"You understand, don't you, Harry?"
He blinked again. Three more times, slowly, then five times in quick succession. Then he decided that he'd blinked enough for the next minute or so, and just stared.
"Um...does this mean you're OK with this, then?"
His mouth opened, then closed. It opened again, but no words came out this time either, so he quickly pulled it back shut and decided to keep it that way until he was absolutely sure what to do with it.
"Please say something, Harry, anything." She sighed. "I just...this is hard for me too, you know? I swear I never wanted to hurt you Harry, and I really don't want to now, but I just...don't you see? I just - I can't pretend to be something I'm not, Harry. What we had was beautiful, and real, and you'll always be dear to me, but that was before and this is now and - "
Ginny's hands moved even faster than her lips, and suddenly, everything was jumbled up into one big nonsensical mess. Harry tried to stop his brain from going into overdrive and, harnessing all the self-control in his being, he made himself focus on the words swirling in the air between them, trying to decipher their meaning. Rather than doing something stupid, like, say, running out of the room faster than a hippogriff on a skyway.
"- you know I'd never hurt you if I could help it, and I wouldn't, if only I didn't - I'm so, so sorry, Harry, but it's - I can't - it's for the best, don't you see? I couldn't, I can't - "
For the best? The love of his life suddenly thought it was for the best that they not get back together?
"- Harry, please." The words were almost whispers now. "Please don't just - don't just stand there. I don't know, say something, say something mean, be angry, lash out, scream your head off, but please just say something."
Well, the last option was tempting, but Harry knew he needed to keep his head on straight. He opened his mouth for the third time in many minutes, this time determined to put it to proper use.
"Why would you need to pretend?"
Now it was Ginny's turn to blink at him. "What?"
"Why would you need to pretend to be anything you're not if we get back together?" Harry's voice was laced with calmness he did not feel.
Ginny just stared at him, and he understood that she understood his question, that she hadn't expected him to ask it, and that she was reluctant to answer.
"You wouldn't need to pretend to be anyone," he said, as if that wasn't obvious already, "I know who you are, Ginny."
He took a deep breath. This was the moment he'd been preparing for all morning, finally it was here, and he was determined to remember every single thing. Even if everything Ginny had said before had been completely unexpected. But that was OK, he could still change her mind, or at least try to, right?
After exhaling slowly, under the gaze of a bewildered and mildly sceptical Ginny, he began, skipping the intro and jumping to line three.
"You're Ginny Weasley, the fiery, feisty redhead who never hesitates to stand up for herself. The Ginny who fiercely defends those she loves, no damn given for the consequences. You're the Ginny that I kissed for the first time in front of our entire common room, the Ginny that stuck by me through my best times and my worst, as a friend and a lover."
So far, so good. He saw her wince slightly at the word 'lover', but plowed on anyway. He'd come this far, might as well finish. "You're Ginny, who understands me like no other, Ginny, who was never afraid to call me out on my shit, Ginny, who let me let her go, even though I broke both our hearts in the process." He saw Ginny about to interrupt but he wasn't going to let her, not now. "You're Ginny, who fought with me in the Battle, Ginny, who sat by me and held me together at every funeral after the war, Ginny, who's seen my laughter and tears, who knows my delights and my fears," Harry was rather proud of himself for that little rhyme. "Ginny..." suddenly, he hit a blank. Damn it all, he'd forgotten! He paused for a panicked moment to think and then grinned as inspiration struck. " - who hit Malfoy with a bat-bogey hex in fifth year! I mean man, that was epic."
The wince was a great deal more pronounced now. Oh well, Harry thought, it was a nice enough save. She could act a bit less disappointed.
"Really Gin, what more do I need to say?" He closed the distance between them with two long strides until he stood in front of her. For maximum effect, he looked her dead in the eye. "You're Ginny, who holds my heart in her hands, Ginny, who I can't imagine a life without. You're Ginny, the love of my life."
Honestly, Harry was scared her face was somehow stuck permanently in that wince (it seemed painful), and absently wondered if he knew a counter-curse for that sort of thing. Would Finite do the trick? Or would her face stay half twisted up forever? Anyway, there were more important things to worry about now. He'd worry about Ginny's face later (not that it mattered, he'd still love her however twisted her face was).
