Chapter 5. Grey clouds
Life at the Burrow went back to normal in the next couple of days. Harry still stayed there every night, wanting to spend as much time as possible with Ginny. Ginny began wondering what she wanted to do once the summer holidays were over; she had received her final N.E.W.T. scores and had done quite well. She had been thinking about training to become a Healer, she felt really good about helping people. But after everything that had happened in the last month she needed some more time to decide. Her mother supported her in this and assured her that she could stay at the Burrow for as long as she needed.
Ginny and Harry were spending a lot of time together; whenever Harry was not at Quidditch practice, they would be somewhere around the Burrow. They would sit and talk about various things: sometimes Ginny would open up about what had happened that day and how she felt about the whole thing. Harry was very happy that she did this and every time he would try and be really encouraging so she would keep opening up more and more.
On July 31st Harry woke up with a start as he suddenly felt something heavy plop down on him. As he tried to get his bearings without his glasses on, he could make out the shape of a giggling redhead lying half way across his upper body.
“Morning, birthday boy,” Ginny whispered in his ear and kissed him on the cheek, and then she lifted herself up a bit so she could look down at him.
“Mm, what a nice way to be woken up,” Harry smiled. “But don’t I get a proper birthday kiss, I mean it’s not every day a bloke turns 18, and happens to have the most beautiful girlfriend in the world laying in his bed.”
Even without his glasses on Harry could see that Ginny blushed deeply and tried really hard to hide it. When she had composed herself a bit she looked him straight in the eyes and smirked at him.
“Well, since you’re obviously just trying to butter me up I don’t thing that remark will earn you any kiss, my dear Harry.” And then she quickly jumped of his bed and walked towards the door.
Even though Harry had just woken up he was still able to quickly get out of bed and reached his cheeky girlfriend before she reached the door. Ginny squealed with surprise when she was suddenly grabbed from behind.
“Oh no, you don’t get away that easy, Ms. Weasley. You don’t just walk out on me without giving me a proper birthday kiss. Don’t I deserve a birthday kiss?” Harry asked, and holding her tight against himself.
Ginny managed to turn around in his arms and tried to put on a stern face, at which she failed miserably and with a giggle she said, “Who says that you deserve anything?”
Harry just raised one eyebrow and gave her a lopsided smile, which made her feel like she was looking at a self-satisfied cat that just caught the mouse. Without a word Harry bent down and let his lips linger on her mouth, not moving them at all. Ginny moaned in response, wishing that he would do more. When she raised her hands up in his hair, Harry yielded to her request and opened his mouth to hers.
They were both so lost in each other that they never heard Ron enter the room.
“Hey! Knock it off, you two! Mum’s waiting for the birthday boy to arrive at the breakfast table, so you two better get yourself together and head down there.”
“Oh Ron, you’re such a spoilsport. Can’t a girl give her super handsome boyfriend a good and proper birthday kiss?” Ginny huffed.
Harry turned away, trying to hide the blush that crept up his neck. There was no need for Ron to see that.
“Okay Gin, that is way too much information. I don’t need to hear what you think of my best mate. Just get down before mum comes up here to get you two.” With that Ron turned around and walked downstairs.
Reluctantly they both decided that they better join the rest of the family downstairs. When they reached the kitchen Harry was shocked to find not only the entire Weasley family but also his old schoolmates and his former professors Dumbledore, McGonagall and Hagrid (who had had to sit on the floor or else he would never be able to fit into the Burrow’s kitchen, even though it was magically enlarged to hold so many people).
“SURPRISE!” everyone shouted, and then a chorus of off key singers began singing a birthday song. Harry just smiled at everyone and wished that all the attention would be turned away from him. He never really liked getting attention from a lot of people. But these were all people that he loved and cared for and that made it somewhat bearable.
After the song had ended everyone came over and congratulated him, and when the Weasley twins got their turn they couldn’t help but say, “Hey Harry, why did you take so long getting down here to celebrate your birthday?”
“I wonder if he was too busy snogging our little sister, my dear brother,” the other twin put in. This was all said so loud that every person was able to hear it. This made Harry blush even more and he just wished that not everyone had heard them, but the sniggering and cheerful laughter that came from everyone told him otherwise.
“Boys, leave him alone,” Mrs. Weasley said and shooed them away from Harry. Harry felt Ginny gently take his hand, silently giving him her support. She knew that her brothers could be a pain at times, but she also knew that Harry had known them long enough to know that they only meant well for him.
Breakfast turned out to be a large birthday celebration, which took place out in the backyard. Harry was happy to have a chance to catch up with his old schoolmates, some of whom he hadn’t seen for quite awhile. They had all scattered around to do various jobs all over England.
The celebration lasted till late in the afternoon, and everyone had a good time. When all of the guests had left Ginny and Harry both needed a break, and excused themselves and went for a walk together. They ended up at the pond. There they sat down with their feet dangling in the shallow water.
Ginny lay back and stretched out on the ground.
“Hmm, this has been a great day, don’t you think? It was mum’s idea to invite all your friends and old professors.”
