These Three Words (Wallpaper Moments II) by St Margarets

Summary: ** Winner of Best Romance in the December Engagement Challenge **
Harry finally says the three words he's been waiting to say his whole life. This is a story written for the Engagement Challenge and is dedicated to Jacquelyne.
Rating: PG-13 starstarstarstarstar
Categories: December Engagement Challenge (2006-6)
Characters: None
Genres: None
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Published: 2006.12.20
Updated: 2006.12.20

These Three Words (Wallpaper Moments II) by St Margarets
Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Author's Notes:

A/N: As you can see by the subtitle, this story refers to Wallpaper Moments, one of the first stories I ever wrote and one that Jacquelyne reviewed. Harry's memories in italics are direct quotes from that story, which was written pre-HBP. While Wallpaper Moments is referenced, I didn't give Harry the experiences from Red is the Heart. (Which is why he doesn't know about alchemy.)

Much thanks to Sherylyn and to snarkhunter for all of their help. I really needed it this time!

These Three Words (Wallpaper Moments II)

"Here it is," Bill Weasley said, setting the velvet bag full of clinking metal on the table in Mrs. Figg's dining room. "What you inherited from your grandparent's vault on your seventeenth birthday, Harry." He frowned, deepening the crisscrossing scars on his face. "Are you sure about this? Are you sure you want to give it all to the Order? I mean, you should save something for the future — something for a home of your own."

Harry almost laughed out loud, even though he felt less and less like laughing these days. It had been six months since he had last seen or spoken to Ginny - six months in exile from her. There was no point in thinking about the future or a home, since there had been times when he was lucky to survive to the next minute, never mind to the next day.

"You should keep some of it," Hermione urged, worry etched on her face.

"Don't be daft, Harry," Ron chimed in. "If no one's offed you yet, you're probably going to last a while longer and you'll need the money to live on. We won't always be able to stay in Mrs. Figg's house."

Hermione made a noise at Ron's insensitive remark about Harry's prospect for survival, but Bill picked up on his brother's argument. "Even Muggle paperhangers don't take six months to finish a room."

That was their cover. Ron, Hermione, and Harry were supposedly living in and re- decorating the Muggle house of Mavis Figg, Arabella Figg's sister-in-law, whilst she was on a yearlong trip around the world.

"At least keep the jewelry," Bill coaxed, opening a velvet-lined box.

"Look at all of this stuff," Ron breathed. "It must be worth a fortune."

Along with numerous necklaces, earrings, and bracelets, Harry noticed that there were three rings. He picked them up and placed them on the table.

"There's a ring for each of us," Harry said.

There was a man's ruby signet ring, a pear-shaped diamond, and a thin band of spun-gold strands that were plaited together in an intricate design.

"Harry!" Hermione protested. "These rings are from your grandparents and should go to your family someday."

"One ring for you," he said, ignoring her. "And one for Ron, and one for me." The unspoken word 'family' hung in the air.

Hermione stared at him, her cheeks flushed. "Okay," she said softly.

"Take the diamond, Hermione," Harry said, relieved that she wasn't arguing. "I think it's supposed to mean something good."

"And it cuts glass," Ron added.

Hermione rolled her eyes at him.

Ron shrugged. "You never know when you'll need to cut glass. It could be dead useful."

"Ron, this is a beautiful ring! Don't you have a romantic bone in your body?"

"Sure I do," Ron said picking up the signet ring and fluttering his eyelashes dramatically. "And the ruby means . . . what?"

"It means gits who are in Gryffindor," Harry said.

Ron laughed. "I reckon that's me then."

"Harry, you're left with the gold ring," Hermione protested. "It's not worth as much as my diamond or Ron's ruby."

"I wouldn't say that," Bill said, picking up the gold ring with the tip of his wand. "This is made from gold floss."

"Gold floss?"

"It's gold from the end of the alchemy process."