Ginny wasn't looking at him anymore, so he reached down and took her hands in his. She looked up in surprise. Now came the important part. He put as much emotion into his eyes as he could as he stared into hers (which were filled with more blank confusion than passion, but this was Harry's moment, not hers, and he was in his element.)
"Ginny, I love you." Wince. "I'm truly," wince, "madly," wince, "deeply in love with you." Wince. Wince. Wince. Perhaps these winces were just Ginny's way of showing affection? "You're awesome, badass, funny, you get me, and you're it for me. I can't even dream of being with anyone other than you. Why are you fighting this when it's so obviously meant to be?" And that last line was a great improv, if Harry did say so himself. It was official. Harry James Potter was the Master of Improvisation in Romantic Orations.
At the words 'meant to be', Ginny seemed to snap back to herself. She reclaimed possession of her hands, pushed Harry away, gently but firmly, and wouldn't look him in the eye,
Harry was confused all over again. He'd remembered everything! Well almost everything but that one part didn't matter, he'd saved it nicely, and everything should be going according to plan by now! He'd approached Ginny himself, told her his intentions, listened to her thoughts on the matter (even if they didn't quite agree with his own, but even he hadn't expected the degree of her disagreement), and then he'd given the long, heartfelt speech he'd spent nine hours writing, just like he'd planned to, and he'd been prepared to catch a loving Ginny once she'd been wooed off her feet. Because that was what was supposed to happen. That was the plan! And instead, she was....pushing him away? Did he leave something out? No, not as far as he could recall - they were alone, in front of the fireplace, which was the coziest of settings, in Ginny's own home, where she'd feel the most secure, and he'd worn his jumper and jeans that he normally wore so as not to seem too formal or overdressed, hell, he'd even left his hair alone without even trying to tame it so everything would look perfectly natural...
And yet, she'd pushed him away. Damn it, he knew he shouldn't have listened to Hermione when she rejected his idea of buying her a dozen roses, I mean really, what was so over the top about buying a few roses for the girl he loved? Girls loved roses! But when Hermione had said he shouldn't jump to conclusions and he should hear her out before taking liberties like that, he'd grudgingly obeyed, even though he couldn't foresee any outcome other than the one of them in each others arms.
Obviously, his inner eye needed some thorough cleaning, and perhaps a monocle, because look where they'd ended up now, he'd done everything he'd planned (mostly) to the tee and Ginny had pushed him away and-
"Look, Harry, I'm sorry." Ginny's voice startled him out of his mental rambling. "I've said it before and I'll say it as many times as you need me to - I'm sorry. You want to get back together, but I don't. And really am sorry, Harry, sorry to have caused you pain, but you're not going to change my mind on this." Ginny was a bit pale, but her brown eyes were hard and her voice was sure.
Harry, on the other hand, felt as though he'd willingly jumped off a cliff, only to land right on a trampoline which had promptly thrown him back up again. He hardly knew what to say. But he had to say something. He couldn't just walk away.
"Ginny? I don't understand...why - why are you doing this? Why are you pushing me away when we can finally be together again?" If his voice was a combination of whinging and desperate near the end, there was no one around to judge. Except for an ex-girlfriend who had apparently decided to stay one, for some preposterous reason.
Ginny sighed, long and deep. Harry wondered if she was frustrated, or just simply exhausted. When she looked up at him, he settled on the latter. "Harry, look. It's not like that." She clasped her hands together at her waist and fiddled with her fingers. "A year ago, before the War, when we were just teenagers taking walks on the ground and holding hands by the lake and making out in hidden alcove, there's nothing I would've wanted more than a future with you."A small flicker of hope sparked in Harry's chest. "I was so sure you were it for me too." Harry noticed the use of the word was. "But now...now, it feels like everything's changed. After the war, after losing so many of our friends, Sirius, Mad-Eye, Remus, Tonks," She swallowed. "Fred. And after a year of not knowing which ones would go next and which ones would stay behind with us...I don't know, Harry, the war just made me think about things in a way I'd never thought of them before. It made me think of myself in a way I'd never thought of myself before."
