Chapter 3 - The Next Day

Author's Note: Here it is, the final chapter of Soundly Asleep! I'm really proud of this story - it's generated more reviews than any of my other two fics. I am unimaginably grateful to everyone who reviewed . . . your reviews really brightened my day. It's wonderful to be able to come home after a long, long school day and get that kind of encouragement! Email me anytime - I don't know many H/Gers but I would love to meet some. Smart people, all of them. ;) Oh, by the way, it might be a good idea to quickly reread the first chapter, because it's quoted rather a lot in this one. Just a suggestion to refresh your memory!

Well here it is, hope you enjoy it and I hope I did this story justice! If you have any suggestions just add them in your reviews! And review the whole story, please!

When Harry awoke that next morning at eight o'clock, the first person he thought of was, inevitably, Ginny. Sitting up and rubbing his eyes, he puffed out a breath of frustrated air. If only he could tell her what he'd said last night, in the common room, while she was really listening. It'll never happen, sneered his cynical side.

Several minutes later he was dressed and following Ron into the common room. Hermione swept over at once, her overflowing book bag clenched in one hand.

"Good morning! You did study for the Astronomy test today, didn't you? I studied two hours last night, but I think one of you was using some of my notes, I couldn't find the ones about lunar eclipses or Mercury's atmosphere, so I ended up rereading the whole textbook, I hope I have everything right . . ."

"Hermione, you are the textbook! You ace every test, you know about everything except Wronski Feints. You. Will. Be. Fine," said Ron, with a begrudging confidence. "It's me you should worry about. All I know is that Saturn's the largest planet and there's something called a Kipper Belt. . . ."

"Jupiter's the largest, and it's Kuiper Belt," Hermione corrected automatically. "Honestly. You've taken Astronomy for, how long, seven years?"

Ron scowled. "Don't remind me."

Sniggering, Harry said, "Well, come on, Ron, let's go take our Sausage Belt test . . ."

"Shut up, Harry."

Harry had just opened his mouth to retort when Ginny joined them, dressed and smiling, apparently rapturous about something.

Ron cast cranky eyes over his younger sister. "What're you so happy about?"

Ginny shrugged and flashed Harry a brilliant smile. "Oh, there're just a lot of things to be happy about . . . it's Friday . . . it's a beautiful day . . . and not to mention I had the most wonderful dream."

Ginny thoroughly enjoyed the sight of Harry's rapidly paling face. She smirked up at him impishly.

"Really? What did you dream about?" asked Hermione conversationally, as they made their way from the portrait hole and down the corridor.

Ginny molded her face into a thoughtful expression. "Hmm . . . I don't know . . . it's a bit foggy . . . I daresay it'll get clearer as the day goes on . . . someone was talking to me, I think. Yes. Sitting next to me and talking to me. What about? Something about Quidditch and being there for someone and a whole lot of other things. And there was also something about . . . what was it? Oh it's on the tip of my tongue . . . I can't think of the word . . . begins with an L, though, I'm pretty sure."

"Leprosy?" suggested Ron. "Lemur? Lemon? Leg? Licorice? Lizard? Lion? Lawn? Limerick? . . ." He didn't stop listing off L words until they sat down to breakfast, and Hermione elbowed him hard in the chest to make him shut up.

Harry, however, evidently knew exactly which L word she was referring to - love, which he'd so candidly professed to her the night last. Ginny struggled not to burst out laughing at Harry's reaction. He was running his hands repeatedly through his hair, staring down at his plate with a face full of horror.

"What's the matter, Harry?" inquired Ginny innocently, smoothing out her napkin. "You're not eating."

"N-nothing," he managed, grabbing a roll and nibbling at it without appetite.

"How can you not remember what your dream was about, if it was so good?" Ron demanded a few minutes later. Harry spat out some of his orange juice and threw Ron an evil look - Ginny knew he didn't want that topic pursued any farther.

"Oh I'll remember it eventually," Ginny assured him, and Harry's eyes bugged out. She addressed him with an expression of concern. "Really, Harry, what's wrong? You're being so quiet! You were so talkative last night!"

Harry goggled at her, red assailing his cheeks. "What - you - you don't - I - that - not - wh-wh-what d'you mean?"

Ginny cocked her head at him, full of bright-eyed innocence. "Last night, Harry. When we were doing homework together. Remember?"

