He spotted Ginny two tables away; she was sitting with her head on her mother's shoulder. There would be time to talk later, hours and days and maybe years in which to talk.

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, U.S. Hardcover Edition p. 745

. . . thinking now only of the four-poster bed lying waiting for him in Gryffindor Tower, and wondering whether Kreacher might bring him a sandwich there. . .

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, U.S. Hardcover Edition p. 749

Harry descended the stairs from the headmaster's office slowly, feeling his exhaustion increase with every step. Ron and Hermione were beneath him on the stairs, holding hands and talking in soft voices. A grin blossomed on his face; he couldn't help but smile when he remembered the way Hermione had thrown herself into Ron's arms and kissed him as if their lives depended on it.

He stumbled on the next step and fell against Ron, who easily caught his friend and set him back upright. Hermione, as usual, was looking concerned. "Are you all right, Harry? You're not injured, are you?" She pulled out her wand, and Harry was so sure she'd magically vanish every scrap of his clothing in a search for injuries that he hastened to reassure the both of them.

"No, I'm not hurt. Just tired."

"Exhausted, more like," Ron said. "We all are." He grinned at his two best friends. "That was a long night, wasn't it?"

Harry smiled in response, but Hermione just yawned. Ron put his arm around her and kissed her cheek. "Case closed, I think. Time to get some sleep." He yawned himself at that moment. "For all of us." He met Harry's eyes over the top of Hermione's head. "Will you be all right on you own?" he asked.

Harry fought down his own yawn. "Yes, Ron, I'll be fine. What could possibly happen to me now? Besides," he continued, losing the yawn battle, "all I want is my bed in Gryffindor Tower. And maybe a sandwich; I'm starved."

Ron nodded once and then led a faintly protesting Hermione down the last few steps. Harry wondered briefly how Ron would manage to get past the alarm and into the girl's dormitory, but he didn't doubt it would happen. After everything they had been through the two of them definitely deserved a chance to just be together.

And me?, he couldn't help asking himself. What do I deserve? More than a sandwich, I'd say. But for the time being he'd settle for that. And about twenty hours of uninterrupted sleep.

He didn't know how he made it to Gryffindor Tower or how he got past the Fat Lady. He suspected that she simply let him in as a token of her respect and admiration, and maybe affection, for him. She was, after all, grinning foolishly and had tears on her cheeks when he approached. At the top of the spiral stairs a sign hung on the door – Seventh Years – and when he went in he was surprised to find that there were still five four-posters. He moved slowly across the room to his customary place, reaching out to touch the bed hangings. It seemed as if a lifetime had passed since he had last stood in this spot, yet it was less than a year.

The longer he stood still the more exhausted he felt. He wanted nothing more than to collapse into the comfort of the bed, but he also knew that his clothes were filthy and himself in a not much better state. Shower, he told himself. Take a long, hot shower.

It turned out to not be as long as intended. The shower came to an abrupt end when Harry started to doze off and jerked awake, sputtering against the water that was making a determined effort to drown him. That was definitely long enough.

He stepped out of the shower and reached for one of the big, fluffy towels that were kept on the rack, magically warmed for whenever they were needed. He grabbed his glasses from the shelf on which he had set them and started for the door that led back into the dorm, wrapping the towel around his waist and tucking the loose ends as he did. He held his glasses up and found them too fogged over to be much use, so he walked in to the dorm blind, maneuvering around furniture by memory.

He stopped in his tracks when he heard a loud gasp. He saw a blurry shape in the shadows next to his bed, and could just make out the red hair. He quickly put on his glasses.

Ginny stood there, a fierce blush staining her cheeks. For a moment he didn't understand what could have her so embarrassed, and then he remembered. He had just come out of the shower. In a towel. And nothing else.

He felt a flush burn its way up his chest and onto his face just as Ginny buried her head in the scarlet hangings of his four-poster. He snatched his wand up from where he had dropped it on the bed and quickly transfigured the towel into something a bit more modest.

"Can I come out now?" Ginny asked, her voice muffled by the curtains she had pressed to her face.

Harry quickly glanced down at himself; he now wore a pair of pajama bottoms that at least gave the impression of covering more than the towel had. It would have to do, though.

"Yes, you can come out now, Ginny. Everything is decent."

She pulled away from the bed curtains, looking indignant. "That wasn't what got me. . ." She couldn't seem to think of a good word to describe her reaction. "It was just the surprise of seeing you. That's all!"

Harry turned away from her to hide his grin. It couldn't have been that much of a surprise if she had heard the shower running. It was then that he noticed the plate of sandwiches on the bedside table, along with a pitcher of pumpkin juice and a flagon of butterbeer.

