Harry hadn't told anyone yet. For no particular reason, other than perhaps exhaustion -- the very thought of justifying the relationship to people, people who he was certain did not want to hear it, tired him. Which was probably reason enough.
It was just easier to let people go on believing he was pining for poor, dead Ginny Weasley.
He left work mid-morning, jotting a quick note for his partner and flooing home from the lunchroom fireplace in full view of everyone. The Quidditch Cup could be just as easily planned two days from then as it could that very moment, it was true, but a part of him wished that someone had at least made the effort to question his decision to leave.
He wasn't, after all, doing what everyone thought he was doing. He wasn't going home to be alone and brood and wallow in an empty flat. There wouldn't be anyone waiting for him, no, but there would be someone in his bed that night.
But then, Harry hadn't told anyone that, yet. And no one had thought to ask.
Harry had a standing lunch date with Hermione, once a week. He thought he might skip it, just this once, stay home and make himself a sandwich. But the consequences of that, he decided, would be more difficult to bear than just going and getting it over with.
Harry had a garden salad; Hermione had a great, dripping hamburger. They didn't say much, at first, but Hermione's expression spoke for her and Harry didn't much care for what it had to say.
"Harry," said Hermione finally, laying her hand on his arm once their plates had been cleared away. Her cool fingers sent chills right through him. "It's all right to talk about it. You know I'll listen. Or Ron..."
Ron, Harry thought, was the very last person he could talk to about things. Ron, whose once-annoying baby sister had become a saint the moment she'd fallen. Saint Ginny, the brave and beautiful and wise and irreplaceable.
"I'm fine, Hermione," he said for what felt like the tenth or maybe hundredth time. Thousandth. "Really. It's been a year now, you know."
She nodded knowingly, the way she always did whether she was dead on or dead wrong. "People mourn in their own time," she said. "A year really isn't as long as you think."
"It's long enough," he told her, though she didn't want to hear it. The dregs of his tea had long since grown cold. He couldn't bring himself to sip it, even thought it meant giving him something to do with his hands and mouth.
The look in her eyes was sympathetic, but that was too close to pity. If only she didnšt always look at him like that. He loved her dearly, but sometimes she was just too much to take. It was nice, now, that he had someone who looked at him differently.
"Well, I've got to get back to work," she said, looking away first. She often did. "You'll be all right, then? Anniversaries are always hard..."
"As all right as any of us are," he said sharply. She looked startled, but just nodded again. "I've got work to finish as well. Next week, then?"
"I'll owl," she told him. "I may be away." She looked like she wanted to give him a hug but she didn't, settling her bag over her shoulder and giving him a warm, parting smile.
Harry finished the tea after all.
Ron came unexpectedly, moments after Harry had finished a floo call to the Ministry. He set his books down on the kitchen table and wiped the soot off Harry's nose with his sleeve and grinned at him. And made himself right at home.
Had he visited just an hour later, he wouldn't have found Harry alone.
"I would've owled," he said, rushing his words before Harry could break in, "but I was in the area and it seemed like such a waste of time. If you were here, you were here, and if you weren't, you weren't. Mind if I put some coffee on?"
"I donšt have a coffee maker," said Harry, but a little thing like that wouldn't stop Ron. A full pot was sitting on the countertop moments later. The flat smelled of burnt coffee instantly. Just the way Ron liked it.
"For you as well?" said Ron, moving toward it while looking back over his shoulder. Harry already had tea, and showed him so.
"I thought," said Harry, "I wouldn't be seeing you until tomorrow. At the Burrow."
Ron instantly looked very solemn. "Yes, that," he said, and blew on his cup of coffee. "I wasn't sure if you would go. I know you've been dealing with it... in your own way."
"Ron..." said Harry.
"Which is fine, of course. No one blames you for that, Harry. We all know what she was to you, after all."
"Ron," Harry said again, no louder than before. Ron paused and looked at him. Once he had the attention, though, Harry wasn't sure what he meant to say. "I did," he went on finally. "Love her. I did. I do. And of course I miss her as much as any of you. But..."
Ron just waited, expectant. Sipping his coffee as though he could wait just like that for hours.
