and white photo sent to him by a barn owl, The photoyou sent it. Caleb smiled, Did you like it? I hope my facial expressions passed your standards. Well, seeing that youre here, I reckon it did, he said. Harry was still shell-shocked. His eyes surveyed this Caleb standing above him. He was definitely surrounded with an unpleasant aura. His eyes, the kind blue eyes, mimicked a manic flash. His smilethere was something about it that made Harry cautious. He still wasnt able to understand any of whats happening. Caleb, Harry began, his voice becoming strong, Whats going on? Caleb merely ran a hand thru his blond mane as he sighed, You still dont get it, Harry? he asked, sarcasm in his voice, Pity. To think that I thought you were sharper than you look. What are you doing? Harry demanded, Whats all of this about? Caleb gave another cold laugh. Its pretty simple, actually, he said, You see, Harry, its all aboutvengeance. Vengeance? asked Harry, What for? If this is about Ginny, Caleb, you can have her. Im sorry that I took advantage of her. I promise that Ill take myself out of your lives forever. Shes yours. Ginny? Are you that obsessed with her that you think every single thing is about her? asked Caleb, No, this is not about Ginny. This is far more than a simple girl. Harry could not truly understand. He was facing Caleb alright, but he was a very different Caleb. The sight of him reminded Harry ofHe shuddered but he did not dare show it to Caleb. Then what the hell? he demanded, What vengeance do you want from me? Caleb cocked his head to the side, a mocking smile on his face. Harry could feel his insides becoming stone cold, his confidence suddenly shrinkinghis fear slowly overcoming him. Let me show you, said Caleb. With the blink of an eye, he vanished from his place above and before Harry could move, reappeared inches opposite of him. He was still wearing the mocking, cold smile on his face, his blue eyes flashingalthough Harry was no longer sure if they were blue, or red. He pointed the tip of his wand on his right forearm. Revelium, he muttered in a soft, velvet voice. Greenish strands of light enveloped his forearm. Harrys eyes were glued, his breathing becoming more uneven by the second. The strands of green vanished, leaving Calebs skin clear, to reveal The Dark Mark, gasped Harry, then his eyes bored at Caleb, It cant be. Youreyoure aa Death Eater. Caleb laughed once more, throwing his head backwards, Yes, yes I am, Harry Potter, he sneered, Was my acting quite good that you failed to notice? Yes, Harry, I am a Death Eater. And you know nowwhy both of us are here.

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The rage began to surge within Harrys veins. His hands balled into fists as they shook, not in fear, but in sudden bursts of anger. You lied to me, he said, All this time; you led me to believe that you were a frien d. You led US to believe you were good. Caleb mocked pouting his lips, Aw, are you going to cry in front of me, Potter? he asked, I have treated you fairly all these months. Ive been worshipping the ground you walked on, remember? Ginny, said Harry, You lied to her. You said you love her! There was a smirk on Calebs face. Really, now? he asked, Well, to tell you the truth, I never really loved Ginny Weasley. She was useful, yes, but not worthy to love. It hit Harry. The unpleasant truth caused his rage to continuously bubble within him. Caleb did not love Ginny. You used her, Harry said with venom. Caleb merely shrugged, playing with his wand, Since you put it that way, I can sayyes, I did use her. Didnt I say she was useful? The anger burst. YOU BASTARD! yelled Harry, attempting to smack Caleb, yet he was unable to do so. Before he knew it, Caleb had jumped backwards and summoned thicks ropes to bind Harrys hands behind his back. He managed to keep Harry afloat, his wand on the ground, leaving him defenseless. Do you want to know how this happened, Potter? asked Caleb as he began to walk around Harry, Im sure youre dying to know how this master plan came to be. Well, I will enlighten you while you stay afloat. Harry struggled, trying to escape the binds of the ropes, yet they were stronger than he was. When the Dark Lord fell four years ago, our numbers diminished. Many were killed serving valiantly till the end, others were capturedwhile the rest escaped, proving their cowardice, began Caleb, I on the other hand, hid, knowing that one day I would be able to avenge the downfall of the Dark Lord. I was never a famous Death Eater. Though I craved the attention of the Dark Lord, I did not pursue it. I reckoned I would waitwait for the time that he will reward my service. When I hid, I decided to overhaul my appearance, to simply blend with the people. I ran off to Cumbria, which is incidentally, here, he continued, I intended to spend my days hereto conjure plans for my vengeance against the good and great Harry Potter, the reason why the cause ended. Caleb continued encircling Harry, a deep, thoughtful look on his face. A year later, I was desperate for an idea. I tracked down every little detail about you, e very information on the Prophet. I was alone, I had no one to trust. I was about to give up. As for you, things became quite extravagant, werent they? he asked, Popular and well -loved, the famous Harry Potter was hailed the Head of the Auror Department at the age of eighteen! Can you believe it? Harry recalled the number of Prophets lying on Calebs bedroom floor. Everything was going well for Harry Potter. The world was on his palms. I was about to lose hope, you know, said Caleb, But then, while I was out on my daily morning walkswho should I spot, but the lovely girlfriend of the Chosen One, walking alone and looking so desolate at six in the morning? A lump formed on Harrys throat. Ginny, he murmured.

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Caleb smirked once more, Yes, it was none other than Ginny Weasley, famous rookie player for the Harpies, he said, One look at her face was enough to convince me that things did not go well between the two of you. Fortunately, I was there to lift her from her sorrows. A month or two, I was able to show Ginny Weasley that her coming to Cumbria was the finest decision she ever made, not only for herbut for the both of us. Harry struggled from his bondage. His anger continued to burn within him but he felt so helpless, unable to release himself from the ropes. He had dropped his wand on the ground and was unable to fight back. I knew that Ginny was your weakness. Isnt it the same for us men? Women can create the downfalls we do not deserve, dont we, Harry? taunted Caleb, I would have to admit that at first, I doubted with my plan. What if, you had recovered from Ginny and me using her becomes pointless? But alas, you proved me wrong, Harry Potter. You always have. Caleb gave a cold laugh, which made Harry want to burst. It was I who suggested to Ginny that we should come back here. Its true that she was against the idea but nonetheless, I convinced her. And who should see Ginny back for the first time ever? asked Caleb, Of course, it had to be you. And to make things even bette r, it was obvious that you were still smitten with her. Can you imagine the luck, Harry? You bastard, Harry said once more. Caleb smiled coldly. Im no bastard, Harry, he said. With a flick of his wand, he sent Harry flying towards the wooden walls, banging him. Harry felt the sudden force and the pain as he felt his body being levitated back to his original position. I saw it in your eyes, I knew you were still in love with her, continued Caleb, My plan was going to work. Of course, I had to make my entrance. Couldnt let you become suspicious. I had to become the dutiful boyfriend. You simply had to see. You plannedto make me jealous with you? asked Harry, spitting blood. Caleb continued to walk around him, No Harry, I had other things in mind, he said, You see, I wasnt solely trying to make you jealous with me. Well, it was somewhat part of the plan. In reality, I was pushing you to fall more in love with your silly ex-girlfriend. Despite the panic he was feeling, confusion swept him. What on earth was Caleb trying to do? Fall more in love with her? Yes Harry! I wanted you to fall for her even more so that my master plan would work. I would be able to lure you by using Ginny, said Caleb who was playing with the tip of his wand, Havent you ever wondered why I have been leaving her with you? Pushing her? Even to a point I had to send a rogue bludger to harm her so you can save her? The rogue bludger, repeated Harry, then the realization dawned, You. You sent it. I just said so, didnt I? asked Caleb sarcastically, I wanted you to reconcile with your feelings for your Ginny Weasley so that you would do anything for her. I wanted you to fall crazy in love with her that the moment she goes missing, you would go ballistic. After that match, I thought my plan had somehow worked. Ginny had finally forgiven you and things were somehow going well with the both of you. But then, a distraction arrived. Harry saw Caleb bite his lip in frustration.

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Things were going so well, said Caleb, But then, I hear this news of a certain ex-girlfriend returning to the picture. Harrys eyes widened once more. Cho, he muttered. Bit by bit, things were beginning to have sense. Caleb shook his head. That daft girl. She wasnt supposed to almost ruin my plan. She danced into your life and the next thing I knew, you were confused. I wanted you to be focused on Ginny and no one else but you had to be a Cassanova, Harry, he said, When I was sensing you were somewhat slipping, I knew I had to do some action. And may I just say, I truly enjoyed accomplishing it. Brings back the glorious days of the Dark Lord. A shiver ran down Harrys sore spine. You were the one who tortured Cho, he said. Caleb nodded his head, She had to be erased from the picture. I tried to teach her a lesson but Im afraid I committed a mistake in doing so. I couldnt kill her. I merely poured all of my anger to her. But then, I realized what I did only brought her closer to you, he said, She was falling for you and I couldnt let you fall for her. I was about to lose hope. My plans were becoming a blur. I couldnt torture Cho anymore because I knew you would keep a close eye on her. But as always, my Ginny saves the day, continued Caleb, It happened when she left that note in my flat a day after the wedding. Harry suddenly recalled the piece of parchment Caleb showed to him that day he barged into the Ministry. Ginny had vanished into the night and I was looking for her. The next day, I found that note on my desk, said Caleb, I play my role well, Potter. So I did what was right. I went to see her, talk to her, console her and such. You can imagine my joy when I found out what she was sorry about. He turned his back to Harry, held out his wand and conjured a silent spell. A thin thread of light emerged and formed a floating and eerie mirror. A second later, Ginnys face appeared. He was watching her from Calebs memory. Why are you sorry? asked Caleb. Harry saw Ginny bite her lip. Her face was painted with uncertainty. CalebIm so sorry. I have been making a fool of you. You dont deserve this. Deserve what, love? Caleb was holding Ginny by her shoulders. She touched his hands. Caleb, forgive me, please. I dont understand, Ginny A single tear rolled down Ginnys cheek. Harry could feel his stomach churning once more. Ive thought long and hard about it, Caleb andI just wanted to say Say what? Ginny gulped. She looked away from him and took a deep breath. Ginny, tell me what? asked Caleb. Harry could hear the impatience in his voice.