"Gold is gold, isn't it?" Ron asked. "It's still not worth as much as the other rings."

"This gold isn't metal," Bill explained. "It's pure magic. The conjurer has long since died, yet the magic is still here in the shape of that ring."

"What sort of conjured magic is strong enough to last beyond death?" Ron asked, now staring with awe at the ring.

"It's a by-product of a very rare phenomenon known as —"

"The mystical marriage, right?" Hermione interrupted. "In real alchemy that stage is the conjunction of sulphur and quicksilver." She frowned in thought. "But what two elements are blended in magical alchemy?"

"It's obvious, isn't it?" Bill said looking around at their expectant faces. "The bride and the groom. The man and the woman. The lover and the beloved."

"I thought the bride and groom made babies and not rings," Ron said with a grin.


"I'm not giving you The Talk, idiot." Bill looked amused. "Magical alchemy takes place in the heart, not the other parts of the body."

Ron nodded. "I reckon there would be a lot more gold floss rings around if it did."

"So that ring," Hermione said, ignoring Ron. "It's —" She frowned. "What is it?"

"Hold out your hand, Harry," Bill said, dropping the ring into Harry's palm. It was warm to the touch. "That ring, for lack of a better term, is a manifestation of love."


That evening Harry sat on his bed and stared at the gold ring in his hand. That word again.


Dumbledore had talked about it. And now Bill.

Harry had scoffed that love was his greatest weapon against Voldemort - wars were won with curses and strategies, not with love. But now, after six months of methodically destroying the pieces of Voldemort's black soul, Harry didn't know what to think.

The painful truth was that his soul felt as incomplete as Voldemort's. The day he had thrust Ginny away from him was the day he had ripped his own spirit into two parts. The mundane part of him that ate and slept and carried out plans of attack cried out for the part that loved and laughed and dreamed of the future — the part he had buried the same day as Dumbledore, the part that belonged to Ginny.

The ring glowed warmly in the dim room. A mystical marriage.

He still didn't know what that meant.


Eventually, Harry fell into a troubled sleep.

It was so peaceful — that white tomb surrounded by green lawn overlooking the blue lake. The cold marble was as indifferent to the wind tossing the high branches of the trees, as it was to the imprint of his shadow marring its cold, white perfection.

The ring on the door to the tomb was made of spun gold floss. He pulled it.

"This is what you wanted," said a high, cold voice. "She's safe."

She was lying on the stone floor, her red hair spilling over her shoulders. His stomach lurched in fear.

She was sleeping, she couldn't be . . . Ginny, wake up! Ginny, don't be dead.

There were gold coins, silver mirrors, and heaps of jewels all around her.

Ginny, please don't be dead.

He woke sweating and breathing heavily in the cold dark hours before dawn. For the first time he realized that Ginny might not feel the same way about him anymore. He had only been thinking about himself and what he wanted. What about Ginny?

He reached for the ring he now wore on a string around his neck. He had to let her know that she was loved — still — after six months apart and for as long as he lived. He would give her the ring that Bill said was love and she would understand.


For the next three days, while Ron and Hermione whispered about Christmas and pretended not to be watching him, Harry's mind constantly played out different reunion scenarios. In his confident moments he pictured Ginny's face lighting up when she saw him. Then she would run to him, laughing and crying for joy, heedless of their surroundings. He would give her the ring of spun magical gold, and she would understand what he was trying to say without words.

In his more numerous pessimistic moments, he pictured her catching his eye and turning her back on him while all the Weasleys watched.

He had to see her, and he had to see her alone.

But how was he going to see her alone at the Burrow? Knowing Ginny, she would refuse to talk to him if she thought he had schemed with any of her brothers.

Fred and George had been trying to get them back together since the summer months, but Harry had eluded all of their tricks - including the time they had tried to tie him up in the backroom of their shop on the day Ginny went school shopping in Diagon Alley.

