it's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah
Disclaimer: J.K. owns it all. I merely embellish.
Summary: Five kisses after the war. Oneshot. R/Hr, G/A, S/L, N/L, H/G
Author's Note: Wow, it's been awhile. Sorry I've been so MIA--lately, my fic writing has been minimal at best, thanks to a nasty little thing I like to call Real Life. I've been working on this one for months now, probably since about February--I'd write something every time inspiration struck, and I just finished it tonight. It's only 5, 287 words, and it's fairly simple, but I had a lot of fun writing it, and I hope you all enjoy it. As always, feedback is love.
The common room was deserted when they stumbled inside, strewn with rubble and remnants of the recent battle, dusty, eerily quiet. Nobody had thought to come up here besides Harry, probably, and he was long since sound asleep—he'd left hours ago.
"Just…just needed some quiet," Ron mumbled, his voice quavering with exhaustion. "Sorry—sorry I yelled—"
"Don't be sorry," Hermione whispered, though she had no idea why she was bothering to lower her voice.
"Wasn't thinking," Ron said thickly, flopping down onto a sofa that was mostly in tact, ignoring the gaping hole in the left side of it. "'m just tired…"
"I know," she said, sinking down beside him, staring down at her hands, which were folded tightly in her lap.
"D'you think he'll be mad?" Ron looked at her through heavy-lidded eyes, worried, uncertain.
"Neville understands, Ron. He's not mad, I promise."
"I was a right git. He was only trying to help me lift the stupid table—"
"It's ok." Hermione hesitated for a half second, then reached for Ron's hand, trying not to blush as she did so. Their fingers fumbled for a moment as she laced them together, before she squeezed his hand tightly. "Just this once, you're allowed." Ron made a sound that could have passed for one of his familiar chuckles, if his eyes hadn't been so hollow, if he hadn't squeezed her hand back so tightly she thought he might cut off circulation.
She stared down at their interlocked fingers, and despite herself, despite everything, she felt her pulse quicken. It didn't seem possible—the war was over, they were alive, and mere hours ago, she had kissed Ron Weasley. It was like a dream, a wonderful, vivid dream, that she would wake up from any moment now.
Tentatively, Hermione turned so she was facing Ron more fully, tucking her feet beneath her. Ron watched her quietly, mirroring her actions so that they were face to face, inches apart. His freckled features were coated in dirt and blood still, and Hermione knew she couldn't look much better. Her hands were filthy, her robes were torn and blood-stained, hanging off her shoulder almost comically. Her thick hair was falling out of the messy braid she'd tried to plait it into to keep it out of the way, and when she ran a hand across her face, it came away covered in more grime than ever before.
Ron caught Hermione's free hand in his, gaze never leaving hers for an instant.
"Leave it," he murmured. "You're beautiful, Hermione."
Despite herself, her breath hitched; she ducked her head, trying to hide her blush. One of Ron's hands cupped her cheek, lifted her face back up to his.
"I mean it," he said, his voice as gruff, as blunt, as always. This is how it is. Take it or leave it. "You are, you know." She closed her eyes briefly, so unsure of what to say, what to do—she'd thought after the initial declaration of feelings (the kiss), the hard part would be over.
The silence was deafening; he was obviously expecting her to reply, and the only thing that sprang to mind was absolutely too ridiculous to just say—
"I want you," she blurted out before she could stop herself, and Ron's eyebrows shot straight up, though a grin—the first genuine grin Hermione had seen on his face in ages—tugged at the corner of his mouth.
"Oh, you do, do you?" His voice was teasing, gentle. Hermione wanted to bury her face in her arms, but she was dimly aware that Ron's hand was still resting on her cheek. And he didn't seem to have any intention of moving it.
"Oh, bloody hell. Why doesn't it ever come out right?" she muttered in frustration, more to herself than anything.
"What could be more right than that?" Ron demanded, grin now widening into a bright smile. "You want me. I want you. It's as simple as that."
"No," Ron interrupted firmly, drawing her closer, if that was possible. Their noses were now touching; Hermione could feel his breath on her cheek. "I'm bleeding in love with you, all right? And I mean in the have-my-children-grow-old-with-me-marry-me kind of way." He paused. "Erm, not necessarily in that order." Hermione let out an incredulous laugh, raising a shaking hand to rest on Ron's cheek.
"Oh, I love you too, you prat."
She was still giggling when he kissed her, his rough, calloused hand warm on top of hers.
