Author's Note: The wonderful characters and places in this story belong to the one and only J.K. Rowling. I do not profess to have a brilliant mind like hers. Only the storyline belongs to me.
Chapter 2: Reality Can Wait
Ginny carefully laid out the potions, salves, and bandages on the nightstand beside the bed. So far she had managed not to wake him. She had left Harry alone and had let him sleep at first. That is, until she had noticed that there was a large circle on his shirt that was slightly darker than the dark grey fabric. Placing her fingers on it, she had been able to tell just what it was. Fresh blood. So she had banished his shirt, hoping to let him sleep while she set about caring for him.
A few whispered spells later, she discovered that not everything would heal by magic. At least, not with any of the spells that she knew. Most of the cuts across his chest, arms, and face were gone now, as well as most of the burns. Only one particularly ugly gash remained right above his heart. She hadn't been able to heal anything on his back, as he was lying on it.
So, instead, she had made a quick dash down to the hospital wing and had raided Madam Pomfrey's medicine cupboard.
She glanced back at Harry to make sure she hadn't awoken him. Seeing he hadn't moved, she opened the container of salve and dipped her finger in.
Ginny gently smoothed the ointment over the long gash, holding her breath when Harry shifted. His head turned toward her and his eyes opened. Just as she was about to apologize for waking him, his eyes slowly drifted closed again.
She stayed still for a few moments to make sure he was really still asleep before she allowed herself to breathe again. Taking the rolled up bandage, she cut off a piece with her wand long enough to cover the wound. She placed the bandage over it and taped it down with the tape she had found in the hospital wing.
Ginny turned toward the nightstand and put the top back on the salve and rolled up the bandage. Hearing movement behind her, she turned to see Harry sitting up in the bed, looking down and touching the freshly applied bandage.
"Sorry I woke you."
Harry looked up with a small smile and shook his head. "Don't worry about it." He gestured at the bandage. "You didn't have to do this, you know."
Ginny handed him his glasses.
She nodded. "I know, but I did. Now lie back down and turn over."
Harry arched an eyebrow as he slipped on his glasses and gave her a questioning look, causing Ginny to smile.
"So I can tend to your back, Harry."
Harry turned over to lie on his stomach, resting his head on his folded arms. "May I ask where my shirt has disappeared to?"
Ginny smiled again. "I banished it."
She tried to suppress a laugh at the look on his face. "I didn't want to wake you."
"Do I get it back by any chance?" he asked, barely containing a laugh at the blush staining Ginny's cheeks and spreading down her neck.
"It's back in your bag." Ginny mumbled as she turned and picked up the potion from the nightstand and pulled out the stopper.
She turned back to Harry and was once again struck at the number of cuts, burns, scratches, and bruises that marred his pale skin. He looked like he had just went a long, grueling round of Quidditch… as the bludger.
What had been done to him? How had he gotten so hurt?
"Ginny? Are you okay?"
Harry's voice pulled her out of her daze and she shook her head to clear it and stepped closer.
"Sorry." She positioned the bottle over his back and began dripping the potion on his burns.
She ignored his pondering look as she kept dripping the potion. Instead, she allowed her mind to wonder about his wounds once again.
Had Voldemort inflicted them? Death Eaters? Or had he already been so wounded when he had come to Hogwarts? Had what the trio had done really been that dangerous?
Of course it had been Ginny berated herself. Hadn't that been the entire reason Harry had broken up with her; the reason she had been left behind? Harry and his stupid, noble reasons?
His back looked a little better without the angry red burns marking his skin and Ginny put the potion away and picked up her wand to begin the tedious job of healing the scratches and cuts.
The more his back healed, the more gorgeous it became. Ginny shook her head at herself again. Gorgeous? Harry's back? Merlin, she had to get rid of those thoughts if she wanted to concentrate on what she was doing.
And noticing just how much Harry had filled out over the past year, despite his hardships, wasn't helping.
The silence deepened as she tried to focus on the task at hand. But the more she concentrated on Harry's wounds, the more she wondered how he had gotten them. And that, in turn, would make her think of everything they had lost.
Harry propped up on an arm slightly and looked back at her. "Yeah?"
Ginny sat her wand aside and ran her fingers over a faded burn.
"Where did all of these burns come from?"
Silence fell once again as Harry stared down at the mattress.
Ginny sighed. "It's okay." Her voice startled Harry out of his thoughts and he jumped in surprise. "You don't have to tell me."
