Ginny was back home. It only took an hour for her mother to interrogate her.
"You don't look right, dearie," said Molly Weasley, as she stirred a boiling pot of vegetable stew. "Is anything the matter? Are you and Harry all right?"
"We're fine," said Ginny, slamming a knife down on the table with an uncharacteristic slam. "Everything's fine."
Molly put down the spoon. "I've seen that look enough on my face during my Hogwarts years to know that everything is most certainly not alright, my dear. Now, what's the matter?"
Ginny just shook her head.
"Let me guess. Harry dumped you because he wants to be all heroic and go fighting You-Know-Who by himself?"
Ginny turned a very pale face to her mother, her freckles sticking out of her blanched face like little suns. "How did you know?"
Molly shook her head. "A guess, dear. An awfully correct guess. Now, I'll talk to him, don't you worry - he needs a mother's words in this time -"
"Mom! You can't do that!"
"It's what he needs, you know yourself he's only being silly!"
"Don't you dare!" Ginny's Weasley temper was letting loose. "Don't you dare say anything to Harry about this! You can't change how he feels about me!"
"Darling, you know he still likes you-"
"I don't know that! You don't know that! You don't know anything about him and his feelings! And you most certainly do not have the power to make him take me back! How could I ever look him in the face again!"
"Ginny Weasley, you watch yourself -"
"No mom, it's not okay! Don't you dare even consider talking to Harry about it! If you do I swear I'll - I'll - I'll do something drastic! I'll go run off into the wild and take on Voldemort by myself, I'll destroy him! And I'll do it without you or Harry's help! I'll do something desperate!"
And by the look of Ginny's falling out hair, pale face, and teary eyes, she most certainly would.
It was several weeks later, and Ginny still regretted that conversation - in particular the way she had stormed upstairs and cried on her pillow, and how Ron and the twins had found out what had happened after she had yelled at them to "bloody get lost, like that bloody Harry Potter".
She had flashbacks back to her early teens – she had been awful then. Really really awful. Full of nothing but snappy remarks and sharp comebacks, something that she now recognised as nothing but a coping mechanism from her experience in the Chamber.
Ginny sighed into her pillow now. This was the day when she would see Harry for the first time since Hogwarts. This was the day when the elaborate plan - which she had managed to squeeze out of Ron - would be put into action. It was very elaborate. Changing lots of people into lots of Harry Potters was certainly very … creative.
She wasn't holding her breath about it working, that's for sure.
Ginny's mother was incredibly flustered throughout that day, and kept Ginny working at chores at every spare opportunity.
Ron, Hermione, the twins, and her father left in the late afternoon. She and her mother waved at them as they apparated - and disappeared into the horizon.
There was a sudden silence, as the both of them realised how alone they really were.
"Rightio," said Molly, immediately turning to distractions. "Let's do the laundry."
"I've already done that, mom."
"Oh, of course dear. Well, go and clean the chicken coop, dear."
"Ron did that this morning."
"Oh. Well, you can -"
"Mom, it's fine. It's fine. I'll sit with you, how about that? We'll sit and wait for them to get back. There's nothing left to do."
"I'll make some biscuits!" said a distracted Molly.
But Molly had already bustled into the house, leaving Ginny on the verandah, tears stinging the back of her throat.
She pushed them back with an effort, her hands balled into fists, clutching the inside of her pockets. "Stupid, stupid, stupid," she muttered. "Don't be such a baby. Come on, you idiot. Harr- Ron wouldn't want you to bloody cry. Not now."
Somehow, thinking about how Ron wouldn't want her to cry helped a little. Her tears turned into anger, and she turned and kicked the old verandah chair with such force that it fell over, a leg cracking as it did so.
Silence filled the air, except for a vague clatter emerging from the kitchen window.
Ginny shook her head at it all.
It just wasn't bloody fair.
Hello. It's me again, Death.
I am right on time.