Harry sighed and rolled over on his bed to face the ceiling. It was Christmas Eve and he was alone in Mavis Figg's house. Ron and Hermione had begged him to come to the Burrow, but he had been adamant about staying behind since he didn't want his first meeting with Ginny to be a public one.

If she rejected him he didn't want her brothers to see, and if she welcomed him he didn't want her brothers to see that, either.

Still, it was difficult to stay away now that he wanted to see her so badly. He tortured himself thinking about what they would be doing without him. The entire family would be eating a delicious dinner and then they would trim the tree. Celestina Warbeck would be on the wireless. When the concert was over, Mr. Weasley would shoo everyone off to bed. Ginny would pretend to go to her room until it was safe to sneak back downstairs to look at the Christmas tree for a while. She had told him once how she did that every Christmas Eve — even the Christmas Eves she had spent at Hogwarts.

That was it! He would surprise her by the Christmas tree. He would leave at ten o'clock on his broom in order to arrive at midnight. It would be better to fly since he wouldn't alert anyone with an Apparition crack.

He looked at his watch. It was almost nine o'clock. Enough time to shower and put on dress robes.


At half past nine, the doorbell rang. Harry's heart sank when he found Arabella Figg on his doorstep holding a bottle of wine and one glass.

At ten o'clock, Harry still harbored hope that Mrs. Figg would take the hint and leave. Instead, she told him an amusing story about how her Kneazle, Katsinjammers, had inadvertently hitched a ride on the Knight Bus and ended up in Liverpool.

At half past ten, Harry gave up his plan to fly to the Burrow when Mrs. Figg began to weep over Katsinjammers's three-day nightmare along the Mersey River, hiding from football thugs and the dragon that lived under the stadium there.

At midnight Harry Side-Along Apparated Mrs. Figg home and laid her on the settee to sleep it off.

Trying to decide if it was too late to seek out Ginny, Harry paced around Mrs. Figg's house and then went outside. The memory of standing on this very spot with Ginny washed over him.

"Ginny, will you go with me on the first Hogsmeade weekend - just you and me-all day?"

"The first Hogsmeade weekend?" she repeated. "You're asking me in July to go out with you in October?"

Harry shook his head. What an idiot he had been. He should have kissed her and made her his that day. He looked up at the sky and found the North Star.

"So, will you go with me?"

She smiled. The merry glint was back in her eyes. "Yes."

He let out a relieved sigh and felt the gladness bubble up inside of him. "I wish it could be sooner."

It was too late to Apparate to the Burrow and hope to find Ginny awake. He would have to wait until tomorrow when most of the Weasleys had left. Maybe then he could surprise Ginny in the garden.

He wished it could be sooner.


Ginny, please don't be dead! Ginny, wake up.


You never know when you'll need to cut glass.

Tap! Tap! Tap!

Harry woke with a start, his heart pounding madly. An owl. There was an owl tapping on the glass. He scrambled out of bed and flung open the window, letting in the frosty air of the still-dark morning and Fred and George's owl, Jester.

He tripped over a pile of presents at the foot of his bed and swore. "Happy Christmas," Harry said grumpily as Jester perched on his dresser.

Jester hooted and held out his leg. It looked like he was carrying a small package. Harry was just about to reach for it when the hairs on the back of his neck stood up in warning. He took out his wand and waved it over the small box. It glowed blue.

"Nice try," Harry muttered. Fred and George had sent him a Portkey. There was no way he was going to arrive at the Weasleys' breakfast table still in pajamas and disoriented from his reoccurring dream.

Harry reached for the box of owl treats he kept for Hedwig. "Sorry you had to waste a trip, but I have to do this right if I'm going to get Ginny back." Jester pecked at his owl treat and then flew off through the open window. "Tell Ginny those three words for me," he murmured, wishing it were that easy.


Even though it was still very early, Harry decided to open his Christmas presents and begin his day. He had presents from Hermione and all the Weasleys except for Ginny - unless he counted thundering silence — the same gift he had given her.

