Disclaimer: Not mine!

--

Harry hated waking up.

It was by far the worst part of his day. His eyes would flutter against the light coming through the window and for a moment he would pretend that all was as it should be. That Remus and Tonks were at home with their son, that Fred was sleeping in a bed next to George, that Snape and Dumbledore still paced the halls of Hogwarts.

But this is not how things were.

As Harry came to his senses each morning he would screw his eyes shut, conflicted by immense relief and immense sadness. He imagined that, in all his years, he would never find a way to balance his loss with his triumph.

His mornings were not helped by the fact that Grimmauld Place was frighteningly lonesome. Mrs. Weasley had eyed him carefully when he said that he'd wanted to move into his godfather's house, but no one dared to argue with him. Not for now, at least. And he wasn't totally alone; Hermione and Ron had come over yesterday to check on him, offering to stay for the night. But he had told them to stay with the Weasleys.

Now Harry rather regretted telling everyone he would be okay on his own; it was the third day of his solitude and he suspected he was beginning to go a bit daft with no one to talk to. Having not yet resorted to talking to himself – though this couldn't be far off, Harry mused – Harry had taken to playing a radio loudly in whatever room he happened to be in.

Which was why when Ginny came through the fireplace Harry nearly dropped the kettle he'd been holding onto his toe.

"Blimey, Ginny," Harry said, putting the kettle down and turning the radio off. "What are you doing here? You traveled alone?"

She raised an eyebrow. "There's not much to be afraid of these days, is there?"

"No, I s'pose not." He resumed preparing his breakfast, asking Ginny if she wanted any. She declined, leaning against the counter next to him. Harry tried not to breathe in too strongly; her scent tended to linger in his mind for days.

"Where's Kingsley?"

"Who?" Harry asked.

"Kingsley Shacklebolt…Ron said he was staying here with you."

"No one else is here."

"You're by yourself here?" The tone in her voice made Harry stop slicing a tomato and look at her. Her brown eyes were narrowed.

"Well, yeah, but-"

"I'll kill my brother the next time I see him. Bleeding idiot."

"Why did he say Kingsley was here?"

"Mum had been getting on his case about you. He must have lied to ease her worry."

"I'm fine." His smile didn't quite reach his eyes.

"We're all worried, Harry," Ginny said quietly, placing her hand on his arm. He stared at it for a moment then looked into her face. Did she mean that she was worried, personally? Because if she was then Harry supposed he could muster a few more days alone at Grimmauld-

"You shouldn't be staying alone, not now. There's no reason. Why don't you come to the Burrow?"

"It's easier, this way," he said, not wanting to bring up his conviction that George would throttle him the first chance he got.

"Easier for who? Mum's in a state, thinking you've gone mental. Hermione won't shut up about you, wanting to come over every other minute. Ron's stopping everyone from harassing you but none of us get it. Why are you avoiding everyone?"

"I'm not-" Harry started, then stopped and swallowed, laying down the knife and mimicking Ginny's stance against the counter. "I'm not trying to avoid anyone." Especially not you, he thought, but pushed it angrily away. "I don't want people fussing over me when everyone has their own things to deal with."

"It would help for us to be distracted, once in a while," Ginny said softly. Harry inhaled quickly, telling himself not to read into her words. It's been over a year, he chided himself. Over a bloody year since you saw her last.

Harry turned back to his breakfast. "My eggs are burning," he said lamely.

"Right," Ginny said, and moved back toward the fireplace. Harry watched her as she grabbed a handful of Floo. He stopped her before she threw it into the fire.

"Ginny?"

She turned, brown eyes searching.

"How come you came here? Er – alone. I mean without Ron bothering you." He stopped and took a breath. "Why?"

She shrugged. "I've missed you."

Harry wanted to tell her the same, to tell her how he had been on her mind nightly for the past year, how in the dark and in the middle of nowhere he remembered the kiss she gave him for his birthday-

"The mornings are the worst," he said instead, mentally kicking himself. "Waking up to a big empty house."

Ginny's eyebrows knitted together. She seemed to consider something, then said, "Why don't you come round for supper tonight? Mum would love to see that you're alive."

Harry agreed, mostly because he was sick of the pitiful meals he had been preparing for himself, and watched Ginny disappear into the fire.

But Harry never made it to the Burrow for dinner; after Ginny left he sent a letter with a borrowed Weasley owl to the Ministry of Magic, inquiring about beginning Auror training as soon as possible. Not expecting a reply until a later date, Harry had begun to get dressed for dinner when the owl returned with a letter.

