'I've had enough trouble for a lifetime.' – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pg, 749, US hardback edition, Scholastic
Harry reached the bottom of the stairs that led to the Headmaster's office. Headmistress, now, he thought, realizing it was now Professor McGonagall's office. He pulled his Invisibility Cloak over his head.
'What'd you do that for?' Ron asked.
'I just want to go up to the dormitory and sleep,' Harry answered. 'Without being mobbed. We have to go by the Great Hall. I'm beyond done in.' He heard Hermione huff softly and saw her give Ron a look from the corner of his eye. He set off for Gryffindor Tower, walking between Ron and Hermione, an act as natural now as breathing.
He came to a stop at the entrance to the Great Hall, and stood for a moment, taking it all in again. Somehow, the sunlight seemed clearer and brighter. He saw the light glint on Ginny's bright head, leaning against Molly still. Every so often, she would turn her face into the shoulder of her shirt, and wipe her face on it. Harry very badly wanted to go to her, but he was so tired. He knew he would be next to useless to her, as exhausted as he was. He turned and headed for the staircase that would take him to the painting of the Fat Lady. 'You two ought to go on back,' he said.
'Are you sure?' Hermione asked gently.
'Yeah. I just want to be left alone for a while.' Harry started to go up the stairs. 'Hey, could one of you tell Mrs. Weasley where I am? So she doesn't worry?'
'I'll tell her,' Ron volunteered. 'I'll even try to make sure she doesn't go up there for a while.'
Harry felt his lips curve into a small smile. 'Good luck with that, mate.'
'Sleep well, Harry,' Hermione said softly.
Harry stopped and turned around. 'You know… I think I might. I don't remember the last time I…' He shook his head and continued up the staircase, finally coming to a stop in front of the Fat Lady, who was celebrating with her friend, Violet. Harry pulled the Cloak off his body, revealing himself to her. 'Hello,' he said. 'I don't suppose you'd let me in to get some sleep in a real bed, would you?'
The Fat Lady eyed him for a moment, then the painting swung forward. Harry craned his head around the frame. 'Thank you,' he said sincerely.
'Not at all,' she replied.
Harry hoisted himself through the portrait hole and stood in the middle of the common room, inhaling the familiar scents of parchment, ink, wood smoke, and some unidentifiable scent that told him he was home. He trailed his fingers over the sofa that had been his and Ginny's favorite place to study. Sometimes, they waited until the common room had cleared, and laid there in each other's arms talking or sleeping.
The picture of Ginny in his arms, with his nose buried in her hair, sent a wave of dizziness over him. His fingers clutched the worn scarlet fabric of the upholstery, an image of her writhing under him flooding his brain. Harry hadn't thought about that in months. He knew exactly what Ginny looked like naked. During the Christmas holiday his sixth year, he had walked into the bathroom at the Burrow while she was in the shower. The lock on the door was a bit dodgy, and Ginny didn't always double-check it. There had been a slight gap between the wall and the shower curtain and Harry stood there in shock, unable to breathe as he watched her rinse the shampoo from her hair. A creak on the stairs above him made him carefully close the door and hastily retreat from the landing back downstairs. 'Oh, God, Ginny…' he breathed. If she were there at that moment, Harry would have given anything to haul her up to his dormitory, lock the door, and…
Harry bent over and let his face rest on the back of the sofa, grateful he was alone.
He took several slow, deep breaths, and shuffled to the stairs that led to the boy's dormitories. The adrenaline that had kept him going for the past few hours was wearing off, and the myriad aches and pains were pricking his attention. It felt like it took hours to climb to the seventh year boys' dormitory and shoving the door open took his last bit of strength.
The circular room stood silent and empty, the five beds surrounding him, each one neatly made, the scent of laundry soap permeating the room. Blinking back tears, Harry realized the elves had kept his bed, as well as Ron and Dean's beds, made up and ready for them, in the hope that Harry would succeed. He stumbled to the one that had been his for six years and dropped heavily to the mattress. He slumped back into the pillow, thinking he ought to take his trainers off, then thought nothing more.
Ginny looked down the table. Arthur was sitting next to a shell-shocked George, who looked somehow more lost and confused, as opposed to grief-stricken. She supposed it was only natural, since Fred and George had been attached at the hip since birth. It would be like one of the others losing an arm or a leg. Percy sat on the other side of George, poking listlessly at a plate of eggs and sausages. Bill held Fleur on his lap, his face buried in her silvery hair. Ginny took a moment to wonder how on earth Fleur could fight in a pitched battle, and yet not have a hair out of place. Charlie sat a little apart from everyone else, a pencil clutched in his blunt-fingered hand, his ever-present sketchbook on the table. Every so often, a tear would slip down his freckled cheek, and land with a faint plop on the paper. Ginny remembered he and Tonks had been close friends, if not best friends while in school, and had remained so when he left school early to go to Romania. Ron was nowhere to be found. He and Hermione had slipped out of the Great Hall a while ago and hadn't returned. Ginny drew in a shuddering breath, and leaned in closer to Molly, who stroked Ginny's hair with a gentle hand. Ginny sniffed loudly and blinked, trying to not let the tears gathering in the corners of her eyes fall, but they escaped and slid down her face. She tilted her head and used the cloth of her shirt to wipe her face.
