All That Had Changed
"You nearly died," Harry spoke softly, eyes not quite meeting mine. His statement was full of concern and it etched into every line on his face.
"I thought you had." I stared at him in wonder, speaking as quietly as he.
It was the first time we'd spent more than a moment together, just the two of us. And the first complete thought he'd managed to voice.
I didn't force him, though. I knew that whatever he wanted to say, he would say in his own time.
His eyes were fixed on me again just as they'd sought me for the past several minutes and I held his gaze despite the warm flush I felt slowly rising in my cheeks.
Sometimes it took him awhile to say what was really on his mind. Then again, sometimes he just needed a bit of encouragement.
I moved closer to him, and the glow from the lanterns that were scattered around the sitting room danced across our skin as we sat quietly on the sofa.
Now back in the confines of the Burrow, everyone else had long since gone to bed. And strangely enough, Ron didn't fight us when the time came and we needed to be alone.
There were no distractions, no disturbances. My focus was solely on Harry. And my eyes scanned over him for the fifth or fifteenth time; I don't know which.
He was scarred, both physically and emotionally, from their long journey over the past several months. The days he'd lived were enough to fill that of an aged man. But I could see the hidden boy, full of brightness and warm smiles and laughter. And suddenly, my brief moment of happiness, of having Harry and Ron and Hermione safe and within reach, faltered as I thought inexplicably of Fred.
I was only vaguely aware of the furrow in his brow as realisation struck him.
"Ginny," he whispered. "Fred. I'm so… if I could have just—" I shook my head, not wanting to hear the apologies that I knew were coming.
"It wasn't your fault, Harry." I could feel my eyes swelling with hot tears. I tried to stop them from coming but it was useless. For the second time today, I found myself unable to stop my emotions from overcoming me.
It may have shown me as weak, but I didn't care anymore. I'd tried so hard to be strong for Mum, Dad, George, and everyone else for that matter. But he was my brother too, and it hurt more than I could explain.
Fred wouldn't laugh again, wouldn't joke again. He wouldn't look at me and flash his brilliant smile. He meant…no, he means the world to me and I never got the chance to tell him that.
I could feel the tears burning trails down my cheeks and I looked at my palms, now red from the unconscious wringing of my own hands.
Through my bleary, tear-filled haze, I watched his hand slowly reach out to take mine, holding it just as gently as when he'd quietly taken it earlier today, after Fred's funeral.
I'd wanted him by my side during the entire thing, but my family needed me, and Ron, as much as he wouldn't admit it, needed him and Hermione. Harry's silent understanding meant more to me than he knew, so when he took my hand for the second time, my resolve faded and I closed my eyes to the harsh reality of the world.
Fred was gone, leaving an emptiness inside me. And Teddy. Poor Teddy would grow up without knowing the two loving parents who'd fought so hard for him, so that he might live in a time and a place where terror didn't lurk in every corner.
So many people died. So many people could've died.
And I'd lost Harry. For a dark and dreadful moment that seemed to hang there, suspended in a frozen wasteland, he was gone too. Yet somehow, I was lucky enough to have him back. No amount of words or magic could explain that.
It was so hard to speak with the weight of the circumstances, despite the fact that much needed to be said. I was hurt by the loss of my brother and my friends, but inside I wanted to yell out with happiness that I still had so many of them here with me. My heart was conflicted, making me wonder if I was a terrible person for finding some light in the darkness. He needed to understand my confusion.
"I miss him so much." I was talking about Fred again. I'd wanted to leave those thoughts stored away in the deep recesses of my mind. But Harry, he could always make me say things without him even realising it.
His hand squeezed mine and with that simple gesture, I wanted to open my heart to him, to tell him everything that I found so difficult to put into words.
I took a shaky, uneven breath and let it out slowly, trying desperately to hold onto him like a lifeline that was keeping me grounded. I glanced at him briefly before staring at our entwined hands again.
"It's just so…" I swallowed the lump in my throat that refused to let me continue on. More tears. I couldn't seem to get rid of the damn things.
"…Hard," Harry said, finishing the statement for me. He understood. "I know."
"And Tonks, Lupin…" Only their names were able to escape my lips and I looked up to see his head bowed, nodding slowly.
I closed my eyes, cursing myself for opening the healing wounds. I didn't mean for us to find ourselves lost in this conversation. It just seemed to happen.
It hurt him to talk about them as much as it did for me to talk about Fred. He didn't need this now, not after everything he'd been through.
My mind was groggy, unable to think of something else to say.
"I guess Andromeda will raise Teddy then." I approached the subject with caution once I'd found my voice.
