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Harry Potter Alternate Universe >> All It Takes by summerpotter

Simple Text - To view MORE chapters use the chapter jump box to the right.
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Chapter 1: An Escape

"Over here, Ally! I told you we'd find her! You're a little worry-wart!"

"I am NOT!"

"You were worried! Admit it! Mum is right there!"

Three muggle children raced around the corner, yelling to each other in pursuit of a tall woman who was laden with shopping bags. She turned at the sound of the children's voices, her curls bouncing under a large sun hat as she smiled widely at the group of laughing, excited faces. She set her bags down beside her and hugged the smallest girl with long curly hair.

"What's wrong, Ally, dear?"

"She thought you'd left her for good!" Mocked a tall blonde boy, grinning at Allison who looked highly affronted at being teased.

The woman kissed Allison's cheek and stood. "Jeremy, have you been teasing your sister?"

"No, Mum!" The tall boy said, elbowing the boy next to him who began snickering at the blatant lie.

"Well, I hope not… especially since I bought us a box of cookies to share this afternoon."

"Can I have one now, Mummy?" Ally asked hopefully, looking up at her mother with big eyes.

"When we get home, we'll have them as a snack with nice tall glass of milk," her mother replied gently, picking up her bags again. "Now, let's get home. Daddy will be worried that we've been away for so long."

"Dad might think we all got lost," said the middle-child with a laugh at the thought.

"He might," agreed the mother with a fond smile, leading her children down the path and out of ear shot of the redheaded girl sitting at the café table. She watched the family walk away, a sort of longing in her chest as she watched them, thinking how muggle children and families were so lucky to be so ignorant of the war that had happened right under their noses.

They may have sensed the evil, the danger, and the unease of everything. They had witnessed inexplicable disasters, impossible natural elements in all the wrong seasons, and many deaths that occurred suddenly and without warning. Muggles had no idea what was causing it, but perhaps this was better. Perhaps it was easier to live their lives and pin all the strangeness down to bad luck or an unlucky turn of events. It must have been easier than suffering the loss of so many friends, of a brother, and the years of fear at the mere mention of a name.

Ginny now spent a lot of time in the village of Ottery St. Catchpole, which was just a little ways from her home. Muggle-watching made her forget of her own worries and fears, and gave her some free time to think about other people. She watched small children play and run about, she watched happy couples, families who argued, worried-looking passersby, laughing friends, and grumpy-looking shoppers. What she liked about this activity was seeing the normalcy of the rest of the world, and in particular, it was nice to see people not burdened by the scars left by Lord Voldemort on the wizarding world.

A voice startled her from her favourite pastime and she looked over to wave at the approaching two figures. "Hey Gin! Sorry we're late!"

At first, muggle-watching had become her past-time and her vice, but it wasn't long before she happily found herself befriended by two of them. Annie Wotler and Jackson Hendole made it possible for her to forget everything that was bothering her for at least a few hours a day. They'd met at a little town festival a few weeks back when Annie had accidentally tripped and dropped a snow-cone on Ginny. Annie had insisted on buying Ginny one to make up for her clumsiness, and then had insisted that since Ginny was alone, she should hang out with her and her friend Jackson for the afternoon- this was how it had started.

And now she was Ginny: the magic-less friend of Annie and Jackson. They were friends who did not talk about the war or Voldemort, or anything of the like. Instead, they talked about music, food, their summers, or about themselves. They talked about how much they hated Biology labs (Ginny had nodded along, agreeing with most of it), and where they wanted to hang out, or have lunch. This new friendship had become Ginny's guilty-pleasure; a second identity, sort of speak. This was a Ginny who knew nothing of Voldemort, who had not lost a brother, who was not being driven insane by Harry Potter's visits to the Burrow or the way he longingly looked at her before when he thought she couldn't see. Ginny loved that she got to be a person who did not feel as if she'd spent her first several weeks of summer feeling miserable and lonely.

"I couldn't find my phone," Annie explained, holding up her handheld device to show that she'd recovered it. "I spent ten minutes calling it to find it."

Ginny smiled amusedly at Annie and her dedication. Muggles seemed forever attached to their cellular telephones. Ginny's not having one was actually a point of long, teasing, and half-outraged kind of conversation on the first day they'd met- how could she not have one? Usually she didn't mind these differences between her and her muggle friends as they were just little things. Ginny found too that she could fib her way through most things to seem as normal as possible.

