Harry made his way along the passageway between the portrait hole and the Gryffindor common room. Since it was getting on late, Harry expected to emerge from the passageway in to an empty common room. He was surprised to see a multitude of people still up and engaged in conversations. No one had seen him yet. He wished for a moment that he had his invisibility cloak, and could then just walk past them and go up to his bed. Such an action was not to be. If his luggage had been brought back from the train, his invisibility cloak, recovered from the tower, was in his trunk upstairs. Harry's eyes swept the room. Ron and Hermione were sitting close together, away from the others. Neville, Seamus, Colin and Dennis Creevey were sitting on the couch facing the huge fireplace. Ginny, Harry saw with a lurch to his stomach, was sitting in a squashy armchair next to the stairway leading to the girl's dormitory.

Harry took in the scene, struggling with the way he felt when he saw Ginny. "I made up my mind to distance myself from Ginny," he thought rationally.

He tried to ignore the catch in his breath as he looked at her. As he watched from the edge of the passageway, he allowed his thoughts to escape for a moment. He recalled the feeling of Ginny in his arms after the Quidditch match, her warm and vibrant body held tightly in his arms, the eagerness and earnestness in her kiss. He recalled the quiet hand-in-hand walks, the ease of confiding in Ginny, her forthright comments that always brought him back to reality. Harry realized that, unlike Cho, Ginny talked to him about things that mattered. Her strengths complimented his weaknesses. She helped him hone his abilities. She worried about him. She knew better than any other person what it was like to be under Voldemort's control, and she never complained about that terrible experience. She accepted what Harry had to do, and even though it grieved her, she had stepped aside when he made his pronouncement of attacking the future alone. She was strong, she didn't back down from a challenge. She had worked as hard as any of the D.A. members. She had been eager and effective in standing with Ron and Luna during the battle at the Ministry. She had even continued to fight for her friends after she had been injured. She had fought bravely alongside members of the Order of the Phoenix in protecting Hogwarts the night of Dumbledore's death. As Harry added all the memories together, an overwhelming feeling enveloped him. Standing there, unobserved, looking at Ginny from across the room, he realized that he loved her. Not just fickle teenage love, but a love that permeated his entire being. He realized that he wouldn't be whole without her. The thought gave battle with his desire to protect Ginny, to keep her as far away from harm as possible. The unspoken war waged in his mind. Putting down the roiling turmoil, he made his decision.

Steeling himself for an outcome that might not be to his liking, Harry walked purposefully into the common room. Stride never faltering, he made his way straight to Ginny's armchair and stopped directly in front of her. All conversations in the room ceased as Harry made his entrance. All eyes were on him. Without preamble Harry looked into Ginny's brown eyes and said, "Ginny, earlier at the funeral, I told you that I couldn't stand putting you in danger; that I had to face my future alone. I was right on the first count; I can't bear the thought of putting you in danger. I was wrong on the second count; I don't think I can face my future alone. I need all my friends, but most of all I need you. Ginny, I love you. I need you by my side to help me face whatever the future holds. I hope you can find it in your heart to take another chance on me."

Harry waited breathlessly, searching Ginny's face for a clue to her reaction. His eyes never broke contact with Ginny's penetrating gaze.

Suddenly, tears welled up in Ginny's eyes. She jumped from the armchair and locked Harry in a warm embrace. As her arms wrapped around his neck, Harry instinctively pulled her close to him. A feeling of warmth infused his entire being. Harry could suddenly see the best path to protecting Ginny was to learn with her, to learn an unyielding love from her, and to keep her close to his now brimming heart.

"I love you Ginny," Harry said softly into Ginny's ear.

Ginny leaned back and looked into Harry's eyes, "Took you long enough, mate," she said with a wry smile. Then placing her head back against Harry's shoulder, she said simply, "I love you too. I think I always have."