She turned and began rolling up the bandage once again. It stumped her that his silence still hurt so much after everything she had been through lately. But, nevertheless, it still stung.
Harry's head snapped up at her words, his green eyes blazing, and a determined look on his face.
"Gringotts. One of the security measures on the vaults is that everything turns scorching hot when the vault is broken into and everything you touch duplicates so that you have no idea which one is the real one." Harry sat up and slid his legs off of the bed. "Unfortunately, the fake ones are just as hot as the real ones."
Ginny turned back around, another blush staining her cheeks. "Sorry, I assumed… I'm just so used to people not including me that when you got really quiet I just thought-"
Harry shook his head, interrupting her. "I know. And I'm sorry that I was one of the people trying to keep things from you." He looked down at his feet. "I just thought that if I could keep everything from you then you would be safer. I needed you to be safe. For me."
He looked up at her with a smirk. "You may have thought I was just like everyone else and keeping everything from you for your own good and because you were younger. And I did use that to my advantage. But I was being completely selfish." He shook his head again. "Not that it makes what I did any less wrong. But I wanted you safe. I pushed you away because I couldn't bare it if something happened to you. I couldn't do what I had to do if Voldemort used you to get to me."
Ginny bit her lip before meeting his eyes. "You would have done what needed to be done."
Harry's heart thudded so loud he could hear it in his ears. He couldn't believe he was about to tell her this.
"Maybe, I don't know. I just know that you were the last thing I thought about."
Ginny's brow furrowed. "The last thing you thought about before what?"
Harry pulled his feet up and sat cross legged on the bed before answering. "I don't know how to explain it exactly." He glanced down at his hands before looking back at her. "When I first- when I went into the forest to-"
"Give yourself up." Ginny replied bitingly when he paused.
Harry smirked. "You sound like you don't approve."
"I don't." She sat on the bed across from him and folded her arms across her chest. "Before what?" She asked, steering the conversation back in its original direction.
"Right." Harry ran a hand through his mess, black hair. "When I went into the forest to give myself up," He continued. "Right before Voldemort cursed me; the last thing I thought about was you. That was when I realized-"
"Wait," Ginny's eyes were wide. "Voldemort cursed you?"
"Well, yeah. How else do you think he would have thought I was dead?"
"Honestly, I haven't really let myself think that far into it." Her jaw tightened and her eyes flashed as she realized something. "If he thought you were dead, then he had to have used the-" She broke off, not willing to say it out loud.
"The killing curse." He finished for her. "Yeah."
"How did you survive that again?"
"I don't know exactly." Harry tried to explain, but not sure how. "Dumbledore said something about me having a choice because I had sacrificed myself and because my blood ran through Voldemort's veins."
Ginny became even more confused and she shook her head. "Dumbledore?"
He nodded. "I saw Dumbledore after Voldemort cursed me. It may have been all in my head, to be honest. But I don't think so. I think I was in some kind of strange limbo."
Ginny's face became one of disbelief. "You mean you actually died?!" She stood and walked to the window, looking out into the moonlit grounds without really seeing any of it.
"Ginny?" Harry asked cautiously.
Ginny held up a hand without looking back. She didn't trust herself to speak just yet.
Harry had really died? She felt sick to her stomach. Her mind didn't want to process it. He had died! Her heart gave a painful squeeze and she felt faint.
She realized she had quit breathing and inhaled deeply, filling her deprived lungs. Faces flashed before her eyes. Moody. Sirius. Dumbledore. Lupin. Tonks. Colin. Fred.
Her brain felt fuzzy. Is this what a panic attack felt like? She struggled to breathe once again.
Harry stared at Ginny's profile for a long moment. She remained quiet; the only sounds coming from her were the occasional deep breaths.
She was still. All that moved was her red hair, streaked with silver from the moonlight and gold from the candlelight in the room, as a cool breeze blew through the window.
It was the stillness that worried him. Ginny had always been a constant bundle of energy for as long as he could remember. She was never still. Until now.
He unfolded his legs from underneath him and put his feet on the floor. Standing, he slowly made his way to where she stood at the window.
His hand rested on her back. "Ginny?"
He felt her stiffen underneath his hand, but was still totally unprepared for the look she threw him as she jerked away and spun around. He could almost feel a hole burning in his skin under her baleful glare. He took a step back, but not before her hand came in contact with his chest. Hard.