His stomach twisted with guilt. She must be feeling awful this morning, finding nothing — absolutely nothing - from him. The worst part was that there was no bloody way she could know that he had changed his mind and there was nothing he could do about it until later.

Sighing, he pulled on his new Weasley jumper (black with a phoenix emblazoned on the chest) over his t-shirt. Would Ginny want this one, too?

"I'm going to nick this jumper from you," she announced.

"Are you?" He smiled. "What makes you think I'll let you have it?"

"You will," Ginny said confidently. "It will be in good hands, and besides, you can't fit it over those shoulders of yours anymore."

Harry laughed but didn't say anything, since he had suddenly realized that he couldn't deny her his jumper. In fact, he was pleased she wanted it.

He had to stop thinking about her or this day was going to be endless. But now that he had opened the floodgates of his memory, everything reminded him of her.

He shuffled into the kitchen to make coffee and caught sight of the rolls of wallpaper stacked on top of the fridge. Wallpaper. That's what he had been doing on his sixteenth birthday - the day Ginny had showed up on the Dursleys' doorstep and made that house bearable. Now he knew how he would pass the time until he could seek out Ginny - he was going to wallpaper Mrs. Figg's living room.


It took him a while to move everything into the center of the room and cover all the furniture with white drop cloths. Then he had to set up the ladder and fill the water tray and find all of the Muggle tools he needed to wallpaper.

Mavis Figg had the same taste in home decor as Aunt Petunia, Harry decided as he unrolled the first roll of dull beige wallpaper. Ginny would not approve.

"What would you have picked?" he asked.

She squinted her eyes in thought. "Something with a little more life than beige on beige swirls."

"Like what? What's your favorite color?"

"Green," Ginny said promptly. "What about you?"

"Me? I dunno." His eyes wandered to her hair. "Red?"

He smiled at this memory and got to work.


Weak winter sunlight was starting to filter through the vine-covered windows when Harry heard a thump at the front door. It sounded like someone had fallen. Grabbing his wand, he ran to the entryway and cast a transparency spell on the front door. He almost dropped his wand in shock when he saw Ginny standing on the front step wearing a confused frown and a blue dressing gown.

"Ginny!" He flung open the door and pulled her inside. She stood under the harsh electric light and stared at the small package tied with a red bow that was still in her hands.

"It was a Portkey," she stammered, looking at Harry with pleading eyes. "I didn't realize. I know you don't want me here —"

"Ginny —" He stepped closer to her.

"I'll just use the Floo," she said in a high voice, backing away from him. "Forget you ever saw me."

"We aren't on the Floo," he said. "This is a Muggle house."

"I see." She ran a hand through her bright hair and turned away from him after one quick glance. "Make me a Portkey back then."

"The Ministry would know if I made an unauthorized Portkey and I really don't want to call attention to myself," he said softly. This was worse than he thought. Ginny angry he could handle, but he didn't know what to do about Ginny trying frantically to get away from him.

"Then let me borrow Hedwig, and I'll write a letter to Dad. He can Apparate over and bring me back."

"Hedwig's not here," he said, moving in front of her. She was shivering now.

"Oh." She gave a tearful laugh and looked at the floor. "You'll just have to Side-Along Apparate with me to the Burrow. I know that means touching me, but —"

"Ginny!" It hurt him to hear the pain in her voice. She really didn't know that he still loved her. "I'm not going to Side-Along Apparate with you until we've talked."

Now she looked at him with blazing eyes. "Don't do this to me, Harry! I can't go through it again. I can't listen to you telling me that I'm part of another life and that we can't be together. I know that." She flung Fred and George's Portkey across the entryway. "I've been dodging their match-making for six months and today — today — " She was practically choking on her rage.

"They've irked you long enough?"

She stopped in mid-tirade and stared at him, her mouth agape.

