"But you've always wanted to be an Auror," Ginny replied with a note of genuine surprise in her voice. The newest member of the Holyhead Harpies, a second string chaser, set aside the morning edition of the Daily Prophet that she had been reading and looked over towards her fiancé.
"No I haven't," Harry answered with from where he leaned against the kitchen counter of the Burrow, his arms crossed over his chest. "Everyone just assumed that was what I wanted to do," he corrected her. "As if I haven't had my fill of Dark Wizards already," Harry added under his breath.
"I thought we'd decided that you would work in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement for a while and then once established you would run for Minister." Ginny stated. They had previously had long talks concerning Harry's future…Ginny talked and Harry had listened. It made perfect sense to her that Harry would become Minister for Magic one day. The Wizarding world of Britain would be thrilled to have him, she just knew it. Even now, despite Harry being under the age limit to sit the office, there were those trying to get him to run for the position. Ginny felt that Harry deserved it after all he had been through during the war.
"You decided, Ginny, not we. Kingsley Shacklebolt is doing a brilliant job as Minister," Harry stated. "I'm not about to try and remove him. Not now or ever." It was true. While Kingsley had been placed in the office as an interim Minister, following the removal of Pius Thicknesse who had been under the Imperius curse, Kingsley had performed so well in that capacity that he had been fully elected into the position.
"Well…," the young witch said slowly as she thought out all the alternatives. "I guess it isn't critical that you be a part of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement in order to run for office," she said, thinking aloud and unconsciously dismissing the wizard's comments. "I'm sure you could still get elected if you ran, probably just on your name alone. You are the Chosen One after all. Perhaps if you were to take up the Black family seat on the Wizengamot for a few years before running for office?" she mused thoughtfully. "Yes, I think that would work just as well. Maybe even better as it will give you some experience in politics!"
"You're not listening to me again, Ginny," Harry said evenly, trying to keep his mounting frustration out of his voice. Ginny Weasley had her plans on how their future should be, plans that often didn't matter if Harry agreed with them or not. Much like the girl's mother, Molly Weasley, Ginny was certain that she knew best and he should just do what she said. "I don't want to be Minister," he told her. "I'm not ready for it!"
"Of course not right now, Harry! Don't be silly," Ginny replied nonchalantly as she picked the paper up, prepared to continue reading the article concerning her joining the Harpies. "You have to finish your seventh year at Hogwarts still. We can't have a Minister for Magic that dropped out of school now can we?" The fact that she herself had dropped out to play Quidditch for the Harpies didn't seem to matter to her. No one would question her choice, it was Quidditch after all!
Molly Weasley had at first been against the decision, deeming it not proper for a lady to quit school before graduating. The row the two of them had was truly epic. Finally Ginny had reminded her mother that the twins had dropped out of school early. Mentioning the twins reminded Molly that Fred was no longer with them. This, unlike anything else ever could, took the wind out of the woman's sails. Harry recalled that he could almost see Molly deflate before their very eyes. In the end Ginny got her way. Ginny always got her way.
Harry sighed in frustration before crossing to the table and taking a seat across from the witch. Reaching out he pulled the Prophet from her hands and set it aside. "Gin, you're not listening to me," he said in the calmest of tones, hoping to get through to her finally. Several times he had already informed her that he did not want to return to Hogwarts. The memories were just too painful for him. Far too many friends had been lost there during the final battle as well as the years leading up to it.
"That's because you're not making any sense, Harry," the young woman replied with a slightly amused grin. Seeing the man before her hang his head she reached across the table and patted his hand reassuringly. "It's alright. September first is just a few days away. Focus on completing your learning and leave all the rest to me," she told him. "I'll figure out what is needed for you to claim your seat on the Wizengamot and have everything ready for you by the school break for the holidays." Certain that the matter was settled, she picked up the paper once again and returned to reading the article once more.
It was with a heavy heart that Harry realized that no matter what he said; Ginny would never really hear him. It had been a problem which, in retrospect, seemed to show itself more frequently as time passed. At first he hadn't noticed it, riding the emotional high of winning the war, still being alive and getting back with the girl he loved. There were little clues he should have seen like being told what to wear, where to go eat when they went out and who to talk to as well as what to say. These things at first didn't seem to matter all that much to Harry as he didn't usually know what to wear, where to go or what to say. Slowly though he had begun realize that he had lost all control of himself as an individual.