"Yeah," Harry raised his head slightly, eyes not focusing on anything in particular. "I suppose."
Still he said nothing more, and we were left in a strange silence, paralyzed for some unexplainable reason. It was stupid. We were more comfortable and relaxed with each other than this. Why should things be different now?
"They made me his godfather. Remus asked…when we were at Bill and Fleur's." It was my turn to squeeze his hand. Just to give a little reassurance, letting him know I was with him every step of the way.
"Tonks told me."
He paused for a moment and I could see that he was measuring every word before speaking what weighed heavily on his mind.
"I don't know how to be a godfather." He professed when his eyes finally reached mine, searching for some kind of answer. "How am I…what am I supposed to do, Ginny? I'm only seventeen. I don't know anything about babies."
His concern for Teddy, wanting to make sure that he did the right thing, warmed my heart and I freed one of my hands, gently brushing his cheek with my thumb.
"Just love him." I hesitated slightly before continuing on. What I wanted to say needed to be approached with care. "Love him like Sirius loved you. Show him how much Tonks and Lupin loved him. Be there for him in every way that they can't." I breathed, studying him, wanting so badly to take the worry from him. "Be there for him in the ways that you know Sirius wished he could've been there for you."
His eyes closed slowly and I watched his chest rise and fall with steadying breaths as he swallowed the knot of emotions that welled up within him. I knew it was going to be difficult for him to hear.
With one last move towards him, I weaved my arm through his and curled up next to him, pressing the warmth of my body next to his and resting my head on his shoulder. I wrapped my hands around his again and was content on just existing in the moment.
There was no need right now to discuss the other things that I know we'd both intended to say. There would be time for that; minutes and days…perhaps even years. He was here to stay, after all, and there was so much I wanted to share with him, including my love.
"I think I can do that," he spoke, his voice soft again.
I gave a nod against him, not moving from where I sat. "I know you can."
For the first time in nearly a year, being here with Harry, things felt right. And I'd missed him, of course. I just don't think I ever realised exactly how much, until now.
I certainly hadn't been sure that I was ever going to have a moment like this with him again. But all that had changed.
"Besides…you won't be the only one there for him, Harry." I felt the slight shift in his body and out of habit, I began drawing circles on his forearm with my fingers. "We'll all tell him what wonderful people Tonks and Lupin were. And he'll know that he had two courageous parents who died, fighting for freedom.
"Teddy will have the love of us all. One great big family who will be there to catch him when he falls, a grandmother who will raise him to be a respectable wizard, and a godfather who's not only given him a brand new world already, but one who will always give him so much more."
Raising my head from where it had rested on his shoulder, I looked up at him to find his green eyes sparkling with what I thought might be tears. I reached out to caress his cheek again, sighing with relief as he leaned into my touch. "We'll all be right there with you, including me."
It took all my will power not to stretch up right then and meet his lips in a needful kiss. I'd longed for that kiss for months and I was closer to it now than I had been in such a long time. But I wasn't going to move too fast. I didn't want to push him away.
Instead, I resigned to simply soak up his presence for a bit longer before I would regrettably have to pull myself away from his warmth and retreat upstairs to my lonely room, without him.
After minutes with no other word or sign of movement from Harry, I slowly sat up.
"Well, I guess I'd better head up to bed." I didn't want to go, but from the silence and the late hour, I thought he might be ready to get some sleep. "You probably need some rest, too. I'm sure you're still a bit drained."
I began to pull away from the comforts of my body fitting into his when he spoke.
"No." I looked at him, puzzled and curious as to what he wanted to say and hadn't. "I just want to stay here."
"Oh, okay then." My brow creased more, but I didn't question him. I made to move away, ready to say goodnight when he stopped me again.
"Stay with me. Please?" His voice was tender and his eyes pleaded with mine, not wanting me to go.
My heart swelled with joy as he spoke the words. And the ache I'd felt before, to press my lips against his, was stronger now. Suddenly, I couldn't wait anymore.
So gentle, so loving, so much feeling in such a simple act. Neither of us rushed it.
It was pure and sweet, a gift that we both longed to give each other. The taste of him left me feeling oddly light headed and exhilarated.
"Of course," I smiled, slightly breathless as we parted. And within moments, I nestled into the curves of his body, wrapping my arms around him as he did the same. Laying my head against his chest, I heard the soothing rhythm of his heartbeat. To me, there wasn't a sound more wonderful.
"I'll stay as long as you want me to." The thought of falling asleep in his arms was enough to keep me from caring whether or not my mother found us in this exact same spot come morning.
I felt his hand comb slowly through my hair and trail down my spine when he whispered.
"I'll always want you to stay."