Mr. Potter,

Please stop by my office, Level 2, at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely
Gawain Robards
Head of the Office of Aurors
Department of Magical Law Enforcement

Harry blinked at the letter, wondering how on earth the Ministry had time for such a thing less than a week after the defeat of Voldemort. He put the letter aside and quickly composed a note to Mrs. Weasley explaining his sudden appointment, hoping she – and Ginny - would understand.

--

Harry pretended very hard that the whispers in the Ministry atrium were not about him. He pretended that nobody stared, that nobody stopped, and that the odd wizard with an enormous hat had not tried to give him a round of applause.

He reached the second floor, still pretending the witch in the lift hadn't tried to discover if he was single or not, and arrived at the office of Gawain Robards. His secretary showed him immediately, batting her enormous eyelashes a little too ferociously.

"Harry Potter!" Robards, a short man with a severely angled face, greeted Harry as if they were the best of friends, standing up to shake his hand. "Please, sit down."

"Thanks," Harry said, taking care not to knock over the piles of parchment that littered the floor.

"I apologize for the mess," Robards said, sitting once more. "We're in the middle of changing everything in this old Ministry. Kingsley Shacklebolt was named acting Minister, of all things. Seems a shame to put a mere underling in charge, I think."

Harry suppressed a grin; Shacklebolt, Harry knew, had worked in the Auror's department under Robards' command. He imagined that being surpassed by a subordinate Auror did not humor Robards.

"Anyway." A pause as Robards collected himself. "Interested in being an Auror, then, Harry? We only assumed you would."

"I'd love to-"

"Just one problem, see," Robards continued. "No N.E.W.T.s to speak of here Harry. Spent your last year abroad instead of at school. Leaves a large hole on your resume, I daresay."

Harry stared. "Are you serious?"

Robards shifted uncomfortably, his eyes downcast. "Well now of course. We wouldn't want to let just anyone slide into this department after all."

"No, I suppose taking on the one person who defeated Voldemort might be a touch risky," Harry said in irritation. "I can't join because I didn't take some tests? Would you rather I had stayed in school last year, sir, and just sat and stared out my window?"

"Now Harry, I'm sure it's hard to get rejected, especially for someone like yourself-"

"It's not that I can't take a rejection, sir," Harry said, standing. He was satisfied to see Robards shrink into his chair. "It's just I can't take a rejection from an idiot." Harry turned his back on Robards' gaping mouth. At the door he paused: "You should know that I think Shacklebolt will make an excellent Minister. He's a good friend of mine."

Robards face turned white, but Harry was already out the door and onto the lift before the man could make any excuses. Furious, he rode the lift down and nearly ran over a terrified wizard in his haste. He arrived at Grimmauld Place, irritated at Robards and mad that he had missed a dinner at the Burrow for such an immense waste of time.

After hastily writing a scathing letter to Kingsley, Harry thought better of it, threw it in the grate, then calmed himself to write a more courteous (but still indignant) letter instead. He watched the little owl disappear into the darkness outside and sighed, flopping backwards onto the bed. Tomorrow, he decided, he would visit the Burrow.

--

Harry awoke with a start. It was still dark outside; he had fallen asleep with a Quidditch magazine on his chest, lying on top of the blankets. This in itself was not particularly startling. What was startling was the figure curled up in the chair in the corner, reading a book by the light of a tiny flame.

Harry groped around the bed for his wand and found it lying near his side. He sat up swiftly and pointed the wand at the shadow.

"Who are you?"

"Did I wake you?"

"Ginny?" Harry asked, suddenly very self-conscious about the fact that he had no shirt on. He grabbed his glasses and pushed them up his nose.

She muttered something quietly and the flame in her palm grew brighter, lighting her red hair with a blue glow.

"You're not allowed to use magic, are you?"

"Nope. This is one of Fred and George's Insta-Glows." She moved to sit on the bed next to Harry, opening her palm to reveal that the flame actually came from a small orb the size of a marble. "Neat, right?"

"Yeah," Harry agreed, scooting back to lean against the headboard. Her arm was a hair's breath from his. "What are you doing here? It must be late."

"I came to keep you company," she said easily. "I told Hermione, so she's got my back."

"You told Hermione you were sneaking out to see me at night?"

Harry realized a moment too late that he had made it sound entirely too scandalous when all Ginny appeared to be doing was reading in his room while he slept.

"Well in case Mum wakes up tomorrow before I get back in my room."

"You're – you're staying the night?"

"Harry you're making it sound like we're having a sordid affair," she said. Harry was sure his face had flushed and was thankful that it was somewhat dark in the room. "You said," she continued quietly, "that the mornings are the worst. I thought I could make it better."

Harry's stomach flipped and he turned to look at Ginny, only to find her staring back at him. The firelight made her skin look so soft and it was all Harry could do to not reach out and touch her. He shook his head.