The first serious indication that there was an issue was when Harry had departed with Hermione to retrieve her parents from Australia, so that they could restore their memories. Ron had begged off going as he was uncomfortable with being in the Muggle world. On the contrary, Ginny had been adamant about going, even though she had no experience with 'going Muggle' as Ron had termed it. The young witch's temper had exploded when Harry had flatly refused to take her.
Two weeks later when they had returned, missing Hermione's parents who had elected to stay in Australia, Ginny's temper hadn't cooled at all. If anything it had grown worse. The fact that Harry spent several days consoling Hermione didn't help his cause in the least. The youngest Weasley had questioned Harry relentlessly about every little detail of the trip. She seemed to particularly dislike the fact that the two of them had shared a hotel room during the trip. It had taken Harry finally proposing to her and placing a stunning ring upon Ginny's finger to break her out of her jealous mood. Since then everything had been Ginny's way, regardless of what Harry wanted or said.
Harry knew that he couldn't blame Ginny for everything. He was as much at fault as she was. At first he hadn't said anything and had instead simply went along with whatever the witch had wanted. Better to let her have her own way than have her mad at him yet again. A month into their engagement and he was having doubts concerning his original thoughts. Harry attempted on several occasions to interject his opinions and wishes but by then it was too late. Ginny had taken control of the young wizard and their relationship and wasn't about to give that control up.
Two weeks earlier, after a fitting for dress robes for their wedding, he had tried to state that he didn't like the puce coloring only to be told that he was wrong and that of course he liked it. It was then that he realized that he might have proposed, to the then irate witch, only to get her to not be mad at him anymore. The last couple of weeks had only affirmed that thought. He bit his tongue and tried to make it work. Everyone said they were perfect for each other and how could everyone be wrong?
"This isn't working," Harry stated in a weary tone of voice after a few long moments. "I can't do this anymore, Ginny. Merlin knows I've tried these last few weeks," he said in an almost desperate confession. It pained him to admit it, both to Ginny as well as to himself.
The young witch's brows creased a she lowered the paper to the table. "What do you mean, Harry?" Ginny enquired with a hint of confusion in her tone as she stared at the wizard across the table from her. "What's not working?" the clueless girl asked.
"This. Us," he replied looking up at her while using a hand to motion between the two of them. "You can't tell me that you're truly happy with the way things are between us and that this is what you've always wanted?" he asked looking at her incredulously.
"You have always been what I've wanted, Harry!" Ginny exclaimed. "Ever since I was a little girl I've dreamed of our life together, Harry! I know things have been rough for you since the war. Those dreams are still bothering you. It's not exactly how I've imagined our lives together but I can overlook all that, I guess. Still, you really need to learn to let the past go, Harry," she told him a bit condescendingly. "Even with your trip to Australia with another girl while leaving me behind, you are still all I've ever wanted!"
"This has nothing to do with the dreams, Ginny," Harry growled out. Dreams would have been a kind term for the nightmares he experienced every night. He had been forced to place heavy silencing spells on his room each time he went to bed after having woken the entire house several nights in a row. The dreams were just a side effect of the war, or so the Healers at St. Mungo's had told him. They had stated that they would lessen in frequency and severity with time, only they hadn't. If anything they were getting worse.
Harry had spoken with Ginny about the dreams at one point and it was she that had convinced him to seek medical help from a Healer. The young witch had agreed with the Healer's prognosis and that it would pass in time. She had urged him to let the past go and focus more on their future. Try as he might the dreams wouldn't leave him. Ginny once, having lost her temper, had accused him of not wanting to let go of the past. 'You enjoy being the martyr which is why you can't get past these stupid dreams!' she had declared in a fit of hurtful anger.
"Look, I'm not the same boy you fell in love with back at Hogwarts," Harry tried to explain to her. "I'm certainly not The-Boy-Who-Lived that you grew up crushing on either. I've changed. The war did things…, it changed me I think and not for the better." Harry knew that in many ways he was broken inside which made him different from normal people. It was something he realized Ginny would never understand or accept. "You deserve better, Gin," he stated before swallowing heavily as he knew his next words would hurt her terribly. "This is no longer what I want," he told her, indicating the two of them being together.
Ginny's eyes filled with tears as she couldn't believe the words she had just heard. All her life all she had ever wanted was to marry Harry Potter. She may have been crushing on him for as long as she could remember but that didn't make her love any less real. Her first year at Hogwarts he had saved her life when she knew she didn't deserve it. It was then that she had realized that Harry wasn't just The-Boy-Who-Lived, he was something…someone, so much more real. This knowledge only led her to fall even deeper in love with the boy who was Harry Potter.