“Yes, it was a great surprise. I must remember to thank your mum when we get back.” Harry looked down at Ginny, and instantly felt himself drawn to her as she lay there on the ground with her arms stretched above her head and eyes closed.
Within seconds Ginny felt Harry lean over her, and she opened her eyes and gave him a satisfied smile, and raised her hands and pulled him towards her mouth. Their mouths met in a slow dance of love, and something more, a hidden promise of a future together.
Ginny felt Harry’s mouth move against hers, and she opened up to let his tongue gently caress her own. Her fingers glided through his jet black hair, pulling him closer. Harry only let himself be pulled closer and leaned his upper body against hers. His hands gently skimmed over her arms and reached lower to her abdomen, where he found a bit of her exposed skin. His fingers caressed her skin and without thinking much about it he let his hand explore further up under her shirt. Ginny was wrapped up in a cocoon of swirling emotions, she needed to be close to him, but couldn’t help but tense up as she felt his seeking hands on her upper abdomen, just below her breast.
“I love you Angel, you know that right?” Harry whispered against her lips. Ginny could only nod and say “hmm” and then she pulled him down for another kiss.
After several minutes of passionate kissing, Harry felt bolder and let his hand travel further up. When his hand touched her breast, she first moaned his name, but suddenly she felt herself descend into a grey cloud that she had once hoped to have been rid of forever. The grey cloud gripped her beating heart and held it in a vice, and suddenly she couldn’t breathe, and when she opened her eyes she saw black dots before her. She felt like she was choking when she croaked, “Harry, please stop. PLEASE. STOP!”
It took several seconds before Harry noticed the pleading in her voice, and then he slowly pulled away. When he looked down at her he was shocked to see large tears running down her cheek, and her lips still voicing a silent plea for him to stop.
“Angel, what’s wrong?” Harry felt his heart beat a little faster, not knowing what was wrong with her. He reached up and brushed a stray lock of hair away from her face.
“Don’t touch me. Just don’t…” Her voice trailed of and she pushed him away, and cried, “Leave me alone…” then she scrambled to her feet and ran straight to the house.
Harry was too shocked to fully understand what had happened, but he ran after her and when he got to her he grabbed her arm and stopped her. But before he could even ask her anything she had hit his face and screamed, “I told you to leave me alone, I can’t do this anymore, I just can’t…”
An even more shocked Harry just stood there watching his girlfriend run crying away from him. He ran a shaking hand through his hair, and tried to figure out what had gone wrong. With all the mixed emotions running through him he didn’t see Hermione before he practically walked right into her.
“Oh, sorry Hermione, I didn’t see you there.” Harry didn’t even look at her, but began walking towards the stairs. But Hermione stopped him.
“Harry? Did you and Ginny have a fight? I just saw her run crying up to her room.”
“No we didn’t, we were just, well you know, down at the pond… and we were… well… and then she suddenly started crying and then hit me and I don’t really know why.”
“Oh I see. Do you want me to go up and talk to her?” Hermione put a calming hand on Harry’s arm.
“Well I guess you could try, as it seems right now she hates me, for some strange reason. I don’t really know what went wrong… I mean one minute we were having a good time… well you know kissing, and such,” at this Harry blushed, “and then she suddenly started crying.”
Hermione smiled ruefully at his attempt to hide the fact that they might have been doing a bit more than kissing, but she didn’t comment on it. She just patted his arm and walked up the stairs to talk to Ginny.
Taking a deep breath Hermione knocked on Ginny’s door.
“Please Harry I don’t want to talk to you right now, please just leave me alone!” Ginny said with a teary voice.
“It’s Hermione, could I please come in? I think you do need to talk about this, I just want to help you,” Hermione answered and tapped the door once more. When Ginny didn’t reply she tried again. “Ginny please let me help you, you might not want to talk about this with Harry, but I want to help you and try to understand what this is all about. I know that Harry is really confused about all of this, please let me help you. Harry is still downstairs; he won’t come up here unless you want him to.”
After a few moments Hermione could see the door opening slowly and a red-eyed Ginny peeked out at Hermione. She looked like a frightened little child, and Hermione could see that she looked behind her, to make sure Harry really wasn’t there.
Ginny opened the door to let Hermione into her room. Then she walked over to her bed and sat down leaning against the wall with her knees pulled up to her chin. She had picked up a ratty old stuffed rabbit and was absentminded plucking at its ears.
Hermione slowly walked over to her and moved a chair in front of the bed, sitting down right in front of the girl that she had become better and better friends with over the last couple of years. She was a girl after all, and Ginny had given her the girly friendship every girl needed and that Harry and Ron could never give her. Hermione didn’t know where to start so she just sat there for a moment giving Ginny the time she needed.
After several minutes of silence Hermione slowly reached out and stilled Ginny’s hands, which were still plucking the fur on the stuffed rabbit. Ginny looked up at Hermione and saw the million questions in her friend’s eyes. And Ginny knew that she could trust Hermione to understand how she felt, and hopefully she would understand what she wanted to do about it.
