Aubrey's bright blue eyes reflected the firelight with sympathy as she took a seat in front of Harry. Neither of them said anything for what seemed like an eternity, before she took a deep breath and closed her eyes.
"Harry, do you remember what your last night in Australia was like?"
The question took Harry by surprise. "Yeah, why?"
"Hermione was telling me about it one time. The two of you stood by the sea and told each other you loved each other and that the best thing for everyone was for you two to stay together right?"
"Yeah…" Harry slid down the wall and took a seat next to the fireplace.
Aubrey shook her head and smiled. "Harry, I'm going to give you the best advice my godfather ever told me." She stood up and went to her knees in front of Harry to get on eye level. "He told me once that we all have to live our lives as the people we are, not the person others want us to be."
Harry laughed. He had spent his whole life being defined by something or someone else. Voldemort gave him the scar, the Wizarding world labeled him either a hero or a nutcase, and Dumbledore eventually made him a sacrifice. The only times he had thought about who he wanted to be were the moments he simply wanted to be a normal teenaged wizard.
Aubrey had a sad smile on her face. "You've never even thought about that have you?"
"Never really had a chance."
"No, you've always had one." Aubrey placed her hand on his shoulder, "The choice of who you are always lies with you."
"How is this relevant?" Harry blurted out.
"Harry, I think you have made at least two genuine choices about who you are. That night in Australia, you made the choice to be with Hermione no matter what. When you went to leave on the horcrux hunt, you made the choice to leave Ginny behind and break off your relationship to go with Ron and Hermione."
"No Harry, stop and think for a moment."
"No Aubrey." Harry got to his feet, "I left Ginny behind because I cared about her, because I didn't want her to get hurt."
"Of course you didn't, but was she really any safer there? Voldemort had already used her before, what would have stopped him from doing it again? Why completely cut romantic ties with her? Why break her heart when you supposedly had every intention of going back to her?"
"I did go back to her."
"And did you do that because you wanted to or because it was expected of you?"
Aubrey was on her feet now, the sympathetic look in her eye replaced by a stern gleam. "Why don't you open your eyes Harry? Ginny was not the only reason you made those decisions. In times like war we hold the ones we care about the most closest, we don't push them away."
"It wasn't about Hermione! Why does everyone think there's something between us?"
"Is it such a horrible thought?"
"I'm just tired of other people…"
"See and there is your problem. There you go again caring about what other people think."
"So you never think about other people's opinion?" Harry started pacing in front of the fireplace.
"Sure I do, with certain things, but I don't give a damn what other people think when it comes to the people I really care about."
"You're not making sense!" Harry roared, "None of this makes any sense or has anything to do with my present dilemma!"
A brief yet total silence invaded the room. Aubrey took another deep breath, "Harry, you never wanted to be a hero right?"
"I'm not a hero."
"I'll take that as a yes." Aubrey smiled, "And you never wanted to be the Chosen One or Boy Who Lived?"
"Don't you think there's even the slightest possibility that the reason you never wanted anything between you and Hermione was because everyone else did?"
The wheels in Harry's mind came to a dead halt. "But Ron…"
"Cho had Cedric and that didn't stop you from desiring that relationship did it?"
Harry didn't bother answering. He knew that he had still had a crush on Cho even when she was with Cedric.
It couldn't be this simple though could it? Surely something else went into his decision not to pursue Hermione than what other people thought. Right?
"You've had people trying to define you since you were an infant Harry. No one can blame you for trying to avoid every label someone tried to hand you like the plague." Aubrey sat down on the couch, "But at some point you need to live the life you want to live and forget about how someone else wants to label it."
The only sound was the gears turning in Harry's mind. Aubrey was smiling her sad smile and rarely blinking as she watched him. Was what this all came down to? Was he really just living his life to fulfil other people's expectations?
If he was honest, really honest with himself, he knew in his heart that that had been why he had went back to Ginny. While it was true that he genuinely cared about her, loved her even, he didn't desire the same sort of relationship with her that he had before. Part friend and part family sure, but not girlfriend and boyfriend. He had gone back to her because he felt like it was the expected thing to do.
But where did that leave him with Hermione?
"Putting it all together detective?" Aubrey brought him out of his thoughts.
"Well let me encourage you to deal with one thing at a time." Aubrey stood up, "I don't recommend tonight, but maybe over the holidays make things right with Ginny. Then you can worry about everything else."
Aubrey surprised him by wrapping her arms around him and catching him in a tight embrace. Harry awkwardly put his arms around her and massaged her back. She pulled back and her bright blue eyes met his emerald ones.
"Start living your life for you, Harry Potter." Aubrey smiled and as she turned Harry thought he caught a glimpse of a tear in her eye.
"Thanks." He gave her a genuine smile as she turned and walked away, closing the door softly behind her.
Harry took a deep breath. It had seemed like the night had dragged on for a couple of days instead of a few hours and there was a burning behind his eyes that beckoned him to sleep that he knew his whirring mind wouldn't let him get. He certainly had a lot to think about.
Thank Merlin for Ron's clumsy feet.