The silence pressed in on him, louder than anything he'd ever heard, heavy, horrible. Time had slowed down to an absolutely unbearable crawl, where seconds became hours, minutes became days, hours became years. He had no idea how long he'd been sitting here, beneath a brightening sky, his back resting against one of the Keeper's hoops.
He was staring blankly up at the clouds, watching the sun filter through them, hands clenched on his knees. Each time he drew a breath, the pain sliced through him like a knife. He was still waiting for the punch line, the "GOTCHA!", something, anything, that would prove this was all a dream.
"George?" He didn't respond, didn't move—couldn't move. Someone's hand was on his arm, shaking him. "George! George, talk to me!" George blinked, trying to focus, and Angelina Johnson's face swam in front of him.
"What?" he rasped, and immediately he winced—as always, he sounded exactly like Fred. Angelina watched his face crumple and immediately knelt beside him.
"George." He shook his head wordlessly. "Oh, George, oh, George." It was as though she couldn't say anything else; her voice was small and tremulous as she wrapped her arms around him. His forehead rested on her shoulder, her hand against the back of his head. George closed his eyes at her touch, leant into her.
"I keep thinking," he croaked, "that I'll turn around and he'll be there, or I'll go back in there and he'll be walking around, laughing at us all for falling for the joke."
"Oh, George." She had pulled back a bit to stare at him in a sort of transfixed horror.
"Why?" George was horrified at the way he shook, the way his voice broke. "God, why? I just—I don't…he's…" Helplessly, he dragged his hands violently over his face, lacing his fingers in his hair, squeezing his eyes shut. This was too much, it was all far too much—George Weasley was, for the first time in his entire life, alone, completely and totally alone, and it was wrong. "It should have been me, too."
"Don't say that," Angelina snapped, her fingers clenching down around his shoulders. "Don't you dare think like this, George Weasley!"
"WE WERE SUPPOSED TO GO OUT TOGETHER!" George roared. Quite suddenly, he was on his feet; Angelina had been dragged up with him, was still clutching onto his shoulders, and he shook her off, wildly pacing back and forth. There were no more words, nothing he could say to make her understand.
The twins had always been like one person, one spirit torn between two bodies. George knew it was cliché; sometimes, he'd even resented being a twin, a little. But mostly he had loved it. Always, he had loved Fred, loved his brother with something that went past brotherhood, past platonic love, past romantic love, past any love there was in the dictionary—it was deeper, stronger. They were just connected, he and Fred, in a way that was too complicated to really explain. They knew each others thoughts, knew each other's words before they would say them, knew what the other one was feeling, could always tell you without blinking an eye what the other one was doing, no matter how far apart they were.
When Fred had died, half of George had died. He'd known Fred's last thought (Holy shi—!), felt a brief flash of blinding pain in his head—hell, he'd even stopped breathing for a split second. George didn't understand why he wasn't dead, too, couldn't see why even though Fred's heart had stopped, George's beat reluctantly, steadily on.
It was torture. It was betrayal. It was unthinkable.
And yet, here he was, standing on the Quidditch pitch, covered in filth, his knuckles scraped bloody from where he'd punched something, shaking so hard he couldn't even see straight, and he was alive, and Fred wasn't, and nothing in the world was right anymore. It could never be again.
He felt Angelina's arms wrap around him then, heard the quiet sound of her voice, usually so direct and firm, gently whispering condolences and apologies. George realized he was sobbing then, his shoulders heaving, tears streaming down his face, and oh, it hurt, hurt like nothing he'd ever known before.
"He's dead," he managed to choke out. "Fred's dead." It was the first time he'd ever allowed himself to say the words, and it nearly brought him to his knees. Angelina supported him as best she could, lowering him slowly back to the ground, her hand once more on the back of his head, stroking his hair. George struggled against her at first, strangely furious, wracked with unbearable grief; he pushed at her shoulders, tried to wrench away, but she held onto him tightly, whispering into his good ear,
"I'm here, George, I've got you, I'm here. I'm right here."
He roughly grabbed her face with one hand, and kissed her, then, desperately, without really knowing why he was doing it. All he knew was that he needed to.
Angelina didn't push him away, only drew him closer as he sobbed against her mouth. She clung to him, one hand fisted in his hair, one arm wrapped around his shoulders, and through it all, George was dimly aware that she was crying too, her own sobs mingling with his in the early morning air, their pulses beating in a ragged tandem.