"What am I doing, to make everyone think I'm still mourning? Not that I'm not, but. Ron, I'm not crippled by it."
"People would understand if you were..."
"But I'm not," said Harry, perhaps a little too vehemently. Ron looked taken aback; Harry removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes with the thumb and forefinger of one hand. "Can my friends start treating me normally again? Maybe?"
Though there was a chair right by him, Ron just stood there, sipping his coffee and not looking up. "Didn't know we weren't," he said finally. "What's normal, anyhow?" Harry sighed and wished he had an answer. "I donšt think any of us has been treating anyone normally for a long time."
"That's not true," said Harry softly. "Some people do."
"Some people," said Ron after another pause, "Just have a different idea what normal is."
"You can't say no one treats anyone normal. Neville treats you normal." Normal in the way Harry had desperately been wanting, until someone had come back into his life and given it to him. Though, put that way, perhaps Ron was right after all.
"Normal for me and Neville," said Ron, all at once grinning again, "is definitely not the same as normal for me and you." Harry found himself grinning back. Or, at least, smiling at little, which for him was the same thing. "He says to tell you hello. He wanted to come along, but..."
Harry nodded. "Another time," he said. "I think it's great, that you've managed to move on."
"It's okay that you haven't, Harry."
"Would it still be okay if I have?"
Ron fell silent again. Fell still, in fact, not even moving to sip his steaming cup of coffee. He finally took a seat. "You never said," he said finally. "I didn't know."
"Well, you didn't want to hear it, now did you?" said Harry. It came out bitter, though a part of Harry meant it not to.
"How would you even know that?" Ron blurted out after a moment's awkward hesitation. "Honestly, Harry, all I know about you these days is you work, you come home, you work again, you go out only if we make you. You never say anything. How would you know what I want to hear and what I don't?"
"Well, I'm supposed to love Ginny forever," said Harry. "I'm supposed to love her forever and that's all there is to it."
Ron stood up again, pacing to the window and back again. If the flat'd had a door, Harry wouldn't have been surprised to see him walk right through and slam it behind him. Ron wouldn't even look at him.
"God, Harry," he said finally. 'You know, I thought Hermione was full of rubbish when she went on about how you should be talking to someone, I told her blokes donšt talk about their feelings like that and to leave it be. But bugger me if she wasn't right. Why the hell haven't you said anything, Harry?"
"I'm just... tired," he said, laying his head on his arms. "It's so tiring, all of it."
"Yes, yes it is," agreed Ron, flinging himself back into the chair. "And it's even more tiring when you take on more than you need to. Do you honestly believe your friends meant for you to be alone forever?"
"Was my only sister, was your first love," said Ron. "Will be loved and missed for as long as we're alive That doesn't change because we're still living our lives and she is not."
"And everyone expects me to not be over her--"
"Has it occurred to you, Harry, that we've only been reacting to how you've been acting, all this time?" said Ron. "It's not us, who've been chaining you to her memory."
Harry rubbed his eyes again, his head aching, then slipped his glasses back on. Ron's frustrated, perplexed, hopeful face came into focus. "I am seeing someone," he said after a long silence. "A month now."
"Well, good," said Ron. "Are you going to tell me about her?"
"If you want to hear it," said Harry quietly.
Ron got up to refill his cup of coffee. "I do," he said.
Harry took Luna to Ginny's memorial. She wore a light crimson robe and flowers in her hair.
"I love you," he told her for the first time as they gathered with the family near the garden and held hands. Nobody looked angry. Nobody looked surprised.
"I know," she told him. He wanted to bury his face in her hair and hide for a little while. "It's a beautiful day."
Neville brought them cake, and kissed Luna's cheek before returning to a silently crying Ron. Harry didn't cry. He supposed he was expected to, but he'd already done that. He'd cried for so many people, so many times.
"When I was fourteen," he said out loud, loud enough for more than just Luna to hear, "Ginny sneaked up to the bedroom I was sharing with Ron and jinxed the door so it announced to the whole house whenever we got up in the night to use the loo. It took us four days to fix it right again." And he laughed.
"I miss her, too," said Luna, and kissed him softly.