Jackson slid into a seat next to her with a concerned look on his face. "What's up, Ginny? You look a little distracted today."

Ginny sat up a little straighter and shook her head, easing a smile onto her face. As usual, the muggle village was no place for her sad thoughts. Jackson and Annie didn't need to hear a censored version of her life so she waved his concern away and replied, "No, I'm fine. I was just daydreaming."

"Ohhhh, who's the guy?" Annie bubbled, dropping herself into a seat and plopping her large handbag onto the table. Jackson was watching Ginny curiously, his arms folded across his chest as if he was waiting for her to come out with the truth.

Ginny rolled her eyes, dismissing the idea. "I wasn't daydreaming about a guy, thank you. It was one of those stare-into-space daydreams."

"Well, that's boring," Annie complained. "You need to meet someone so I don't feel like I'm always going on and on and on about Pat."

Jackson chuckled darkly, running a hand through his short, chestnut-coloured hair. "If you know you do it and you know it's annoying, perhaps you could give us a break on the topic of Patrick?"

Annie looked a little disappointed as she leaned over and playfully punched him in the arm. "You, Jack, are one of my very dear friends, and I think friendship dictates that you listen to my pathetic love-life just as I have to listen to yours."

"When was the last time I complained?" Jackson asked with raised eyebrows.

Seeing an argument coming up, Ginny decided to play peacemaker. "Okay, Annie, any updates?"

Annie glared at her friends for a long moment before launching into a recap of her phone call with Patrick until two am last night. Ginny listened with vague amusement as Annie debated over whether or not Pat's suggesting that they grab coffee sometime was a date or just a casual plan to hang out together. Annie had grown up with Patrick and was the clichéd 'head over heels for the boy-next-door.' Ginny had only met the guy once, but Ginny had had the impression that Patrick hadn't yet considered him and Annie to be more than friends.

Annie was a short, tiny little thing with long yellow-blonde hair and large brown eyes. She wore a lot of muggle designer clothes, and had a bit of an obsession with shoes. She lived about twenty minutes outside the village in the opposite direction of the Burrow. Usually Annie stayed in the village with Jackson's family, with whom her own family was close with. Annie and Jackson had grown up together as kids, but Annie had moved out of the village with her parents after high school.

While Annie was decked out in designer clothes, Jackson often wore a pair of faded jeans and the first shirt he pulled from his closet. He was tall, well-muscled from years of playing rugby, and already brown from the summer sun, even though it was only July. Annie always teased Jackson about the girls making plays for him, but Jackson didn't seem to be interested in the attention at all. He had dated a bit, but had said very little about his last girlfriend, only saying it 'hadn't ended well' in a very bitter tone. Ginny generally liked Jackson. He was friendly, very laid-back and his laugh was contagious.

"Ann, if you just told the guy you like him, you know you'd just end this whole silly beat-around-the-bush thing?" Jackson suggested after Annie had finished her long-winded monologue on Patrick.

Ginny nodded in agreement, trying to avoid the unpleasant feeling that had suddenly materialized in her stomach as she came up with her own helpful piece of advice for Annie. "Yeah, just ask him out or move on. It's much better to just get things out in the open now then forever worry about when he's going to make the first move." And if you followed your own advice, you wouldn't be lying awake at night overanalyzing all of Harry's words and behaviour, desperate for any sign that he still wanted a relationship.

"Ugh, I know… but it's scary. If I mess this up, I probably won't have another shot." Annie flipped open her phone, scanning the screen for any new messages. "I just get so nervous. Here, let me show you how much of an idiot I sound like when I text him."

But Jackson had grabbed the phone out of her hand and tossed it to Ginny. "Just text him, Gin. Let's put her out of her misery. Tell him where we are, and that we're going to get some ice cream from that place on fifth."

Annie's eyes went wide and she jumped to her feet to snatch her phone back. Ginny dodged the grab with a laugh and managed to click the button for her messages. Annie moaned loudly and Ginny looked up to see her friend looking so miserable that she handed the phone back with a sympathetic expression.

"No, I can't do that to her. I know what it's like to be in her position."