A flash of color made her look up. Ron and Hermione stood in the shadows of the entrance, a large gap between them. Ginny knew it was Harry, under the Invisibility Cloak. She blinked and they were gone. After a few minutes Ron and Hermione joined them at the table. Ron slid onto the bench next to Hermione, and wrapped his arm around her waist. It gave Ginny a pang to see it. 'Mum?' Ron said softly. 'He's up in the dormitory sleeping,' he told her, emphasizing the "he". Molly nodded.
Ginny looked up at the clear blue sky of the enchanted ceiling and let her eyes drift shut. The worry was over, but there was so much more to do. 'Ginny, dear? Why don't you go on up to bed?' Molly suggested.
'Okay…' Ginny climbed off the bench, and slowly left the Great Hall, stopping briefly by Neville to hug him fiercely. 'You did us all proud, Nev,' she whispered. 'Especially your mum and dad.'
Neville's round face lit up, brighter than the sunbeams streaming through the windows. 'Thanks.' He leaned closer to Ginny. 'I'm going to tell them,' he confessed. 'Everything. As soon as we can get to London. I hope somehow, deep down, they'll understand.'
Ginny let her head rest against Neville's shoulder for a moment. 'They will,' she said.
Straightening, she made her way up to the entrance of Gryffindor Tower and the portrait of the Fat Lady. 'I'm sorry, I don't know the password,' Ginny said wearily. 'I haven't been here since before the Easter holiday.'
'Don't need one today, dearie,' the Fat Lady declared. The portrait swung open, and Ginny climbed through the entrance. The common room was remarkably untouched, except or a few windows. She stood uncertainly in the middle of the room, knowing she ought to go to the girls' dormitory, but yearning to go up to the boys'. She felt in her pocket for the fake Galleon from the D.A. and held it in one hand. 'Heads the girls', tails the boys',' she murmured, flipping the coin up, snatching it out of midair. She slapped it on the back of her other hand, and lifted her hand off it.
Ginny pocketed the coin and headed for the staircase that would take her up to the seventh year boys' dormitory.
The door was slightly ajar, and Ginny pushed it open, her breath catching in her throat. Harry lay across his bed, his feet still on the floor, fully dressed. His face was smudged with soot and blood, his glasses still rested on his nose, askew and smeared and dirty. She went back downstairs to the common room, and pulled out her wand, using it to Levitate a small armchair up the stairs and into the dormitory.
She set it down next to Harry's bed with a soft thump, stealing a look at him, but he hadn't so much as twitched. She shoved her wand back into her pocket, and bent to swing Harry's feet on the bed. Ginny perched on the edge of the mattress, and carefully untied his trainers, and lifted them off his feet. She slowly took his glasses off, setting them on the night table next to the bed. She contemplated trying to pry the bedding from under his body to tuck him in, but Ginny thought that might wake him. She turned in a slow circle, taking in the configuration of the room. The boys' dormitory was a mirror image of the girls', and the girls' had a cubby by the bathroom with extra bedding. She found the boys had one as well, and opened it, taking out a couple of extra blankets, and carrying them back to the armchair. She unfurled one over Harry, her fingers stealing up to his face, brushing the hair from his eyes.
She picked up the other one, and wrapped it around herself, her eyes traveling over Harry's face. His face was all bones and hollows. Deep purple smudges marred the skin under his eyes. She had watched him speak to people in the Great Hall, his shoulders tensed with the effort of trying to stay upright. Ginny wondered how long it had been since Harry had slept through an entire night. Years, I think…
Ginny eased into the armchair, toeing her trainers off, and curling into the cushions. She kept her eyes on Harry through the long hours of the day, lighting a small lamp as the light faded.
Harry slept on, barely moving. Ginny had to rest her hand on his chest more than once to make sure it still moved up and down.
Kreacher had come several times, with offers of food and drink, which Ginny politely declined. She did ask him to go to Bill and Fleur's house to bring back fresh clothing for Harry. Ron and Hermione had come up at some point earlier that evening, and fell into Ron's bed. Ginny raised an eyebrow at them, but Hermione just shrugged and Ron's arm snaked over her waist, pulling her snugly against him. 'It's about time,' Ginny whispered. Both of them grinned bashfully, then were asleep in a few minutes.
