A flash of light blinded him and he experienced the horrible, thrilling sensation of falling, falling, falling … only to open his eyes to a glorious early summer day. It was that sort of day that happened sometimes in the north of Scotland where the sun shone bright, but it was still quite chilly in the shade. Harry looked out over the lake, the towers of Hogwarts rising high into the clear blue sky and felt at peace.
Leaning back against the rough bark of the tree, he idly plucked a blade of grass and blew on it, eliciting a sharp whistling sound. As he was staring out at the lake, a shadow fell over him and he looked up. "About time you got here," he said, grinning as Ginny settled down next to him.
"Sorry. Got caught on the way down by Demelza. That girl can chat when she's a mind to." Ginny lifted his arm, fitting her compact body snugly next to his. "So is this how you've been spending your time? Pulling up innocent blades of grass?"
"That isn't all I've been doing," Harry said, the sensation of her body next to his generating a heat that had nothing to do with the sun. "I've spent quite a lot of time staring at the lake, too."
"Well, I'm here now, so …" Ginny looked up at him, his favorite impish smile on her lips, making him ache to kiss her.
So he did. Lowering his mouth to hers gave him that swooping, falling sensation again, almost as if he were diving after a Snitch. Meeting her lips, though, that was a whole different experience, one that Harry would be happy to experience every single day for the rest of his life.
Lips tingling and breath nearly gone, they broke apart, Harry thrilling to see that Ginny's lips were looking a little more swollen and dark. He licked his own lips and was about to go in to kiss her again when Ginny put her hand on his chest. "What?" he asked, frowning at her abruptly serious look.
"I need you to do something for me, Harry," she said, pressing harder on his chest.
"Erm, what?" Harry's mind raced with possibilities. What does she want? More privacy? More kissing? Less kissing? Other … stuff?
"I need you to wake up."
A shock like being doused with a bucket of ice cold water went through him and he stared at Ginny, the sun still shining brightly on her dark red hair. "What do you mean?" he asked, trying to shake off the surprise. "I am awake."
She shook her head, her smile taking on a sadness that hadn't been there earlier. "You need to wake up," she insisted, her nails digging into his chest through his shirt now.
"I am awake! Look, we're outside, yeah?" He swept his arm out, gesturing towards the lake and the castle. "There's Hogwarts right … there …" Only, there was no castle there, just a mass of roiling black clouds that seemed to have come out of nowhere. A spike of fear shot through his gut and he tried to stand up, prevented by Ginny hanging on to his arm.
"Harry, I need you to wake up, please," she pleaded, hanging on to him with what felt like all of her strength.
"Please, just wake up, Harry."
"Harry, wake up. I love you. We love you."
"Gin—hold on. We? We who?" he asked, yet another shock reverberating through him. She looked like she was about to answer, but another flash of light blinded him and he was falling once more.
Harry shifted on the bed, trying to get away from the bright sun streaming in through the window before giving it up as a bad job. Sitting up, he scrubbed his hands over his face, still surprised at the rasping sound of his unshaven face.
Opening his eyes, he was only mildly surprised to see Ron's room at the Burrow. Ron's bed was empty and Harry rolled out of his cot, feet thumping quietly on the floor. After dressing quickly, he paused at the door, listening for any sounds in the house. Hearing nothing, he opened the door and stole silently down the stairs.
In the kitchen, the kettle on the stove was still warm and he poured himself a cup of tea, taking it out onto the back steps of the crooked old house. The sun shone impossibly bright onto the back garden, lending a sense of unreality to the morning. Where is everyone? he thought as he watched a pair of garden gnomes fight over a withered carrot.
A flash of red caught his eye and he automatically turned toward it, heart thumping as Ginny came out of the chicken coop, carrying a basket of eggs. "Good morning," he said, unaccountably shy as she came up the steps of the back porch.
"Good morning." Ginny set the basket down on the wide porch railing and ran her hands through her long hair, sweeping it back from her face. "Finally out of bed, I see."
"Sorry. Yesterday was a bit long. Where is everyone?" Are we alone? he wondered, heart racing at the thought.
"Ron went with Hermione to get her mum and dad. They left early this morning." She crossed her arms and leaned against the rail next to the basket, making her shirt ride up a little bit.
Harry's eyes wandered to the bare strip of skin, once more wondering if they were well and truly alone. "What about your mum and dad?"
"They're … handling arrangements. For Fred." Ginny looked away and Harry had the sensation of ice water trickling down his spine.
"Sorry," he said after an awkward sip of tea.
Ginny shrugged, looking back at him. "It's all right. It was his choice, wasn't it? To fight."
"Yeah." Harry came to stand next to her, still clutching the mug of tea he didn't really want anymore. The sunny day seemed odd to him now and he was at a loss for something to say, so he was very glad when Ginny spoke again.
