Ginny trailed after Harry as he headed down the corridor, her head spinning and her heart in turmoil. She now better understood his tortured soul, but where did she stand with his revelation that he had once been to heaven and the appearance of the pearlescent door? As they drew nearer, the golden light streaming from around the edges of the silvery white door filtered out into the darkness surrounding them, creating a strange corridor of light they were walking down. He had said heaven was on the other side of the door, and Ginny wondered when he opened it and entered, if she would be allowed to follow him. Fred could be waiting on the other side, and she would like the opportunity to see him once again. But, she had not died, as Harry had once before, and unlike him, aside from Fred, everyone else she loved, Ron and her remaining brothers, her parents, Neville, Luna, and Hermione were all still alive and well. She had no reason to cross-over, save to follow Harry.
He had been so close to becoming hers. They had become closer in the few days they had known each other. She had felt a bond forming between them and even now, within sight of the beautiful door, she felt more drawn to him than to it. She was still uncertain what her feelings for him were or what they meant, but she was certain that if she allowed him to walk through that doorway without at least trying to stop him, she would regret it for the rest of her life.
She needed to tell him how she thought she was feeling, but would it be enough? He was convinced that all the people he had ever loved or had loved him were waiting just beyond that door, and perhaps he was right. How could Ginny hope to compete with that when all she could offer him was the idea and the potential hope of lifelong love with her? Without being able to see his or her futures, she could not guarantee that what was blossoming between them was true and lasting love. What if it was only infatuation, and Harry gave up heaven for her, only to have both his and her hearts crushed later? Could she ask that of him? Dare she?
"Harry!" she called, reaching out and touching him on the arm just as he was preparing to turn the golden knob. "Please, wait!"
He paused to look down at her hand upon his arm. Ginny looked down as well to see golden tendrils of light from her aura swirling out of her fingertips to mingle with the silvery white of his. She slid her hand down his arm to link her fingers with his, noting how natural the gesture felt and how perfectly her smaller hand fit with his.
“Can we talk about this?” she asked, eyeing the gleaming door uncertainly.
“I have to see if it’s still really there,” he explained. “I’ve been searching for so long, Ginny.”
“Why, Harry?” she asked. “Why have you been searching for so long? Wasn’t there anything in this life worth living for?”
“Not at the time, no,” he answered. “When I woke up I was still in that clearing, surrounded by Death Eaters, Ginny. Not the best circumstances to wake up to when you're still in pain and groggy from a Killing Curse and reeling from being cast out of heaven.”
“Oh, Harry,” Ginny sighed, her imagination running away with what may have transpired when he awoke. “How awful.”
Harry shook his head. “It’s not worth worrying about now. Suffice it to say my mother sent me back to a life chasing after Death Eaters and their like.”
“But after the war,” she began. “Surely, you could have pursued something else.”
“What?” Harry asked. “Defeating Dark Lords was all I was ever trained for. I don’t know how to do anything else. My life on earth is dark and depressing, and the few moments I spent in heaven have become nothing more than the stuff of dreams. I was beginning to wonder if it was even real. Maybe none of it ever happened. I thought I was going to go insane not knowing, Ginny. Now, I’ve been given this chance to find out for sure, and I can’t pass it up.”
He’d admitted to searching a long time and Ginny recalled the rumour Neville had mentioned that Harry made a habit of visiting seers. A cold lump of doubt formed in her belly. What if nothing between them had ever been real, and everything she thought she was feeling was hinged on his deep-seated need to find out the truth about heaven.
“Is that why you visited seers?” she questioned. “So they could help you return here?”
“Yes and no,” he answered. “I was hoping they could prove to me that I hadn’t imagined it. That it was real.”
“Is that all I was for you?” Ginny asked, angry tears pricking her eyes. “A conduit?”
Harry’s green eyes widened in alarm and he genuinely looked stricken. “Ginny, no! Is that what you think? That I used you? I would never do that. I’ve been more honest with you than anyone I have ever met.”
The obvious hurt in his eyes made her feel extremely small. How could she have doubted him, even for an instant? He had taken a curse for her; sacrificed his spectral self, not knowing what it would do to him. Of course he hadn’t used her. He’d never initiated anything with her. If anything, she had been the one to press attempting to read him. He had never suggested they form the meditation circle to find Dennis; that had been all her idea, and Harry had strongly expressed his apprehension in attempting it.
Ginny realized that by the time he had met her, he had become too jaded to even hope she would turn out to be any different from the other seers he had encountered in the past. It had all been by chance and here they were, standing at the edge of the unknown, and she was allowing her sudden insecurity in the presence of the door to cloud her better judgement.
“No, I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I’m just confused and I thought…” She stopped, unwilling to tell him what she thought for fear she would look foolish.
“You thought what?” he asked, ducking his head down to see her face better.
She couldn’t help but look into his eyes, which were full of concern, and that look broke the dam within her.
“I thought there was something between us,” she confessed.
“I thought so, too,” he revealed. “I still do, but Ginny, please try to understand. I have to see if they are still there, waiting. I have to see if it is real. Aren’t you curious to know the truth?”