He stared back, willing her to remember, willing her to forgive him for breaking it off.

She closed her eyes. "Harry, what are you doing?" she said weakly. "I swear I can smell wallpaper paste."

"It is Christmas."

Her shoulders dropped and she shook her head as if she couldn't quite believe this was happening. "The only way I'm staying is if we can do something whilst we talk."


"I'm going to need a change of clothes."

He let out a breath at this small victory. She was staying. "Upstairs —"

Ginny interrupted him. "Bottom drawer — I know that drill."


She returned wearing jeans and a shirt that weren't his. He felt a stab of disappointment at this — but he couldn't blame her for borrowing Hermione's clothes even though they didn't fit her right, either. Still, she looked as pretty and vibrant as ever -her hair the brightest thing in the dull room. But she wasn't smiling.

"So, we're working with beige again," she said, rolling up the sleeves of Hermione's shirt. "Don't Muggles make wallpaper in any other shade?"

"I don't know. I think Mrs. Figg picked it out."

Ginny snorted. "Because it's the color of Katsinjammers?"

"Have you ever heard the story of Katsinjammers and his trip to Liverpool on the Knight Bus?"

Ginny stopped unrolling the wallpaper. "I thought he went to Brighton?"

"The wine said he went to Liverpool." Harry could almost smile now at the memory of how Mrs. Figg's long story kept him away from Ginny last night.

Ginny raised her eyebrows. "What?"

"Mrs. Figg was here for hours last night, drinking wine and talking about that damn Kneazle."

"She loves that Kneazle," Ginny said, frowning.

"A bit too much, if you ask me," Harry answered, kneeling down with the yardstick to measure the wallpaper.


"Well, yeah." He made a mark where the paper should be cut. "At first she's laughing, telling this story about Katsinjammers running off, and then she starts crying."

Ginny picked up the knife. "Wouldn't you feel the same way if Hedwig went missing?" she asked in a cold voice as she knelt over the paper between them.


"She loves that animal," Ginny said, viciously tearing through the paper so that the edge was ragged when she finished. "And if you love something or someone — it's hard to let them go."

Harry went very still.

"Damn it! This edge isn't straight!"

"Er — "

She looked at him through her hair falling wildly around her face. "Here," she said, thrusting the knife at him. "You do it."

"Ginny, I didn't mean to make fun of Mrs. Figg."

"It sounded like it to me."

"Okay," he said, gripping the handle of the utility knife. "Maybe I'm being a little harsh, but she messed up my chance to see you last night -"

"You wanted to see me last night?" she asked.

He couldn't look at her. Instead, he took the metal t-square and lined it up against the ragged edge of the wallpaper. "I wanted to see you alone," he explained, beginning a long steady cut in the paper. "And I remembered that you liked to look at the Christmas tree after everyone went to bed and I thought I could see you then. But by the time I took Mrs. Figg home, it was too late."

Without a word, Ginny took the cut length of wallpaper in both hands and folded it loosely. Then she placed it in the water tray, pushing it so every inch was submerged. After a few seconds, she stood and unfurled the paper, allowing the excess water to drip away. "What did you want to talk to me about?" she finally asked as she handed the prepared paper to Harry.

I wanted to tell you that I love you.

Harry climbed the ladder with the sticky paper. "Um." He butted the top edge up to the ceiling and matched the swirls with the paper on the side. Ginny was below him with a wide brush, helping to smooth that length of paper into place.

Trying to gather his thoughts, he stood on the ladder and watched her run her hand along the seam, pushing out any air bubbles. When she was finished, she turned away from the wall and dropped the brush on the floor. "Harry, what's going on?" She tilted her head back so she could look him in the eye.

"Ginny," he began. Then he noticed how pale she was and the shadows under her eyes. "You haven't had breakfast, have you?"

She shivered. "No."