"But you don't need to be anyone else," Harry interrupted her despite her glare, "you're perfect the way you are."
Ginny just smiled at him sadly. "I don't want to be anyone else, Harry. I'll always still be me. I'll always be the Ginny you loved-"
"- but I want to figure out who I am first. I thought I knew who I was, but now...now I'm not so sure anymore. I want to figure out my own feelings, I want to explore thoughts I'd never even considered before and see if they mean anything." She seemed enraptured by the idea, and Harry didn't understand her in that moment, which frightened him more than anything else had. "I want to figure out what I want now, Harry, what I really want. And I'm sorry, but I don't think that's you. Not anymore."
The flicker had slowly died out and was now so dark that it seemed to suck in the light around it too, like a particularly pessimistic black hole. For a moment Harry was stunned into silence. Sure, he'd suspected this, suspected that she might be reluctant to take him back, but he'd also been sure he could prevent it. Whatever Ginny may think in the beginning of the conversation, by the time they'd finished talking they'd be together again. That was the plan! He'd written a long, heartfelt speech, for Godric's sake! For nine hours! What more could a girl want?
Obviously more than you can give her.
Harry firmly told his brain to shut up and shook himself out of his stupor. "You don't want me anymore? That's what this about?" A nagging feeling that somehow reminded him of Hermione told him that that wasn't what it was about, not really, but he ignored it. "That's nothing Gin, I understand, we've all changed, the war changed us, and we've all realized we want more out of life, considering we were close to death most of the time. I understand, I really do." He managed to restrain himself from holding her hands again. He had a feeling she'd just push him away. And that was disheartening enough the first time.
"That doesn't mean I can't be what you want anymore. Just tell me what you want, Gin, -"
"Tell me what the war made you realize you need and I'll make it yours. I promise you." His tone was pleading.
"Harry, it's not - "
"I'll give you anything, Gin. I love you. I don't see why wanting different things means you have to want a different person - "
"Harry please, just listen - "
"I can be whoever you want me to be, Gin, if you would just talk to me about this -"
"This isn't about you, Harry!"
Harry stopped, halfway through his sentence and a quarterway through his monologue, and blinked. "What?"
Ginny sighed again, although it seemed to lean more towards frustrated this time. "This isn't about you, Harry. It never was."
Harry didn't even know what to say to that. "Oh."
This time it was Ginny who reached out and put a hand on his shoulder. He could feel the warmth of it through his jumper and the t-shirt underneath it. "I never decided not to want you, I just..." It seemed like she didn't know how to go on.
A few moments passed in silence. Then the most awful possibility struck Harry like a hammer to a gong.
"There isn't...Gin, there isn't...anyone else, is there?" The thought was hard to get out, especially since every cell in his body seemed to vehemently oppose the very idea.
Ginny's answering blush was answer enough. She took her hand off his shoulder and took a step back.
For a moment Harry's mind was a complete blank. Then red-hot fury made him incapable of any coherent thought, let alone speech.
Ginny, taking his silence as her cue to explain, began to talk. "It's not - I'm not dating anyone else or anything, Harry."
That didn't do much to ease the twisting in his gut, but it was at least better than he'd expected. She wasn't completely lost to him yet. Or was she? His mind reeled with semi-processed shock.
"It's just - I told you, I don't know what I feel. I've never considered...possibilities like this before and now that I am, it feels like a whole new world has opened itself up to me, just waiting to be explored. And...and I have to see what it has in store. I have to. I can't rest if I don't. And somehow, I think what I'd find there would be even more beautiful than what's here."
Harry tried not to act like her words were a blow to his gut as he stared at her. "Are you telling me the grass is greener on the other side?" Because it now seemed like that was exactly what she was telling him. "Really? You're telling me that as an excuse for ending out not-even-back-together relationship? Godric, that's even worse than 'it's not you, it's me', Ginny -"
"Harry, no. Stop." Ginny sighed again, but now she just seemed to be praying for patience. "I tried to explain what I feel to you, but all you're focused on is that we're not together." She looked thoughtful for a second, "You probably think I'm giving up on us. And I suppose in a way I am." She seemed resigned now, but firm. "Don't you see, Harry? I'm not giving up on us, because there's nothing to give up on."