She tore her eyes away from his to gaze at the door which glowed like a beacon. She wasn’t going to be able to stop him, and she was curious. Perhaps she’d be able to briefly cross-over.
“Will you come with me?” Harry asked, clasping her hand tighter.
“Yes,” Ginny simply replied.
Smiling, he turned the knob and it swung open revealing a large rustic sunroom with scrubbed knotty pine floors and tall windows that looked out on a lush vale ablaze with light. A pair of glass-paned French doors opened onto a winding path that led through a bright green forest of evergreens, ashes, oaks, and maples. The ground was covered in vibrant green grass and dotted with purple and white clover flowers and a small stream trickled to the right of the path and disappeared amongst the trees.
The sunroom was decorated with simple sofas with thick, pale blue cushions set along the windows on either side so occupants could sit and enjoy the beautiful view. A glass-topped table sat in the centre of the room, around which six wrought-iron chairs were arranged.
Ginny and Harry paused in the doorway, staring at the three people standing just beyond the table, two of which Ginny had never seen before. A woman of average height with dark auburn hair and brilliant green eyes stood clasping the hand of a man who bore a striking resemblance to Harry save his hazel eyes. Beside them stood the very familiar stocky figure of Fred. His red hair blazed in the sunlight streaming in through the windows, and his face split in a wide grin at the sight of her, his blue eyes crinkling at the corners.
“Fred?” she gasped, staring in amazement at her brother.
“Hello, Ginny,” he beamed. Letting Harry’s hand go, she ran around the table to embrace her long lost brother.
“I can’t believe you are really here!” she exclaimed, hugging him tightly.
Fred chuckled in her ear as he twirled her around before setting her down to take measure of her. “You’ve grown powerful, little sister. You finally managed to transcend to the heavenly plane – with some help, I see.” He looked over at Harry, who still stood in the doorway. “James and Lily have told me a lot about you, Harry. It’s nice to meet you.”
“You, too,” Harry cautiously replied, taking a step into the room.
“Welcome back, son,” the man, who must be his father said. “We’re glad to see you.”
“You know each other?” Harry asked in confusion.
“We became close not long after Fred arrived,” the auburn-haired woman said and smiled over at Ginny. “I’m Lily and this is James,” she indicated her husband. “It’s so nice to finally meet you, Ginny. Thank you for bringing Harry back.” Her eyes sparkled with unshed tears, and letting go her husband's hand, she bridged the distance between herself and her son to pull him in a tight embrace. James followed, placing his arms around them both.
“They’ve missed him, you know,” Fred softly said in Ginny’s ear, his arm slung affectionately over her shoulder. “I’ve missed you, too. Aside from George, you always appreciated my jokes the most.”
She shook her head. “I’m confused, Fred. How do you know Harry’s parents?”
“I met them not long after I arrived here,” he explained. “Seems we have a lot in common.”
“What?” she asked.
“You and Harry,” he replied matter-of-factly.
“I don’t understand,” she said in frustration.
“It’s easy, sister of mine,” Fred soothed, and she smiled at his term of endearment. “We’re all one big happy family.”
His blue eyes twinkled merrily at her response. “It’s all I can say, Ginny. I have probably said more than I should. They’re much more subtle about it.” He nodded over to where James and Lily were embracing their son. “They are hoping Harry will figure it out on his own.”
“Figure what out, Fred?” Ginny pressed.
“That he still doesn’t belong here,” her brother answered. “He can stay this time if he wants to. His parents would love it if he decided to remain behind, but they’re hoping he’ll choose to return with you.”
“Why? He just told me he’s been searching for heaven for a long time,” she informed her brother.
“I know that,” he said, “but, do you think he should stay, Ginny?”
She shook her head. “It doesn’t matter what I think. Like you said, it’s up to him to decide.”
Fred studied her a moment. “What do you truly want him to decide?”
Ginny bit her lip and looked over at her brother. He looked just as he had before he had died, healthy and whole. “I've missed you so much," she said wistfully. "We all have. What’s it like here?”
“Heavenly,” Fred quipped and she punched him on the arm. He winced and rubbed his shoulder. “I see you still pack a mean punch, little sister.”
“I didn’t think you could feel pain in heaven,” she stated.
“You can’t,” he said with a grin. “I was just pretending that hurt. All the same, I can tell you haven’t changed much. Just grown up to be quite a stunning young woman.”
Ginny blushed at his compliment. “Thanks, Fred. You haven’t changed a bit. You look the same as you did six years ago.”
“Heaven is timeless, Ginny,” he responded. “I’ll always be this handsome devil you see before you.”
“I hope so,” she said, pulling him into another tight hug. “Will Harry be happy here?”
“Yes,” her brother answered, “but I think he could be just as happy on earth, if not more so. You never answered my question. What do you want him to decide?"
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to explore whatever is between us,” Ginny admitted. “I would like him to choose me, but I can’t take him away from what he has been searching for, especially since I don’t know what exactly is between us.”
“Harry thinks he’s been searching for heaven, but what he’s really looking for, Ginny, is love,” Fred informed her.