“I don’t know what happened… well I sort of know… but I just don’t know how to deal with it… I just can’t be here right now…” Ginny began slowly.
“What do you mean? Why can’t you be here?” Hermione asked with concern. Surely Harry hadn’t done anything horrible to her. She knew that they were in love, so how could it end up like this?
“Please tell me what happened.”
“I just don’t know if I’ll ever be able to… well I don’t know how to put it, but you know, be with someone ever again. I fear that the clouds will overtake me and never let me see the sun again, never let me be happy with someone ever again.” Ginny let her head drop to her knees and silently started crying again.
“Oh Ginny, please don’t think like that, I know Harry really loves you and he would do anything to make you happy in every possible way,” Hermione tried to comfort her crying friend.
“How can I ever be with him when every time he touches me I go cold and freeze up? I just need time for myself and that is so difficult when everyone is around me all the time. I just can’t…”
Hermione suddenly understood what some of Ginny’s problem was.
“I think I know what you mean.” Hermione paused for a moment, trying to find the right words so Ginny wouldn’t misunderstand her. “You still feel reluctant about being with Harry when it comes to… well you know… more than kissing.”
“Hmm, deep down I know that Harry loves me and I still get butterflies in my stomach every time he kisses me. But this time something inside me snapped when he… well you know… when we went a little further than kissing.” Ginny took a deep breath and looked at her friend. Here she only saw understanding and compassion for what she was going through.
“I understand how you feel, but I don’t know if I can help you work this through. Maybe that psychologist woman can help you?” Hermione said and put a comforting hand on Ginny’s knee.
Ginny shook her head and said, “I don’t think she can help me anymore. Well she helped me work through everything, and we had even talked about… you know… my relationship with Harry and all that. I just don’t think that’s enough, I need time for myself to think everything through.”
“What do you mean by yourself, where would you go?” Hermione inquired.
“I thought that I could go somewhere to just be by myself. I’m thinking about going to Lands End. When we were kids we sometimes went there on holidays. And it’s really not that far away you know, but I need to go. Please understand that I really need to be by myself for awhile. And please let everyone understand that too.”
“What! Are you just going without saying goodbye?” Hermione exclaimed when she understood what her friend was saying.
“Yes, I don’t know if I can do this with everyone tearing up when I tell them, least of all my mother and not to mention Harry. I don’t know if he would understand really. But please help me out here. I need to go,” Ginny begged.
Hermione was torn between scolding her friend for doing such a crazy thing and obeying her request, but after thinking it over for a while she could see that Ginny really needed this. And maybe, just maybe, this would help her finally get over all of this. She could only pray and hope that it would.
Hermione took in a deep breath and said, “Well, I can’t say that I fully support the idea of running away in the middle of the night. But I can also see that this is something that you have to deal with in your own way. And if that includes you going away for awhile then so be it. But promise me that you’ll write and tell how you are once in awhile.”
“I will, I promise. And thank you for being so understanding.” Ginny rose and gave Hermione a big hug.
Then Ginny walked over to her desk and pulled out some parchment and a quill and sat down to write two short letters, one for Harry and one for the rest of the family. She just hoped that they would understand her reasons for taking some time off on her own.
Hermione stayed in her room, looking at her friend chewing on the end of the quill, pondering what to write in the letters. She really hoped that the rest of the family would understand. She did understand, and knew that her friend needed this time for herself to figure out what had happened and what would and should happen with the rest of her life.
When Ginny finally finished writing the letters she gave them to Hermione.
“I’m sorry to leave you in the hot spot with the wrath of my family, especially my mother. She will probably be the one screaming, and crying, the loudest. But I will be back, just remember that. And I have tried to explain my reasons in these letters.”
“Don’t think too much about it, I’m sure they’ll understand once they see your letters. Just be careful out there and take care of yourself.” Hermione hugged her only real female friend and when she did, she felt small tears prickling in the back of her eyes.
“Oh Hermione, don’t cry, I’ll be just fine, really I will. Take care of Harry for me; I don’t know how he will react,” Ginny soothed and gave Hermione a weak smile.
“I will. You know I will always be there for you.” Hermione hugged Ginny once more.
After a few moments Ginny started packing the things she thought she would need for her trip. When she was done she hugged her friend once more and with a pop she Apparated away from the Burrow.
Hermione looked at the clock and saw that they had been there for over four hours, and it was now almost one o’clock in the morning. She silently walked downstairs, where she found Harry sleeping on the couch with his head lolling back, and snoring silently. She smiled at the innocent look on his face, but also felt pain for her other best friend. She knew that he would not take the news lightly when he heard that his girlfriend had taken off in the middle of the night, and that she had helped her do it. Hermione sighed and pulled a comforter over Harry and left him to his sleep. Then she walked up to Ginny’s room and went to bed herself.
As she lay in her bed she pondered what the next day would bring of tears and pain when they realized what Ginny had done, and that she, ‘Hermione-the-girl-who-(almost)-always-stuck-by-the-rules’ had helped her do it.