Jackson laughed and shook his head. "You girls are silly. Guys don't want to play any games. Just ask us or don't. It's much simpler that way!"

"Are you three ready to order?" A waitress asked, walking up to their table with a small notepad in her hand.

Ginny ordered herself an Iced Tea, while the other two ordered a Milkshake and a Coke. When the waitress left, Jackson banged his hand on the table, looking eager.

"So what is the plan today? I vote we head down to the beach. I don't want to sit inside today."

"The beach? Sounds good," Ginny answered, thinking this was a much better plan than sitting around in town or walking about her house, feeling a little out of place. She was pretty sure she heard Ron telling her mother that the he, Hermione and Harry would be at the Burrow all day today.

Annie nodded enthusiastically. "Yeah, I'm down. It's so nice out today. Maybe they'll have live music out there?"

"I would love to see a concert soon," Jackson exclaimed longingly. "We should take a trip somewhere for the weekend and catch a good concert. I heard Down with Webster will be in London in a few weeks."

Annie was back on her phone, looking through her scheduler to see if she had any plans already scheduled there. "What weekend? My Dad wants to take my family to see my Grandma in a few weeks."

Jackson shrugged, unsure of the exact date. "I'll check. Would you come, Ginny? I know you're a bit of an alien to popular culture, but I think you'd like them."

Ginny smiled at the joke. It was true that much of what they said of pop culture was lost on her, and it was quite embarrassing when she had to learn that U2 was a band, and that Bieber Fever was not a deadly disease. "Depends on how much the ticket is, but yeah, I'd be willing to go."

"I'd cover you," Annie offered distractedly, still staring at her phone screen. "Well, as long as it's not the same weekend as when I have to go see Grandma, I say we should go. We could stay in a hotel… it'd be fun!"

As her two friends discussed plans to head to London and stay in a hotel downtown, Ginny wished that money was one of the many things that changed in the muggle world. She was poor as a witch and as a muggle, and while most of the time, she, Jackson and Annie just hung around together, some of their more exciting plans often involved spending quite a bit of money and Ginny would reluctantly back out.

They finished their drinks and Jackson announced he had to head home for an hour or so to take care of a few things before they spent the day at the beach. They agreed to meet at Jackson's in an hour and a half with their swim things and some snacks. As if agreeing on their plan, the sun shifted out from behind the clouds as they said their goodbyes.

"It's getting so hot!" Annie exclaimed, sliding her Ray-bans onto her nose and frowning up at the sky. "Jackson, let's go before I burn up on the street!"

Jackson smiled slightly at Annie's dramatics and raised a hand in farewell to Ginny. "Okay, okay. See you Gin!"

She waved back cheerily. "See you!"

Ginny turned and walked up the street in the opposite direction. It was a short walk home if she moved quickly. The path was mostly shaded in the trees and thick in shrubs, which added another barricade between the muggles and wizarding families who lived in the hills behind the village. Jackson and Annie had pestered Ginny to allow them to see where she lived, a conversation that Ginny had been forced to end with a lie that her parents were terribly strict, and hated unexpected guests. This was the opposite of the truth, of course. If muggles were not repelled by charms and protective enchantments over the Burrow, her father would love to sit her friends down and question them endlessly.

This was the one major downfall about these new friendships: the secrecy. They could never really know who she was, where she'd come from, or anything about her personal life. Everything from the music she listened to, to the classes she took at school were topics that she could not discuss. Sometimes she felt uneasy about lying to them, but usually she just pushed through the awkward questions. After all, she came to the village nearly every day to satisfy some strange need to feel normal again when she so often felt that she had no idea what was normal for her anymore. Hermione was always busy catching up for school, and Ron and Harry were constantly busy with their Auror training, leaving Ginny to wander about the property missing her friends and worrying about her sanity.

The Burrow came into sight and Ginny moved briskly forward, eager to get her things and spend the day at the beach. She'd have to cast her sun-repellent charms at the house as she'd never worn muggle sunscreen in her life and the stuff looked and smelled disgusting. Annie usually applied an oily substance to her skin to help her get a better tan. Personally, Ginny didn't think that was very healthy, but Annie swore by the foul-smelling oil.