She looked over to where Harry's mother still held him in a tight embrace, her dark auburn hair shining brightly against his navy robes. His father stood next to them, speaking to them both in hushed tones, so all she could make out was a faint murmur. Harry's eyes were closed, his arms wrapped around his mother's back as he absorbed her love.
“Looks like he’s found it,” she commented.
“Looks can be deceiving,” her brother wryly observed and gently steered her towards the small family and within ear-shot of their conversation.
“You’ve grown even more handsome. So much like your father,” Lily said, pulling out of the embrace to gently take Harry’s face in her hands. “I’m so glad to have this opportunity to see you again.”
“I’ve wanted to come back ever since I left,” he said with some hint of bitterness, and his mother nodded in agreement to his statement.
“I know,” she whispered. “Please forgive me. I only have always wanted what was best for you.”
“Sending me back to a world full of despair was best for me?” Harry incredulously asked, pulling away from his parents.
“Are you still despairing, Harry?” she responded studying him closely. “Haven’t you found what you were missing on earth?”
“We’d hoped you would by now,” his father added.
"All of your searching brought you to Ginny, did it not?" Lily queried and looked over at where their observers stood before directing her next question to Ginny. "Do you believe that Fate guides us on the paths we take?"
"I believe Fate guides us, presenting us with options, and it is our right to choose," Ginny replied.
Lily nodded. “A case brought you together and you chose to help Harry with it, even though that was something you thought you would never do again.”
“Yes,” she slowly said. “How do you know that?”
“Time moves differently here,” James answered. “It ebbs and flows. We can see the past, present, and future when we so choose.”
“Have you seen our futures?” Ginny asked, looking between the three heavenly occupants.
“Your futures are still uncertain,” Lily said, her eyes looking troubled as she gazed at her son. “Harry, now that you are here, are you content to stay with us?”
“I’m not sure,” he answered. “I’ve spent the past six years trying to return here, but now…” He glanced over at Ginny.
“But now, what?” his mother pressed.
“I would have liked to have seen where Ginny might have taken me,” he admitted, and Ginny’s cheeks flamed with pleasure at his admission.
“Me, too, Harry,” she whispered.
“Harry,” Lily said softly. “Why did you appear in front of Dennis’ Cutting Curse, preventing it from hitting Ginny?”
“Because,” he said still staring over at Ginny.
“Because why, son?” James asked, urging Harry on with his words to be truthful.
“Because I couldn’t bear the thought that you might be hurt in any way,” he said quietly, moving away from his parents to stand before her. She looked up at him expectantly.
“I think I might be falling in love with you,” Harry softly said, “Will you stay with me so we can find out?”
His green eyes were pleading and she knew he was fearing her rejection. She wanted to say yes to him more than anything, but she felt as if her heart was being torn in two. Fred and Harry were here, but all of the rest of her family and friends were still on the mortal plane, alive and well. To leave them behind without so much as a final farewell seemed more than she could bear.
“Oh, Harry, I already know I’ve fallen for you, too, but I can’t stay,” Ginny stated, tears stinging her eyes as he deflated before her. “I don’t belong here – not yet.” She looked over at Fred. “Mum, Dad, Ron, and all the others…”
“Would be devastated, Ginny,” he finished for her. “You can’t stay, even if you wanted to. It’s not your time, I’m sorry.”
“Is it mine?” Harry asked, looking over at his mother.
“It’s your choice this time,” she said, gazing at her son with loving green eyes. James stepped up behind her and rested his hands gently on her shoulders.
“My choice?” Harry breathed.
“I told you before you always have a choice,” Ginny reminded him. “Remember?”
He furrowed in thought. “I don’t know what I should choose.”
“Perhaps you and Ginny should take some time to think and talk,” his father suggested. He and Lily walked to Harry and pulled him into an embrace.
“I’m afraid if I leave, I’ll start to forget again,” Harry said.
“Harry,” Lily soothed, “You’re life has been so much harder than I ever wanted for you. But, hard as it has been, you can’t continue to live in dreams or what might-have been, it will destroy you. It’s time for you to live and dream of the future. It’s time for you to be happy.
“I know you’ll make the right decision.” She brushed his fringe away from his forehead and smiling up at him.
“We’ll always be here, waiting for you, Harry,” James said, gripping his son’s shoulder.
“Always,” Lily repeated, her green eyes brimming with tears, and she hugged her son one last time. “Now, go, be with Ginny and if nothing else, at least give her a proper good-bye.”
Nodding, he returned her hug before releasing her, his eyes shining as he looked at his parents. “Thank you,” he murmured as they stepped back, James taking Lily’s hand in his. Harry studied them a moment longer before glancing back at Ginny in question.
She looked over at Fred who stepped to her side to hug her once more. “Send my love to mum and dad,” he said in her ear before releasing her. “I’ll keep the door open for you, so you can find your way back to the physical plane when you’re ready to return.”
“I’ll miss you,” Ginny said.
“I know,” he replied, “But always remember I’m here, causing mischief and mayhem.”