For perhaps a moment or two, he wasn't so achingly alone. Not quite.
Severus had expected death to be something a bit like a classroom full of first-year Gryffindors: annoying, distasteful, loud. With explosions. And a lot of pain, perhaps a few buckets of blood. Oh, and screaming, that too.
In truth, death was like blinking. One moment, he was staring up into Potter's (Lily's) eyes, gasping for breath that didn't seem willing to come, and the next, he was standing beside a river. A familiar river, one that wound its way through a cool, green forest, a brilliant, white light glinting off its surface.
He glanced down and found that he was wearing the same old smock, strange and ugly, but comfortable, practical for brewing whatever Mother would let him. Severus surveyed his hands, which were small, with long, skinny fingers, and ghostly pale. He peered down at his reflection in the river, widening his eyes when he found he looked to be about ten or so, perhaps a little older. Was this some sort of punishment—being forced to remember—
A twig snapped behind him, and Severus jumped, startled, spinning around to see who had come.
Of course. He tried not to choke on the bitter, unfair cliché of it all.
"Lily," he whispered.
Her green eyes were warm as she smiled, red hair shining in the sun. She, too, looked about ten, if that, her slender child's form as willowy as ever. Stepping forward, Lily laced her fingers in his and tugged him towards her, her smile only widening.
"Why are we here?" Severus asked, his voice still a whisper, unable to tear his eyes away from her.
"This is where everyone goes," Lily told him, voice lilting and familiar.
"We all see something different, but when it's all over, we end up at the same place," she said. There was a short pause. "I'm glad to see you, Sev." He ducked his head then, ashamed of the tears in his eyes, the hitch in his breath. Breath? he thought sarcastically. Do I still have a pulse as well?
"I love you," he managed, looking up bravely. "I've always loved you. Always." Lily nodded, meeting his eyes calmly, her face serene and bright and beautiful.
"I love you, too," she told him. "You have to have known that, Sev."
"Don't patronize me." He ripped his hand away from her, angry that death would try to make a fool of him.
"I do," she insisted, reaching for him. "You saved my son. How could I not?"
Potter, Severus thought furiously. It all comes back to Potter.
"I saved him because I could not save you!" he snapped at her. "Don't you understand, Lily? Everything—it was for you. Since the day you died, every single bloody thing I ever did—" He stopped short, panting for breath. A tear trickled down Lily's lovely cheek.
Severus blinked again. Quite suddenly, Lily had shot up, blossoming into a girl of perhaps fifteen, clad in her Hogwarts uniform, decked out in Gryffindor colors. When he glanced down, he realized he too had grown, was wearing his old uniform, green and silver tie loosened, starched white sleeves rolled up past his elbows.
He smiled briefly, remembering being fifteen—young, hormonal. Headstrong. Of course he was still an outcast, as unpopular and rejected as always, tormented daily by Potter and Black...but he had at least had Lily, then.
And Potter had not.
"Remember?" Lily stepped forward, jerking Severus out of his reverie. He did not stop to wonder why their appearances and ages changed but their location didn't—this was death, after all. There weren't any rules. "We came here right before we went to King's Cross, just before fifth year." Severus smiled quietly.
"Of course I remember." He swallowed. "They were going to tear down this part of the forest. Put in a new housing development." She paused just in front of him, eyes locked firmly on his.
"I loved you," Lily whispered fiercely. "Dammit, you idiot, you were the only thing in the world I could see." Severus inhaled sharply, clenched his shaking hands.
"I tried to kiss you," he said so quietly he could barley even hear himself. "You pushed me away, Lily. You turned around and practically ran—"
"Just because I loved you doesn't mean I wanted to," she said softly. Her gaze was steady, but he could see the regret and the confusion in her eyes. "I wasn't ever perfect, Sev. I never knew if what I was doing was right, I never understood…" Lily closed her eyes for a moment, hand pressed to her temple. "I loved James, too," she said quite suddenly. "Honestly, I did. But I loved you first."
Severus could not look at her, could not bear the shame of what he had done to ruin things. He knew he was a horrible man—a twisted, cynical, cruel, and pathetic shell of a man—who had done unspeakable things, least of which calling the only person he'd ever loved a Mudblood.