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Ginny looked at him, and at Harry as he watched. I realized that Im still in love with Harryand I want to be with him. Im so sorry, Caleb The misty mirror vanished, leaving clouds of smoke. Harry felt numb, his body becoming weak all of a sudden. Ginny wanted to be with him. Ginny accepted that she loved him. You can imagine my joy, Potter, when she said that, came Calebs voice, She made my plan perfect. The rage began bubbling within Harry once again. What did you do with her? he asked, What happened to Ginny?! Caleb laughed, Well, I simply told her: You will be with him. And that was it, he said, I created my huge finale. He ended with a cruel laugh. WHERES GINNY?! screamed Harry, WHAT DID YOU DO TO HER?! Caleb did not speak. He simply stared up at Harry, the cold, sarcastic smile still on his face. ANSWER ME!! DAMN IT! He could feel his blood rushing inside his veins, his mind screaming. Caleb gave a chuckle. He began to move away from Harry and climbed up the rickety and wooden ladder. He was once again standing on the second level of the barn. Whyshes been here all along, he said. He tapped his wand on the dark surface. And before Harrys eyes, Caleb revealedGinny, he gasped. Ginny had been under a disillusionment charm. A thick piece of cloth covered her mouth, preventing her to speak. Her hands were binded behind her back, just like his. She looked at him with fear and panic and was struggling from her bondage. She whimpered at the sight of him. The anger within him reached its peak. Let her go! demanded Harry. Not yet, said Caleb. But Im already here, arent I? Its me you want, not her! Caleb chuckled as he began walking around Ginny. Oh I will, in time of course. Im not using her just to lure you. Her job isnt done yet, he said, Shes here to watch. Watch? Watch what? asked Harry. Caleb laughed menacingly. Oh Potter, did you think I would instantly kill you a nd let you off the hook? he asked, Of course not. When I said I wanted revenge, I wanted sweet and slow revenge. Ginny here, is my witness, he said, touching Ginnys face. She pulled herself away from him in disgust.

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Harrys stomach churned. He could sense the immediate danger awaiting him. But his fear for himself did not compare to his fear for Ginny. What do you want? he asked Caleb. Caleb smacked his lips and smiled. Well, Ill be releasing you from your bonds in a few seconds. And when I do, you are not to run. You cannot apparate either as I have made that impossible in this place. I want you to stay where you are and do not move a muscle, he said, Because if you doif you fight back, Ginny may never see the daylight again. If you fight back Harry then knew what his fate was. Caleb was going to make him pay slowly alright. In a slow, painful manner He was to be tortured. Simple, isnt it? asked Caleb, All you have to do is stay still. Should you fight back, your little girlfriend here will suffer curses more extreme than yours. I have learned a lot during my time of refuge. I reckon I must put them to good use. Harrys breath began to shorten. His impending pain threatened him but deep inside, a small sense of relief came. All he had to do was be stilland Ginny would not be hurt. He can possibly save her. Alright then, he said thru gritted teeth, Lets get this over with. He heard Ginnys muffled scream. She was shaking her head, silently pleading him not to do so. He could see her tears running down her cheeks, her muffled voice crying out his name. But he knew that if he wanted to save her, he must. Calebs lips widened into a sneering smile. Perfect, this is going to be fun, he said, then he cupped Ginnys chin, Prepare to be amazed, love. Youre going to enjoy this. Laughing mencacingly, Caleb left Ginnys side and began to descend the ladder once more. As he hung there, Harry gazed at Ginnys fear-stricken eyes. She was still shaking her head, pleading. But all he could do was silently apologize to her. I have to do this if I want to be strong for you With a flick of Calebs wand, the ropes that bounded Harry released him, letting him fall on his back on the dusty ground. He saw his wand lying nearby but he did n ot dare reach for it. He wouldnt risk Ginnys life. Are you ready, Potter? asked Caleb who was looking down at him. Harry looked past him, at Ginny. She was crying, struggling with her bondage. He had never seen Ginny in such state. It broke his heart to see her suffer with him when she never deserved it in the first place. Close your eyes, he told her. Another muffled cry He took his eyes off Ginny and faced Caleb. Do it then, he said.

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Enjoy, sneered Caleb. Harry took another deep breath and closed his eyes. He was about to welcome his fate. Crucio! The immense pain flooded down Harrys body like an overflowing river. He could feel every vein in his system screaming, crying out. He felt as if his body was being subjected to electrocution with a maximum intensity. He fell on his knees, his glasses sliding off his face. The pain was so great, he longed to scream. But his mouth refused to open. Instead, he sunk his teeth unto his lips, groaning helplessly. Then it stopped. Felt good? He looked at Caleb whose appearance was blurred in Harrys eyes. Did you enjoy that, Potter? asked Caleb, I see that your wand is within your reach. Nothings stopping you from fighting back. Althougha deals a deal. Harry struggled to raise himself. He had never felt so weak in his entire life. His head was messed up. He couldnt think directly. In the background, he heard Ginnys muffled sobs. He tasted blood on his lips. He had sunk his teeth too deep he had cut his skin. He stood up wobbily on his feet. He wiped the blood from his face. Getthis over with he said, his voice shaking. He could perceive Ginnys blurred image behind Caleb. Caleb chuckled with merciless mirth. With pleasure, Another curse. Harry fell on his knees once again. Taste my pain, Potter! exclaimed Caleb with pure pleasure in his voice, Taste the wrath of a devoted follower of the Dark Lord! He writhed and twisted, his body weakening as the seconds ticked. He could no longer feel his fingers, his head becoming numb. The pain was excruciating. His thoughts became scrambled, his senses numbing. The Cruciatus curse placed on him was done with such hateit was more than effective. But all the while, one thing remained clear to him. He suffered for Ginny. The curse was lifted once more and Harry found himself panting heavily. Blood and sweat trickled down his forehead. His breathing became heavy and his surrounding, blurrier than ever. His heart was pounding wildly against his chest. He was on his knees, his hands also on the ground. If the Dark Lord was alive to see this, he wouldve been proud of me, said Caleb, sentiment in his voice, He would have finally recognized my devotion. I who seeked you for revenge. Iwho is close to

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breaking the good and great Harry Potter. There was a smug tone in his voice that made Harry boil. Harry released a small, weak laugh. Thats the best you got? he taunted, spitting blood on the ground, No wonder Voldemort never appreciated you. He unsteadily raised himself once more. You will nevernever break me, Caleb, he said, BecauseVoldemorts deadand you know that doing this wont amount to anything. He eyed Caleb, showing his enemy that he feared nothing. Every part of his body was sore but he defiantly stood up, despite the fact that his body threatened to fall apart. He wouldnt let Caleb see his weakness. There was a roar of anger from Caleb and a blow. He had smacked Harry, letting him fall on the ground once again. As he staggered on the dusty ground, he felt another strong blow to his stomach, making him spit blood once more. Dont you dare! yelled Caleb as he kicked Harry to the gut. He took blow by blow with silence, resisting the urge to groan in pain or show any sign of weakness. He felt his wand inches away but he knew he shouldnt fight back. He allowed Caleb to weaken his bodyin order for Ginny to escape her pain. You filthy half-blood! said Caleb, You have no right! He lifted Harry with his bare hands. Despite his blurred vision, Harry could see Calebs nostrils flaring, the hate burning in his eyes. Harry could not believe he was deceived by such face. You can never break me, Caleb, said Harry, once he was at eye-level. With another roar, Caleb threw Harry on his back, causing the latter to slam against the wooden walls. Harry felt intense pain as he felt the wooden chips of the wall sink unto his skin. Caleb quickly approached him, his cloak swaying behind him. He held his wand out and poked Harrys neck with it. Harry could feel the rage as Caleb took deep, rapid breaths, his shaking hand closing around Harrys collar. I can break you in ways you never expected, Potter. Youre going to pay. Youre going to pay for breaking the Order of the Dark Lord, he said, seething with hate. Harry looked at him straight in the eye, The only Order that ever existed was the Order of the Phoenix. Yours was never an orderit never deserved to be, he said. SHUT UP! yelled Caleb as he withdrew his wand and hexed Harry, causing him to fe el a stabbing pain on his chest. He saw blood emerge from his skin as invisible pins punctured him and causing him to slide down on the floor. The pain was too much for him to handle. He felt the curse intensify, his body wriggling in major discomfort. Not satisfied, Caleb roughly picked him up once more and began punching him in the gut. Every punch caused Harry to slowly lose his senses. He averted his blurred vision behind his tormentor, hoping that Ginny closed her eyes. He had not heard her whimper for a whileor was he going deaf? As he looked behind a raging Caleb, Harry wanted to look at Ginny for what would somewhat be the last time he would see her. He could feel it, he wouldnt last long.