“Good-bye, Ginny,” Lily called, smiling at her and then at Harry.
“Good-bye, Harry. We love you.”
“I love you, too,” he responded. “I’ll see you soon.”
He glanced uncertainly at Ginny, and she smiled, holding her hand out to him. “Walk with me?”
Nodding silently, he took her hand, and they walked through the French doors and silently down the path that twisted through the trees, distancing themselves from the others. It was warm and peaceful, and birdsong serenaded them as they walked. Before the path wound out of sight, Ginny looked back to see Fred, Lily, and James standing in the doorway watching them. Her brother waved and blew her a kiss and she smiled back at him. While her heart ached at the thought of not seeing him again for some time, she was content in the knowledge that he was alive and well on this heavenly plane. Harry’s parents waved to them one final time, as well.
He briefly looked back to wave before squeezing her hand tighter. She could sense his apprehension over the decision before him. She did not envy him, as it was a difficult one to make. She knew she would have a hard time deciding if she were in his position.
“It’s so peaceful here,” she observed, lifting her face to feel the warm sun on her skin.
“It’s heaven,” he wryly stated.
“Why is it a sunroom leading to a vale, Harry?” Ginny asked, lowering her head to look over at him.
Harry shrugged. “It’s the same as it was the last time I visited,” he said. “After what happened with Quirrell, Albus took me to a country villa to recuperate. It was the most peaceful place I had ever been, and it had a sunroom similar to the one here. That’s where I first met Sirius and it was the first time I can remember being happy.”
“I have to admit it’s not what I expected,” she stated, hating to think that he had spent the first eleven years of his life unhappy, and saddened that only a sunroom was a source of happiness for him.
“What did you expect?” he asked.
Ginny shook her head, trying to imagine what she would want to see, and as she did so, the scenery about them changed. The scrubby path they were walking down became worn dirt. The trees vanished to reveal a tidy garden surrounded by rolling meadow. A tall flowering crab apple tree stood near a big green pond in the garden and further down the path was the towering, crooked structure of her family home, the Burrow. Six stories her father had added on over the years as their family grew, with gables sticking out at odd angles and in the most incongruous of places and worn wooden beams attached to firm up places where the upper floors protruded out past the lower ones.
“My home,” she remarked, spreading her arms out and twirling in the garden path. “Of course, the garden is much neater than it actually is in real life.” She laughed as she ran down the path towards the pond.
“That’s your house?” Harry called, taking in the many chimneys and the strange architectural design of the house with some amazement. “How does it stay up?”
“Magic, Harry,” she giggled, kicking off her shoes to dip her toes in the cool water of the pond. It looked and felt like the most perfect summer’s day she had ever experienced at her family home. The peace and quiet surrounding them was only broken by the occasional chirrup of crickets in the tall grass beyond the hedge that surrounded the garden.
“It was never this quiet when I was growing up,” Ginny commented as Harry came to stand next to her.
“What was it like?” he asked.
“Noisy, with six boisterous boys running about how could it be anything else?” she rhetorically asked. “My mum had her hands full with the seven of us, but she managed.” She sniffed, the smell of fresh bread wafting on the air. “And she was always cooking something. She still does. We have family dinners once a month so we can all get together, even now that we’re grown. That way we have an opportunity to catch up on what is happening in our lives.”
“That sounds fantastic,” Harry remarked.
“Oh, it is,” she sighed. “But they’re not here. It’s too quiet, and strange being here, just the two of us.” Ginny laughed at that notion. “When we go there, we’ll probably wish for this moment.”
“When we go there?” he queried, looking down at her, his eyes smiling at her remark and she flushed.
“You’re even prettier when you blush,” he murmured, reaching his hand out to brush her warm cheek. Butterflies erupted within Ginny at his touch, fluttering madly in anticipation of what she had only imagined. Standing in this perfect place with him, and falling into his brilliantly green eyes, all she could think about was how much she wanted him to kiss her.
“May I kiss you, Ginny?” he asked, as if in response to her unspoken desire.
“Yes,” she breathlessly replied.
Harry tenderly kissed her, wrapping his arms around her waist to pull her closer. His warm, soft lips against hers sparked the already flickering flame of desire within Ginny, and she automatically looped her arms about his neck, eagerly returning his kiss. One of his hands pressed firmly at the small of her back while the other slid into the masses of her hair, cradling her head as he deepened the kiss. She threaded her own fingers in his raven locks, discovering they were every bit as thick and soft as she had suspected.
A blissful sigh escaped her, as the kiss was everything she dreamed it would be, passionate and all encompassing. Her whole body tingled as the needs of her yearnings for Harry were met. She felt her magic surging within her to meet his, and being in his arms while he kissed her was more spectacular than Ginny had ever imagined it. When they finally broke apart, they were both breathing heavily and smiling like complete idiots.
“That was amazing,” she sighed, resting her forehead against his.
Harry hummed his agreement, running his hands lightly up and down her back. “I wish you could stay with me.” His breath whispered teasingly over her lips.