"I need you to do something for me," she said, her voice serious.
"Of course, Gin. Anything, you know this." He turned to face her, glad to see a small smile on her face. She reached up, resting her small hand on his cheek and he couldn't help but lean into the touch. "What do you want me to do?"
"I want you to wake up."
Harry took a half step back, looking down at her. "Weren't you just congratulating me on being out of bed?"
"Out of bed, yes, but …" she paused for a moment, a line of worry appearing between her brows. "But you need to wake up."
A wave of frustration went through him as a dim memory stirred. "Haven't we already had this conversation?"
Now it was Ginny's turn to look confused. "What are you talking about? We haven't spoken in months. Yesterday was the first time I saw you and … well, we didn't exactly have time for a catch up chat, did we?"
Harry winced at the tinge of anger in her voice. "I'm sorry if I was a bit preoccupied with handling a Dark Lord, all right?" An ache started between his eyebrows and he rubbed the spot. "I just …" A spike like ice drove through his head and he groaned, doubling over.
"Harry?" Ginny's cool hands were soothing on the back of his neck. "Harry, please, just wake up. Come back to me."
"Ginny, I'm right here." The pain subsided and he stood up straight, taking her hands in his. "I swear to you, I'm awake. I'm right here."
"But you're not." To Harry's horror, her eyes started to fill with tears and he searched his brain for something to say that would keep the tears from spilling over.
"No, no, love, I'm awake." He pulled her forward, wrapping his arms around her, marveling at how she fit him just so. They stood on the back porch of the Burrow, his tea stone cold and forgotten as she murmured against his chest for him to wake up until another flash of light and that falling sensation took her away from him.
Harry sat up on his surfboard, looking out to sea as he waited for the perfect wave to present itself. The bright sunlight bounced off the water and directly into his eyes, making him squint. A jolt of panic coursed through him when he felt a tug on the surfboard tether secured to his ankle and he turned, relieved to see Ginny on her own board, a mischievous smile on her face.
She paddled up next to him and sat up, humming the theme from "Jaws".
"Thanks for that. You know they sighted one at Stinson, yeah?" Harry said, leaning over to kiss her salt-tinged lips.
"Why do you think I did it?"
Harry raised an eyebrow at her, feeling the corner of his mouth curl up in a smile. "And I thought you came out here just to steal my wave."
"Oh, I'm definitely going to do that."
"But it's my birthday," he said with exaggerated petulance.
"And it's my birthday in less than two weeks." She gave him a saucy grin that abruptly made his wetsuit uncomfortable and looked out to sea. "Oh, look at that. I believe my ride has arrived," she said.
Looking out, Harry saw the wave he'd been waiting for forming and he looked back to his wife. "You go ahead."
"I'm not taking your pity wave."
"Fine, then I'll take it." Harry lay down on his board, setting up to catch the wave. Ginny copied his motions. "Hey, you said you didn't want it."
"I said I wouldn't take your pity wave, not that I wouldn't steal it from you." The swell caught them both and she was off with astonishing quickness, shooting Harry a victorious look over her shoulder as the wave crested, driving her toward the beach.
The sight of her standing up, perfectly balanced on a piece of foam against the might of the ocean fairly took his breath away and he shook his head, chiding himself under his breath for a lovesick boy.
Later that afternoon, Harry lay on the beach blanket, his body warmed by the sun and sand, Ginny next to him. The combination of the warmth and a full belly made him sleepy and he felt his eyes slipping closed behind his sunglasses. A spider-crawling sensation on his stomach brought him back awake and he lifted his head. "What are you doing?"
"Just seeing if you're awake," Ginny said, continuing to walk her fingers up to the middle of his bare chest.
"I am now." Harry took her hand in his and kissed her knuckles before turning on his side to face her, struck as always at how her face had matured into a sort of mellow, timeless beauty.
"Oh, good. I'd hate to think I was taking advantage of you." Harry found himself flat on his back, looking up at Ginny as she traced the tip of her finger from the very edge of his swim trunks, up to his navel, circling it and giving him the shivers despite the warmth of the day. Flattening her hand, she swept her palm up through the dark hair that covered his stomach and chest, switching back to her fingertips when she reached his neck.
Harry tried to take a deep breath to counteract the quivering in his belly and found it strangely difficult. "Gin," he whispered as she kissed the corner of his jaw, trailing her lips along his cheek before capturing his mouth in a searing kiss that chased away all thoughts of breathing.
As Ginny continued her assault, his hands wandered over her soft skin, playing with the string ties of her bikini top, tempted to just untie it and deal with the consequences of public nudity on a public beach. Bloody Americans and their puritanical attitudes towards … Harry's thoughts fled as her hand settled on top of his erection and started stroking him.