If Harry had had his way, the moment would have been frozen in time, the joy everlasting. As it was, the blissful embrace was interrupted by someone clearing a throat. Harry jumped, his pronouncement and Ginny's response had taken no more than a minute, but in that minute, Harry had focused so completely on Ginny that he had forgotten that they were in a room full of spectators.

The offending throat-clearer was Ron. Harry saw that Ron and Hermione had gotten up from their secluded couch and were standing next to Ginny and himself. The next realization shocked its way through his system. Ron and Hermione were standing close together, hand-in-hand. As his gaze traveled from Ron and Hermione's interlocked fingers, to the smiles on their faces, a flood of understanding coursed through Harry; his best friends were more than just friends to each other now. He was warmed once again, this time by the knowledge that Ron and Hermione were feeling the same emotions that he and Ginny were experiencing. This day had been an emotional roller coaster and he was thankful that it was ending on a positive bent.

"It looks as if we have some notes to compare," said Harry.

"More than that, we have some important plans to discuss," said Hermione.

"Plans," thought Harry, "What a wonderful word. You only plan when you have hope for the future."

"Let's make some plans." The statement came from Neville, who Harry noticed, had a very serious look on his face.

"Budge up then," said Ron, attempting to lead Hermione to the couch in front of the fireplace. It already held four people.

"Really Ronald, there is a better way," responded Hermione in a slightly patronizing tone. "Accio divan," Hermione intoned, and as she did so, she made a circular motion with her wand. The couches and chairs in the common room moved neatly into a circular seating arrangement. "That's better," she said sweetly.

Ron looked impressed but said nothing; he merely followed Hermione, Harry and Ginny as they seated themselves facing the others.

"Harry we have been talking," said Colin Creevey, "We want to restart the D.A.."

Harry was as surprised by the announcement as he was by Colin stepping out to take the lead in the conversation.

"Yes Harry, we would like to ask you to teach us more about defending ourselves against what's out there; but whether you decide to teach us, or not, we are going to re-form the D.A." Neville's words carried the same decidedly defiant tone he had used when he threatened to fight Ron, Hermione and Harry to keep them from breaking curfew.

Harry was stunned again, first Colin and now Neville? "What had gotten into everyone?" Then Harry realized the answer..."Dumbledore's funeral." They were all recognizing their personal responsibility in a new world and dealing with the responsibility the best way they knew how. Harry mulled over the request.

"We've only about a week before term ends," Harry observed.

"Then we had better get started right now, " said Dennis Creevey, "The more practice we get, the better off we are."

"Right," said Ginny, "It was the things that we learned and the practice we had with the D.A. that kept us alive as we fought the Death Eaters. We all owe our lives to your instruction, Harry."

Ginny looked at Harry. As Harry looked into Ginny's eyes he suddenly felt a connection, an understanding of Ginny's meaning. It was as if he could see her thoughts..."You've been a good teacher, we've used what you taught us to protect each other, help me learn more, help us all learn more, we'll all be safer if we look out for each other, we need you, I need you." Harry was once again infused with a feeling of warmth and love for Ginny. Harry knew he could teach them, he knew they were willing to learn, he knew they were all capable of facing danger of their own accord.

"I think it is a splendid idea," said Harry, "Tomorrow is Saturday, why don't we plan three hours, say from five o'clock until eight o'clock. That will give everyone time to take care of their Saturday business." Harry looked meaningfully into Ginny's eyes. Her warm smile said much without saying a single word.

"Let's put it to a vote then," said Seamus, "All in favor, raise your hand."

Everyone's hand, including Harry's, was raised. Hoots, cheers and backslapping followed the vote.

A beaming Seamus said, "It's unanimous then, an' I've got ta tell ya I feel a site better about the future than I have for months. I'm goin' ta bed hopeful. Goodnight all."

The Creevey brothers and Neville followed suit, glowing with anticipation and conversing animatedly as they left.

For a few moments the Gryffindor common room was filled with contented silence.

« Chapter 6 - Friends in Need   Chapter 8 - Comparing Notes »


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