“Oh, Harry,” Ginny whispered, wanting desperately for him to kiss her again, but knowing further clarity of the situation was needed and therefore reluctantly pulled away in order to see him fully. “I wish I could, too, but all of my family is back on earth.”
She hesitated, biting her lip in nervous thought. All of her family was on earth and all of Harry’s was here. Hers was a large and boisterous family that she knew would welcome him with open arms if given the chance. Fred had already said Harry’s parents wanted him to return to earth; it was up to her to somehow convince him to.
“You haven’t met my family yet, but they are wonderful,” she began, “I know they would love you, especially my mum. She and my dad are the kindest, most loving people I have ever known. And besides Ron and Fred, I have four other brothers; all of whom are very different and fascinating men. You and my oldest brother, Bill, especially, are so much alike in many ways. You could be great friends, I think. Plus, you already know Ron. He’s an all right bloke, you said so yourself.”
“He does make me laugh,” Harry admitted.
“If you think Ron is funny, George will have you in stitches.” Ginny said. “I want you to meet them all, Harry. Plus, my best friends, Neville and Luna. I want you to be a part of my life.”
“I don’t know,” he said uncertainly. He turned away from the pond, and slipping on her shoes, Ginny followed him. The forest and the path had reappeared behind them, replacing the Burrow garden.
“Come back with me. We can make heaven on earth," she offered, imbuing her words with the conviction she felt in her heart.
Harry grinned and looked at her. “Did you just offer me heaven on earth?”
Ginny laughed at herself. “Yes, I think I just did.”
His smile faltered as he observed her. “You are so beautiful and have so much life within you. When I first met you, I was overwhelmed by the strength you exuded.” He shook his head. “I could hardly string three words together.”
Really?” she asked, shocked. “Because you appeared to care less about me.”
“I could barely look at you,” Harry admitted. “I was afraid I would do or say something stupid.” He grimaced. “I suppose I did though, didn’t I? I insulted you.”
She chuckled. “Yes, you did, but now that I understand the reason behind all the insensitive things you said, I think it’s rather sweet.”
“I’m complete rubbish with women, always have been,” he said with self-deprecation.
“I don’t know, Harry,” Ginny lightly replied. “You’ve managed to do a pretty spectacular job of sweeping me off my feet. Not many girls can say a bloke has sent them to heaven.”
He observed her thoughtfully. “Maybe you’re the reason my mum sent me back,” he began.
She nodded, reaching over to take his hand in hers. “Maybe and more, Harry.”
They fell into a comfortable silence, as he reflected upon her words and they began walking down the forest path again. Their clasped hands swung slightly between them and a sense of deep contentment filled Ginny. Walking here with Harry felt right and natural, and happiness bubbled within her. He turned his head and smiled, his green eyes sparkling brightly and a strong sense of déjà vu washed over her as he leaned over to kiss her once again. It was soft and tender and she could easily imagine a lifetime of giving and receiving such kisses with Harry. Glancing over her shoulder, white daisies and yellow and blue forget-me-nots had sprung up in the wake of their path and she paused to look at them in surprise.
“I dreamed this,” she murmured, kneeling to touch the tiny, velvet petals at their feet.
Harry knelt beside her. “When?”
“Right after I met you,” she answered, looking over to meet his eyes. “I thought it was only a dream, but I was seeing our future, after all.”
“”What do these mean?” he asked, running his hand over the newly sprung flowers.
“White daisies symbolize loyalty and forget-me-nots represent true love,” Ginny supplied. She gazed at the flowers in wordless wonder, her heart beating madly in her chest. Harry was her true love, and somehow even when he had rankled her, deep down she had known.
“You said my cup showed new beginnings,” he said slowly. “Is that true?”
“Yes,” she answered.
“What new beginning should I choose?” he asked. “The one where I know I’ll be happy or the one that is still uncertain?”
“Harry, it’s truly beautiful here, but there is so much more to life on earth we have yet to experience,” Ginny began. “I would really like the opportunity to explore those things with you.
“I want you in my life and I want you to choose me,” she stated firmly. “As mad as this may sound, I’ve fallen in love with you, Harry, and I am not ready to let you go.”
“I don’t think I’m ready to let you go yet, either,” he revealed as he leaned towards her, cupping her face in his hands. “I love you, too,” he whispered, his lips brushing against hers as he spoke, awakening the fluttering in her belly once again and Ginny knew she was lost to him forever. As he kissed her once more, he claimed not only her lips, but all of her; mind, heart, body, and soul. There would never be anyone but Harry for her.
The world spun on its axis as their declaration of love sealed their fate. Solar flares brightened the sky to a blinding white, washing out the bright greens of the grass and trees around them. Lights flickered and flashed in a display more spectacular than the most extravagant fireworks show. Ginny felt as if her whole body was floating on air and she clung tightly to Harry, his hands slipping from her face to hold her securely about the waist. It felt as though they were flying through time and space, but as long as she was in his arms, there was no need to fear. Closing her eyes, she absorbed the essence of him, revelling at the feel of his arms around her, and the electrical surges his searing kiss was sending through her.