"Thanks, but you don't have to."

"I know I don't," she said. "Move over, that chair is uncomfortable."

Harry picked up the magazine that had fallen off of him and scooted over. The mattress shifted as Ginny took her spot where he had just been lying. With a slight panic he realized that he had never shared a bed with a girl before.

"What are you reading?"

She shut the book and showed him the cover: Advanced Spells and Wizardry. He raised his eyebrows at her. "Just something light before bed, then."

"I have N.E.W.T.s next year."

"You're going back to Hogwarts." Harry did not ask it as a question but the fact surprised him all the same.

Ginny laughed, nudging him with her elbow. "Not all of us can skive off the last year of school to romp around the English countryside. Did you meet any veelas by the way?"

Harry froze. "So then I thought, I'd like you to have something to remember me by…if you meet some vela when you're off doing whatever you're doing…." His birthday, her kissing him, her hair smelling so sweet and her mouth feeling so soft against his.

"Not one," he said, daring a glance at her again. She was playing with the flame in her hand.

"I bet Ron was disappointed."

"Maybe, but he and Hermione…well, you know." Harry had a hard time wrapping his mind around that, although he was not in the least surprised.

"Oh believe me, I know," Ginny said. Harry imagined that she rolled her eyes. "They're inseparable. Ron absolutely dotes on her. It's about time by they figured it out but Merlin, get a private room already."

Harry imagined what his two friends might get up to in a private room and quickly wished Ginny had not said that. He was acutely aware of the fact that he and Ginny had an entire house to themselves.

"How's George?" Harry asked, wanting to change the subject but unfortunately falling on an equally uncomfortable one.

"He's…he's okay, I guess. Doesn't really talk about it. Pretty quiet, but he pulled a mean trick on Ron today, so that's something."

"I'm sorry."

"It is not your fault." She said it so fiercely that Harry had no choice but to look. Her dark eyes bore into him with a strength Harry found incredible. "You are the last one to be apologizing for anything. All that you've done for us, all you've given up…"

"I haven't done anything. I get lucky, and I have some pretty great friends, but-"

"I think you're incredible." There was no blush on her face and her eyes were as determined as ever. Harry briefly wondered where she got the courage to stare into his eyes like that; most people these days looked away whenever he met their glance.

"I gave you up, didn't I?" Harry said softly. He hadn't meant to say it aloud.

"You had to."

Harry's heart sank; Ginny Weasley had moved on. He couldn't blame her.

"Remus named me Teddy's godfather," he said, for lack of anything better. Ginny sighed softly, but Harry wasn't sure at what. "I feel like I lost my parents again, with Remus and Tonks-" Harry couldn't finish the sentence. It was the first time he had said their names aloud since they had died.

Ginny's head fell onto his shoulder, her hair tickling his chest; Harry screwed his eyes tight against the constriction in his throat.

"When I…" he started, searching for a good way to say it. "Well, when I died, I saw Remus. I apologized – it's not right, for Teddy – and Remus said he died for a better world. It's hard for me to feel like it's any better, right now."

"But it is, Harry, you know it is. Teddy won't have to worry about Voldemort, or Death Eaters, or that his granddad was a Muggle. None of it matters now."

Her head still rested on his shoulder. He turned and pressed his lips to her hair, unsure whether it qualified as a kiss.

"I went to the Ministry today, to see about joining the Aurors." Harry didn't know why he kept talking, but he was unable to stop himself. Maybe I did go mental, all alone, he thought. "They told me no."

Ginny jerked upright. "You're kidding me!"

Harry chuckled. "Robards – that's the bloke's name who runs the department – told me that since I hadn't taken my N.E.W.T.s I didn't qualify. I told him Kingsley's a good friend of mine. I'll bet he's not getting much sleep tonight."

"That's absurd. How can they not let you of all people join. As if you're going to start a Dark rebellion or something." She paused to consider him. "It's strange to think you're done at Hogwarts."

"It's like my home, but it wouldn't be the same without Dumbledore."

"And Snape," Ginny added. Harry looked at her, startled. "Hermione told me." She yawned widely, stretching her arms above her head, her T-shirt rising to give Harry a glimpse of stomach. He felt very hot.

"You don't have to stay."

"Do you not want me to?" She didn't ask it quietly, timidly; her voice was borderline challenging. She bit her bottom lip in a way that made Harry want to do it for her.

"No," he said, with just a moment's hesitation. "I'd like you to stay."

She smiled and set her book aside, then whispered, "Finite," and the flame in her hand sputtered and died with a little hiccough. Setting the marble with her book, Ginny wormed her way under the covers and sighed contentedly.