He scrambled off the ladder. "I don't know what I was thinking." He put his arms around her, worried that she was trembling from the cold on top of being hungry. She didn't hug him back but she didn't pull away, either. After holding her for a moment and smelling the soft floral scent of her hair, he pulled off his jumper.

"Harry! I don't want —"

Ignoring her protests, he wrapped the jumper around her shoulders. "Come into the kitchen."

Ginny sank into a chair at the rickety plastic-topped table while he pulled out eggs, bacon, and bread from the fridge. It felt good to do something for her — even if it was just making her breakfast.

She cupped her hands around the mug of coffee he set in front of her and then she shrugged his jumper to the back of the chair. While she watched, he put bread in the toaster and cracked eggs in the frying pan. "You're cooking the Muggle way," she remarked.

"Magical fires don't work on a Muggle stove," he said, carefully turning the eggs. "Ron tried it and about burned the house down." He smiled at that memory.

"Is Ron cooking like a Muggle now?"

Harry snorted. "Hardly. Although Hermione keeps trying to teach him. He just eats everything cold unless one of us takes pity on him." He set the plate of bacon and eggs in front of her.

Ginny gave him a small smile. "Looks good."

Harry studied her as she ate. The color was returning to her cheeks at least, but he wanted to do more for her. He wanted to see that happy sparkle in her eyes. He wanted her to laugh. He wanted his Ginny back.

"Is that the gold ring from your grandparents?" she asked, looking at the ring he had on the string around his neck.

He had forgotten all about it. Now was his chance. "Yeah — "

"Mum got angry with Ron for scratching his initials on the window panes with that diamond you gave Hermione," Ginny interrupted. "Then Fred and George took it and started to write 'Ron is a git' — but Mum caught them."

Harry laughed. "Sounds like a typical Christmas Eve at the Burrow."

"Yes, well-" Ginny toyed with her food.

"I was wrong —" he blurted. "About us. About the other life."

"Oh?" she said calmly, as if she had expected him to say that. She looked him in the eye. "You were very sure the day of the funeral."

"I know," he said quickly. "I've changed my mind."

She raised her eyebrows.

"I have," he said, defensively. "Bill told us about this gold floss ring and —"

"Harry." There were two red patches on her pale cheeks. "If you think Mrs. Figg was a wreck missing her Kneazle —"

"I'm not a stupid Kneazle who wandered on the Knight Bus!" he exploded. "I love you! I left because I love you - and I want to come back because I love you - and if I can't have you with me, at least let me have the idea of you with me sometime in the future."

She blinked. "You love me?"

He ran his hand through his hair, thinking he had really mucked this up. "Yeah." He met her eyes briefly. "I should have said those three words as soon as I opened the door."

"Three words," she breathed, closing her eyes.

"Ginny." He moved to kneel next to her chair and take her hands. They were cold. "Ginny, are sure you don't want my jumper? Your hands are so cold."

She looked into his eyes and then she looked at the string around his neck and then she smiled — really smiled. Her eyes lit up and her lips curved into that challenging grin he knew so well. "No, but I'm going to nick that ring from you," she announced.

"Are you?" His heart beat faster at this familiar exchange. "What makes you think I'll let you have it?"

"You will," Ginny said confidently. "It will look good on my hand, and besides, you can't fit it over any of your fingers."

Harry laughed and pulled on the thin string around his neck until it snapped. Then he took the freed ring and slid on to her third finger on her left hand.

"Harry, you should put that on my right hand. The left is for a wedding ring."

Bride and groom . . .man and woman . . . lover and beloved.

He took a deep breath as he suddenly realized there were more words he had to say.

"Ginny, will you marry me?" he blurted. "After you finish Hogwarts?"

"You want me to marry you?" she repeated, looking a little dazed.

He nodded, not quite believing he had asked her that question.

"You're asking me now — in my sixth year - to marry you when I finish Hogwarts?"

He hit his forehead with his hand. "I should have talked to your dad first."