She never wanted the kiss to end, but all too soon after what may have been seconds, minutes, or hours, she felt the world slowing around them until it came to a complete stop. When Ginny opened her eyes, she was staring directly into Harry’s green eyes, which sparkled brighter than ever before. His hands were on her waist and hers were linked tightly around his neck. She laid her head against his chest, and his hands slid further about her, pulling her closer to him. She happily melted against him, settling onto his lap as he sat back on his heels. She was hoping to enjoy the warmth of his embrace for much longer, but the sound of nervous titters and someone loudly clearing their throat broke them apart just as Ginny was thinking another kiss was in order.
Fully coming back to reality, she realized she and Harry were sitting in the middle of the meditation circle in her dimly lit classroom instead of the beautiful vale. It looked as though only a few hours had passed; the windows had darkened with the setting sun and the fire she had kindled earlier in the day had died down to mere embers in the grate. Her students were nowhere in sight, but the faint murmuring near the classroom entrance and the sound of someone grinding their teeth alerted her that they were not alone.
Harry’s hands were still loosely on her waist, but his attention was averted over her head at whomever was standing behind them. Turning her head to glance over her shoulder, Ginny saw her five students standing by the trap door wearing ridiculous grins on their faces. Next to them stood the glowering figure of Ron, who was the source of the grinding sound.
She reluctantly slipped off Harry’s lap, and he rose, offering her his hand as he did so. Taking her hand firmly in his, he helped her to her feet. She brushed at the skirt of her robes, smoothing it down with her free hand as Harry ran his nervously through his already dishevelled hair.
Unclenching his jaw, her brother took a step into the room. “Dennis Creevey just turned himself in with self-inflicted wounds and a hell of a story,” he announced, “about being haunted by Ginny Weasley and killing Harry Potter.”
He looked the couple over speculatively. “You both look alive and well to me. A little too alive.” He directed his last statement towards Harry, who Ginny was pleased to note stood his ground and did not let go her hand as she suspected he may have done a few days ago.
“That’s good news about, Creevey,” Harry said, his baritone voice rumbling pleasantly next to her. “How did he hurt himself?”
“Cutting Curse,” Ron answered. “Damnedest thing I ever saw. I don’t know how he managed it, but the magical signature of the wounds match the last curse his wand cast.”
He nodded towards Shelly before addressing Ginny. “Shelly was informing me that you attempted a meditation circle, and you and Harry became lost on the astral plane, but her details become hazy after that. Is there anything you want to tell me?”
“We weren’t lost,” Ginny said evasively. “My students just returned before we did.”
“What about Creevey?” her brother asked, looking to Harry for an answer.
Harry shrugged, "Hopefully, he'll receive the help he needs in the psychiatric ward at Azkaban."
"That's it?" Ron asked. "A suspect we couldn't apprehend suddenly comes down with a guilty conscience and staggers into the Ministry to turn himself in, and all you have to say is hopefully he’ll receive the help he needs?”
"That about sums it up, yeah," Harry said.
Ron eyed them suspiciously, before once again turning his full gaze upon Ginny. “Dennis was adamant that the two of you were dead. I came here to see for myself that you were all right. After Shelly informed me you two had been under for over three hours, I was about to summon Firenze from the forest to pull you out of your trance when you suddenly began snogging my partner, while still under! What aren’t you telling me?”
Ginny glanced over at Harry, who nodded his head in agreement. She turned back to Ron and her students.
“Thank you all very much for your help today,” she said to her students. “You enabled us to track Dennis Creevey down and bring him to justice. Each of you will receive thirty points for your houses. Now, if you please, Auror Potter and I need to have a private word with Auror Weasley.”
Her students smiled broadly and gushed their ‘thank yous’ before retreating down the ladder through the trapdoor. Ron closed it firmly behind them and crossed his arms over his chest, glaring at the couple still standing in the centre of the room.
“You gave me a scare, Ginny,” he grumbled, stepping further into the room. “I didn’t know what I was going to tell Mum and Dad if you didn’t come out of it.”
“I know,” she sighed. “But we found Dennis. The experience must have connected with something deep within him to cause him to turn himself in like that.”
“He’s bloody mad, Ginny,” Ron railed. “He kept saying he'd killed Harry Potter over and over again.”
“Well, he did shoot a Cutting Curse at Harry,” she admitted.
“He what?” her brother bellowed before glaring over at his partner. “What were you doing talking my sister into attempting something so dangerous? What if she had been hurt? I ought to pound some sense into you. I knew you were a bit off, but you have no right dragging my sister into this.”
Harry bristled beside Ginny and his grip on her hand tightened. “You're right, I should have been more responsible, but your sister is a grown woman and can make her own decisions.”
Ron emitted a low growl in the back of his throat, his blue eyes narrowing as he assessed Harry. He opened his mouth to shoot back a retort, but Ginny quickly cut him off.
“Harry didn’t talk me into anything, Ron!” she responded heatedly. “If you must know, I had to talk him into it. He didn’t think it was a good idea.”
“And it wasn’t, was it?” he demanded.
“Dennis turned himself in!” she reminded him.
