Past, Present, and Personal
Harry froze. She said the question without fear, only awe. Was Ginny talking in her sleep?
Silence reigned for several moments. Still he stayed with her, more out of the requirements for familiarity and human companionship than anything else. They had both felt so isolated in the world. Apparently, even dead people got lonely.
Folding his arms about his knees, Harry found himself wanting to talk again. But what to talk about? Just keep speaking, he told himself, after all it's the only thing you've got. Thinking he'd have nothing to say, he babbled rather aimlessly instead.
"I really miss you, Hermione and Ron and the Order, and the D.A. Oh yeah, and you can still get scared out of your mind, even if you're deceased. Another tip: Make sure one of your Death-day gifts is a wand. You can't get anywhere without it. Other dead people can also have fits and start cursing you through their insanity. In fact, I haven't found anything good about being dead, except I get to hear things when people don't know I'm around. But I'd wager I can even do that better with an Invisibility Cloak."
Ginny suddenly started shaking again. Was she sleep-crying?
A giggle of laughter escaped her. She slowly raised her head and looked in his direction. "It really is you!" she exclaimed delightedly. Ginny showed no fear whatsoever.
Harry stared at her in astonishment. "You can see and hear me? A dead person? And you're not afraid?"
"Why should I be afraid?" she asked, perplexed. "I thought I was dreaming. I dream about you loads." Ginny blushed and continued, "Besides, you're my friend, Harry Potter. I owe you my life and I know you would never deliberately hurt me."
Nice qualifier, "deliberately". He'd have to give her that one. Ten points to Slytherin, he thought at her appreciatively.
Tossing her a wan smile Harry said, "Well, thanks for the vote of confidence, Gin."
She growled good-naturedly and faux-socked him in the arm. Ten points to Gryffindor, he half-smiled in satisfaction to himself.
"You know I hate that nickname. I could call you something equally obnoxious in retaliation, like 'Scary Aims Potty.'"
Harry's eyebrows shot straight to his hairline. That was a good one. Brilliant in fact. Slytherin scores, double goal. Now for the snappy comeback?
"Yes, but you'd have to stop me before I threw you in a cocktail glass with a splash of vermouth and a lurid green olive."
Ginny's eyes narrowed warningly. Another ten for me.
"That is what the M of your middle name stands for is it not? Martini?" he went on, pushing his luck. Gryffindor Seeker dodges Bludger.
Her mouth was agape now—she was choking on her indignation. Teams are now neck-and-neck. Why not go for the game?
"Yes," he continued as if addressing a pub tender, "I'd like a Ginny Martini Weasley—shaken, not stirred."
She could hold back no longer and burst forth with raucous laughter as he finished. Harry Potter has caught the Snitch. Gryffindor wins!
It sure felt good to see her laughing again—indeed, it was how he was used to seeing Ginny.
"It's a good thing—my dad has—told us about—Muggle cinema!" she gasped out between giggles. She gradually started breathing regularly again.
"Elsewise your James Bond joke would fall flatter than stale butterbeer," she finished, smirking and cocking an eyebrow measuringly.
But he hadn't known any James Bond jokes.
Suddenly it struck Harry how very strange their perfectly natural exchange was. They gazed at each other a moment contemplatively. No time like the present to ask, he gave in ruefully.
"Why is it—d'you suppose—we're able to have a normal one-on-one conversation now I'm no longer alive?" His brow wrinkled and Ginny rested her chin on one hand, thinking.
"I'd wager a big answer to that is time. Living people just take for granted things they'd rather not deal with can be put off till tomorrow. Comfort zone stuff," she added, glancing at him.
That was certainly true enough. Harry couldn't begin to count the number of times he'd given schedules and people the brush-off, assuming he could always get to them later. How very wrong he'd been.
"Any other thoughts about it?" he asked, having nothing to add yet.
"The influence of other people," Ginny added after a beat. "Peer pressure, professor pressure, parental—all mixes in—and can make you do things you'd never even consider doing in your right mind. Good or bad."
Then she turned and looked at him darkly.
"And I refuse to even discuss external mental influence," she pointed to his scar, "as we both know only too well."
"Tell me about it," he answered, as they sat in companionable silence and again commiserated on experiences only the other could understand.
"And a third thing," Ginny spoke up again, "is emotions or stubbornness in general." Looking at him apologetically, she continued, "Here's one example. Confidentially, I know I've got a problem with saying what I really mean to say. I just—I dunno." She wrung her hands together. "Whenever I feel uncomfortable, bored, or scared—or sometimes for no reason at all—something sarcastic flies out of my mouth."
"No, I know what you mean," Harry joined in. "It's like when you say something humourous, it deflates an otherwise tense situation. It just—" he abruptly stopped, lost for words.