"I don't think that matters," she said faintly as she looked from him to the ring on her hand.

His heart was still racing. She hadn't said yes. "So, will you marry me?"

She smiled. The merry glint was back in her eyes. "Yes."

He let out a relieved sigh and felt the gladness bubble up inside of him. "I wish it could be sooner."

"I do, too," she whispered. Her eyes were bright with emotion.

He reached up and kissed her then, tangling his hand in her hair. The blood sang in his veins as she kissed him back, her hands clutching his shoulders.

When his knees started to protest, he stood and tugged her hands. The settee in the living room was covered in drop cloths, so he took her to his room. Lying with her on his unmade bed, he kissed her over and over, telling her how much he had missed her and how hopeless he had felt without her.

"I had terrible dreams," he confessed, stroking a lock of hair away from her face. "I dreamed you were dead in a tomb with all sorts of treasures around you."

"I have dreams like that about you all the time," she murmured, running her hand across his back.


"You can't help that," she soothed. "And your dream —"

"I was trying to keep you safe," he said. "But in the process I was killing something."

"Harry," she said, putting both hands on either side of his face. "You can't kill love."

He took her left hand and kissed the ring glinting on her finger. "I know that now."


The short winter day was waning when Fred and George's owl tapped on the window of Harry's bedroom. Harry's heart sank when he saw the red Howler it was carrying. Jester dropped it and another letter on the floor and then fluttered away.



And Harry, you must stay. We've missed you."

Mrs. Weasley's voice still echoed in the small room after the paper burst into flames and then collapsed into a heap of ashes.

Ginny stared at what remained of the letter. "I can't believe Mum lowered her voice in a Howler. I didn't know you could lower your voice in a Howler."

"I didn't mean to get you in trouble," Harry began.

"Are you kidding?" Ginny said, reaching down for the other letter. "She's thrilled I was here with you, can't you tell?"

"Er — no."

Ginny giggled and handed him the letter. "I reckon Fred and George got the big lecture. And I reckon they're taking all the credit for getting us together in that note."

Harry read it out loud:

"Dear Harry,

Even though we managed to send Ginny to you, please don't think this gift comes without conditions —"

"Gift?" Ginny fumed. "Who do they think I am? I'm no parcel to be —"

Harry laughed and continued reading.

"Etiquette dictates that an unmarried witch and unmarried wizard must never — under any circumstances - indulge in the act of wallpapering. We trust that you will remain a man of honor, etcetera, etcetera,

Fred and George."

"Oh, for pity's sake!"

Harry laughed. "If your brothers only knew . . ."

"We didn't have a chance to finish papering that room," she said wistfully. "It would be more homey for you if we had."

"It's not important," Harry said, folding up the letter. "This house isn't home."

Ginny leaned against him with her head on his shoulder. "No."

He put his arm around her and watched as the last light from the sunset briefly colored the room gold and then red. Soon it would be dark, but he would always remember the way the light looked at this moment. They weren't married yet, but he felt that something had been conjured between them today — something that he had been looking for his whole life.

His heart lifted as he realized just what he had in Ginny now. He was no longer in exile. "I never thought I'd have the chance to say these three words."

Ginny lifted her head. "I love you?"

He turned and smiled into her bright brown eyes. "Ginny, I'm home."


A/N: I must confess that I had the hardest time writing this. I think because I had the foolish hope that somehow a little story would make things better for Pat and everyone grieving for Jacquelyne. While I can't make that pain go away, I hope your burden will be eased by all the great stories being written for her. Like Harry begins to discover in this story, the alchemy of the heart manifests itself in many wondrous ways. By lovingly fostering so much talent, Jacquelyne had her hand in many creations. She won't be forgotten.

I used the following challenge lines:

"Look at all this stuff."

"And the ruby means…what…"

"Are you sure about this?"

"There is no bloody way he/she could know."

"If your brothers only knew…(what)…"

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.

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