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But when he focused his distorted vision, he did not spot a rage of red on the spot where Ginny was. He couldnt see her fiery red hair anywhere. This caused a small panic attack within him as Caleb continued to deliver heavy blows on his body. At last, Caleb decided to lift Harry up once again. Youre going to die, Potter, he said. Harry glared at him with contempt. And spat in his face. Caleb screamed and dropped Harry to the ground. Harry could no longer feel any of his body by that time. His hands and feet were becoming numb Say goodbye, Potter, said Caleb. Harry could see Calebs wand aimed directly at him. Any second now, his life would end. And he wasnt even able to see Ginny He closed his eyes, awaiting his destiny. Goodbye GinnyI love you, he thought silently, his heart aching. For a fleeting moment, he thought of her lovely face, the feel of her lips on his When suddenlyWHACK! Harry heard a loud crash. He opened his eyes. He wasnt dead yet. There was a groan. Harry, quickly! He felt a set of arms wrap around him, forcing him up. He staggered, attempting to gather enough strength. The arms wrapped around his shoulder and began to somewhat carry him as he felt himself being dragged. His feet touched the feet of another person who seems to be on the ground as he moved. Dazed, Harry focused at his saviors face. Ginny he murmured. The flashing of red was enough to prove that it was herGinny. We have to get out of here, she said, Theres not much time. Harry looked at herand forced his feet to move. Together, they ran.

Chapter 22: XXII. Escape

Harry continued to stagger forward, dragging his body and forcing himself to run faster. He couldnt fail to fallhe simply could not afford to.

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Especially that he was with Ginny. As he ran with her, he could feel her hand gripping his tightly in hers. Wear your glasses, she said, shoving them into his face, And heres your wand. She placed his wand in his hands. It felt so good to be holding his wanda surge of adrenaline entered his system. Hhow did you get these? How did youescape? he asked, taking a deep breath right after. Despite the rush of adrenaline, he was still weak from Calebs attack. I had been loosening that rope for a week now. Matter of time I escaped. Once I was loose, I got a chair and whacked him. Your wand was nearby. Ginny explained quickly. They had finally made it outside of the barn. Tall hedges surrounded them. The rain poured down, soaking both Harry and Ginny as they ran to the fields. Their eyes searched the vast area, hoping to find some temporary shelter. At the back of his mind, Harry knew that they wouldnt be able to escape easily. A temporary hideout seemed like their best option. He felt her pulling him towards the fields, his aching feet being forced to walk. Is there no way out? he asked her. I dunno, Ive tried disapparating but he placed a spell on this place. I cant think of any escape, said Ginny. The hopeless reality caused Harry to wilt for a moment but he knew now as not the moment to become weak I see a shack! exclaimed Ginny, Cmon, we better hurry. I dont think I hit him too hard with that chair and hes got my wand. They made a run towards the shabby shack nearby. Mud splattered on their feet as they quickly made their way before the unthinkable occurs. Harry kept a tight grip on Ginnys hand. He wouldnt be letting her go. No he wont let her go. Despite the soreness and the pain that he felt, he was fine. He had to stay strong if he was going to get both of them out alive. Once they had reached the opening of the shack, Harry and Ginny quickly headed towards a secluded spot in the corner. They sat on that corner, their heavy breaths the only audible sounds. Harry took slow, deep breaths. His lungs were screaming for oxygen, his whole body still feeling quite weak. Beside him was Ginny who was also catching up with her breath. Thisthis cant be happening, she said between breaths, I cant believeI cant believe I fell for that devil. A bruised hand flew to her face as she shook her h ead. Harry can see the expression of guilt and regret in her face. Bloody Merlin, this is my entire fault, she continued, I shouldve never let my guard down. I shouldve never met him. I shouldve never been with thatbastard. If I hadnt been sostup id, this wouldve never happened. She started to hit her head with her hand. Idiot, iditot, idiot, she said. Harry took hold of her hand, stopping her. He saw her face shift towards him and for the first time in two weeks, he had seen her full in the face. She sported bruises on her temples and scratches on her cheeks. Her arm felt fragile as he held it. Her eyes were bloodshot and lacking the flashing feature he admired of her. The anger for Caleb began to

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bubble furiously as he gazed at her, seeing the effects of Calebs cruelty. Its not your fault, he told her, Its mine. She looked at him. How can it be yours? You didnt date him. You didnt fall for him, she said. Harry bit his bloody lip. You wouldve never met him if I hadnt messed up in the first place, he said. A short silence. If I hadnt took you for granted, all of this would have never happened, he continued, MerlinIm sorry, Ginny. Its my entire fault. All of this happened because of me Harry looked away from her. It was never Ginnys fault, it was his. If only he had paid more attention to her three years ago, they would have never broken up. Ginny would have never moved to Cumbriaand she would have never met Caleb. He felt a small hand touch his face and direct him to another direction. He found himself looking into Ginnys eyes once more. He could sense that she was holding back tears. Harry she began, Youre a mess. She held his arm and her fingers trailed down his tattered clothes. His blood stained her skin. He could see in her eyes that she wassomewhat repulsed by his appearance. She looked away. Why didnt you fight back? she asked him in a hard voice, Why did you let him do this to you? Your wand was nearby. You couldve fought him off and saved yourself. Harry found himself touching her face and gently turning it to face him. He knew they didnt have much time. One of them had to get out of this alive and he knew it didnt have to be him. Her brown eyes looked at him. Because if I lifted a finger, I wouldve not been able to protect you, A tear rolled down her smooth cheek as Harry held her face. He wanted to memorize every intricate detail in case this would be the last time he would see her. If I fought back, he wouldve hurt you, he told her, And GinnyI wouldnt be able to stand seeing you hurt. But look at what he did to you, Harry touched his wounds, This? Doesnt matteras long as youre fine, Ill be alright, he said. For a moment, they simply gazed at each others ey es. Harry could see the tears forming in her eyes. He loved her so much. She didnt deserve this. Harry she said, tearfully saying his name. Her hands found their way on his shoulders and she slowly pulled him towards her. Her left hand touched his cheek and caressed it as she looked into his eyes. For a moment, Harry had forgotten where he was. All he knew was he was lost in her eyes. The pouring rain and their even breathing were the only sounds heard. She slowly lowered her lips to his, finally reuniting after weeks.

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Inside that shack, Harry and Ginny shared the most passionate kiss they ever had. He tasted the blood in her lips but he didnt mind. Her tears fell and touched his face, just like they did when they first kissed after three years. He was holding her as if he was holding unto dear life. He didnt want to let her go anymore. He wanted to stay like that forever. Ginnys lips pulled away from his as gazed at him. Tearfully, she said, I love you, Harry. Despite the dark scenario, Harry felt a strong sense of joy. The kind of joy he had never felt in three years She loved him. Again. But before he could tell her the very same thing, there was an explosion. The wall behind them had burst. Harry immediately gripped his wand and pulled Ginny behind him. She let out a terrified scream as wooden chips began to fall from the destroyed part of the barn. Thick clouds of smoke covered the entire area, making it difficult for the both of them to breathe. As the smoke cleared, a sinister figure became more prominent. Caleb stood three feet away from them, his cloak falling behind him, his eyes carrying a manic expression that caused Harry to believe he was truly dangerous. He sported a bruise on his face. His wand was raised against the both of them. A chair, you had to hit me with a chair, lovely Ginny, he began, rubbing his head with his other hand, That stung. Ive never lifted a hand against you beforehow could you? Beind Harry, Ginny did not speak but he could feel her trembling. Caleb raised an eyebrow as he eyed Harry and Ginny. Seems like you two are back together, he said, How lovely. Its a pity thoughyour little reunion would not live to see the day. Let Ginny go, Harry said with fury, She didnt do anything. Its me you want. He could feel Ginny grasping his hand tighter. Caleb gave a short laugh, Are you kidding me, Potter? Why on earth would I do that? he asked sarcastically, Think about it. Wouldnt it be more romantic if both you and your Ginny died i n each others arms? It would be so dramatic and I would be proud in organizing it. Id be a genius. The twisted gleam in his eyes caused Harry to heighten his senses. He knew that Caleb could snap at any time and when that happened, he knew he wouldnt be able to save Ginny from it. He had to conjure a planand fast. Or else, he would find himself staring at the wrong end of a wand. Then it struck He hoped Caleb was that type of bloke. Youre not a genius, said Harry with contempt, Youre a complete lunatic.

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The smile on Calebs face was lessened. Thats right, a lunatic, continued Harry, Look at yourself: getting revenge for someone whos already DEAD. Harry, whispered Ginny with caution. He glanced at her, hoping that somehow, she would understand his plan. He diverted his eyes back at Caleb, whom he can see was beginning to boil in fury. Whats in it for you after this, Caleb? he asked, Whats the prize? Will Voldemort be giving you any? Oh right, hes dead. Dont you dare, said Caleb, his entire being shaken, Dont you dare insult him, Potter! A jet of light blasted from his wand and Harry immediately pushed himself and Ginny out of the way, barely missing the curse. It created another explosion behind them. He covered Ginny with his arm. Yet Harry had foreseen this and he continued with his plan. He looked up at Caleb who was taking deep shallow breaths. The smug smile on his face was completely wiped off. Harry stood up and helped Ginny up, still pushing her behind him. He was fervently hoping Caleb would begin doing his part now. Hes dead, Caleb, taunted Harry, wiping away the dirt from his face, Your masteris DEAD. Killing me wont do any good. Lord Voldemort shall reignforever, Potter! said Caleb, There i s no end. It shall be resurrected once again. I will lead it myself As Caleb talked, Harry slowly shifted his face so that Ginny could hear him. Theres a portkey boot near the barn, he began to whisper. and when Im done with you and little Miss Weasley, I shall resurrect the glorious days of the Dark Lord When I say goyou run and find that portkey. Its the only way out Harry she whispered fearfully. She was clutching his hand tightly, unwilling to let go. and every witch and wizard who tormented our race will be punished. The muggles will be wiped out from the face of this planet What about you? asked Ginny. Find me when youre done. Ill hold him, and you wouldnt be able to do anything, Potter. By that time, you would be dead and rotting. Nothing can stop me now! I will avenge the end of the reign, Potter and you would wish that you were never born. Caleb was glaring at them once more, a fierce look in his face. Harry slowly released Ginnys hand behind him. He felt her soft lips on his neck for a quick moment. He also felt her slowly stepping away from him, getting ready to do her part.

