May 4, 1998
The sun was peaking through the curtains. Harry screwed up his face before turning over on his mat on the floor, trying to hide from the gentle light. With his eyes closed, he tried to drift back to sleep but gave up after a few minutes. His body was sore and aching, but comfortable enough in his soft knitted blanket. Ron's quiet snores and the birds chirping outside were filling the silence.
This was the first morning at the Burrow since the battle. He had expected to toss and turn the previous night, as he had become accustomed to doing for the past few years, but had actually fallen asleep quickly and only woke up once. During those few waking moments, he glanced over at Ron's bed and saw the outline of another, smaller body under the blankets. He rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling for a few minutes. His body and mind were so exhausted, though, or perhaps he felt so at home at the Burrow, that he quickly fell back into a sound sleep.
He could hear feet shuffling up and down the stairs outside of his door. The sound of dishes and food preparation in the kitchen carried through the whole house. He did not know what time it was, but he guessed it was still early. After a few more minutes of enjoying his warm bed, his stomach rumbled and he decided to get up. After pulling on a t-shirt and slippers, he made his way downstairs.
Harry was surprised to see that it was Ginny, not Mrs. Weasley, gracefully moving around the kitchen, preparing breakfast. She was contently stirring a skillet of potatoes and appeared to be deep in thought. The sun was shining through the window above the sink and reflecting on her braided red hair. Harry felt a warmth grow in his stomach at the sight of her. He was quickly reminded that one of the best things about being at the Burrow was getting to see Ginny in the morning. When Harry finally stepped into the kitchen, her eyes turned to him. Harry's heart dropped when he saw that her eyes were red and swollen from crying. His own sadness quickly returned.
"Hi, Harry," She said quietly.
"Good morning," He responded, walking up to her. "Everything smells wonderful." He said, complimenting her.
"Thank you." She replied, her lips curling into a small smile.
She reached an empty hand out, and he obligingly filled it with his. He gave it a quick squeeze. He thought about how easily the motion had come to them but couldn't remember the last time he had held her hand.
"How did you sleep?" He asked her, worried that she was having nightmares too.
"Not well," She said honestly. "I am still getting used to being home without him. The house seems so… empty." A single tear streamed down her face and he hesitated for a second before pulling her into a hug. She fit perfectly in his arms and her face nuzzled into his neck. She smelled so lovely to him, like a sprig of lavender and a basket of clean laundry. She closed her eyes and sighed. The embrace was a comfort to the both of them; it had been a long year apart, a brutal battle, and a tiring two days of trying to pick up the pieces afterwards. She allowed herself to be held for a minute, before pulling away and turning her attention back to the stove. Her hand, however, remained in his.
"I just feel like there is a piece of me missing." She said softly. Her voice was barely more than a whisper. Harry could sympathize with her; he had lost so many loved ones that he was familiar with the empty feeling she had. He put his arm around her back, and she dropped her head to his shoulder. They stood side by side in front of the stove for a few moments.
"'The ones that love us never really leave us.'" Harry said quietly, remembering what his godfather had told him. To this, Ginny had no response. She continued to quietly cook, stirring one pan then another, adding ingredients, turning off one burner at a time.
When she was finally done, she turned to him again and faced him, this time looking him straight in the eye. He admired their beautiful green color. He was close enough that he could see the specks of gold and brown in them. His arm that was wrapped around her waist had let her body turn in it, and his hand was now resting on the small of her back. A shy smile had appeared on her face.
He had the fleeting thought that this was the closest he had been to her in almost a year and he felt a tingle in his stomach. Harry had the urge to kiss her but he knew it was not the right time. He did not even know if she wanted him to kiss her. It had seemed like ages since they had been together… And yet, he was holding her in a very romantic way.
"Would you like breakfast?" She said, interrupting his racing thoughts.
"Of course," He said with a smile. He let his hand drop from her back as she summoned a plate and scooped a large portion of eggs, potatoes, sausages, and a biscuit on it. She made herself a plate, too, and they sat down at the kitchen table.