Through the ensuing years she had worked hard to become Harry's friend, a fact made easier due to her brother Ron being one of Harry's best friends. Their shared experiences with the DA as well as the ill-fated trip to the Department of Mysteries had only served to bring them closer together. She still recalled their first kiss and how it was so much better than she had ever imagined. It truly had been a magical experience for the young girl. She had been so ecstatic when they had started to date as it seemed that all her dreams were about to come true at last.
Not that Harry was all perfect, mind you. She had been rightfully upset when he had broken up with her to go off with Hermione and Ron to hunt horcruxes. Ginny had later realized that Harry had done it to protect her as Voldemort would have certainly used her to get to Harry. When the war had ended she had found comfort in Harry's arms while she grieved for the loss of Fred as well as the others who had died in the battle of Hogwarts.
Just when she thought they would have a chance to have a life together Harry had left with Hermione to fetch her parents from Australia. The fact that he had flatly refused to allow her to go with him had angered her to no end. If she were honest with herself she would have to admit that in part her anger was due to the jealousy she felt. Though she had tried not to let it get to her, the young witch had always been slightly jealous of the closeness in Harry and Hermione's relationship. In part it was due to her own desire to be that close to Harry and knowing that she wasn't and probably never would be. Some things couldn't be developed, they were instead created through shared experiences.
"So that's it?" she hesitantly replied. "You're going to leave me just like that? Just when I need you most? What will everyone say?" she gasped, one hand rising to cover her quivering lips even as the first of many teardrops fell from her eyes. What will mum and dad say? What of the press? They are sure to have a field day with this development. Who's going to help me practice Quidditch now?
"Ginny, you are an amazing woman and a brilliant witch," Harry quickly said, feeling terrible for having made her cry and yet knowing there was no other way. "You'll be a smashing addition to the Harpies and let's be honest; you haven't needed me since your first year of school. If anything it was always me that needed you," he told her while recalling how much help she had been in the Department of Mysteries.
"You're wrong! I do need you. I always will, Harry," Ginny exclaimed in denial of his words. The young witch could almost hear all her hopes and dreams shattering along with her heart.
"For what, Gin?" Harry asked her calmly, a small part of him wishing that she would change his mind but the larger portion knowing that she wouldn't be able to. Now that the time was here, Harry realized that their breakup was perhaps a long time coming. It might have been best to have left it as it was after Dumbledore's funeral, he thought to himself. Hind-sight was always so much clearer than when you were in the actual moment.
"For…I love you," the young witch replied through her tears. Those three little words were all she could think of at that moment. She didn't want to admit it but she had known that something had changed between them. She had thought that if she just ignored it, pretended that it didn't exist, that it would eventually go away. She had focused on making everything as perfect as possible instead to distract herself from the growing realization that not only was it not perfect but it never would be. Anything to not have to acknowledge the growing fear inside herself, that her 'Happily Ever After' was just a dream after all.
"I know you do," Harry answered, unable to bring himself to tell her that it was he that no longer loved her, at least not in the manner in which she deserved to be loved. Certainly not in the manner that was called for between a husband and a wife. "You'll always have a special placed in my heart," he told her, wondering if that had sounded as lame to her as it did in his ears. Rather than saying anything further, and not wishing to prolong what was painful for the both of them, he wearily got to his feet and walked around the table.
"Where will you go? What will you do?" Ginny asked as he stepped towards the floo. She knew the answers were really none of her business now but she asked the questions anyways. The young witch loved him and couldn't help but worry after him plus each question served to delay the inevitable and kept Harry there. It was a few more moments for them to be together, a few more seconds that he was hers.
Harry paused near the hearth of the overly large fireplace, his hand resting on the floo powder holder. "Grimmauld Place for now," he told her. "As for what I'm going to do, I honestly don't know," he said, a small half-hearted grin appearing on his lips. "I guess that is the first thing I'll need to do, figure out what I want to do with my life. I never thought I would actually live through the war and hadn't given it any thought."
Ginny stood and crossed to him slowly, her tear filled eyes taking in his features, trying to memorize each and every detail. The young heartbroken witch stopped just short of him. "I'm sorry Harry," she stammered as a broken sob escaped her lips. "I never meant… I just thought…," try as she might she couldn't find the right words to say what she felt. She didn't need to as Harry apparently knew what she meant. He always knows what I mean, she thought as the tears ran down her face.
