Harry's eyes fluttered open. For a moment, he just looked up at the top of his four-poster and rolled over, wanting more sleep. Just as he was turning over, the weight of all the anxiety of last year crushed him. The memories of the night before were the heaviest of all.
They had won. He was free. But at what cost?
He sat up in his bed slowly, drinking in the sight of the familiar dormitory that he hadn't seen in a year. It struck him as strange that he could change so much, and yet his dormitory could remain the same. Pulling his dressing gown on over his pajamas, Harry got out of bed and walked over to the windows, peering through the curtains. It was dark outside. He recalled going to sleep at about five pm, and so he had no recollection of what time it was. He did feel as though he had been sleeping for a long time.
Unable to sleep anymore, Harry walked down to the common room, and was relieved to find no one else in it. But it had been stuffed with people only hours ago, and their was evidence of the party still lingering. Had one not known, the common room looked the same as it did right after the Gryffindors had won a Quidditch match.
Curling up in front of the fire, he stared into the moving flames until his eyes burned. He blinked hard, and he could still see the flames as though they were imprinted on the backs of his eyelids. He didn't want to think about what happened, but it seemed inevitable. He closed his eyes again, trying to erase all the images of the night before from his brain.
A sound startled Harry out of his reverie. He jumped, and months of hiding and fighting caused his hand to jump to his pocket, only to find that his wand was upstairs in his dormitory, His heart pounded in his chest. A few seconds later, however, he realized that it was just the sound of someone coming downstairs, out of the girls dormitories.
He didn't want to talk to anyone, and he leaned forward as though to get up. Then he saw Ginny Weasley appear. She was the last person he wanted to see right now, but he felt rude getting up and leaving as soon as she saw him.
"Oh-hi Harry." She sounded surprised to see him. Or was it bothered? He couldn't blame her.
"Hello, Gin...Ginny," he stopped himself from calling her by the old nickname he used to use. Surely she wouldn't want to hear that.
"Couldn't sleep?" he answered for her. "Me neither."
"Do you-er, want to be alone?" she asked tentatively, and Harry found himself shaking his head. No, he didn't. It was the first time he had been able to talk to her since he was at the Burrow this summer, and despite how sick with guilt he felt, he couldn't help but keep talking to her. Even though she could surely never forgive him.
He knew that, after breaking up with her last year, lying to her, and essentially being the cause of her brother's death, he deserved no less than for her to ignore him. Shun him, and never speak to him again. He accepted that, but he knew he wouldn't be able to stand it when it happened. And yet here she was, talking to him.
"Ginny, I want you to know that I'm so sorry about Fred."
Ginny heard this, and looked up at him. She heard, behind his words, that this wasn't an ordinary apology, where a person offers sympathy when a family member dies. No, Harry was apologizing because he felt guilty.
"Harry- don't. It's not your fault," she whispered, but he just stared into the fire. She crossed the room quickly and sat down next to him, with their backs against the coffee table. She just sniffled for a few minutes before the real tears began to fall. She cried at first for Fred, her dear brother who would never laugh again. Then the horrible image of Hagrid carrying Harry's limp body floated across her mind, and she sobbed for that, too. She knew the pictures from the night before would haunt her for the rest of her life.
Harry was trying his hardest not to remember, but seeing Ginny cry like that just brought everything back, until he was crying as well. More than anything, he wanted to comfort her, to put his arms around her, but that was not what she needed, and she was probably angry with him anyway. After all, they were broken up and had been for a year.
Soon, though, the feelings grew too strong, and despite himself, he found himself wrapping his arms around her, risking being pushed away. To his astonishment, he felt her lean in towards him, crying into his chest. She pressed them closer together, until she finally looked up through red eyes.
"Harry- when I saw Hagrid carrying you and I thought you were dead..." but she couldn't finish. Her tears overtook her, and Harry just held her again, glad for even this much time with her. "Harry," she continued. "I don't even know who I'm crying for anymore. Fred, you, Lupin, Tonks, Colin... all these people I love, and so many more that I can't even count them all. This past year was the worst of my life. Worse even than my first year," she swallowed, blinked, and shuddered before continuing. "Every day I would wake up terrified for you, Ron, and Hermione, knowing that without Dumbledore, not even Hogwarts was safe. Terrible news came to Hogwarts every day, but I was glad to read the newspaper. Every day, when I would see your face in the pictures, I would be happy, because I knew they hadn't found you yet. Then Luna went missing... and tonight," she shuddered, closing her eyes tightly. "Tonight. Fred had only just died, when we heard you were..." she couldn't finish. "Harry, I was never more afraid in my entire life." She looked him straight in the eye.
"But, Ginny, I'm alright now."
"Yes, you are," she gave him a most Mrs. Weasley-ish look. "And don't you even think about running off onto a dangerous mission for a whole year, nearly getting yourself killed. Harry Potter, you are taking me along with you next time!"
He just shook his head, but was still pleased to hear it.
"Hopefully there won't be a next time." He said it jokingly, but his words hung with hope that had not been there before.
"Will you-" she tried to spit it out. "Will you tell me? Everything?"
He sighed. "Yes, you deserve to know. And I have a feeling that if I don't do it tonight, I'll never be able to."
Slowly and steadily, he told her everything, starting from his trip to the graveyard in his fourth year, and telling her all about his mothers protective charm (which she already knew something about), and the horcruxes and hallows. She asked few questions, just listening patiently.
When he was done, he fell silent. He felt wrung out and had no energy left, and he knew he would never speak of it, from beginning to end, again.
"Thank you for telling me," she said clearly. "I know that was hard for you. And Harry... no one should ever have to go through that. No one. But somehow you came out of it all ok."
He nodded, feeling so drained. "I should get back to bed," he said.
"Oh," she sounded a bit taken aback. Maybe hurt, he wasn't sure. It can't be worse than anything else I've done to her,he thought. "Ok. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Nihgt, Ginny. Sleep well."
"You too, Harry."
He laid back down on his four-poster and thought about his evening. It had turned out better than he thought it would. She did not hate him, that much was obvious. But did she still care for him the way she used to? He knew that his feelings had only grown over their year apart. But hers were much more of a mystery.
He fell asleep wondering if he could risk finding out.