"I'm wiped out. Mum had us de-gnome the garden to keep us busy."

Harry took his glasses off and realized that the night table was on Ginny's side, and that in order to put them there he would have to lean across her, without his shirt on, in the dark, while sharing a bed. He looked down at the redhead beside him and noticed her eyes were closed. It would be so easy to lean down and kiss her.

He quickly slipped under the covers and lay staring straight up at the ceiling.

"Harry?"

He couldn't not look at her after that, after the soft and yearning way she said his name. Ginny's eyes caught the light coming from the window and sparkled. She lay on her side facing him, her hair slightly mussed on the top of her head, falling across her shoulders. Harry wanted to move closer to her, to wrap himself in her arms-

She placed her hand on his cheek, disrupting any thought process that Harry was having. He exhaled heavily. His heart, he was sure, was beating entirely too loudly.

"Yeah?" he asked, embarrassed by how breathless he sounded.

For the first time all night Harry saw how tired she looked – too tired to be explained away by de-gnoming duties. Even in the dimly lit room Harry could see the shadows under her eyes, the lines around her mouth that seemed too old for her young face. He realized with a wrench in his chest that he had talked most of the night and that he knew little of how her year had been.

But now her eyes were closing and Harry resolved to talk about nothing but her in the morning, and perhaps every morning after that as well. Ginny's hand slid off his face as she tucked it under her head.

"G'night, Ginny," he whispered. Harry didn't stay awake long enough to see if she had heard him.

--

"-get up, c'mon-"

Harry shot up and grabbed the wrists that were tickling his sides, calculating that his wand was too far away for him to reach in time.

But it was Ginny who had been tickling him awake, and now she sat frozen, her wrists pinned tightly in his hands, eyes wide. Harry blinked and felt like an idiot.

"Er, sorry, I don't normally do that."

Ginny smiled. "Sleeping in a tent for a year can get to a person." She grimaced. "Can you let go of your dragon grip?"

"Oh," Harry said, and dropped her hands. In the morning light he became aware of many things at once: he still was not wearing a shirt, his hair must look something like a pygmy puff, and Ginny's face was the best thing he had ever woken up to.

"Did you sleep okay?" he asked.

She nodded. "Great, yeah." Ginny moved to get off the bed but something in Harry made him reach out and stop her.

"Ginny," he started, but faltered under her warm eyes. He really wished she would stop staring him in the eye like that. "I – thanks. For staying." Somehow, even though his hand was burning from where it was in contact with her skin, Harry had managed to say thank you in the most business-like way possible.

She frowned and pulled her arm away from him. For the first time since she came over, Ginny looked unsure of herself.

"Did you miss me?" she asked quietly. "Just a little, even?"

Harry stared, his mouth slightly ajar. Suddenly many things clicked into place. She hadn't come over in the dead of night to just idly chat. She had brought up the veelas on purpose. She knew why he had broken it off with her last year, but she had not, as Harry had suspected, moved on. The way she had touched his face and said his name-

Harry darted forward and in a solid motion had put a hand behind her head and pressed his lips to hers. It took Ginny but a moment to kiss him back, her hands wrapping up around his neck. Harry couldn't think of anything better than kissing her, than feeling the softness of her lips and the way she tasted like mint. He grazed her bottom lip with his teeth, then deepened their kiss with his tongue.

The noise she made at the back of her throat drove Harry mad.

He pulled her closer to him so that she was nearly sitting on his lap and moved his hands down to her waist. Her skin was warm through her T-shirt. He wanted her even closer, wanting to crush the space between them, the year that had separated them.

Minutes later – or was it mere moments, or a long hour? Harry had no idea – they parted, resting their foreheads together as they caught their breath. She looked up at him coyly through her eyelashes, grinning.

"I thought about you at night," Harry said, closing his eyes. "You were in my dreams. Good dreams."

"I guess that counts as missing me," Ginny said teasingly, finding his hands and entwining hers with them.

"Yeah." He opened his eyes and pushed his bangs back, grabbing his glasses from the side table. He took her hands again and looked at her seriously. "I'm glad you stayed. This morning wasn't so horrible."

She laughed. "I hope not. I've got an hour before Mum wakes up." Her smile faded a fraction. "Unless you have somewhere to be, or something to do."

"I've got all the time in the world now, Ginny," Harry said, and pulled her toward him again.

--

For starters, this is a one-shot and won't be continued. It's more or less just a character interaction as I get back into the swing of writing. Review and let me know what you think. If you like late night visitors, check out my other story, the Mental, Emotional, and Physical State of Remus J. Lupin, that I wrote many years ago.