They ate most of their meal in silence. Harry was in deep thought while he slowly ate. The war was over, but he had a few more loose ends to tie up. Fred's funeral would be taking place the next day, Tuesday. Wednesday, he would be meeting with the Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, to talk about what had happened to lead to the destruction of Voldemort. Then, on Thursday, he, Ron, and Hermione would be traveling to Australia to retrieve Hermione's parents.
Harry was pulled away from his thoughts when he noticed that Ginny was staring at him.
"What?" He asked, wiping his mouth on his hand, "Do I have something on my face?"
"No," She said and shook her head. Harry noticed that she had barely eaten anything. She quietly stood up, vanished her leftovers, and washed her plate. She turned to him and said, "Harry, would you like to go for a walk with me?"
"Uh, sure." Harry said, a little surprised.
"Great," She said, with a small smile. "Give me a minute to change and we'll go outside."
"Sounds good," He replied, and he watched her exit the kitchen. He realized that he, too, should probably change and, at the very least, brush his teeth so he quickly cleaned his plate and raced up to Ron's room.
Ron was still asleep, his arms and legs sprawled out across his too-small bed. He was still snoring steadily, oblivious to Harry's frantic movements. He stripped off his pajamas, and quickly dug through his pile of worn out clothes, desperately wishing for something wrinkle free and clean. Giving up and hoping Ron wouldn't mind, Harry pulled open the second drawer of the wardrobe. He grinned when he saw three paper wrapped bundles labelled with his, Hermione's, and Ron's name. Knowing exactly what was inside, he ripped open his present and held up a hand-knit green sweater. Slipping it on and buttoning up his best and cleanest pair of jeans, Harry stopped in the bathroom to brush his teeth and wash his face, and then hurried down to the kitchen.
When he walked into the kitchen, he saw that Ginny was already standing in the garden, holding a basket in her hands. He quickly joined her and they started to walk. They strolled through the garden and across the meadow until the Burrow was nothing but a small speck on the horizon. Neither of them had said a word.
Ginny stopped, put the basket down, and pulled out a blanket. She sat down and patted the blanket next to her. Harry made himself comfortable at her side and took the time to examine her face. In the sunlight, he could admit to himself, that she looked pretty beat up. There was a gash and bruise along her left cheekbone; a dark blue splotch on her porcelain skin. Lack of sleep had produced shadows under her eyes. On impulse, Harry lifted his hand and gently traced his fingers along her uninjured cheek. She closed her eyes, enjoying the feeling of his touch and the warmth of the sunshine.
After a minute, Ginny finally broke the silence, and offered him a smile. "Where did you find that sweater?" she asked him.
Harry dropped his hand and interlaced his fingers in hers. He felt comfortable in the motion, as if he did it all the time.
"Inside of one of Ron's drawers." He answered her.
"Mum insisted on knitting your sweaters." She started to tell him as she gazed across the meadow. "She was hopeful that you would make it home on Christmas, somehow. When Christmas came and you didn't show up, she thought you might appear later that week." Harry felt a guilty knot form in his stomach, imagining Molly compulsively glancing at Ron's name on the clock in case it swung into the "Home" position. "She slowly started to put away all of the decorations but she left the tree, with the three packages sitting underneath it. When I left to go back to school, it was still up. I wonder how long she kept it there before tucking the packages in a drawer.…" Harry's heart sunk when he saw that her eyes were filling with tears again.
"Ginny…" Harry said slowly, not knowing what to say. She was silent for a moment and looked Harry in the eye. She analyzed his green eyes, looking at each individual eyelash. He met her gaze.
"When are you leaving?" She asked casually, surprising him.
"Thursday," He responded. He looked at her sideways, wondering how she knew.
"How long will you be gone?"
"I'm not too sure, honestly. Hopefully just a few days." He studied her face, asking, "How did you know I was leaving?"