Saving Potter's neck time and time again had nothing to do with honor, not really. It soothed his guilty conscience somewhat, gave him hope that somehow, it made up for losing Lily, for the things he'd said and done. Even his work for the Order was not noble, not anything to be proud of…it was tarnished by his past, by his self-serving promise to Dumbledore. If hell was seeing everything you might have ever had, if hell was the one thing you ever wanted standing in front of you, taunting you for all your failings...then this was it.
Severus felt he deserved no less.
As though Lily had read his thoughts, she stepped even further forward, took his face in both her hands. Her clear green eyes bored into his black ones, intense, surreal.
"You are forgiven, Severus Snape," she whispered. "You died a hero. You died a warrior."
Her lips brushed his for the briefest of moments, dry, slightly chapped. It felt a little like salvation.
Speechless, Severus pulled away to stare at her, words tumbling around in his head, a garbled mix of awe and thankfulness and sorrow and apology and love.
Lily was a full grown woman now, and Severus was aware that he, too, had returned to his normal size. She nodded at something over his shoulder, and he turned to see a row boat docked at the river bank, bobbing invitingly.
"It's time to go," she whispered, tugging on his sleeve. Wordlessly, he followed her to the boat, and she motioned that he should get in. He slipped inside, and held out a hand to help her in, but she shook her head. "You have to make the journey alone." Severus nodded his assent, then managed to whisper,
"I'll see you on the other side, Sev," she said with a sunny smile as the boat floated away from the bank off its own accord, heading towards a bright light not far in the distance.
For the first time in Merlin only knew how long, Severus Snape smiled back, without a trace of bitterness or sarcasm.
Gryffindor's sword gleamed now, its blade polished, its rubies sparkling. Neville sat back, admiring his handiwork, a faint smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. He could have used magic, certainly, but he'd never been much good at Scouring Charms…and anyway, this felt right.
Carefully, Neville set the sword down beside him on the desk and stared around the Headmaster's office. He had only been here a scant handful of times, and certainly never alone. All the portraits were sound asleep, even Dumbledore, and Neville rather preferred it that way. Since the end of the battle several hours ago, he'd been receiving an awful lot of attention—Aurors shaking his hand, students staring at him in awe and begging him to tell them how he killed the snake just one more time, Gran smothering him with hugs and crowing her pride.
Even the gargoyle that guarded the Headmaster's office, who'd remained unharmed for the most part, was treating him differently!
"Password?" it had croaked grumpily when he'd arrived at the entrance bearing the blood-covered sword and the half-burnt Sorting Hat (McGonagall claimed she could put it right).
"Er…I don't really have it, sorry," Neville said apologetically. "I'm just putting these back…" The gargoyle narrowed its eyes at him.
"No password, no entrance," it snapped. "Doesn't everyone have better things to do in this bloody castle than trying to break into the Headmaster's office? Isn't there a battle you should be cleaning up from?" Neville dropped his eyes hastily, cheeks burning. "Who are you, anyway?"
"Neville Longbottom," he said quietly. The gargoyle actually gasped.
"The Neville Longbottom?" Its eyes traveled to the sword. "Forgive me, sir, I didn't know!" It bowed grandly. "The portraits have told me of you, Mr. Longbottom. Please, go right on in." The gargoyle sprang aside.
"Erm," Neville had said, bemused, "thanks?"
Chuckling to himself in wonder, Neville shook his head, pacing around the interior of the office. Everyone was making him out to be some big hero—but he was just the same bloke he'd always been. Clumsy…shy…a bit slow…
Neville frowned, returning to the desk, fingers curling around the sword. He held it aloft, examining his reflection, searching for some noticeable thing that said he was different. Like Harry, or Dumbledore, maybe—shouldn't there be something in his eyes or his face, something that said he was brave and strong and utterly deserving of all the praise people were heaping on him?
Neville let the sword fall back to the desk with a clatter, hands shaking.
There was nothing. Just the same hazel eyes, the same round face, the same sandy hair that was always falling in his eyes—and, of course, he was covered in bruises and cuts from the battle. He wasn't good-looking, like Harry, or even just plain brave. He was just Neville.
What he'd done all year had only been his duty, that was all; anyone else could have done it. The thing was, people needed a leader…and even though Neville had always been one to follow, nobody was stepping up this time. All he did was think about what Harry would be doing, and from there, everything sort of fell into place.
Confronting You-Know-Wh—Volde…Voldemort face-to-face hadn't been all that grand, either. Neville did what anyone else on the good side would have; it wasn't about the glory, it was about standing up for what was right. It didn't make him more of a hero than anyone else who had fought last night. Killing the snake? He'd done that because Harry had said to, and, to be frank, it hadn't been that difficult.