Ginny sat in her chair, wide-awake far into the night.
Harry sat up slowly, aching in every muscle and joint of his body, even in muscles he didn't know he had. He reached blindly for his glasses, shoving them onto his nose, the blurry lines of the dormitory coming into focus. The other beds were empty and only one – the one that had belonged to Ron – showed signs of having been slept in. The room was dark with only a small light to pierce the gloom. Ginny was curled into a squashy armchair, eyes following him. Harry opened his mouth to speak, but only a ghostly croak came out. A glass of water appeared in front of him. Ginny held it out wordlessly. He took it gratefully and gulped half of it in one swallow. 'How long have I been asleep?' He glanced at his watch. It read nine-thirty. 'Ten hours? Twelve?'
'Try nearly thirty-six.' Ginny took the glass from him and refilled it from the jug on his night table. 'It's the next day,' she added softly. 'Kreacher's been up here every few hours to see if you want something to eat.'
Harry ran his hand through his hair, wincing at the dirt, blood, and soot matted into it. 'I need some clothes,' he said.
Ginny pointed to the foot of the bed. A clean pair of jeans and shirt lay neatly folded on one corner, along with a clean set of pajamas. 'I asked Kreacher to go to Bill's and get some fresh clothing for you earlier. He seemed desperate for something to do.'
'Thanks.' Harry stiffly eased himself off the bed and stumbled toward the bathroom. He peeled his filthy, blood-stained clothing off, careful of the numerous cuts and scrapes on his arms and legs. He dropped his shirt on the floor and his eyes widened when he realized he had put it on four days ago. He laid his glasses on a small shelf and opened a shower cubicle.
With a hand on the wall, Harry stepped into the cubicle, and turned on the hot water tap as far as he could. He leaned against the wall and let the hot water pound his stiff muscles into goo.
Harry picked up a random bottle of shampoo, and began to lather his hair. He ducked under the spray and let the water sluice the shampoo from his hair, unable to lift his hands. He glanced around the tiled cubicle, peering nearsightedly for the bar of soap, clumsily patting the walls, until his hand slid into the recess in the wall, where a bar of soap usually rested. His fingers closed around the square edges and a face cloth floated into the cubicle. 'Thought you could use that,' Ginny's voice came from the doorway. 'There's a towel on the hook, too.'
'Thanks,' Harry called back hoarsely. He plucked the face cloth from the door of the cubicle where it had landed, and plopped the soap into it. He worked up a good lather and carefully began to wash his arms, careful not to scrub too hard over the half-healed burns from Gringotts, and the scrapes and cuts from the tunnel of the Shrieking Shack, or the flying debris from the battle. There was a nasty cut on his left knee that took a great deal of patient dabs with the face cloth to clean the worst of the clotted blood from it. His right knee was singed badly from the Fiendfyre Crabbe had set in the Room of Requirement. Harry supposed he should go to the hospital wing, but the thought of dragging himself there right now wore him out. He rinsed the face cloth and lathered it again, passing it over the knuckles of his left hand, where he had shoved his hand into his mouth in the tunnel to keep from crying out from the pain. The scrapes his teeth had left stung badly as he cleansed it of the crusted blood and dirt.
When he was finally clean, Harry shut the water off and opened the cubicle door. The towel hung over the hook, as Ginny had promised. He reached for it, annoyed at how much his hand shook. She had put a Warming charm on it, and it made the scent of the laundry soap slightly stronger. Harry pressed the soft towel to his face and willed himself not to cry with relief. He stiffly dried himself and wrapped the towel around his waist and put his glasses back on. Harry managed to shuffle back into the dormitory without tripping over his feet and stopped at the foot of his bed. Ginny had left the room, but a tray with sandwiches and a jug of pumpkin juice stood on his night table. He dropped the damp towel to the floor and reached for the clean pajamas, nearly groaning as he forced his aching muscles to maneuver his arms and legs into the blessedly clean and freshly laundered cotton. Harry painfully pulled himself back into the bed. It had been turned down. The aroma of the sandwiches tickled Harry's nose, making his stomach lurch uncomfortably. He snatched his wand from the night table and Vanished the food before he could vomit.
He felt numb, like the events of the past several days had happened to someone else. Harry knew that eventually it would all penetrate through the fog that enveloped him. He just didn't know when.
He slid back down into the bed, sighing in relief as his body conformed to the soft mattress.
Harry shifted a few times and his eyes closed. He was asleep once more.
A/N: I've had this one in mind for ages, and since 'Making Mistakes' is wrapping up, I thought I'd do this one next.