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Itll be the opposite, Caleb, taunted, slowly raising his wand, You would be the one wishing you were never born. Because doing this is not worth itespecially when youre doing it for the dead. An angry roar escaped Calebs lips as another jet of light went straight for Harry. RUN! Ginny immediately sprinted away as Harry blocked Calebs curse. YOULL PAY FOR THIS POTTER! screamed Caleb who did not notice Ginnys disappearance, EXPULSO! The remaining walls of the barn exploded, causing Harry to dive out of the way before he was hit. Pieces of wood flew into the air and Harry began to run, dodging every falling piece. Reducto! Protego! Harry successfully blocked Calebs Reductor curse. He staggered his way towards the ends of the field, hoping to steer Caleb away from Ginnys way. He jumped over a discarded part of the barn, watching his back every now and then. Stupefy! he cried. A jet of red light flew from his wand. Caleb managed to block the curse as he continued to pursue Harry, a manic and furious expression on his face. With a powerful swish, he sent a horrendous curse after Harry. TAKE THAT, POTTER! he yelled. The purple streak of light hit him the shoulder, causing him to trip and fall to the ground. Unbearable pain seared on his shoulder. Dragging himself, Harry clutched his wounded arm to discover that it was bleeding. Caleb continued to walk towards him, his wand raised forward, his cloak dragging behind him. As Caleb was about to attack once more, Harry raised his wand. IMPEDIMENTA! he cried. It was as if Caleb was pushed back by a giant. The hex hit him squarely in the chest, causing him to be flung feet away from where Harry was, giving him the time to gather his senses and pull himself together. He pulled himself up, still clutching his shoulder. The bleeding wouldnt stop and he was beginning to feel woozy. But he forced himself to be keen. Now was not that time to fall. Ginny was nowhere in sight and Harry was fervently praying that she would find the boot. He wanted to get them both out alive. He began to run once again, ignoring his aching joints and wounds. NOT SO FAST, POTTER!! Harry ducked, once again avoiding a curse headed his way. He turned his body, aiming his wand. Flippendo! Caleb blocked. Stupefy! attempted Harry.

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Yet Caleb blocked once again. He continued to walk towards Harry, his eyes mimicking those of a lion in search of its next prey. TANTALENGRA! Harry blocked. He kept his wand up as he backed away. STUPEFY! PROTEGO! Caleb swung his full force and the next thing Harry knew, a thick jet of blue light was headed his way. Immediately, he lifted his and a stream of red light met with Calebs curse. A thread formed and connected them. The force of the curse was too intense. Harry had to hold his ground. His feet slowly buried down the soft ground. He kept a firm grasp of his wand as he continued to hold his strengths. TOO WEAK, ARENT WE POTTER?! taunted Caleb. The manic, hungry expression on his face reminded Harry of Voldemort. It gave Harry all the more reason to hold his ground. Sparks emitted from his wand. It was a sign of the intensity of the battle raging between them. THIS IS POINTLESS, CALEB! he screamed, YOURE DOING THIS FOR NOTHING! Caleb laughed manically. He pushed his wand forward, causing the intensity of his spell to increase. Harry felt himself slowly being pushed. THIS WONT CHANGE ANYTHING! he yelled. Their spells began to heightened, causing the connection to thicken. IT WILL MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD, POTTER! yelled Caleb. He immediately withdrew his wand, causing the connection to explode between them. The blow was so strong, Harry was thrown backwards. He landed on his back, on the musty ground of the fields. Pain once again shot in his system. Before he could even raise himself, Caleb appeared before him. He lifted Harry by the collar with his bare hands. Harry found himself face to face with the enemy once again. Caleb poked the tip of his wand on Harrys neck. Fight, Potter, he taunted, Dont be a bloody weakling! The rage within Harry burst. With a swift move, he punched Caleb in the face. He was released from Calebs strong grip. Before Caleb could retaliate, Harry delivered another blow in the gut. If wands were not enough, it never did any harm to resolve to your hands. Caleb managed to grab hold of Harrys arm and socked him in the arm. Not satisfied, he pushed Harry, attempting to keep him on the ground. But Harry pushed him back and managed to trip Caleb, causing him to fall. When Caleb was on the ground, Harry pointed his wand at his opponents neck.

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Whos the bloody weakling, now? he asked. His hand was shaking but he kept a firm grasp on his wand. Caleb managed to grin smugly, showing off his bleeding mouth. You think youre a big man now, Potter? he asked. Harry seized Caleb by the collar of his already ruined cloak. You knew this was pointless from the beginning, he said, You knew this isnt going to end your way. Caleb eyed the tip of Harrys wand. Are you going to kill me then? he asked, You? The good and great Harry Potter come to kill his enemy? Harrys hands continued to shake as he held Caleb. Do it then, taunted Caleb, I dare you. Their eyes met with one another. No longer were Calebs eyes those of an innocent blue -eyed angel. His eyes were red and seething with taunting hate. Harry poked deeper, seething with confusion and anger. HARRY! His shaking stopped. His eyes momentarily left Caleb and searched for the owner of the voice that had called his name. Ginny was about nine feet away from him. She stopped on her tracks, her long red hair falling behind her, her dirt-smudged and bruised face and her wide brown eyes She gave a small yet frantic nod. She had found the Portkey. Harry loosen his grip of Caleb. Ginny was nearby and she had found their escape. It was time. Harry released Caleb from his grip and without thinking twice, immediately ran towards Ginny. The rain continued to pour, blurring his vision but Harry did not stop. He forced his weary legs to run faster. He was heading straight towards Ginny WhenBAM! Harry stopped in his tracks, his eyes widening in horror. A jet of bright orange light resulted to an exlposion behind Ginny, causing her to vanish from Harrys sight. Thick clouds of dark smoke suddenly enveloped the area and small fires erupted within the fields. His heart pounded violently. GINNY!! The thick clouds of smoke continued to conceal his vision. He couldnt see a flash of red anywhere in the disastrous scene, only smoke and fire. His hands became stone cold.

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GINNY! he cried out again. No answer. A wild manic laugh erupted from behind him. He turned around. Caleb stood straight, hand outstretched, his wand still smoking. The crazed-excited look on his face was disturbingly dementing. He was laughing. Whoops, he said with sarcastic cont empt. Harry swiftly turned around to look, hoping that Ginny would stand up or even hear her voice Nothing. The burning anger raged within Harry. This had to stop. He faced Caleb, gripping his wand tighter than before. Caleb smacked his lips, tasting his own blood. Come and get me, Potter. Letting out a defiant yell, Harry ran towards Caleb, releasing ever nonverbal attack he knew. Every block Caleb made caused Harry to continue attacking, non-stop. STUPEFY! FLIPPENDO! The anger heightened. The smug smile remained on his enemys face. Harry swung his wand with all his might, his fury raging in his veins. REDUCTO! The curse blasted from his wand, sending a fiery jet of yellow, and it hit Caleb squarely in the chest, causing him to be thrown backwards. He landed on his back, mud soaking his long cloak. This is for Ginny! cried Harry as he cast another hex. Caleb lifted his wand and deflected it. SECTUMSEMPRA! yelled Harry with all his might. A roar of pain escaped Calebs lips as he dropped to the ground. A wound had opened near his chest, blood oozing and soaking his mud-covered cloak. He clutched his stomach, wailing in utter pain. Harrys breathing became heavy. No longer can he feel any mercy. He was looking wildly at this traitorthe cause of everything. Caleb spat the blood from his mouth, his eyes mirroring Harrys rage. He gave an angry yell and threw himself upon Harry, causing both of them to collide and fall on the ground.

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Caleb punched Harry in the face, forgetting his wand. Harry retaliated, pushing Caleb off him. He had to escape Calebs clutches. He struggled for release and ended up delivering a blow to Calebs gut. His enemy immediately released his grip but just as Harry was about to leave, Caleb gripped the hem of his shirt. Notso fast! he exclaimed. He pulled Harrry and immediately stood up, punching Harry once again. Harry took hold of Calebs ripped cloak, hoping to throw his enemy off. This is for the Dark Lord! declared Caleb as he kicked Harry i n the knee. Harry fell on his knees, the pain weakening him but he forced himself to stand. STUPEFY! cried Harry. Caleb was thrown off a feet away from him. Harry immediately charged towards where he landed. In his mind, Harry knew this had to end. One of them was not going to survive this battle. But before Harry could reach him, Caleb raised his wand, releasing a jet of blue. Harry, foreseeing this, immediately raised his, causing a jet of red battle with Calebs curse. A thread of connection had once again formed between them. Caleb began to laugh manically once again as he slowly stood up. Harry remained in his position, biting his lip. He cannot lose. He had to win. Caleb had to pay for everything they had done to them. He forced himself to keep his stand. Gripping his wand tighter, Harry began to advance, causing his spell to increase in strength. He could see the jet of red becoming thicker, stronger as he pushed himself. This is for Ginnyhe said to himself. Ginnys face twirled around his head. Her eyes, happy and filled with tearsher lovely porcelain face smudged with blood and dirther sweet bloodied lips on his This He took another step. Is Another step. For He saw Calebs face becoming terrorized. His spell was weakening. He was beginning to lose. GINNY! cried Harry as he pushed his wand, the intensity of his spell reaching the maximum level. The thread was broken. The battle field was enveloped in a mass of red light, an explosion echoed within the area. Strong winds suddenly attacked the surroundings, causing the smoke, fire and dust to envelope the lonely field in Cumbria.