“We would have found him,” he retorted, still eyeing Harry with open disparagement. “You know we would have.”
“At what cost?” Harry countered. “Another innocent victim murdered in the name of his skewered form of justice for his brother? Ginny saved a woman’s life and us the guilt of knowing we could have done something more.”
“You risked my sister’s life,” Ron stated.
“I risked my own life and Harry saved me, you idiot!” Ginny exclaimed. “Are you listening to anything we say? Harry stepped in front of that curse for me.”
“Dennis was aiming for you?” Ron bawled. “This story keeps getting worse and worse. If Mum and Dad ever find out I will never hear the end of it.”
“Ron,” she said, taking a deep breath to calm her nerves. Yelling at her brother would not get them anywhere. “We have more to tell you, about why we were gone so long.”
“You were lost,” he said flatly. “Shelly told me. She said after Harry vanished, so did you, and she and the others had to break the connection or risk being lost themselves.”
“I’m glad she had the foresight to do that,” Ginny said. “I hadn’t thought of the ramifications if any of my students had been stranded on the astral plane.”
Guilt briefly washed over her as she realized how reckless her actions had truly been. She had nearly lost Harry because of them and if he hadn’t been a part of the circle, she didn’t like to think what might have happened if she had encountered Dennis and he had been successful in firing his spell at her. She looked up at Harry who had come to the same realization.
“I should have tried harder to prevent you from attempting the circle,” he said and looked over at Ron apologetically. “I’m sorry, mate. You have every right to be upset.”
“Damn right, I do,” Ron spat, but his anger was deflating as quickly as it had flared. “I was worried, you know. About you both.”
“I’m sorry to have worried you unnecessarily,” Ginny said contritely before brightening. “But we do have some good news to tell you.”
“Besides the fact that you obviously fancy each other?” her brother sarcastically asked, nodding towards hers and Harry’s still clasped hands.He studied his partner thoughtfully. "You kept coming back here like a lost puppy looking for his home. I should have known there was more to it than just the case."
“Well, there is that,” Harry admitted, and Ginny wasn't the least surprised by her brother's observations. After all, he was a very good Auror who had been one of the top students in his class.
“And you,” Ron said, looking at Ginny. “You never wanted to become involved after Fred, but you kept insisting on helping.”
“You’re right," she agreed. “But there’s more than the obvious, and I think you should sit down for it.”
“Why?” Ron looked wary before his eyes widened in horror. “Are you really ghosts like Creevey said?”
“What? No!” Ginny exclaimed in exasperation and let go of Harry’s hand to stride over and cuff her brother about the head. She was pleased that despite the fact that he was a head and shoulder taller than her, and outweighed her by seven stone, he still cowered before her. “Would a ghost be able to do that?”
“No,” he satisfactorily squeaked.
“Good,” she said, moving to a small round table that had four chairs arranged around it. “Now, sit down so Harry and I can talk to you seriously.”
Ron walked over to the table without another word and sat in the chair Ginny indicated. Harry sat in the chair opposite his partner and Ginny settled in the one between them. She rested her hand lightly on Harry’s knee and he laid his hand atop hers. It felt as natural as breathing to be in contact with him and the way she felt about him made it hard for her to believe she had only just met him.
They took turns recounting to Ron everything that had happened to them since they entered the deep meditation. He was understandably upset in places and several times interrupted their tale in order to expound his dismay and annoyance at what he deemed irresponsible actions. Ginny placated him and Harry took his partner’s berating with aplomb. His face showed enough how guilty he felt over matters and she would be sure to reassure him later that she wasn’t sorry in the slightest over anything that had occurred that day. If anything she was extremely grateful as crossing over with Harry had been the catalyst they needed to spur them along to understanding and admitting what was happening between them.
Ron grew quiet when they informed him that they had entered heaven and encountered Harry’s parents and Fred there. Hot tea laced with a bit of brandy had been in order by that point, as the shock of hearing that his brother was alive and well on the other side proved to be nearly more than Ron was prepared to handle at the moment. He gulped his tea down in nearly one swallow despite the fact that it had not had time to cool, and his yelp of dismay did much to lighten the air.
Ginny and Harry took sensible sips of their drinks, and she enjoyed the sensation of the tea as it warmed her inside. They continued their tale, and by the time they were finished, it had grown completely dark outside
“You saw Fred,” Ron murmured after their voices had silenced, the revelation slowly sinking in and his eyes shined brightly in the flickering light of the torches on the wall. “It was really him?”
“Yes,” Ginny assured him. “He was happy, Ron, and he wants us to be happy, too.”
“I can hardly believe it, but, both of you seem so certain, it must be true,” he wistfully said. “I wish I could have seen him again.”
“He sends his love and made certain to remind me that he would be waiting for us, causing mischief and mayhem,” she said, remembering the bittersweet farewell she had recently shared with Fred.
“Wait until Mum, Dad, and George hear,” Ron remarked and looked between the pair of storytellers. “So, what else happened in heaven? You two seem awfully cosy all of a sudden.”
“Not that you haven’t already deduced it, but I do fancy your sister quite a lot,” Harry announced.