Stunned, Harry looked down at where she had slapped him and then back up at her.
"Who in the bloody hell gave you permission to die?!"
Her eyes were narrowed, her jaw tight, and her mouth was set in an angry frown. An angry flush stained her cheeks and contrasted with her pale skin.
Ginny stared him down, glaring as if she dared him to answer.
Harry didn't speak. Some part of his brain told him it was best if he stayed quiet.
Then, her anger left just as suddenly as it had came, and she reached out and touched the white bandage on his chest with her fingers.
"I suppose this is where it hit then?"
Harry nodded, watching her wearily as she stepped closer.
"No wonder it wouldn't heal." Her eyes flashed as she looked up at him. "The next time you go off to die and you don't stop to tell me first, Merlin help you!"
She stepped back and walked around him, sitting back down on the bed.
"I thought the killing curse didn't leave a mark."
Harry took a deep breath and turned to face her. Keeping up with her mood was wearing him out. He couldn't seem to shake this bone deep weariness.
"It usually doesn't, but since when has my life gone by the book?"
Ginny sighed, her eyes now dispirited and sad. "Good point."
The silence seemed to compress on his ears and he finally began to say what had been eating at him all the day before.
"Ginny, I'm really sorry about-"
Her eyes met his again and she held up a hand, cutting him off. "Don't."
Harry looked down at his feet, unable to stomach the pain in her eyes. Especially since he had been the one to cause it.
"He would still be here if it wasn't for me, Ginny. You know that as well as I do." He added softly.
"No, I don't know that." She replied scathingly. "And unless you're going to take credit for all of the good things that have happened in my family, then stop taking credit for all of the bad things that have happened."
Ginny stood and stepped closer, looking up at him. "Sorry I'm so…" She tilted her head, trying to think of an appropriate word. "touchy."
Harry smirked. "Just touchy?"
"Don't push it, Potter."
Harry took a step back and she frowned as he looked around the room.
"What is it?"
"I'm looking for my shirt."
Ginny sighed and walked around to the other side of the bed and picked up his bag from the floor, setting it on the bed. She unzipped the bag and pulled out a dark grey t-shirt. Turning it around, she displayed the stain that was slightly darker that the rest of the shirt.
"I tried to get it out as best as I could. Unfortunately, I'm not all that great with cleaning charms."
"It's fine." Harry took the shirt from her hands and pulled it over his head. "Thanks."
Harry glanced at his watch and cursed softly.
"It's only three." He complained.
"What about it?"
Ginny laughed, breaking the somber mood they had fallen into. "And here I thought I was the only one."
She tossed the bag back down on the floor by the bed and turned to the door.
"Where are you going?"
Ginny glanced over her shoulder as she pulled open the door. "To nick some food." She said, her eyes twinkling. "Are you coming or are you going to wait for breakfast?"
Harry fell into step beside her as she walked out into the corridor and started down the steps.
They walked in silence as they came into the common room. He was surprised to see a few people still milling about and they paused in their conversations to look up at them as they passed.
As they finally reached the portrait hole, Harry turned to face her as the portrait swung open.
"Do I look that bloody awful? Why are they looking at me like that?"
Ginny bit her lip as she stepped through the portrait hole. "No, it's not that." She looked up at him worriedly. "It's just- I mean, I'm sure it's-"
Harry's brow furrowed as they began the long walk down the staircase. "It's just what? Spit it out."
She gave a heavy sigh. "Well, I'm sure they may be a little weary of you after watching you duel Voldemort." She nodded to a tall Ravenclaw boy as he passed them.
Harry scowled in frustration as the boy did a double take and sped up, obviously eager to be as far away as possible.
"Weary? Scared, you mean." Harry quickened his own steps and Ginny had to scramble to catch up with his long stride.
"You don't understand. Watching you, it was- you were very… intimidating."
"So now everyone is scared of me?" Harry asked incredulously. "What was I supposed to do? Stand there and let him kill me? Kill everyone else?"
Ginny shook her head. "I'm not saying that no one appreciates what you did. It's just-"
He threw a glare in her direction as he grabbed hold of the banister to regain his balance as the staircase began to move.
"I don't want to be appreciated. I did what anyone else would have done if they had been in my place."
"Actually, you didn't, but that's beside the point." She began walking again as the staircase settled. "And I didn't say you wanted anything. So don't bite my head off for answering your bloody question."