Neville folded his arms, sliding down with his back to the desk so that he sat, leaning against it, staring bitterly at the feet he was always tripping over. It didn't matter what he did. He wasn't going to wake-up overnight and be better…he was always going to be this pathetic.
Yes, pathetic. Pathetic enough that it made his stomach heave just to look at all the corpses, at Lupin and Colin Creevey, and a little second-year Slytherin girl named Janice with blonde braids and freckles, who'd died with her hands clenched into defiant fists. Dean said he'd seen Bellatrix LeStrange hit Janice from behind as the girl tried to pull Fenfir Greyback off one of her friends.
Neville was pathetic enough that the sight of the grievers and mourners made tears well in his eyes. Pathetic enough that at the first opportunity to get away from it, he'd fled, offering to put the sword and hat away only so he would no longer have to fight back the sobs threatening to burst from him, or let anyone else see the pain and the weakness in his eyes.
He looked up, jumping in surprise. Luna Lovegood was standing in front of him, her long, fine blonde hair pulled back in a neat French braid. Somebody had cleaned all the blood off of her face from before, and the nasty cut beneath her eye was already fading from a Healing Charm.
"Hi, Luna," Neville said hastily. "Sorry…I meant to be back ages ago, but…" Luna slid down beside him, folding her bony legs underneath her.
"It's all right, Neville." To his surprise, she took his hand, lacing their fingers together. "I'm sorry to barge in on you. I told the gargoyle I was quite concerned about you, and it let me through."
"Oh." He smiled nervously, staring down at their clasped hands. "It's…er…that's fine." Luna surveyed him seriously, her large eyes full of sadness, full of worry.
"I'm glad we won," Luna said quietly. "It will be ages before everything feels right again, I expect, but at least….it's over."
"Yeah." Neville swallowed against the lump in his throat. "Over." Luna squeezed his hand.
"You don't think you've done anything special." It wasn't a question. "You still think this doesn't mean anything."
"I…" Neville closed his eyes, trying to figure out how she always knew exactly what he was thinking. "It's not so simple…"
"Of course it's simple, Neville," Luna said softly. "You're the bravest, smartest, kindest, friendliest, most selfless boy I know. And you are not pathetic." He blinked at her, a bit in awe of how, well….honest she was, though he didn't know why it should surprise him.
"I'm not all that," he whispered, tearing his gaze away from her. "I just…" Neville shrugged helplessly. "I did what had to be done." Suddenly, there were cool hands on him, turning his face so that he was looking directly at Luna.
"You," she said, "must have a serious nargle infestation, Neville."
And then she kissed him.
Neville grunted in surprise, starting to panic, but Luna was stronger than she looked. Her hands moved from his face to the back of his head, pulling him closer. Neville could hear his heart beating wildly as the blood rushed to his face and he tentatively placed a hand on Luna's shoulder, and then her neck, and then her face, and then back into her hair.
All at once, Neville was laying back, and Luna was on top of him, and everything was a blur. He'd never so much as been kissed before in his entire life, much less had a girl willingly start to tug off her robes.
"Luna!" he managed, gasping for breath, his hand still in her hair, his pulse still racing uncontrollably. "Luna…isn't this going a bit…fast?"
"Fast?" Luna peered down at him, reaching up to tuck the hair falling out of her braid behind her ears. "Well, I only thought that things were moving in a natural progression. I've been wanting to kiss you so badly for ages, but the time has never been right."
"What makes you so sure it's right now, then?"
"I just know," Luna said serenely, seeming to almost glow with some inner light. Neville had noticed she was pretty before, but it was only now he saw that she was beautiful.
"You're really something, Luna, you know that?" he managed.
"Like what?" Her smile faded a little, and for a fraction of a second, Neville was afraid he'd botched everything up.
"Like…beautiful," he said, wanting to kick himself for saying something so bloody generic, and hurrying to salvage it. "Only not in that shallow way…it's—well, you're—you're so smart and compassionate and different. I guess you…you give me a bit of hope, for the world, you know?" He fumbled the words a little, but he could tell he'd gotten the overall message across by the expression on her face.
"I don't have to pretend with you," she whispered in his ear. "You never make me feel loony."
"Because you're not," he pointed out. Luna's forehead rested against his, her hands on his shoulders. "You just see the world in a way no one else does, in the most incredible way I know." He had never seen Luna cry before, but there were tears on her cheeks—from sadness or exhaustion or happiness, Neville didn't know.