“Obviously, it sounds like you gave up heaven for her,” Ron stated with a small amount of wonder. “I’d say it’s a lot more than mere fancying, mate.”
“Are you all right with that?” Harry asked.
Ron shrugged, before grimacing at a recent memory. “As long as I don’t have to bear witness to more of what I saw when you two came out of the trance, we’ll be just fine.”
Harry nodded, grinning across the table at his partner and Ginny blew out a silent sigh of relief. She hadn’t been worried, per se that her brother would cause trouble, as he had always been supportive of her. However, she was gaining a faint sense that the idea of his partner and sister together in the romantic sense would take some getting used to, but he was truly happy for them.
She smiled her silent thanks over at him and he inclined his head ever so slightly in her direction before glancing down at his watch.
“We should get back, Harry” he said, “Robards is probably about to explode wondering where we are. We still have to process Creevey. I left in a rush after his initial statement.”
“I imagine so,” Harry concurred and Ginny was disappointed that he would have to leave. She had hoped they would be able to take some time to discuss privately what had happened on the heavenly plane.
Ron, however, intuitively seemed to have picked up on her disappointment. “I suppose I could go on ahead and start the paperwork.”
“I’d appreciate that,” Harry gratefully said. “Tell Robards I’m wrapping things up here and I’ll be in to report shortly.”
“Are you going to tell him everything?” Ron asked, starting to rise from his seat, as Ginny and Harry did the same.
Harry glanced over at Ginny. “Probably. I think he should know how invaluable Ginny was to us on this case.”
Ron nodded his agreement. Ginny followed her brother to the classroom exit for a brief good-bye while Harry, giving them their privacy, moved to stand by the window.
“When will you tell Mum and Dad about Fred?” her brother asked when they reached the trapdoor.
“Sunday at dinner,” Ginny answered.
“And what about Harry?” Ron pressed. “Are you going to bring him along to meet the family?”
Ginny glanced over to where Harry was gazing out the window and shook her head. “Not yet. I want to take some time to get to know him better. Plus, I don’t want to overwhelm him just yet with our entire family. He gave up heaven for me, Ron,” she reminded him.
“Right. Didn’t I say he was a bit off?” He grinned as he said it, but she scowled at him all the same.
“Ron, you have no idea what it was like,” she said. “Our words can’t do it justice. It has helped me understand better why Harry is the way he is.”
“I just hope he’s good to you, Ginny,” Ron said, his apprehension for her evident. “You deserve to be happy, too.”
“I am, Ron,” she assured him.
“I can see that,” he smiled down at her. “I saw a bit of the old Ginny this week, working with you. Thanks for all your help, even if I think you went a bit above and beyond. Maybe, when you tell Mum and Dad, you should leave the part out regarding Dennis in the end?”
Ginny nodded her agreement and gave him a brief hug. “Good idea. I’ll see you soon, Ron.”
Giving her a quick peck on the cheek and bidding her a final farewell, he began descending the ladder. She shut the trapdoor quietly behind him, and turning to face her classroom, she suddenly felt nervous at the sight of Harry standing by the window. She wondered what he could be thinking. She hoped he wasn’t regretting his decision to return with her.
As if sensing her misgiving, he turned away from the window and smiled over at her.
“So,” he began.
“So,” she repeated, smiling in return.
“How are you feeling?” Harry asked, looking her over with the concerned expression she had learned meant he was worried about her.
“Fresh as a daisy, Harry,” she assured him. “No ill-effects this time. Only very pleasant ones. How about you?”
“I’ve never felt better,” he replied. “Thanks to you.” He took a step towards her, his eyes never leaving hers, and Ginny flushed beneath his intense gaze.
“So, no regrets?” she asked, moving to meet him in the centre of her classroom.
“None,” he murmured, reaching down to take her hand in his. As their fingers interlocked, she knew with certainty that he was worth everything she had gone through in the past week or would go through. The moments she had shared with Harry in heaven had been the start of forever for them, of that she had no doubt.
He pulled her closer, wrapping his arm about her waist and Ginny lifted her head to receive his kiss. Her belly swooped in giddy happiness chasing all the nervousness she had been feeling away.She couldn’t help but hope for a lifetime full of such moments between them.
“I have to go,” Harry reluctantly said when the kiss ended, making no move to leave.
“I know,” she sighed, not bothering to shift away from him.
“Before I do,” he tentatively began, “After everything we have been through today, can you see a future for us now?”
Ginny closed her eyes, enjoying the security Harry’s strong arms afforded her and focused on the warm feeling that pooled deep within her every time he touched her or she thought about him. Since returning from the heavenly plane, she had hoped to be able to read him, but he was as ambiguous as ever to her sixth sense. She couldn’t say that she was disappointed, as that significant trait about him had been what had first drawn her to him in the first place. With Harry there would always be the element of mystery. That being said, she wasn’t at all surprised when she saw that their futures were as murky as ever. Light shadows danced against the darker background of the unknown.
“I can't see our future, Harry,” she quietly said, “But I can’t wait to discover it with you.”
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