Harry quickly pulled the crying witch into his embrace and hugged her tightly to him. "It's alright. I thought so too," he whispered reassuringly into her hair. They had both thought that with the war over everything would be perfect once again, only it wasn't. They had both grown and changed in ways that eventually set them apart from others as well as from one another. "I'm sorry it turned out this way, Gin. I never meant to hurt you," he professed.
"I know," Ginny sniffled as she clung to Harry. "You would never knowingly hurt any of your friends," she told him. "Promise me. Promise me you'll take care of yourself!" The young witch took a step back from Harry and made a visible effort to regain control of her emotions. "I know you'll be absolutely pants without me there to look after you," she joked in an attempt at levity.
"You know me, Gin, I'll muddle through somehow," Harry quipped back with a crooked grin. "Though it will be rather quiet without all the nagging."
Ginny's face darkened into a mock scowl for a long moment before they both chuckled. The two stood for several long moments just staring at each other before Ginny gathered her courage and said the hardest thing she'd ever had to say before in her life, "Bye, Harry."
Harry gave a slight nod as he replied, "Bye, Gin." With a bright flash of green flames he was gone.
Harry Potter stepped from the floo and into number 12 Grimmauld Place. Since the end of the war, for reasons he did not know, he no longer had trouble maintaining his footing when traveling by magical means. He had lost count of the number of times he had come tumbling out the fireplace only to end up sprawled out upon the floor of wherever he was going. I'm sure that did wonders for my reputation, he idly thought in passing.
"Master is home," stated a tired and withered voice. "Kreacher did not expect Master home for some time. Master was in the company of the nice Pureblood Miss. Will she be joining Master for dinner?"
"A change of plans I'm afraid, Kreacher," Harry replied to the old elf. "I don't think we'll be seeing Ginny here any time soon. How are you Kreacher?" Harry enquired, genuinely concerned for the House Elf. This was the first time since the end of the war that he had been to Grimmauld Place. He felt slightly guilty for not having checked up on the old house elf sooner.
"Kreacher cleans as young Master has ordered," the elf replied. "Kreacher lives to serve the noble House of Black."
"Yes, I see," Harry replied, still not certain just how to deal with the old elf. They had not hit it off at first. Kreacher, out of love for his late mistress and Sirius' brother Regulus, had played a part in getting Harry to go to the Department of Mysteries that had ultimately lead to the death of his godfather. The destruction of Salazar's locket had been a turning point in Kreacher's attitude towards Harry. In the final battle at Hogwarts, Kreacher had led the school's House Elves into the fight against the Death Eaters and the gathered forces of Voldemort. Truthfully, Harry wasn't sure what to do with him. "How is Winky?"
There was a sudden small pop. "Winky is fine. There is lots of cleaning for Winky to do here. House is too dirty for Master to live in!" the female elf exclaimed as Kreacher shot her a glare for not allowing him to answer their Master's question. "Dobby say Master Harry Potter is a great wizard. Winky thinks Master should live in a much nicer home than this. Winky does not think this home would be good for Master's babies."
"Yes…well," Harry stammered, blushing red at the mention of his babies, "this is what we have to work with for now," he stated. "I imagine it will be some time before there are any…um…babies."
"Winky hopes Master will have lots of babies! Winky does love to take care of the little ones. It has been so long since last Winky was able to," the girl elf rattled on in a dreamy tone that just screamed that she was imagining a house full of babies for her to look after.
"I'll be up in my room," Harry replied, heading for the stairs to escape the topic of conversation. Once inside the master bedroom the young wizard seated himself at the huge wooden desk before pulling out a piece of parchment and quill. For the next several minutes there was nothing but the sound of the quill scratching out two letters. "Kreacher," Harry said once he was finished writing and had sealed the letters.
There was a soft pop as the old House Elf appeared. "Master calls Kreacher?"
"Yes, thank you, Kreacher," Harry answered. "I would like you to deliver these letters. The first is to Headmistress McGonagall and the other is to be taken to the Goblins at Gringotts. You needn't wait for an answer to either one." The old elf popped away with the letters. Harry wandered down to the kitchen to see what there was to make to eat only to be chased from the kitchen by an irate Winky who insisted that it was not Master's place to cook food. And here I thought I owned this place, Harry thought to himself in amusement.