Harry sighed audibly and slumped back in his seat. "Oh - oh right - well I'm just . . . tired."

"Late night?"

He fidgeted. "Yeah. A bit."

"What were you doing?" she pressed lightly, spearing a square of hash brown. "Talking?"

"Yeah - I mean no - that is to say I really just -"

But it was then he was saved, because the bell rang, and Ginny stood up at once and shouldered her bag. "Goodbye! See you at lunch." I'll spare the poor boy, she thought gleefully, sauntering away. For now.

Hermione and Ron didn't notice, because they were absorbed in an argument about Snape - a git or not a git - but Harry waved farewell. His stomach was still in uncomfortable knots, his palms perspiring. Ginny must've been channeling a prophet or something - he couldn't see how she be so perceptive about everything. Why did I have to open my big fat mouth last night? groaned Harry inwardly. I swear off talking to sleeping people! It's too risky.

Harry didn't see much of Ginny for the next couple of hours - in truth he was avoiding her. He did not, under any circumstances, want to trigger any more memories from that "dream" of hers. But that night in the common room there was no escaping it. He was having trouble with his Charms homework, and when he expressed this to his friends, Hermione naturally offered to help him.

But Ron said suddenly, "No, you can't, Hermione, you're helping me with my Herbology, remember?"

Harry looked at Ron incredulously. "All we have to do for Herbology is draw a picture of a fanged tulip! You really need her help on that?"

"Yeah, well, I can't get the stem right," said Ron unconvincingly; Hermione was frowning at him, but then he exchanged a swift and significant glance with her, and the frown disappeared. Ron continued, "No, you should ask Ginny to help you with your work. Charms is her best subject; she got over an Outstanding on it last year on her O.W.L.s."

Harry reddened. "Well . . . maybe I don't need help . . . I mean -"

"You need help," said Hermione and Ron at the same time. Harry rolled his eyes - he knew Ron had been alluding to him and Ginny together for some time now, but now he had recruited Hermione as well?

"No, I -"

But Ron was already calling, "Oy, Gin! Get over here and help out Harry! Charms!"

Ginny came over immediately.

"No, it's fine, Gin, you don't have to, Ron's just -"

Smiling at Harry widely, she sat down next to him despite his protests and said, "Oh don't worry, Harry, I always help you without question."

Harry went rigid in his chair. He was almost positive that was something he had said the previous night. "What - what did you say?"

"I said I help you without question. I also comfort you when no one else can. Oh, you're doing Illuminating Charms already? Oh I know how to do that, I read ahead in the textbook . . . It's sort of a complicated arm-twisting motion, combined with a little flutter of the wand just right, and the incantation is . . . Lightus Gralios? Isn't that right?" Ginny was poring over his seventh year Charms book keenly.

"Wait a minute - hold on - what did you say?!"

"The incantation's Lightus Gralios."

"No, no, before that!"

"Oh, right, you're having trouble with the wand movements then? Look how I do it, it's kind of a quick flip of the arm and then . . ."

"No, about the - the comforting and the - helping . . ."

"Hmm?" said Ginny, feigning ignorance. "Harry, are you feeling all right?"

Harry felt confused and disoriented. "Erm, yeah . . . fine."

"Good. Now d'you want to get back to your homework?"

"Sure . . ."

The rest of the evening passed normally. Harry went to bed, still with a distinct feeling of foolishness and puzzlement.

Again he couldn't get to sleep. His insomnia had grown even more insistent. While Ron and Neville snored away, almost in tune with each other, Harry lie awake, troubled, his head abuzz with thoughts and wonderings. After nearly an hour of aimless shifting and discomfort, he stood up and trundled somewhat hesitantly to the common room. He wasn't sure what he intended to accomplish by doing this - perhaps seeing Ginny, or perhaps just relaxing and gaining some peace and quiet from Neville and Ron's snoring symphony.

If his subconscious objective had been to see Ginny, he was sadly disappointed. The common room was quite empty, filled with flickering orange light from the gradually ebbing fire. With a grunt he collapsed onto the couch. The minutes passed by listlessly. His gaze became unfocused . . . he let his mind roam . . .

And then quiet, padding footsteps approached, jerking him from a reverie; he craned his neck around to see Ginny tiptoeing down the girls' staircase. She looked at him levelly, as though she had expected (or hoped) to find him there.