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Harry stood in the middle, dazed and tired. He was taking rapid yet deep breaths as his lungs screamed for air. He was unsteady on his knees as he stood in the smoke covered field. He slowly began to walk, his aching joints forcing him to cry out in pain. He had done it. His weak body felt heavy as he walked but he couldnt help but feel that small sense of relief. His numbing hands and feet caused him to become quite unmindful of his surroundings, but one thing was for sureIt was over. He felt as if he was heavy-laden as he pulled himself together. Harry! The voice had caused Harrys attention to shoot up. He looked upand the joy that followed him was unimaginable. Ginny was on her feet, face ashened and still bruised yet walking. She was alive. She was alright. His face stretched into a small, weak smile as he watched her stand opposite him a few feet away. She was alrightshe was fine. The numbing continued to eat him but it did not stop him from his silent happiness. Ginny he mustered with all his strength. She smiled a tearful smile at him. The mere sight of her was enough to relieve him of the pain. The happiness was there They were going to be together once again and nothing would stop them now. Harry, despite his weakening, could imagine the bliss ahead of them. Suddenly, her smile vanished, replaced with terror. AVADA KEDAVRA! Harry gave a small turn and saw the jet of green light headed his way and the bloodshot raging eyes of Caleb NOOOO! And everything went black.

Chapter 23: XXIII. The End

She clutched the hem of her bloodied shirt tightly. Her eyes, which were usually brown and flashing, were red, bloodshot and rimmed with tears. Her long, flaming red hair matted with blood and dirt, fell on her shoulders.

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A teardrop fell as she struggled to maintain her composure. Her lovely face was betrayed by the grief that had marked her. Why did it have to end like this? It was the very same question she had asked herself over the hours. Every time she asked herself, the heaviness would settle on her heart, causing the tears to spill all over again. She took deep, heavy breaths as she sat there, motionless. She lifted her and to wipe away the tears blurring her vision. As she withdrew her stained hand from her face, she gazed upon it. It was covered with his blood. The tears threatened to fall once again. She was known for being the type of girl who knew how to hold back her tears. She rarely cried. She was not like those usual girls who cried over the smallest of things. It was one of the things he admired about her. But at that moment, her core had been broken. And Ginny Weasley broke down once more. She sobbed quietly, covering her face with her hands stained with Harrys blood. It didnt have to reach this pointit didnt have to end this way The tears continued to flow as she cried. Im so sorry HarryIm so sorry She recalled the look on his face when he stood there after blasting Caleb off. The look of weak exhilliration on his facethe small expression of longingthe feel of his lips She cried harder. Im sorry this had to happen. Im sorry She lifted her face from her hands as she gulped for air. She wished she had never made such a mistake. If only she had given him another chance, if only she hadnt been selfish that night she left him If only she stayed. At the back of her mind, she could hear his voice that night he professed his love to her after three years Its one of the reasons why I can never love Cho, or for any other girl for that matter, he continued, I cant see other girls anymore, Ginny. I dont see them the way I see you. I dont see them the way I see you She straightened up but the tears continued to flow. Crying would not help. A small sound broke her reverie.

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She looked up and saw her brother, Ron, with a solemn and tired expression on his face. He slowly approached her. He could see the compassion on his face once he sighted his sisters grief. Ginny stood up and faced her brother. She bit her lip. She didnt want to cry in front of Ron. She refused to share her sadness. Not with Ron. Not with anyone else. Rons eyes reached out to his sister. Oh Ginny, he murmured as he enveloped her in a tight hug. And that was it. Ginny broke down as she clutched tightly unto her brother. Behind him, Hermione had arrived, her eyes also sprinkled with tears. I love you Harry Potter I love you

Dark. Too dark. He was enveloped in total darkness. His mind was too weak to process this confusion occurring to him. He was disoriented and numb, unable to perceive the things around him. First, he was huddled by silence. The quietness around him was so deafening, he could probably hear a pin drop. Whats going on? He recalled experiencing a searing pain and seeing a vibrant jet of green light headed his way. Jet of green light Could he possibly be dead already? Was he hit by the Killing Curse and was now hovering over some unknown existence? He could not perceive anything, let alone move. He felt as if he was floating in some foreign world He must be dead. But if he was truly deadThen how come he could feel a small bit of pain somewhere in his radius? Ginny Her face blazed in his mind once more. He could only recall blurred images of her. He could still remember how her fingers would caress his skinhow she would look at him with her eyeshow her voice made him want to wake up every single morning What happened to her? Did she escape? It was odd that he couldnt recall anything properly. All he could vision sharply in his mind was Ginny. The darkness continued to loom all over him and the silence remained. He continued to stay afloat.

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Yet somehow, there was a speck of light somewhere out there. The silence slowly broke. Out of nowhere, incomprehensible pain began to crawl all over him. Make it stop, he begged. At that moment, he no longer floated. Bit by bit, the darkness was replaced by tiny specks of light. His senses slowly returned to him. He was no longer numb. A heavy feeling settled in his chest and the soreness in his head became more evident by the second. He could hear whispering sounds somewhere in the darkness. In an instant, flashes of memories erupted in his head. The faces of the people he loved whirled around his head space: Rons face stretched in a grin, Hermiones eyes flashing in alarm, Teddys toothy smile Ginnys lovely face. Small memories began to flood back inside his head, causing friction and an inner war. He wanted to stay afloatbut he was slowly crashing back to reality. The recent events in his life replayed swiftly in his mind. Flashes of green and redthe surge of unexpected pain... Running away Tears on his face Clutching a broken picture of the one girl he ever loved the most Fighting for those he treasured the most. Everything came back to him. His system began booting up. Light began to intrude his once peaceful yet dark solitude. Slowly, his eyes opened. Harry Potter had finally awakened from the darkness. Where am I? It was the first question in his dazed mind. Everything appeared blurred in his vision. He couldnt quite perceive his surroundings. All he could see was walls painted green and what seemed like light puffs of smoke. Besides that, the pain that covered his body distracted him. He blinked once, then twice. The feeling within him was unexplainable. He was disoriented with what was going on. His hand automatically reached for the bedside table. Groping the smooth surface, he was able to feel his glasses. He could feel soreness in his arms as he slowly placed his glasses on his face. Once he

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wore them, he blinked and his vision was clear. A heavy load rested on his head, forcing him to cringe as he tried to move his neck. His hand flew to his forehead where he touched a thick band of cloth wrapped around the radius of his head. Gently pressing it, his eyes cringed once more. That explains the pain His eyes then moved down his arms and saw that both were covered with patches of blue and black, accompanied by healing cuts. Beside him was the magical version of a muggle dextrose, except it was not plugged into his body, rather it was emitting puffs of comforting smoke around him. There was no one in the room. He pushed himself to sit up, the pain in his head and back screaming. He bit his lip. The last time he experienced such pain was at the end of the Battle at Hogwarts. He could feel some stitches on his body and he winced as he managed to sit upright. He took a deep breath. He never knew that sitting up would require so much effort. He raised his hand and rubbed his forehead. As of that moment, his memories were quite hazy. Everything was ablur. Suddenly, he heard the door creak open. He looked up. HARRY! MOTHER OF MERLIN! Before he could utter a word, he was tightly enveloped within Hermiones arms. Thank Merlin, youre awake! she exclaimed, clutching him, We were all so worried. Harry raised his hand to pat her on the back. Im alright, Hermione, Im fine, he croaked. Hermione, dont strangle him! Behind her, Harry saw Ron entering the room, a relieved look painted on his freckled face. Hermione slowly released him and Harry could see her eyes beading with tears. He patted her comfortingly on the back and smiled weakly at her. Hermione returned his smile as she made a step back to allow Ron to move closer towards his best mate. He looked up at a pale and tired-looking Ron. For a moment, guilt settled in Harrys heart. Ron- Before Harry could finish, Ron covered his mouth with his hand. Mate, dont say anything stupid, he said, Were just glad youre safe. He then removed his hand from Harrys face and placed it on his shoulder. It felt so good to see his best mates once again. Without thinking, Harry quickly pulled both of them together and gave them both a hug. He felt Ron rub his back while Hermione planted a kiss on hair of a forest while she cried. He slowly released them. He was truly grateful that he was given the chance to see Ron and Hermione again. It felt like he hadnt seen them in years.

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You gave us quite a scare, Harry, said Ron, You disappearing without a trace caused havoc in the Ministry, not to mention, in our Department. The Auror department has been going haywire since you vanished, added Hermione, And so were a lot of people. Mollys been in such a terrible state, worrying not only about Ginny and also about you. Teddys been crying and Cho has been asking for updates about you. There was a short silence as Harry processed all of this new information. He had absolutely no idea that his vanishment would cause such commotions. He felt his heart wrench at the thought of his godson crying and looking for him and at Mrs. Weasley becoming worried sick for him when he wasnt even her son. Why did you go alone? asked Hermione, You shouldve at least brought someone with you. You knew better than go on and be a hero when you have absolutely no idea with what youre facing! Harry merely shrugged as he adjusted himself on the bed. He chose not to retort at Hermione in annoyance. There were things he wanted to know. He wanted clarity He needed answers. But before he could ask, Ron had answered one of his unspoken questions. Calebs dead, mate, he said, That bloody, two-faced bastard is gone. Caleb The name itself brought back a fleeting image in Harrys mind. He recalled the manic look on Calebs facethe hunger in his bloodshot eyesthe desperation for vengeance for a Dark Lord who would never return. It also brought back another memory. The jet of green light He cringed. Harry, are you alright? asked Hermione in alarm, Do you need anything? Harry began to rub his head. Sorry, its just throbbing, he said. He looked at Ron. Calebs dead? Hhow did he die? asked Harry, The last thing I rememberI was supposed to die. I remember that jet of green light. He was going to kill me. He saw Ron and Hermione look at each other. Ron shoved his hands inside his pockets while Hermione held his hand and a small, tender smile spread on her face. He saw her eyes beaded with tears once more. "Ginny killed him, Harry," answered Hermione, "She managed to get the both of you out of there." His heart stopped. Ginny? Ginny saved me?

