Ghost of You
I fell in love with her courage, her sincerity, and her flaming self-respect.
And it's these things I'd believe in, even if the whole world indulged in
wild suspicions that she wasn't all she should be.
I love her and it is the beginning of everything.
-F. Scott Fitzgerald
5 Months Later…
The flat was dark and quiet when Harry finally landed in the living room in the minutes just before dawn. Letting out a sharp breath, he dropped his duffel roughly by the door and kicked off his boots in two separate directions before collapsing onto the sofa. For a moment he sat motionless, his head falling back, eyes closed, pushing his glasses up onto his forehead, as he reveled in the silence of the morning.
He was exhausted.
Five weeks on nearly constant duty abroad had left him mentally and physically spent, and he understood now why the other Aurors had been so perplexed when he'd chosen to remain at the ministry after arriving back in London early in the afternoon the day before. He knew the paperwork could have waited, but he'd wanted the case to be completely behind him when he eventually came home.
He leaned forward slowly, his back and neck stiff from too many hours at a desk, and resting his head in his hands he slowly he rubbed his temples, attempting to ease the tension. His fingers traveled back through his untidy hair before he finally straightened and stood, turning back towards the hall; he hadn't done all that work so he could sit alone on a couch.
Harry quietly pushed open the bedroom door, and peered inside. Despite his bone deep exhaustion, he couldn't help but smile to himself at the scene before him.
In the far corner a trunk had seemed to explode across his room its contents disheveled and strewn over the sides, quidditch magazines littered the nightstand, and tossed on the floor in front of him were several piles of sorted laundry. His eyes scanned quickly across the clutter and up onto the bed, where at last they stopped.
Even asleep, her hair spread across the pillow and his old t-shirt drowning her small frame, the sight of her was enough to stop his breath. This was why he'd forced himself to run on nearly no sleep for the past week and why he'd pushed himself to stay the course and dot every i of that bloody paperwork before taking his leave.
Her. Here. In his house. In his bed.
No - in their bed.
Shedding all his filthy work clothes he swiftly crossed the room and lifted the covers to crawl in beside her.
He fought the desperate urge to wake her, choosing instead to prop himself up on his elbow and simply looked at her, needing to memorize her face in that moment. God, she was gorgeous. Her long, dark lashes, the smattering of freckles across her nose, the way her hair fell gently in her eyes, how soft her lips looked, and most of all how he had her, had her to himself.
She shifted slightly beside him and he watched as her eyes fluttered open. Her eyebrows scrunched in confusion for a moment before she started blinking slowly, her mouth curved into a sleepy smile and she lifted her hand to cup his face, as if trying to prove him a reality, and not just a dream.
"Oh, hello," she whispered softly.
Harry chuckled at her casual greeting and pressed a kiss to her temple before dropping his head on the pillow and pulling her close against him.
She nuzzled deeper into him and asked, "How long have you been home?"
"Hmmm. 'Home' as in the country or 'home' as in next to you? Because let me tell you," he yawned, "those are sadly two entirely different answers."
"Lots of paperwork then?"
"Loads. But I'm done and I'm here whenever you want me for the next two weeks, free of charge."
She laughed softly and then rolled away from him, stretching with a groan before turning to face him, propped up on her own elbow.
"That sounds perfect, but I'm leaving for training Thursday. What happened? Hermione said you were going to be back at the end of term, but that something came up."
Harry scowled. So much for the surprise. It was true that'd he had planned to be done with his assignment and waiting at King's Cross when she climbed off the Hogwarts Express for the last time three days ago, but a last minute delay had deterred everything. He'd hoped no one would have said anything and the greeting they were sharing now could take its place. Clearly he'd been wrong, and instead of seeming thoughtful and romantic, as he'd hoped, he felt like he'd let her down in favor of the job. Again.
As if reading his mind, she quietly amended, "Don't look so defeated. You're here now. I just missed you. I can't remember the last time we were together like this."
He was silent as he struggled to recall the last time he'd seen her alone.
"April, I think. Over Easter."
"Two months is far too long."
"We've gone longer and survived. Besides," he added playfully as he rolled on top of her, "You aren't going to ship off to Scotland for months on end anymore. You'll be here. With me. As planned. "
Ginny laughed and he started to tickle her sides, peppering her neck and chest with kisses as he moved down her body, all traces of exhaustion gone from either of them.
"Hey come here!" She called right before his disappeared beneath the sheets entirely.
"I'm busy," he answered cheekily between kisses.
"I noticed. If I promise to let you be busy again in a minute would you come back up?"
Harry laughed loudly and slid back up the bed, propping himself above her and kissing her nose before looking at her intently, waiting.
Her eyes filled with a fire that he had only seen a few times before in their short time together, and quietly, so softly he almost didn't hear, she whispered,
"We did it."
The vulnerability in her voice surprised him, but he understood, and he felt his own voice leave him for a moment as he considered the weight of her words.
It had been just over a year since she'd been discharged from St. Mungo's. He recalled the countless nights he'd spent staring at her sleeping form, praying to every benevolent force in the universe that she'd pull through, that she'd come back to him.
And she had. She had.
Of all of the things the war had brought and taken, their relationship would always be the greatest wonder to him.
To have lived through the fighting at all was the obvious miracle, but the year that followed Voldemort's defeat had been trying in ways even he couldn't have predicted. Her sickness coupled with the distance, the media and the inherent liability of his career was hardly a nurturing environment for a productive relationship, let alone a whirlwind love affair.
But still they'd survived.
And now, just out of Hogwarts, Ginny remained completely healed from the horrors she suffered after the war. She was healthy and strong and vibrant.
She was entirely mesmerizing.
"I love you." He breathed as she looked up at him through her lashes.
She smiled in response and he leaned down to press his lips to hers once, twice, three more times before deepening the kiss. She tilted her head slightly in acceptance, pressing her body up into his and running her fingers along the base of his neck and up into his hair.
For the millionth time he felt deep in his soul a pull of overwhelming love for this woman and with it the glorious, uncontrollable desire to laugh, to shout if he could. But instead, he pulled her closer to him; he would not leave her, he would not dare tear himself from her. He was bound to her, body and soul.
It didn't matter that the fates were against them, that they had seemed doomed never to obtain happiness. They had it now. They were safe, wrapped in each other's arms, sheltered in their warm home and bathed in the light of the morning. They were safe and whole and most importantly, they were together.
She had come into his life in a blaze of wonder only to be snatched away again in an instant.
So for him to feel her now – no longer a ghost, but real and whole – for him to feel her life and hear her soft breaths as his body tangled with hers, was the most delicious sort of happiness.
He had fallen in love with her courage, her sincerity, and her flaming self-respect. And it's these things he would believe in, even if the whole world indulged in wild suspicions that she wasn't all she should be.
He loved her and it was the beginning of everything.
To Shades of Sunshine - you are the Roy to my Siegfried, the Smithers to my Mr. Burns, the Fred to my George...why all of those were men I'm not sure. I look forward to our next, fabulous, collaboration.
To everyone else who has helped along the way - thank you, thank you, thank you.
To my husband - time for that steak dinner! )
I hope you all enjoyed the ride as much as I did. All the best to you and yours! Hasta!