"Kreacher brought it a little while ago," Ginny said. She sounded unnervingly close. "I don't know what you did to make him into a nice elf, Harry, but the change is. . . Well, pretty miraculous!"

Harry had to restrain himself from falling on the food like a starving tiger. He picked up one of the sandwiches (ham with thick-cut cheese and pickles – his favourite) and took a bite before responding to her. "It wasn't just me," he said. "You can thank Ron and Hermione as well. Turns out Hermione was right all along; treat the house elves with respect and you'll get it returned to you."

"Where is Ron, anyway?"

Harry smiled around another bite of sandwich. "With Hermione. Getting some much deserved rest."

Ginny looked confused for a minute, and then her mouth formed into an O of comprehension. She grinned. "Then I guess it's a good thing I didn't go to talk to Hermione first."


Ginny approached the table and picked up the flagon of butterbeer, glancing at Harry. He shook his head. "Better not; even that small amount of alcohol would probably knock me unconscious." Ginny poured both of them glasses of pumpkin juice and than sat on the edge of Harry's bed.

Harry took another bite of his sandwich, stalling for time. Now that he had Ginny with him, and was the focus of her undivided attention, he wasn't sure how to proceed. There were so many things that he wanted to talk to her about, so many things that he needed to tell her, that it was difficult to know where to begin. There was also the nagging worry at the back of his mind that she would react badly when he did start talking, and he didn't think he could handle anger from her right now.

Ginny took a sip of her pumpkin juice and took a sandwich from the plate, more to do something than because she was hungry. She took a small bite, put the sandwich back on the plate, and then looked up and met Harry's eyes.

"I'm not mad, you know. I won't be mad, no matter what." She paused and took a deep breath. "I know and understand that you had something to do that I couldn't be a part of. I accept that." She smiled slightly. "I don't have to like it, but I accept it. And you don't even have to tell me everything now if you don't want to –"

"I wanted to," Harry interrupted her. "You have no idea how much I wanted to tell you everything. But I couldn't. I couldn't endanger you like that." He put down what was left of his sandwich before sitting beside Ginny and taking her hands in his. "I knew that if I told you everything you'd want to help me, and I wasn't willing to take that responsibility." Ginny opened her mouth to respond and Harry laid a finger on her lips. "Yes, it would have been my responsibility. You were underage, Ginny. That fact may not matter to you but it mattered a hell of a lot to me."

"I know it did. You made that fairly clear in the Room of Requirement."

"I know that made you mad, but what was I supposed to do?" Harry asked. He shoved a hand through his hair, a sure sign of agitation. "Tell you parents and your brothers that they needed to let you fight, and possibly die? I couldn't do that."

"And after seething for a short time I realized that," Ginny said with a smile. "I know that you respect my mum and dad - my whole family, in fact - too much to have put them in that position."

When Harry let out a sigh of relief he knew that he had been holding his breath, worried that on this one point Ginny would prove to have been very mad indeed. The look on her face when he had shaken his head no in the Room of Requirement had felt like a sharp knife sliding under his skin – all of the pain had come afterwards. And although that wasn't what he had been thinking he still felt as if he had betrayed her; had betrayed her faith, trust, and confidence in him.

Looking at her and listening to her now he saw how completely the exact opposite was true. She had understood. She always understood. Even when he barely knew what he was doing, or why, she did. She had known why when he walked away from her after Dumbeldore's funeral and she had known why when he had kissed her like it was his last chance to do so on his birthday.

"Ginny, I . . ." he hesitated, not sure of what he was trying to say. How could he tell her about how he had accepted his death in the Forbidden Forest with his only regret being leaving her behind? That wasn't something he could just dump on her; she deserved the entire story. At that moment there were just too many emotions boiling up inside of him to allow for coherent thought. That and the fact that he was so exhausted he could barely keep his eyes open. . .

Ginny noticed. "Harry, we don't need to talk right now. You need to sleep more than anything." She stood up to leave and Harry caught her hand.

"Don't go. Please. I want you with me." And if I have anything to say about it, he told himself, I'll always have you with me.

Ginny sat back down on the bed. "That's good," she said, grinning. "Because I didn't want to leave."

Harry felt his first real smile in days pull at the corners of his mouth. He took a sip of his pumpkin juice. "We'll talk," he promised. "We'll have days, weeks, maybe even years to talk. But right now. . ." He brought his face nearer to hers.

"Right now?" Ginny breathed.

"I want to kiss you," Harry averred. "And then maybe another sandwich, and then I'll want to kiss you again, and then we could get some sleep. But after a nap I'm fairly certain that I'll want to kiss you some more."

Ginny cupped Harry's cheek with one hand and moved closer until her lips were little more than a hair's breadth away from his. "That sounds like an excellent plan, Mister Potter."