"Ginny, dear!" Her mother called from the front porch, spotting her daughter walking in. "Back so soon?" She tossed another handful of chicken feed over the railings for the ravenous, clucking birds below.

"I'm just back for a little," Ginny called back, nearing the house. "I'm going to the beach."

"Oh, that'll be nice," her mother replied coolly. "How are your friends?"

"Good." Ginny hated the way that her mother said the word 'friends' when she referred to Annie and Jackson, but she supposed that her mother knew when something was bothering her. She said it with almost an air of knowing concern, perhaps implying that she knew why her daughter had become so attached to these muggles. Ginny often thought her mother could also tell how much she needed her muggle friends right now; that it was her own way of dealing with her pain.

Molly Weasley watched her daughter with worried eyes as she stepped onto the porch. She opened the door for her and then followed her inside. "Hermione just came back from her parents. She's been asking for you," she told Ginny. "Hermione, Ron and Harry are in the garden now."

"Oh, I'll go say hello then," Ginny answered, her mood increasing at the thought of Hermione being back. It made the Burrow more tolerable on days when Hermione was around to act as another person between herself, Harry, and the resulting awkwardness.

"Ginny!"

Ginny stopped and turned at her mother's surprised expression as she demanded, "Where is your wand?"

Ginny sighed inwardly. This had been a frequent argument this summer as Ginny was often caught by her mother without it. "It's upstairs, Mum. I forgot it again, sorry."

"Sorry won't save you if you're caught without it! You know I don't want you walking out there without protection on you. There are still Death Eaters on the loose… there is still danger! I allow you to walk that path through those trees by yourself, but I do at least expect that you'd be smart about it."

Nodding, Ginny apologized and promised to bring it with her next time. She honestly had no idea why she didn't just bring her wand- she wasn't denying the fact that there was still some danger. It wasn't a secret that her family had been so involved in the fight against Voldemort. She wondered if it was a psychological thing where she forgot about her wand in a subconscious effort to be more like Annie and Jackson.

Molly didn't follow as Ginny went through to the back door and pulled it open. The three of them were sitting at the garden table, under the shade of a large white awning. Hermione jumped up when she spotted Ginny and hurried to hug her friend.

"Hello! I'm glad you're back! I wish you'd study a bit more over here! I miss you!" She hugged Hermione in greeting, and smiled in greeting at Ron and Harry. "Hi Ron, hey Harry."

"I know, but I get so much more reading done at my parents' house. Where were you? In the village again?" Hermione asked curiously. "I looked in your room when I got in, but your Mum says you're barely here anymore."

Ginny nodded, pleased with how calm and collected she felt with Harry sitting just a few feet from her. "Yeah, I was in the village. Sorry I missed you! How have you been?" She looked around, addressing the question to all three of them, rather than just to Hermione.

"Good, I've had a lovely vacation with Mum and Dad. It's nice to be back though." Hermione sat back down under the shade of the awning and gestured for Ginny to sit as well.

"How are the muggles?" Ron asked, a little too sarcastically.

Ginny raised her eyebrows at him. "They have names, Ron, and they're nice people. Perhaps you could bother to remember that instead of wasting energy on judging me for hanging out with them all the time."

"I just never see you anymore, Gin," he told her, backtracking in his tone. "It's just weird that you spend so much time down there with them."

"You're never here either, and I've got to do something with my time or I'll go mad."

Ron frowned. "You're always there, though. It's like you're avoiding-"

The glare from Hermione and the look from Harry shut Ron up before he could finish that sentence. Ginny looked between the three of them slowly, curious as to what Ron meant by avoiding. Did he mean that she was avoiding them or the wizarding world in general? Did they know about her guilty pleasure? She really didn't want any of them to know of her desire to be somewhere else while she picked up the pieces of her own life. She didn't think any of them would react well to her obsession with feeling like a muggle right now.

"We were going to play some Quidditch later," Harry interjected. "We could use a Chaser?"

Had his eyes always been that intense and green when he looked directly at her? And when was the last time he'd looked directly at her? A familiar ache in her chest began to throb, but she quickly shoved it away- grateful that she wouldn't have to endure being so near and yet so far from Harry all afternoon. This was the norm between them: cool, friendly invites to participate in group activities: no touching, no signs of affection, no one-on-one time. She'd been sure that he'd want to clear the air between them after the war and either make it clear that they were friends or he wanted more. But no, Harry had left it all in limbo.