Neville kissed her then, almost desperately, trying to help ease her quiet sobs—because the war was over, and even though there was sadness to come, they had each other. He didn't know what that meant, but it was enough for him.
For the first time in perhaps his entire life, Neville realized that it didn't matter if he was brave, or good-looking, if he lived up to Gran's expectations, or even if he was a hero. Just being Neville? Yeah….that was fine by him.
When Harry Potter had practically fallen into bed approximately eleven and a half hours ago, he was certain of exactly three things.
One, he was miraculously alive.
Two, he really, really needed a shower.
Three, he was—for what would be the last time in months, possibly years—completely and totally alone.
When he woke up, bleary and disoriented in the darkened dormitory, he was still quite certain of the first two things.
The third, he realized as soon as he'd sat up and put on his glasses, would need to be altered a bit, considering Ginny Weasley was curled up beside him in bed.
Harry slowly slumped back down on his pillows, turned onto his left side so that he was facing Ginny, and watched her sleep, a slow smile spreading across his face.
Of course. He should have known she'd come.
Ginny's hair was longer than it had been last summer, tangled, matted with dirt, maybe blood. She was too skinny, covered in cuts and bruises; even in her sleep, he could see the dark circles under her eyes.
And she was beautiful, still, as beautiful as he'd ever remembered her.
Tremblingly, unable to believe he was actually able to do it, Harry leant forward and kissed her on the forehead, just once, just because he was alive and there was no more Voldemort, and God, she was beautiful.
He closed his eyes, lips pressed against her forehead, and didn't move, even when a small, slender hand laced its fingers through his underneath the blankets.
"Hi," Ginny whispered, giving his hand a squeeze. Harry smiled, drawing back a little so that he could look at her properly. The moonlight filtering through the hangings around his bed seemed to illuminate her face, catching the line of her jaw, the arch of her cheekbone, the softness in her warm, brown eyes.
"I missed you," he told her, reaching out his free hand and cupping her face. Ginny closed her eyes as he smoothed a thumb across her cheek, let his hand slide down through her hair, along her neck, so that it rested against the jut of her collar-bone.
"I thought you were dead," she rasped, voice shaking slightly. "Back there. I—I—" She broke off abruptly, and her shoulders heaved forward; she brought up a hand, covered her mouth.
"Ginny." Harry drew her in towards him, wrapping both arms around her skinny frame, resting his forehead against her hair. "I'm so sorry." She gasped against his chest, and he could feel hot, unwelcome tears welling in his eyes, sliding down his nose.
It was over, they had won, and all Harry had had to sacrifice for seven long years hadn't been for nothing—but it was going to take a lot longer than eleven and a half hours for everything to be all right again. There were wounds that would never really heal; there were things that would be too painful to forget, and even more painful to remember.
"You were dead," Ginny hiccupped. "Dead."
"Yeah," Harry agreed, voice breaking a bit. "But I came back." Ginny had wrapped her own arms around him at some point, and pulled him in even closer to her, if that was possible.
"Don't," she said softly after a long, quiet moment, her voice still a bit wavery, "ever, ever leave again. Ever, ok?" Harry closed his eyes.
"I promise." He breathed in the scent of her, sweet and flowery even under the grime of battle, as if he'd just caught a whiff of Amortentia. "Never again."
"Good." Ginny hiccupped again, head still resting against his chest. Though Harry had slept the entire day away, he was suddenly quite exhausted again, as though he'd been drained completely dry. He tried to bite back a yawn, but didn't quite manage it. Ginny drew back, and he felt her remove his glasses, heard her set them on the bedside table. "We should go back to sleep," she whispered. "It's late." He managed to open his eyes a bit, to catch one last glimpse of her before sleep overtook him again.
"I love you." It was out of his mouth before he even realized he'd said it. Without his glasses, Ginny was a blur of freckled skin and red-gold hair, but he could still see the smile on her face. "Just—I wanted you to know."
"I love you, too," Ginny said softly, her hand finding his again. "I always have, you know."
It was quiet, then, and warm, and safe. Not perfect, exactly—Harry still needed a shower, and he suspected that even if the war was over, it would be a long time before he got used to being alive—but he reckoned that with Ginny's hand in his, and a future that didn't include any deathly hallows or evil dark lords looming bright before him, it was just about as close as anyone could get.