Mad Eye Moody has a wonderful, terrible soul - sea grey and deep, deep green, with splotches of scarlet.
Now it lies in my arms.
I carry it carefully away.
Ginny sat on the Verandah, chin on hand, waiting desperately with all her might.
She was quite sure that she had never wanted something so desperately before.
Please let them be okay. Please let them be okay.
There was a faint 'pop' as Hagrid and Harry burst into the garden out of thin air, clutching an old hairbrush. Ginny raced down, her mother behind her, and almost listened to the temptation to jump into Harry's arms - but somehow managed to hold herself back.
He's okay, she thought. Hagrid's okay. Harry's okay.
She stared at Harry - he was so thin! Had he always been this thin? - and wondered how she had ever tried to convince herself that it had just been a fling, like with Dean.
No. This wasn't a fling. With an effort, she turned her thoughts back to the others. Where were they?
Harry was saying how he didn't know where they were, and Molly was hugging him.
Molly hurried inside, partly to fetch alcohol for Hagrid and mainly to wash her face.
Harry turned to Ginny.
She explained how the others should be back. Incredibly business-like, she checked her watch. "If they made it, George and Lupin will be back any moment."
Harry nodded, and Ginny once again repelled the urge to throw herself at him and hug him to pieces.
Thankfully, before she was able to give into such an awful thing, her mother appeared with red eyes and brandy for Hagrid. The half-giant downed it all in one big gulp, and smacked his lips.
The rest of them came back eventually, one by one - bedraggled and frowning, with pain in their eyes. Ginny almost - but not quite - cried when she found out Mad Eye was dead. One tear slipped out when she saw George's ear, but she wiped it away so quickly that she was nearly positive that no one saw her display of weakness.
From now on, she determined, I will be strong.
No more tears.
On the third night of Harry's stay, Ginny was setting the table when she was joined by Harry. Harry. Potter. She desperately ignored the butterflies in her stomach, gritted her teeth, and slammed down the knife at the place mat.
He nodded at her, and the awkwardness grew.
Ginny shook her head. She had to tell him, something that she knew her mother had been planning.
Ignoring the butterflies, she explained how her mother was planning to keep separating Ron and Hermione and him, because she was scared they'd run off.
"I thought something was up," said Harry.
"I'd hope so; you're not that stupid," said Ginny, before blushing fiercely and cursing herself.
"So your mother isn't happy with me fighting old Voldie'," muttered Harry.
"Wait - that's what you are doing!"
"Yeah, but - don't tell people that, Gin!"
The old, familiar nickname slipped out of his mouth, and Ginny could almost sense him grasping for it back, it being his turn to curse himself.
Suddenly, Ginny realised how close they were, standing there in the empty kitchen. They hadn't been by themselves since that time at Hogwarts, where he had said that it was the end.
She looked at him, and he looked at her, and something passed between them, but Ginny was too overwhelmed to think about what it could possibly be - he wanted to be in her company; he could leave at any moment, but he was staying - she was extremely aware of how close he was. How his hands clutched the cutlery. How his eyelashes sat on his cheeks when he blinked, blurred behind his glasses.
They both jumped as the door opened and Bill, her father, and Kingsley bustled in. Quickly turning to finish laying the table, Ginny felt herself blushing - and she cursed her Weasley genetics that allowed her embarrassment to show up on her face.
Meals were the most difficult times of the day, Ginny considered. That night, she sat crammed next to Harry, barely able to use her knife and fork. She spooned a piece of potato into her mouth and glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. He was looking at her - he quickly looked away, and focused at his chicken. A blush was creeping up his neck.
She looked away.
The unsaid things stuck between them, like dirt.
She wanted desperately to clean the dirt, but she didn't know how.
Anyway, she supposed that he didn't want to clean it. It was all in her head. He didn't love her anymore, or even like her, for that matter.
She turned her attention to the food with a little resigned sigh.