Harry opened his mouth to oppose that outrageous proclamation, but Ginny cut him off. "I haven't felt like we were 'meant to be' in a long time, Harry." Her voice was earnest, pleading with him to listen, and so he did. "The only time we ever spent time together after the war, we were holding each other together. Didn't you notice, we've never really talked to each other. You've never really talked to me about the war, or your childhood, or anything that troubled you very deeply. You shared your normal everyday trivialities and complaints, sure, and you listened to mine, and both of us were ready to hold each other through those problems, but that's not enough, Harry. That would never have been enough. We never knew how to help each other, we never knew how to solve each others' problems, or even help - we only made the going a little less rough."
It was a sudden splash of clarity. Harry realized this was true. They never really went to each other for help with their problems, only for comfort. But then, wasn't that was couples did? Comfort each other? And they could change that, right? They could learn how to talk to each other, how to deal with each other's issues. It would take time, but nothing was impossible, right? Ginny was still giving up on them too soon, without even a fair shot at whatever they had between them. Torn between reluctant acceptance and mild betrayal, he forgot that he'd wanted to interrupt her spiel. And he didn't understand why she couldn't explore these unknown pastures or whatever and date him too, it's not like he would hold her back or something, and she should know that...
"You only talk to Ron and Hermione," Ginny continued, oblivious to Harry's thoughts, "about your nightmares, and your amnesia, and your uneasiness in small, dark places," How did she even know all of that? Did that mean she was still observant of his actions? Was she still watching him, even if she was also drawn to someone else? Did he still have a chance? "- not to me, and the thing is I don't even mind, Harry, because I talk to - I - I don't seek you out to talk to either," her blush deepened a bit, but she kept speaking, and Harry, lost in his newfound optimism, didn't notice. "My point is, Harry, when we stopped needing each other, it became clear to me that we both needed something different. We aren't it for each other. We both love each other, there's no doubt about that, but I don't think we can find what we need in each other, Harry. I'm sure I can't find it in you."
Those blunt words pulled on Harry's already twisted insides, sending something painful shooting right to his heart.
"Who is he?"
Ginny looked away with a wry smile. "Nobody, as of now." She looked back at him, gaze stony. "I don't owe you this information, Harry, but like I said, it's nothing at the moment." She sighed. "All this made me realize I wanted something else - that doesn't mean I've built up the courage to go after it yet. I really am sorry I hurt you, Harry." She stepped forward, put both her hands on his other shoulder and squeezed. "I hope you'll see soon that both our happiness' just don't intersect. You'll find your 'it', Harry, one day. I'm sure you will," she smiled a little smile, and there was that blazing look in her eye that he'd seen that first time he'd kissed her, and Harry found himself leaning in the tiniest bit without even knowing what he was doing.
Then her hands went back to her sides. "It just won't be me."
And with that, she leaned up, kissed him on the cheek, quick and soft, and left the room.
Harry stood frozen in place for a few minutes. He felt weak at the knees. Grimacing, he dropped roughly onto the squishy sofa behind him and stared into the fireplace in the Weasleys' living room, wondering if all that had been real, or just something his mind had conjured up in his nervousness.
He couldn't overlook the possibility - he'd seen much worse things in his head before.
But he also couldn't ignore that tug in his gut and the twang in his heart that told him that everything had been real. Everything. That he'd approached Ginny, a ball of nerves and lines of a speech he'd stayed up all night writing, planning to win her back...
Only to find out that she didn't want him back.
And that she seemed to think their parting ways was for the best. That alone made everything else feel ten times worse.
Harry sighed in self pity. This was the last time he'd ever take advice from Hermione on how to woo a girl off her feet. She obviously had no idea what she was talking about. But then again, she was dating Ron, who was an amazing man but significantly lacking in the wooing department, so maybe it shouldn't have been that surprising.
It was bloody disappointing, though.
Well, at least one thing was for certain - things had certainly not gone according to plan.