Harry settled in the library where he browsed the books there, spotting several he was fairly certain Hermione would enjoy. "If I let her in here I'd probably never see her again," he mused aloud with a warm smile at the thought of his dearest friend curled up on the couch with her head buried in a book. Hermione's presence in his life had been the one constant that he knew he could count on. Even Ron, his best mate, had left him a time or two over the years. Not Hermione, not ever. The young man that he had become still wasn't sure just what he had done to deserve someone as wonderful as her in his life.
"I miss her," he confessed, the words as they left his lips were filled with longing to have her there right at that moment. Have I taken her presence for granted all this time? he wondered, feeling that he might have. Harry knew that he hadn't been the best of friends to her over the years. He had often sided with Ron in those early years when she and Ron got into a row. Later he had just stayed out of it, choosing neither side even though he knew that more often than not it was in fact Hermione that had been the one in the right.
The last year at Hogwarts he had paid her and Ron both little attention. Fifth year with Umbridge and then the potions book had been a major catastrophe. Hermione's incessant badgering about the Half-blood Prince's book didn't help any. Their sixth year he had been so certain that Malfoy was up to something that it was all he could focus on at the time. Between that and attempting to get the information from Professor Slughorn for the Headmaster he'd had little time for anything else.
Their months on the run had been even worse of course with both of them fearing for their lives. There had been very little time for the two of them to be just friends as they were focused on figuring out Dumbledore's clues and destroying the horcruxes. The one peaceful moment had been when they had visited his parents' graves. The young wizard smiled warmly recalling the wreath of flowers Hermione had conjured. Standing there in the falling snow, arm in arm, talking to his parents had been one of the most perfect moments in his life. "I'm so glad I got to share that with Hermione instead of someone else," he mumbled aloud.
"Bloody hell, what am I thinking!" Harry exclaimed, quickly running a hand through his messy hair. "I mean it's Ron she fancies," he reminded himself, stomping down on the more than sisterly thoughts he was having about his best friend. Harry tucked away the memory, knowing it would none the less make for an impressive patronus when next he needed one. "Right then. I've got enough to worry about without having to think about if I fancying my best friend or not," he said with a mental shrug to shake off his previous thoughts and the blush he felt on his cheeks.
Winky appeared with a small pop carrying a tray of food. "Master and Master's Missy Granger would make lots of nice babies," the elf offered as a table appeared and she set the tray upon it next to Harry. "Winky has no doubt that they would grow up to be powerful witches and wizards just like Master and his Missy Granger."
Harry paled wondering just how much of his conversation to himself the elf had heard. Try as he might to prevent it the image of what their babies might look like suddenly appeared in his head. Brown eyes and busy black hair that could never be tamed crowned the small face that so much resembled Hermione's that he couldn't help but smile at the thought. Harry hastily shook his head to clear the image. "Yes, well, it isn't likely to happen," he informed the baby loving elf. "She fancies another," he hastily added as he reached for a sandwich from the tray.
Winky gave the wizard a look that women the world over have been giving men since the dawn of time when they thought they were being particularly daft. "Would Master be needing anything else?" she asked instead of getting involved. It wasn't her place to inform her master of what he couldn't see right before his eyes. She could see that his Missy Granger was in love with her Master. She might be an elf but she was also a female and women just know those sort of things.
"What do you think I should do, Winky?" Harry asked simply because he really had no clue what to do with himself. His entire life had apparently all been a part of some greater plan engineered by Fate and Professor Dumbledore. Now that he could do whatever he wanted he found that he had no idea where to begin. There were far too many option for him to choose from. Being an orphan and growing up without anything that could remotely be called normal left him ill prepared to live a truly normal life.
"Master should be having lots of babies," Winky replied instantly as if it was an obvious answer. "Winky loves to care for the little ones." To the elf there was nothing more important or enjoyable as raising babies. "Babies will keep Master busy," the elf assured him.
Harry blushed at the thought of babies and an image of a very beautiful, and very pregnant, Hermione suddenly appeared in his head. Great! Every time she mentions having babies I'm going to think of Hermione now! Harry cleared his throat nervously as any young man of his age would when told to have babies, "Yes, well, perhaps other than that," he suggested.
The house elf looked thoughtful for a long moment before glancing about. "Master needs a new home. This one no good for babies Winky thinks." Harry could only chuckle and shake his head in disbelief as the house elf disappeared with a pop. "She's persistent at least," he said with a chuckle.