"—makes it—" Ginny supplied.
"—feel better," they ended together. They looked at each other and nodded shyly.
"Although not always," amended Ginny, wrinkling her nose in distaste.
"How do you mean?"
"Er, it's not exactly inspiring when instead of saying, "I love you Percy", the words 'get out of my life forever you miserable, loathsome, evil, pathetic, glory-seeking pragidiot' comes roaring out of your mouth instead."
I would reckon not," Harry deadpanned. He backtracked though.
Ginny grinned hugely. "It's a term I've fashioned just for Percy. Means 'prig', 'prat', 'git', and 'idiot' all in one go. Describes him to a tee, don't you think?"
"Quite brilliantly, I must say," Harry sniggered and applauded mockingly. He then shook his head at himself.
"There I go again," he said aloud, "being sarcastic. Why did I hardly ever do this before? Why am I doing it now? I mean, it's one thing to think stuff at people, but another thing entirely to actually do or say it out loud…" he trailed off, flourishing a hand in the air.
"Personally, I like to think it's us Weasleys still exerting our wicked influence over you," said Ginny, smiling.
"All joking aside Harry, it's a defence mechanism," she explained. It occurred to him how very much like Hermione she had just sounded. He closed his eyes, imagining wistfully.
"It's something that mentally clicks in place when you feel conversationally threatened at all. You're scared people will mock or ridicule what you really think, so you say something completely oddball to throw them off the track instead. Generally, the more rubbish you experience, the more sarcastic you become. Godric knows you've been through the ringer, Harry. You've got a right to be more sarcastic than any of us put together. That way, you can insure nobody will have monopolistic knowledge of the real you." She stopped to let it all sink in.
Was that really why he acted the part of prat sometimes? He didn't want anyone to know the real him? It was odd to contemplate that he was so leery of people. However, he'd had good reason to be suspicious of others for a very long time. So weirdly enough, it all made sense. Only, how did Ginny know all of this?
"Hey, how d'you know all this stuff?" Harry blurted, nonplussed. If he was being rude, she took no notice. Quite the contrary—she was ready for a reply.
"Sarcasm is a common character trait amongst orphans and youngest members of families," she gave him a tight smile. "In other words, people who are constantly strong-armed or bullied by others around them. I'm the youngest girl so I know something of it; you're both orphan and youngest. Mystery solved, cased closed," she finished kindly, and clasped her hands together for emphasis.
Harry sighed. "Well, I suppose that tears it. Something about my behaviour is "normal"; I'm a sarcastic berk, but it's typical, considering. I'm not nearly as good at it as Fred and George, though. Or Ron. Or even you, for that matter. All you younger Weasleys—"
"Nobody is as good as Fred and George," Ginny cut in solemnly. "They were born at hospital whilst telling dead baby jokes from the womb to surrounding medical staff. Mum was mortified."
Slapping a hand upon his fringe, Harry shook his head and laughed again.
"How do you do that?"
"I think it's the hair," she responded immediately, not even a second later. "So, how do you do that?" Ginny tossed back at him.
"Do what?" he crinkled his brow.
"Here I am alone; feeling the worst I have in my entire life. Crying my eyes out and fearing I would never see you again."
She paused; Harry waited uneasily.
"And lo and behold, the person I've felt the worst for shows up in front of my very eyes once more. Only he doesn't do it for himself. Oh no."
Shaking her head she went on, "It's to cheer me up and make sure I'm all right, even after he's gone." Ginny paused and smiled at him serenely. "But banging on about your dreadful experiences in the afterlife—" she closed her eyes and giggled—"really takes the cake, though."
Harry cleared his throat and smiled in an embarrassed fashion. Apparently some topics were always uncomfortable, regardless of when and where you were.
"Part and parcel of my 'saving people thing', I guess," he responded in a subdued voice, running a hand over his hair self-consciously. Oh yeah. His braid. Flinging it over his shoulder, he began to study it again.
"Spiffing new 'do," Ginny said lightly, "but I can't say it's really you though, no offence. 'Just Quidditched' is more the universally recognised Harry Potter style." He snorted darkly at her and rolled his eyes.
"Thanks loads, ol' chum. Anyway, I wouldn't know how it looked. I haven't seen my reflection since before I got it. Feels pretty stupid and conspicuous, however." He shook his head resignedly. "You wouldn't believe where I picked it up, though," Harry went on conversationally.
"Oh, I already know the answer to that," Ginny answered, nodding. "It's quite obvious."
He looked at her sharply, wondering if she were kidding around again. But she gazed back at him unblinkingly.
"All right," Harry challenged. "How can you possibly know that?"
"I can know—" she turned and reached under her robes on the grass—"because of this."
Harry gaped at the object in her hands. She was holding the very gift box that had contained his adoption documentation!