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He was unable to speak. Overwhelming emotion flooded his chest. He recalled how fragile and terrified Ginny looked on that night. He said to himself that he would be strong for her, that he wouldnt let anything harm her. It turns out, the opposite occurred between the two of them. Shes been in a state, said Ron, breaking Harrys thoughts. How is she? asked Harry, Where is she? Is she alright? Was she harmed badly? Before Ron and Hermione could answer, the door behind them opened once more. A Healer quickly stepped in, carrying a tray with potions. Im sorry to interrupt but Healer Pittacus insists that Mr. Potter drink his potion and have his rest, she said, He needs to regain the massive amount of strength he lost. Harry wanted to argue. He didnt want Ron and Hermione to leave his side just yet. He wanted them to continue filling him up with everything that he missed, especially information about Ginny. But he had to admit, he was feeling terribly weak and he did needed more rest. Well talk later, Harry, said Ron, Well come back, me and Mione. Well bring you food, added Hermione, And if we can, well bring Teddy along. Hes been dying to see you. Harry leaned back on his pillow. Thatthat would be great, he said, Thanks a lot, guys. Thank you for everything. Ron laughed, Guess that blow in the head made you over sentimental, mate, he said, clasping Harry gently on the shoulder, Well be back. And dont you worry your buttocks over nothing. Hermione leaned down and pecked him on the cheek, Get well, Harry, she said, then she straightened up and took her husbands hand. Bye Harry, said Ron, Get some rest. I will, Smiling at him for one last time, both Ron and Hermione closed the door behind them, leaving Harry with the healer and her smoking potion. Youve got lovely friends, Mr. Potter, said the healer as she handed him his cup. Harry smiled as he took it from her, I knowand Im lucky to have them, he said, before taking a sip. The whiff of fresh air was truly relaxing. Harry took another pleasurable gulp of air. Despite his injuries and wounds, Harry managed to convince the healer-in-charge to allow him to take a walk outside the small garden based behind St. Mungos. He reasoned out that he already had enough rest and he was only becoming more stressed by being cooped up in an empty room. The wind blew on his face ever so gently, making him close his eyes. It felt so wonderful to be alive. He took small steps around the small yard, slightly limping. Despite all the soreness and pains he was experiencing, Harry experienced small comfort by being outside. He felt so lightand so peaceful. The last days became a blur to him; it was as if they never happened. As much as possible, he wanted

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to leave it that way. He craved for the peace he had been longing for. Somehow, he was able to attain it there, in that small garden. But somehow, It also felt incomplete. He was missing something. Harry His closed eyes opened at the sound of the voice that had called his name. He felt the hair on his neck stand Slowly, he turned around. There stood opposite him was Ginny Weasley. Harry found himself gazing at her, staring at her from top to bottom. She was sporting gauze on her forehead and bands on her arms. Like him, she was also covered in scratches and bruises, except she looked a lot better than him. Her flaming red hair hung limply behind her back. He felt as if he could stare at her forever. He found himself speechless at the sight of her. It was as if her mere presence took away the words he was about to say. She was the first one who spoke. They told me Id find you here, she said quietly. Harry gazed at her, mixed emotions rushing within him. Ginny, he said softly. He had this sudden urge to run towards her, to envelope her in his arms. As he moved his legs, the pain erupted once more, forcing him to trip on the grass. Harry! exclaimed Ginny, hurrying towards him. He winced as he felt the sudden pinching soreness in his knees. He felt a small arm wrap around his shoulders and a delicate hand place itself on his aching kneecaps. Careful, said Ginny, kneeling down beside him, Does your knee hurt? Harry found himself looking in her eyes. I wasjust a bit overexcited, he explained. She flashed him a small smile as she wrapped her arm tightly around him and aided him in getting up. As he slowly straightened his back, Ginny brushed his shirt with her hand. She lifted her brown eyes at him. How are you? she asked. IIm quite dazed but Im feeling better, he told her. Anything unbearable?

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Harry lifted his hand and gently patted his head. My heads the only disturbing thing right now. Otherwise, Im slowly recovering, he said, What about you? Are you alright? Ginny shrugged, Few bruises and all but Im a lot better, she said. A short silence hovered between them. Harrys eyes scanned Ginnys face. It was covered with purple bruises and red scratches. He could see her skin lacked the radiant glow she usually wore, rather it was pale and tired-looking. She had also become thinner, due to the fact that she spent more than a week in a shack being tortured and held captive. His heart went out to her. Ginny, he began, I just want to apologize. Im so sorry. Im sorry you got in this messits all my faul- His statement was cut short by Ginnys finger on his lips. Harrydont be ridiculous, she said shortly, another small smile forming on her face. He gently pried away her finger from his lips. But Ginny- Shhh She pulled away from his gentle grasp. For a second, he saw her eyes simply looking at him. The next thing he knew, she was pulling him down, closer to her. Her hands encircled his neck as she gave him a tight and loving hug. Im just bloody thankful youre alive, she whispered in his ear, making him tingle at the feel of her breath. Harry closed his eyes as he buried his face in her sweet-smelling tangle of hair. His arms encircled her tiny waist and remained a firm hold unto her. All the tension he held for weeks was suddenly released as he held Ginny in his arms. You knowwhen Caleb cast that Killing CurseI thought I was going to lose you, she continued, her voice becoming strangled. Her grip on him became tighter. I thought so too, he said, Butwhat happened? Ginny slowly pulled away from him to answer his query. Underneath the moonlight, Harry saw her putting a brave face on. That blow on your head, its my fault. I blasted you away before the curse hit you, Harry, she explained, I couldnt afford to lose you. Calebhes dead. And how did you-? You had no wand. Ginny smiled sheepishly at him, It fell from his ripped cloakI saw it on the ground, she said. Youyou killed him then? he asked. Her smile vanished, replaced by an expression filled with venom.

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Lucky that the bumbling bastard missed me twice. He didnt see that rock coming his way, she said. Harry gazed at her fragile figure. She was incredibly amazing. For her size, she was able to kill a wizard with strength twice as hers. Youre incredible, he told her in awe. She smiled at him, her eyes twinkling like the stars that hovered above them. She lifted her small hand to tuck a stray lock of his hair behind his ear. Youre equally incredible, she told him, You were brilliant back there. We couldve never survived if it wasnt for you. Not really, its you. You killed him, you ended it yourself, he said. Ginny rubbed her arms, her eyes looking at a distance. I had to. I had to end the mistake I did in the first place, she said, I had to right the wrongs I did. She lowered her head, her face quite ashamed. It wasnt only yours, Gin, said Harry, It was also mine. Actually, it was mostly mine. I dont even deserve to stand near you, after everything Ive put you through. I almost got you killed. He felt her small hand envelope his. I almost got you killed too, Harry, she said, And I also made you suffer somehow. He looked at her and saw saw that she was gazing up at the moon and the stars in the sky. Ginny, began Harry, Lets just put all of these, EVERYTHING, behind us. Her head turned to face him, her brown eyes boring through his soul. Lets forget about all these bitter moments, he continued, Stash it all down. What matters iswere alive and were here. He looked at her and their eyes met again. Memories flooded his head. Three years. Its been three years since they drifted apart. Three years since Harry remained motionless in that dark corner, tears streaming from his emerald green eyes, heart breaking after losing the love of his life. Memories of events before this moment raced in his mind. He recalled the first time he saw her again at Ron and Hermiones engagement party; how cold she appeared to himhow her bitterness showed by the way she talked and acted The first time the cold barrier between them was broken; how she got up from her chair, hugging him tightlyfinally forgiving him. Cho re-entering his life, buried emotions reawakened at their encounter. But despite that, he still found himself still hopelessly devoted to Ginny. Hearing her confess to Hermione that she still loved him but was terrified to be sobecause she neve r wanted to experience such pain again

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Sharing that first kiss again under the fairy lights Saving each other from the clutches of Caleb And now this. After everything that happened, after all the commotions, barriers and walls They still found one another. Truly, they belonged to each other and no force on earth pried them apart. Weve been through a lot, he said, recalling every single happening that brought them to that very moment. She let out a small laugh, I guess you can say that. He wrapped an arm around her waist. Everything led to this in the end, he told her. Ginny smiled. Seeing her smile at him made the pain disappear in an instant. She was the only real thing in the world. Ginny. He smiled at her, his eyes never leaving hers. I love you, Ginny Weasley, he said. His heart pounded wildly against his chest as he gazed at her. He would never let her go again Never She touched his arm. I love you too, Harry James Potter, she replied. The joy swelled within Harry. Finally, after years, months and days of being separated from one another They were together once more. Im never letting you go, he said, pulling her closer to him, Stay with mealright? Ginny wrapped her arms around him. The sweet smell of her filled his nostrils. Dont take me for granted again, okay? she asked him. He gazed at her eyes. Never, He spotted a bruise on her face. Lowering forward, Harry kissed that very spot, hoping to make the pain go away. His lips left her cheek. He looked at her for a momenttheir eyes locking, finally confessing the love they held back for three years.