"I overheard Ron and Hermione talking about it in the kitchen." She answered him, in her calm way. She stretched her hands over her head before laying down on the blanket. She reached one hand out invitingly and he laid next to her. She scooted towards him so that her head lay on his shoulder and her arm was draped over his chest. He closed his eyes, appreciating the warm sunlight on his face. He was so relaxed with her so close to him that he actually started to drift to sleep….
"Almost every night, I thought about you before I fell asleep, Harry." She told him, pulling him out of his slumber. Her words were a quiet whisper in his ear. He imagined her laying in a four poster bed at Hogwarts, staring at the canopy on the same nights that he was camping in the forest, staring at the tent's ceiling. "And then I would dream about you. Sometimes they were horrible nightmares about you dying by Voldemort's wand, or being tortured by Bellatrix…" She shuddered at the thought, "But sometimes they were good dreams. Dreams about us sitting on grassy hills in the sun, or having a lazy Sunday morning in bed together." Butterflies grew in Harry's stomach at the idea of her imagining them in bed together. "And those dreams gave me just enough motivation to wake up and face the Carrows or Snape or the list of the dead that Lee would read on Potterwatch."
Ginny propped herself up on one elbow and looked at Harry thoughtfully.
"Do you understand what I'm trying to tell you?" She asked softly. He shook his head, unsure if it was okay to admit that he didn't.
"Let me try again." She said before she suddenly swung her leg over his lap, straddling him. She slipped one hand behind his neck and gently tugged at him, asking him to sit up. He propped himself up, leaving one arm behind him, and placed his other hand on her waist. His heart was suddenly beating very fast. She brought her face closer to his until they were only a few inches apart.
She continued to speak softly, but her voice was calm and strong, as if she had imagined this moment a million times. "No matter how far away you were, no matter how many days I went without hearing from you, you were always on my mind, Harry. Every door that opened, I looked to see if you would be walking through it. Every letter I received, I prayed that you would be the one who sent it.… But you never were." Her hands rested on his shoulders as she spoke.
"Ginny, I wanted to write to you. You have to understand—" His brow was creased as he tried to explain himself.
"Oh, Harry, of course I understand." She touched his face and smiled at him reassuringly. "I understand that Dumbledore sent you on a dangerous, complicated mission to defeat Voldemort, and that you were hiding and constantly on the move. You couldn't be sending owls to me or visiting for Christmas or sneaking through my bedroom window. And, honestly, I get that. It wasn't the right time for us to be together."
He sighed in relief at her words.
"But I loved you every day you were gone, Harry. There was a little voice inside of my head that was telling me that we would both make it through this war and we would be together when it was all over. And now, it is." She paused a moment, "It is finally over. Now we're sitting on a blanket in the meadow at the Burrow, perfectly safe. Pretty messed up," she said with a masochistic laugh, "but no longer in danger of being killed by a monster or tortured by his followers. No more cryptic messages to sort out or hidden treasures to find."
"Gin, listen—" Harry started to say but Ginny shook her head at him.
"Please, Harry, let me finish." He nodded in agreement and she took a deep breath. "And you tell me that you're leaving me again, in two days. Well, Harry, I can't do it again. I can't sit at home or lay in bed and wonder if you're okay or even alive. I know that you have a knack for finding adventure - don't deny it!" She added when his mouth opened in protest. "so I need to make myself perfectly clear: I love you, Harry. I think that we are meant to be together, but I will not sit on the sidelines while you go out on adventures. If you've got to go somewhere, you're taking me with you. If that doesn't work for you, then I am going to move on and focus on my own adventure." She tried to sound strong when she said it but tears filled her eyes at the idea of parting ways with him.
He tilted his head to the side and admired Ginny for a minute before speaking.
"Can you have your bags packed by Thursday?"
Ginny's face broke out in a wide grin, the first genuine smile that Harry had seen all day. She leaned in and kissed him for the first time in almost a year. It felt like she had taken a sip of firewhiskey. Warmth had spread through her core. One of Harry's hands made its way into her hair and he slowly lowered himself back onto the blanket, pulling her with him.