Hoping she looked mildly disappointed and yet grateful for the invitation, she said "I actually have plans. Annie, Jackson, and I are going to the beach. I just came home to grab my swim things."

"But Hermione just got back! You see them everyday… you can't hang out with us this afternoon?" Ron asked, startled. "We've all been busy lately, you can't take a few hours to hang out with us?"

Ginny hesitated, knowing Ron was right. Wasn't this exactly what she was so irritated about all the time? Logic dictated that if she was upset that they never made time to hang out with her anymore, shouldn't she jump on the invitation? Instead she found herself turning down the offer. "I made plans, Ron… sorry… and I do want to go. Maybe we can play later tonight?" She caught Harry's eye and the ache continued to pain her so she started to back away. With his green eyes narrowed and looking at her like this she had a quick vision of herself pushing Harry against the broom shed after the game.

Shaking her head to clear the thought, she forced her legs to move a bit faster to get away from Harry. "Sorry, but I've got to get going. They'll be waiting for me."

"See you later, then!" Hermione called after her in a cheery, albeit strained voice. With her back turned, Ginny sighed softly in disappointment. What was wrong with her? When was the last time that she'd let Harry Potter mess with her emotions and her head? What happened to the days of being calm, composed and cool around him?

"Yeah, see you," Harry added in a tone that sounded remotely like disappointment. Pausing mid-step, she found that this bothered her more than Ron's rudeness. Why did he suddenly care if she didn't play Quidditch with them? It's not like he cared about her being around the rest of the summer. They were just friends now! Even when Harry was around, he never sought her out, he never said two words to her about being anything other than friends so what right did he have to miss her when she was gone?

If that was even disappointment, she reminded herself glumly. He could just have wanted another Quidditch player. Hermione isn't the best at flying and he probably misses the game…

She made it inside without having turned around to demand what Harry meant by his tone. As she ascended the stairs and mentally raged over Harry daring to be disappointed in her, a second, quieter but smug voice was congratulating her on making him miss her at all. If he missed her, it meant he felt something. And something was better than nothing, which was still a lot better than her crying over her desperate wish to be Harry Potter's anything.

As she collected her swimsuit and tossed it in a bag at her desk, her eyes found Harry, Ron and Hermione in the garden, deep in conversation. She looked down at Harry, wondering what was going through his head, and why she just couldn't follow her own advice to Annie and just get things on the table.

"Harry, I still have feelings for you, and I want to be with you, but I don't know what you want."

The more she practiced it in her head, the simpler it became. So why couldn't she march downstairs and say it? Of course she knew why- it was exactly why Annie couldn't say it to Patrick. If she said it, and he didn't feel the same way, it would break her. It was the thought of his rejection, however gentle and logical it was, that stopped her from doing anything about it. She knew in her heart that it was the hope of one day being with Harry again that kept her from completely breaking down. To have this hope destroyed if he didn't want anything with her would break her already broken heart. If Harry had moved on and starting seeing someone else, it would be one thing, but he hadn't. Instead he kept giving her lingering looks and mixed signals, and this was hope.

She turned from the window, wishing that she felt more secure and confident like she had fourth and fifth years. Being her happy, outgoing, friendly self had won him the first time around. Ginny glanced at her reflection in the mirror wondering where that girl had gone. The girl in the mirror had brown eyes that told of sadness, insecurity, and loss. She smiled a lot less since losing her brother and so many friends. She'd spent an entire year worrying about her boyfriend- or ex-boyfriend, and hoping that once it was all over, he wouldn't have to be his stupid, noble self and run off on her to save the world. Ginny had focused on an imagined moment after the war where he'd coolly ask to speak with her in private and then snog her brains out. He'd tell her how much he'd missed her and would she like to get back together? Now she could see that she'd been silly to hope for so much; if she was an emotional and psychological mess after the war, surely he was worse?

She could hear laughter outside as she picked up her wand to put it with her other things. At least they were happier, Harry especially- his life was now unencumbered by Voldemort. He was free to do what he wanted and live how he wanted. It was just disappointing that he hadn't wanted her back now that he could live.

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