"Hi, Ginny," he greeted her, somewhat embarrassedly; but she said nothing to him. Instead she strode over, straight-backed and matter-of-fact, and knelt on the floor in front of him. He frowned at her. "Ginny, what are you . . . ?"

"Lie down, Harry," Ginny said simply.

"Erm . . ." But such was the calmness and intensity of her gaze that he did exactly as she asked, stretching out on his back on the scarlet couch while watching her questioningly.

"Harry," she began, her tone solemn, "you and I have known each other for a long time. My family has taken you in, given you a lot, done so much for you. And . . . Harry, you've done a lot for us. So much. More than you could ever know, probably."

Harry stared at her with a kind of growing horror mixed with comprehension. He could feel heat rise up as though someone had lit a fire on his face. "You - you - that's what I said - you mean - last night - you heard me -"

Ginny merely grinned at him in assent.

Harry thought he might combust with humiliation. Of all the times Malfoy had ridiculed him; of all the times Snape had ostracized and purposely singled him out; even the occasion he had been publicly drenched in Stinksap and then seen by Cho - all those paled in comparison. He had never felt so sheerly mortified in his entire life, and his panic-stricken, ruby-colored face showed that.

But Ginny just laughed - not unkindly. "Harry, stop that, you're putting my blush to shame!"

"But you - I'm such an idiot!" Harry burst unexpectedly, self-disgust writhing in his gut. "I don't know why I started talking to you, that was the stupidest thing I've ever done -"

"No, that wasn't the stupidest thing you've ever done," said Ginny wisely. "It ranks probably at fifth or sixth, if you ask me. Do you want to know what the stupidest thing you've ever done is?" she added, patient and placating.

Harry arched an eyebrow at her. "I don't know. Do I?"

"It was not saying all that to me when I was awake."

"But . . . weren't you awake?"

"Yes, Harry, but that's not the point - you didn't know that. Harry, if there are things you want to tell me - particularly things like that - you can tell me, you know. I don't have to be soundly asleep for us to have a heart-to-heart."

Harry dipped his head with a sigh. "I know, I'm sorry, Ginny. I guess I was just a coward. I mean . . . well, you scare me, Gin."

Ginny grinned, shaking her head. "I know I have the Weasley temper, but, come on, Harry, I'm not that bad. I stop at outright maiming. Sometimes."

Harry laughed, but it was a shaky, nervous laugh. "No, not like that, although your Bat Bogey Hex is not comforting . . . You scare me because . . . well . . . I've never felt like this about anyone else." He swallowed hard, his flush darkening, something Ginny had not believed possible a second later.

Ginny stared at him inscrutably for a few moments, then, as though coming to a decision, repeated, "Lie down, Harry."

Harry, who had been sitting up, seemed about to argue or question her intentions; but then he merely closed his mouth and dubiously did as requested. With that Ginny fixed her hand around his own, took a deep, steadying, breath, and began.

"I remember when Ron told you that you needed someone a bit more cheerful. Which leads me to the point. Because I am a lot more cheerful. And Ron told me once that I needed someone dependable, trustworthy, and, well, to put it in his words . . . a non-git. He didn't exactly belt out 'Harry Potter,' but he might as well have given me hints like 'My best friend, and I'm not talking about the female one,' or 'If you married you're last name would begin with a P.'

"And, well, I'm astounded to say it, but I think my darling brother's right about something for once. To lay it out simply, you're the person that I need. I'd meant to word it more eloquently, but it's alright, because I'm quoting someone very wise."

She grinned at him, eyes twinkling, then resumed, "But I love you, Harry Potter. I really, really do. I have for a long time now - seven years, in fact. And, well, that's - that's just what I wanted to say." She leaned forward and kissed him on the nose.

He turned his head up and kissed her on the lips. "I love you too, Ginny."

Ginny merely grinned at him happily. "Good job, Potter. I wasn't asleep that time. You're getting better." She leaned in for another kiss.

The End

Author's Note: There you have it! I hope it's a satisfying ending. I'm always very critical about my work and hopefully others find it better quality than I do.

So, in conclusion, what did Ginny learn from this experience? Namely that it's really fun messing with Harry's mind, and that you can learn a lot just by pretending to be asleep. And what did Harry learn out of this? Well, for one, that he can tell Ginny how he feels instead of keeping it inside, or talking to her when she looks like she's sleeping - neither of which is a very good idea. :)