"Harry," Ginny whispered, her breath hot against his neck.
"Mmmm?" he mumbled, his throat still tight.
"Why won't you wake up?"
A trickle of fear trailed an icy finger down his spine and he felt his throat start to close up in earnest now. He struggled to sit up, gently pushing Ginny aside. He took off his sunglasses and looked at her. He cleared his throat, trying to push past the heaviness he felt. "Gin, why are you asking me to wake up?"
"Because you need to wake up, love." Ginny squeezed his hands in hers so tight, it made his wedding ring dig painfully into his finger.
"But I am awake! I'm right here!" Panic surged through him as he felt his throat constricting even more, his breath sounding like a high whistle.
Ginny shook her head, seemingly unconcerned by his inability to breathe properly. "I promise you, if you just wake up, everything will be fine."
"I—" Harry gasped out with his last breath, pulling away from her, his hand grabbing at his throat as he collapsed onto his back on the sandy blanket.
"Please wake up, Harry! We love you so, so much." Ginny was pleading now, sweeping his fringe away from his forehead. He just had time to wonder who else she was including when he fell once more.
Harry lowered himself into the rocking chair, wincing at the twinge of pain in his hip. He took a sip of the whisky James had given to him for his last birthday. "It's from Japan, Dad," he'd said when Harry had unwrapped it, proud that his gift had come from the furthest away. Harry had harbored secret doubts that the Japanese could distill anything as fine as the Scots or Irish, but he had to grudgingly admit that it was pretty good for sipping on the back porch on a late summer afternoon.
"Oh, is that the one from James?" Ginny asked, settling in the chair next to him. Harry handed her the glass, watching as she took a sip and closed her eyes in obvious pleasure.
"Allie get off all right?" Ginny handed the glass back to him and nodded.
"You know he prefers to be called Al now," she chided. "He was disappointed you didn't stay around to say good bye."
Harry shifted in his seat and took another sip of whisky. "You know I don't like to see them go."
"I know. They understand. Mostly."
"They're shooting him out of a bloody cannon, you know." He looked over at Ginny, seeing the echo of his son's face in hers, still surprised when he saw shining silver rather than red hair.
"It's not a cannon, Harry. It's a rocket."
"Same thing as far as I'm concerned." Next to him, Ginny sighed and shook her head.
Harry looked out towards the creek that ran through their property, listening as the frogs sang out the sunset. "We did well, though, didn't we? Raised good kids."
Ginny snorted and took his glass again, stealing another sip. "Sometimes despite our best efforts."
"Well, they'll never complain that their childhoods were boring, will they?" Harry shared a laugh with his wife, reaching out for her hand. He smoothed his thumb over the back of her small, strong hand, marveling at all of the things he'd seen those hands do over the long years. Catching babies, casting spells, soothing hurts … He raised it to his lips and kissed it, her skin cool and soft against his lips.
Her grip tightened and he looked over at her. "All right?" he asked, concerned at the tense look on her face.
"Listen to me, Harry. I need you to wake up. You're so close, love," she said, her voice low and intense.
"But, I am awake, aren't I? We're out here on the porch and the sun's going down."
She shook her head impatiently and leaned forward. "I've been begging you to wake up. I can tell you're close. We need you back."
"Gin, darling, there's no one else here. Allie was just visiting." Harry paused for a moment, an insidious thought curling through his mind. "You know that, right? That Allie was visiting and now he's gone. He has to go to work," he said, making sure to sound patient rather than exasperated to avoid upsetting her.
"Harry, I am not losing my mind. I know Allie was here and he's just left, but we all need you to just wake up."
"I'm not losing my mind, either. I'm perfectly aware that I'm awake, yeah? We're here at the house. The creek is just over there." He stood up and pointed as if doing so would prove it beyond a doubt, but when he followed his own finger, he saw … Nothing. Just blank space? How … Filled with terror, he turned to Ginny, always his anchor when life got stormy.
She stood next to him, putting her hands on either side of his face to draw him closer, her eyes boring into his. "I know you can do it. I know you can wake up. We're all here, waiting for you."
"There's no one here but us. Look, let's go inside and, erm, have a bit of a lie-down." He turned toward the back door of the house, but it was gone, too. The only things he could see were their chairs and the porch they were standing on. "Ginny, what's happening? Why are things disappearing?"
Ginny smiled her beautiful, timeless smile that never failed to lift him up and stroked his cheek. "You're starting to wake up. Come on, love." She stood up on her tiptoes to kiss him, sending a zing of electricity down to his toes. Taking his hand, she started walking to the edge of the porch, tugging him to follow.
"Gin, there's nothing there," Harry said, pulling back on her hand.