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I love you, he whispered to her sincerely, then he kissed her. The feeling that erupted was better than anything in the world. Better than firew hisky Holding her in his arms, everything felt so right. They were at the right place, at the right time, with the right one. Every single tragedy that occurred became a blur. Ginny never left him. Harry never took her for granted. Everything returned to where they belong. And apparently, they belonged in each others arms. Gently pulling away from him, Ginny smiled at him, her eyes flashing. He grinned at her. Sowhere do we go from here? she asked. Harry thought for a while. They had days, possibly years, ahead of them. Where do they go? Then an idea popped in his head. It widened his grin. What? asked Ginny, looking at him. It was obvious. There was only one thing left to do

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Breakthrough
Ginny,

[INDEX]

The first glance I ever had of you was at Platform Nine and Three Quarters. I was eleven back then and you were just ten and you were with your family to see your brothers off as they leave for Hogwarts. You were crying, longing to join them. The second time I saw you, we officially met. I was twelve and you were eleven, on the brink of finally attending Hogwarts. It was also during that time I learned from your brothers that you fancied me. I cant help but laugh whenever I remember how you ran off to hide when you saw me sitting at your table, how mishaps would happen when I was nearby and how your cheeks would flush and incredible red when we talked. During your first year, I never really gave you that much attention. To me, you were my best friends little sister: fragile and young. We didnt start off as close friends as you would only tot ter quietly behind us or spend time with your fellow first years. When the middle of the term arrived, I saw you become even more distant whenever I was around. I didnt mind of course, because I was occupied with the mishaps occurring because of the Chamber of Secrets. People I knew were becoming victims and even Hermione wasnt spared. But when Ron and I realized that you were the last victim meant to die in the Chamber, it was then my attention shifted to you. I had to save my best friends little sister Being with you during that entire time, striving to get us both alive It only occurred to me now that I was saving myself and the woman who would make my life worth living for. Thank Merlin that I wasnt too late because if I was Half of my life would be missing right now And I wouldnt be looking forward to forever with you

Harry took a deep breath.

He had never been this nervous in his entire lifetime. Birds twittered nearby and people were chattering around him but they all sounded like mindless hums to him. Dont be bloody ridiculous, he told himself, This happens only once in your life. Dont make a mess of yourself. The butterflies in his stomach worsened. He wished he could grasp unto something tight to remove the jitters he was experiencing. But despite all the nerve-wrecking feelings, Harry cant help but feel elated joy. This was the day. This was it. Mate? A hand held his shoulder.

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Harry turned around to face a beaming Ron Weasley, his freckled face ever so familiar. Hey Ron, he greeted, Wheres Hermione? Ron shoved his hands inside his pockets. Shes with Mum. To be honest, I wanna pry her off Mums hands because Mums been doing a lot of hinting these days. If you know what I mean, he said, disgust in his face. Harry had to smile. For two years, Mrs. Weasley has been bugging Ron and Hermione for a grandchild when the couple specifically told her they werent ready yet. Ever since, Molly has not stopped dropping hints to Ron and Hermione, causing Ron to go haywire and Hermione to blush. You better get yourself together, advised Ron, Its starting in a couple of minutes and youre shaking like a complete maniac. I am? asked Harry, looking down at himself. Ron laughed as he gave Harry a friendly smack on the shoulder. Mate, I know its also termed as DDay but trust me, you wouldnt want to be jittery on your own wedding day, he said. Wedding day. The word rung inside Harrys ear like a pleasant melody he would want to hear over and over again. After two years of being reunited again with the love of his life, Harry Potter was minutes away from walking down the aisle and marrying the girl of his dreams. Ginny Weasley. His heart skipped a beat. Its been two years, huh? Rons voice broke his thoughts. Harry saw his best mate looking at a distance, recalling the last two years. Yeah, said Harry, Weve been through a lot. Ron smirked, Yep, breaking up because of Voldemort, getting back together then eventually breaking up because of a promotion, running away and meeting a psychopathic prat who turns out to be a Death Eater and narrowly escaping that very same prat before he hexed the hell out of you, he said, Indeed, both of you have been through a lot. This made Harry laugh but it he couldnt help but look back. Our relationship was never easy from the start. We met and fell in love with different people before we found out that they werent the right one. Eventually, I found you and you found me again. Never in a thousand years had I thought of being with you. You were my best friends little sisternothing else. I was wrong. Those times we had together were the best of my life. It was as if every dark encounter I had with life had been erased because of you. But as much as Id love to say we never had a rift in our relationship, I cant. Because there was that moment when I was certain Id lost you forever and that was because I had taken you for granted. I was too occupied with my job that I failed to notice we were slowly drifting away from each other.

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I let you go. And it was the biggest mistake of my life. You left. Gone for three years. But then you came back and you had someone else with you. Meanwhile, I was still nursing a wound and convincing myself that you didnt matter to me anymore. But as you danced into my life again, I knew I could no longer lie to myself anymore. I knew that there was no one else but you. I thought I was going to have to deal with the fact that you would never be mine as you were already someone elses. The agony I experienced as I watched you in the arms of another bloke was too much. I reckon I was already paying the price for what I did. Little did I know, there was more to that. My mistake had almost gotten both of us killed. I had led you to a trap set up by my own enemy because of my recklessness. Ginny, until now, I am still fervently regretful that it had to happen. And now, I can firmly promise you that it will never happen again, Gin. Never. Because I wont ever take you for granted anymore Places! Places everyone! Hermiones calling voice caught Harrys once detached attention. He turned around to see her in her lovely crimson dress as she arranged the entourage. Hermione was the wedding coordinator/matron-of-honor of the wedding. The role coordinator seemed perfect for her as she busied herself by making the wedding perfect and spotless as much as possible. Harry cringed as he remembered the past months he had to endure her pre-marital lectures. Ron, you forgot your rose! she said as she approached Harry and Ron. Quickly, she tucked the small flower in her husbands dress robe pocket and gave it a pat. You alright, Hermione? asked Harry, You look beautiful in that dress. Hermione blushed as she smiled, Thank you, Harry! But dont think telling me that will keep me from making sure you walk a straight path down the aisle, she said. Harry laughed, Dont worry, Ill watch my feet, he said, then he gazed at both Ron and Hermione, Thanks so much, guys. I wouldve never made it this far without the both of you. Ron clasped his best mates shoulder, Stop being sentimental, Harry. We all knew it was going to end like this, he said, Besides, the best man my sister can ever marry would be her big brothers best mate. Hermiones eyes were already beading tears as she wrapped an arm around Harry. Were so happy for you, Harry, she said as she tried to hold back her tears, You deserve this. Smiling at his two best friends, Harry enveloped them in a hug. I love you guys, he whispered to them. Slowly releasing them, he watched as Ron smiled sheepishly and Hermione wipe away her tears. Being marriedit doesnt change anything, he told them, winking at Ron who gave a laugh.

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Hermione placed her hands on both of their shou lders, Golden trio forever? she asked. Hell yeah! remarked Ron.

The sound of the clock striking three broke them apart. Hermione gazed at her watch and gasped.

Its almost time! she said, Wheres the ring bearer? Harry looked around. Wheres Teddy? he asked, looking for his bright-eyed, 6-year old godson, Dont tell me hes up to something again. Boo! Ron, surprised, almost tripped on his dress robes as Teddy suddenly emerged from behind the big oak tree, a mischievous grin on his face, his brown eyes flashing and hair changing colors. Looking for me? asked Teddy as he laughed. Teddy Lupin, come here this instant, said Harry, beckoning his godson, Its almost time. Where are the rings I gave you? The boy dug in his dress robes, tongue out and eyes looking upward. For a second, Harry feared that his godson might have lost them, knowing that Teddy had a knack of losing valuable things such as wands, glasses and others After much digging, Teddy finally retrieved the rings from his pockets and placed it on the pillow his Aunt Hermione gave him. Harry smiled as Teddy tottered off behind Ron, squirming as he did. He had grown up so much for the past two years. Lets hope he doesnt set the aisle on fire like what he did during Mum and Dads anniversary, whispered Ron, causing Harry to laugh. The clock struck once more. Positions! exclaimed Hermione, Andgo! The music began and the butterflies returned to Harrys stomach. It was already happening. Go on mate, whispered Ron. Harry gazed at the opening of the marquee, knowing that a number of people were inside, waiting for him to arrive. Taking another deep breath, Harry gripped his hands and smiled. He took one step. And then another. Every step I took was leading me to the place where I belonged. I knew Mum and Dad wouldve loved to walk down with me but I had them inside my heart. Just as I always had you.