She tossed her hair angrily over her shoulder as he caught up with her.
"I'm sorry." He said simply, quietly.
Her anger drained again. Even the famous Weasley temper melted at his apologetic, hypnotic, green eyes.
Ginny nodded and turned down the corridor toward the kitchens. She gave him a sly smile as she reached the painting of the bowl of fruit.
"Let's just get some food in you before you hit the wrong buttons and cause me to bat bogey you."
Harry laughed in spite of his mood and reached out to tickle the pear. "You don't scare me, Weasley."
Ginny scoffed. "I don't want you scared, Potter." She replied cheekily. "I don't want to have to chase you."
Chuckling, Harry pulled open the painting. Realizing what entering the kitchen meant, he stiffened suddenly, not wanting to go any further.
Ginny paused over the threshold and looked back at him. "Aren't you coming?"
Taking a deep breath, Harry nodded. He couldn't avoid house elves for the rest of his life, no matter how much it pained him to be reminded of Dobby. Bracing himself, he followed Ginny into the kitchen. Only to find it empty.
He looked around in confusion. Where were all of the house elves? The last time he was in this kitchen there had been so many house elves that he couldn't count them all.
"They must be helping with the cleaning up." Ginny said quietly as she, too, took in the empty kitchen.
He watched as Ginny crossed the stone floor to the still gleaming granite counters. She bit her lip as she looked around.
"I guess we'll just have to help ourselves." She murmured as she spotted the large icebox on the other side of the kitchen.
Harry looked around again as she dug through the icebox. He couldn't help feeling like Dobby was going to just appear before him like always.
He crossed to the fireplace, remembering as he did how Dobby had tended to Winky there when none of the other house elves hardly wanted to have anything to do with her. He turned his head in Ginny's direction as he realized she was speaking to him.
Ginny gave him a worried look. "I asked if there was anything in particular that you wanted."
Harry gave himself a mental shake. What kind of prat was he just to wander around the kitchen while she scrounged around for something to eat?
"No. What do you want?"
Ginny stepped aside as he came around the counter and gently pushed her out of the way so he could look in the icebox.
"I don't care. I'm a Weasley," She said with a smirk. "Food is food."
"Okay then. Let's see…"
Her eyebrows rose as he pulled things out of the icebox and placed them on the counter. Soon he was pulling open cabinets, searching through them until he found what he wanted.
"What do you want me to do?" She asked softly, as he began breaking eggs into a bowl.
"Erm… You can see if you can find us a couple of plates and goblets."
She set about searching the cabinets. Finally, she gave up and pulled out her wand and summoned them.
"You know, a really talented auror once told me that was a really good way to curse off a buttock." Harry commented as she slipped her wand into her back pocket.
Ginny glanced up to see a teasing light in his eyes as she set the plates on the counter and smiled. "I notice you haven't lost one yet."
He gave a crooked grin and she blushed as she realized that her statement made it sound like she made a habit of staring at his arse.
Which she had done quiet a bit. But she didn't want him to know that!
She focused her attention on the knife in his hands instead as he began chopping a green bell pepper with efficiency. Her eyes followed the quick movement of his hands with something akin to amazement.
"You're really good at that. And you aren't even using magic."
Harry glanced up from his take for the slightest moment, before looking back down at what he was doing.
"I should be." He said humorlessly, almost dryly. "I've cooked breakfast every morning since I could see over the top of the stove until I was eleven and then every summer since."
Dumbfounded, Ginny gaped at him for a moment before coming to her senses.
"You never told me that before."
Actually, he had never really talked about his life with his aunt and uncle at all before.
Harry shrugged as he raked diced onion and pepper into a hot pat. "It never came up before."
He stirred it with a wooden spoon and began dicing up a piece of ham.
How could he brush it off so carelessly? Did it really not bother him? How did anyone get used to being treated like a personal slave?
Not knowing what else to say after such a revealing moment, Ginny wandered over to the icebox and pulled out a flask of pumpkin juice and filled their goblets.
She was lost in her own thoughts when Harry slid a fluffy, mouth watering omelet in front of her.
Her stomach growled as the tantalizing smell drifted up from her plate and Harry chuckled as he pulled up a couple of stools for them to sit on.
Harry watched her silently as they ate. She was deep in thought, her brow furrowed and her eyes focused on faraway thoughts. If he didn't know her as well as he did, he might think that the look on her face was one of pity. But he knew that pity was the farthest thing from her mind.