"Just come with me and you'll wake up. It'll be all right. Come on," she said, her voice reminding him of when the kids were small and she was trying to get them to do something they definitely did not want to do.
"But … but what if I don't?"
"Harry, trust me, okay? Come with me and you'll wake up." Ginny tugged on his hand again, drawing him step by reluctant step toward the strange nothingness at the edge of the porch. "One more step," she said, letting go of his hand. She took that last step and … disappeared.
Harry stood at the edge of the porch, his breath coming short and fast as he stared at the void. "Gin, I—" I'm scared. As soon as he had the thought, he heard her voice again, seeming to come from all around him, reverberating in his very skull.
Wake up wake up wake up wakeupwakeupwakeupwakeup up up up up WAKE UP!
Harry clapped his hands to his ears in a futile effort to shut out the voice. "Argh! Yes! Fine! I'll step off this bloody porch into God knows what!" Before he could even really think about what he was doing, he stepped off into nothing, following the sound of Ginny's voice.
Harry's eyes fluttered open and many things happened, seemingly at once. Healers and Mediwitches came in and out in an endless parade, all of them intent on poking some different body part with their wands or fingers.
Through all of it, Ginny stayed at his side, firmly refusing all entreaties to leave the room or stand aside. "I've forgotten more about medicine and Healing than you'll ever know," she said, fixing one overzealous young Healer with a gimlet eye until he backed off from trying to extricate Harry's hand from hers.
Finally, after the entire staff of the hospital were satisfied that he knew his name, numbers and ABCs, they were left blissfully alone and Harry could ask the question that had been on his mind ever since he'd realized he was in hospital and apparently had been for quite some time.
"What happened?" he asked, his voice weak from disuse. He ran his hand over the short stubble on his head. "Why am I bald?"
Ginny smiled and squeezed his hand, resting her other hand on his brow. "It'll grow back, love, but it might look a little different." She paused for a moment and he gave her a questioning look. "You were stuck by lightning," she said gently.
"You're joking," Harry said once the initial shock wore off.
"I wish I were." Ginny tucked a lock of silver hair behind her ear. "James had brought the boys around for lunch to see Al and you were all out playing Quidditch."
Harry frowned, trying to think of the last time he'd seen James and his sons, coming up empty. "I don't remember, but all right."
"And I was inside, making lunch for us all when it came over all cloudy. Al had already landed and was shouting at you, telling you there was going to be lightning, but you'd seen the Snitch and you didn't want to lose it in the weather."
"It's an old one," Harry said in a weak attempt at humor.
"I came outside and we were all shouting at you to come down, to get out of the sky before … well, you just had to catch it." She was quiet for a moment, a faraway look in her eyes. Harry was about to prompt her, but she went on before he could. "And I swear, the moment you put your hand on it, you were struck."
Harry lay still, absorbing the information. That he'd been a reckless arse and gone after a Snitch in a burgeoning thunderstorm didn't surprise him in the least, but that he'd actually been struck by lighting and seemed to have come through in one piece did. "And then what happened?"
"You fell. Your broom was blown to bits and we were all too stunned to react. James had the boys to wrangle and I … I failed." She averted her eyes from his and swiped at her nose. "I just couldn't fathom that it was you falling and I just stood there, watching."
His heart twisted at the recrimination in her voice and he squeezed her hand. "No, love. It was my own damn fault."
"You hit your head pretty good and you had a burn from the strike and a few other things; broken arm and leg," she said, easily dismissing the broken bones. "But the head. You had a bleed and swelling and they had to take care of those so …" She trailed off, running her hand over the short stubble.
"How long?" he asked, filled with a sudden desire to know how much of his life he'd missed.
"Two weeks." Harry was simultaneously glad he hadn't been out longer and dismayed that he'd been out that long.
"And you've been here the whole time?"
"The kids tried to get me to go home, but I couldn't. What if something happened while I was gone?" she asked. Harry heard what she didn't say. What if you died and I wasn't here with you?
The two of them sat together in silence, each thinking their own thoughts until Harry tugged on Ginny's hand. "Come here," he said, moving to one side of the narrow bed.
"Harry, there's barely enough room for you in there," she protested, but he could see her eyes shining in the dim light of the hospital room.
"You're small. Come on." He patted the bed next to him, amused to see her looking around the otherwise empty room before getting into the tiny bed with him. "I want to tell you something," he said as she nestled her head on his shoulder.
"I dreamed about you. About us."
"That happens sometimes when people are in a coma. They don't really remember, though."
Harry put his lips against Ginny soft, silver hair. "I remember all of them," he whispered.
Ginny put her arm across his chest, the weight of it comforting and familiar. "What did you dream of?"
Looking at her, Harry stroked the back of his finger down her cheek, the freckles now faded with age but no less beautiful to him. "All of our sunlit days."