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As Harry entered the cream-colored marquee set up in the Weasley garden, he was greeted by a number of guests, their eyes directed at him. His lips widened into a smile as he began to walk down the red carpeted aisle. He saw George Weasley, seated on the right, giving him a thumbs-up and a sly wink. His colleagues and the fellow Aurors from the Ministry gave him heart-warming smiles as he walked past them. He also spotted Minister Kingsley Shacklebolt seated down the front of the aisle, giving him an approving nod. Ginnys teammates from the Holyhead Harpies giggled mercilessly as he passed them. His assistant Tyler was grinning widely as he stood near the minister. Near the end was Cho Chang in a beautiful green dress. Her eyes twinkled as she smiled at Harry. Harry returned her smile. For the past years, he had kept close contact with Cho and now, she was one of his and Ginnys closest friends. Harry had finally reached the end of the aisle and stood valiantly as he awaited the arrival of his bride. He placed his hands behind his back so his shaking wouldnt be so evident. He stood in front of a congregation who was about to witness the happiest moment in his entire life. He watched as his best man Ron entered the marquee and made his way. He smiled broadly at the guests and when he reached the end, he positioned himself beside Harry. Still doing fine, mate? he whispered. Harry nodded his head as his lips widened in another smile as he watched his godson come next. Unlike before, Teddy managed fine on his own now. He walked the path quite straight, beaming and charming the mickey out of everyone. He held the satin pillow holding the rings carefully in his hands. Once he reached his godfather, Teddy stood proudly behind Harry, keeping his chin up. Harry laughed as he ruffled his godsons sand-colored hair. The music continued and Harry watched as Fleurs daughter, Victorie, entered, throwing white flower petals in the air and looking as the exact mirror image of her mother. The petals she threw transformed into white butterflies, which began to flutter around the marquee. Following Victorie was Hermione, holding a small basket filled with more petals. Smiling beautifully at the guests, she began to walk slowly. Harry heard Ron give a short whistle as he watched his wife walk down the aisle. Harry sensed that his best mate was recalling his wedding day. He smiled as he recalled that event, remembering that something big had also happened to him on that day. Hermione made her way till she stopped in the middle of the aisle. She smiled joyously at Harry and he saw her eyes twinkling in delight. She took a handful of petals from her basket and threw them in the air. Like Victories, her petals were enchanted. Petals of white and scarlett began to fall from above, covering the marquee delicately. The music swelled. Hermione signaled the arrival of the bride. Harry held his breath as he watched the flap of the marquee open. One thing I was entirely sureI had never witnessed anything so beautiful in my life. So preciousmy heart wrenched at the sight of it.

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Harry was sure his emerald green eyes dilated in happiness the moment he set his sight on her. Clutching the arm of her father, Arthur, and accompanied by her teary-eyed mother, Molly, there at the end of the aisle stood the one and only Ginny Weasley. She was breathtakingly beautiful. Dressed in an immaculately white gown that exposed her delicate shoulders, Ginny made eyes glued unto her and jaws drop. A translucent veil was held by a silver tiara. Her fiery red hair were soft curls draped on her shoulder. In her left hand, she held a bouquet of roses. Her face glowed, brown eyes flashing in excitement. For a moment, Harry forgot to breathe. Wow, he said breathlessly. He felt Ron nudge him. Check your heart, mate, he teased. Harry flashed him a fleeting grin before immediately returning his gaze at Ginny. Butterflies trailed behind her and a shower of rose petals continued. She smiled at him as she walked down the aisle with her parents. Every eye inside the marquee was directed towards her, the beautiful blushing bride. But despite the number of eyes looking at her, Ginnys gaze was directed at one person. Harry. His heart began thumping wildly against his chest as she came closer. Rons little push reminded him to step down from the altar to fetch Ginny from her parents. Stepping down from the altar, Harry found himself face to face with the woman he was about to share forever with. He heard Mrs. Weasleys quiet sobs nearby as Mr. Weasley gave Harry his daughters hand. Take care of her, he said, clasping Harrys shoulder. I will, sir, said Harry politely, nodding at Mr. Weasley. Ginny gave her father a fleeting hug and her crying mother a peck on the cheek before releasing them from her touch. She then turned to Harry. Ready? he asked her, offering his arm towards her. She smiled as her hand wrapped itself on his arm. More than youll ever know.

Finally, all those yearsafter all those sufferings and troubles, We were together. I have died everyday waiting for you, Ginny. Im finally relieved that youre mine now. We're one step closer

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in this magical union between two faithful souls, namely, Harry James Potter and Ginvera Molly Weasley, said the minister in a melodious tone, May we request the bride and groom to face one another for the vows and slip on their ri ngs? Harry turned to face Ginny, his hand tightly clasping hers. Harry, you may begin declaring your vows to Ginny and to the rest of the congregation, said the minister. Harry took a deep breath as he glanced at the minister and smiled. His eyes returned to Ginny, who awaited his vows. He had memorized them in his head but more importantly, Harry had branded them in his heart. Ginny Weasley, he began, Merlin knows Im not perfect and there would be a time I would forget these words I say but when I do, always remember that in my heart, I know them. I just forgot. Ginny smiled at him. He could see the tears beading in her eyes. Ginny, I promise to be a caring and supportive husband to you. I promise to stand by your side whenever you need me the most. I cant promise you that I wouldnt be a pain in the arse, though but I can promise you that I will try my very best not to annoy you, especially when youre holding a Beater bat, he said. Laughter rang out inside the marquee. Ginny, despite the tears, managed a smile. Harry went on. I swear that Ill always be with you, in sickness or in pain, for better or for worse. I will never let you go, never again. Im scared to death to think of what would happen if you leave me. I promise that I will value you as you should be. You will be the only witch in this world wholeheartedly Ginny. The only one, he said. I wont allow any force on this planet to hurt you or our future family. I will protect you, believe me, he continued, Because I love you. Always have and always will He could hear the sobs of Mrs. Weasley and Hermione nearby. He simply smiled down at Ginny, whose eyes were shinning as he slipped the ring on her finger. Those vows came from the heart, Gin. Believe me when I say that. Because you know that I meant every word. Ginny, you may now say your vows to Harry in front of this congregation, said the minister. Harry saw her inhale deeply before she smiled at him. Her brown eyes twinkled in excitement and at the same time, were beaded with tears. Obviously, he was not the only one joyful in this occasion. Harry James Potter, she began, Im not perfect either but you would also have to always remember that the words I will tell you are true and written in my heart. He nodded. I promise to be a loving wife to you, Harry. There will be moments when I would be annoyed with you and would want to chase you with a broomstick, the guests laughed, But remember that despite all that, I still love you. Even if were at each others necks or when we have rows, I still love you. I will never leave your side. I will always support you and be there whatever the condition is. her eyes sought him as she smiled, I promise to love you as long as Im alive, Harry

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Forever and always Harrys heart had never pumped harder in his entire life. As Ginny slipped the ring on his finger, he cant help but feel exhilarated and excited for his piece of forever May I request Harry and Ginny to join hands? asked the minister. Still facing one another, Harry and Ginny held each others hands. The minister pointed the tip of his wand atop their joined hands and a golden thread emerged, enveloping their hands. Harry Potter, he began, Do you take Ginevra Molly Weasley as your lawful wedded w ife, in sickness and in pain, in delight and in curse, for better or for worse, till death do you part? I do. The thread on Harrys hand strengthened in color and sparked. He saw a tear roll down Ginnys delicate cheek. Ginny Weasley, said the Minister, Do you take Harry James Potter as your lawful wedded husband, in sickness and in pain, in delight and in curse, for better or for worse, till death do you part? Harry felt Ginnys hold on his hand tighten. I do, she said. Her end of the thread glowed brightly. The minister smiled at them. By the power vested in me by the Ministry of Magic, I now declare you bonded for life His wand emitted sparks that flew above the newly wedded couple, exploding and showering them with twinkles. You may kiss the bride. Harry gleefully smiled at Ginny as she let out a sweet laugh. Carefully, he lifted the veil, revealing her lovely, porcelain face. Her eyes were shinning like round marbles as she smiled. Oy! Get on with it! came Rons voice. Laughing, Harry immediately leaned towards Ginny, sharing the sweetest kiss in his entire lifetime. The guests burst into loud applause. Harry heard Hagrid blow noisily into his giant handkerchief and George wolf-whistling. Teddy was yelling at the top of his lungs while Mrs. Weasley sobbed into her husbands arms. Cho wiped away happy tears as she clapped her hands. Cheers and applause filled the entire marquee as the newlyweds shared their much-awaited kiss. Minutes later, they broke apart. Ginny was grinning manically as she laughed and placed an arm around his waist and her hand on his chest. He wrapped an arm around her shoulder as they smiled at their applauding audience. Harry lowered his head so that his forehead was touching hers. He looked deeply into her brown eyes. I love you, he said. She smiled at him. They seemed oblivious to the booming applause of their guests. I love you too, she said, This is the happiest day of my life.

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He kissed her forehead. Every day with you would be the happiest days of mine Then with a swift move, he lifted Ginny off her feet, their lips meeting once again. The crowd broke into another boisterous applause as Harry and Ginny shared another kiss filled with love and passion. And now, were here. After more than ten years filled with tremors, wrong love affairs and such, we finally found our bliss. As I gaze at you, I cant help but feel a great sense of relief that I wasnt too late in saving you from that Chamber. I feel grateful that we got out alive from the Battle of Hogwarts and we both escaped the clutches of Caleb. To think that so many things could have happened Youre here. We both are. And Im forever grateful. Harry did not take his eyes off her slender shoulders as he watched her sleep opposite him. He had been awake for an hour now. Refusing to wake Ginny up, he resolved to silently talk to her as she slept. Gently, he ran his hand over her soft skin. His fingers played with her long, flaming red hair. It had been a day since they got married and the euphoria still hasnt worn off. Her eyes were closed and she snored silently as Harry continued to watch her. After all they have been through, he felt as if he could watch her forever. For a moment, he was suddenly reminded of that 11-year old girl he first met at the Burrow. Those little hands, her blushing cheeks mimicking the color of her hair, those wide, brown eyes All those years he had known Ginny, he had seen her in different lights. He witnessed her grow up before his very eyes. Before, he had taken her for granted, only knowing her as his best friends little sister. Eventually, he came to see her as the girl of his dreams. Now, she was his wife. Everything fell into perfection. Ginny suddenly moved, her eyes slowly opening, only to see Harry gazing at her. She smiled sleepily at him. Whats on your mind? she asked him. Harrys fingers traced her arm. Im just glad that everything worked out for the best, he told her.

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She let out a small laugh. Im glad that my 11-year old dream came true, she said. Whats that? She touched his face. That the good great Harry Potter would come to notice little Ginny Weasley, she said. With that, Harry gave her another kiss One of the numerous kisses they will share forever

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