Halfway through her omelet, Ginny looked up and swallowed the bite of food in her mouth.
"Where are your aunt and uncle now?" She asked softly.
Harry shrugged and took another bite before answering.
"I don't know. Moody had set up somewhere for them to go when he came to get me before my seventeenth birthday. I suppose I should ask Hagrid so I can go check on them."
Her brown eyes watched him carefully, as if trying to figure out how he could even care if they were okay.
"Do you think they understand the magnitude of what you had to do? Of what you've done?"
He sighed and pushed away his now empty plate. "They've never bothered to even try to understand. Talk of magic or anything that wasn't 'normal' was forbidden in my aunt and uncle's house."
Ginny's lips pressed together in a thin line, as if she were trying to hold in a sharp retort.
Seeming to sense he didn't want to talk about his so-called family, Ginny returned her attention to her meal.
"This is really good, by the way. Maybe we should stick you in the kitchen with mum. Maybe then she'd stop waking me up so bloody early to help with breakfast."
Harry's smile returned with her light teasing. Apparently, a year apart didn't stop her from reading him like a book. It had always amazed him how she always seemed to know what he was thinking.
Ginny took her last bite and then stood up, gathering their plates and goblets and carried them to the sink.
"So… my brother finally came to his senses, yeah?"
Waving her wand and muttering a spell under her breath, she had the dishes washing and drying themselves.
Harry gratefully welcomed the turn in conversation. "Yeah, it seems so. It took him long enough."
She plucked the plates out of midair and returned them to their rightful cabinet. He stood and took the dirty pan from the stove, setting it in the sink.
"When did he finally brave up long enough to tell her?"
Harry smiled at the memory of flying basilisk fangs and Hermione flinging herself at Ron.
"He didn't. It was actually Hermione who snogged him senseless all over some statement he made about warning the house elves about the war."
Ginny laughed and pointed her wand at the pan in the sink, causing it to leave Harry's hands, which were beginning to wash it, and start to clean itself.
"Leave it to Hermione to get hot and bothered by elf rights of all things."
Once it was dry, Harry put the pan back where it belonged. He leaned back against the counter as Ginny put away the silverware.
"That is a statement I could have lived without." Harry complained. "I don't want to think of Hermione getting got and bothered about anything."
Ginny scoffed as she turned to face him, a mischievous light in her eyes.
"You are a seventeen-year-old male, Harry." She said, as if that explained everything. "I'm sure you've thought about it plenty."
Harry felt his face heat. "Never said I didn't. Just not about Hermione."
Ginny came a step closer and Harry straightened as he recognized the determined look on her face.
"Oh? About who then?" She stopped only a step and looked up at him expectantly. "Any veela I should know about?"
Her question took him back to her room on his seventeenth birthday. Suddenly, he was tired of talking. Why should he be talking when there were far more important things to be done?
Without even knowing he had moved, he was kissing her, his lips sliding against hers. A low moan escaped her and he took advantage of her open mouth to take the kiss deeper, thrusting his tongue inside and reveling in the sweet, intoxicating taste of her.
He felt her hands slide up his chest and then behind his neck, pulling him closer. Groaning into her mouth, he turned, picking her up and placing her on the counter without breaking the kiss.
Bloody hell, he had missed this! Only, this seemed a lot more intense than it had while they were dating. His brain couldn't seem to function enough for him to think about it, as all of his blood seemed to be draining from it and traveling to a very southern direction.
His hands traveled along her sides and back before burying themselves in her silky hair. Ginny whimpered impatiently and her hands tugged at his shirt until she had pulled it free from his trousers.
Then her hands were on his skin and he could feel her fingernails lightly scraping along his ribcage.
Their need only seemed to grow more intense as they kissed. Harry's hand left her hair and slipped beneath the hem of her blouse, his fingers caressing the bare skin. His mouth traveled along her jaw and down her throat, Ginny's head falling back to give him better access.
This was amazing! No, they had to stop! It felt so good to finally touch her, to taste her! It was too much, too fast! They hadn't seen each other or spoken to each other in months!
Harry's conflicted train of thought derailed, crashed, and imploded as Ginny's legs wrapped around his hips, pulling him even closer and he gave a strangled groan as she pulled him back to her mouth.
He lost himself in her, not caring about anything but the fact that he never wanted to stop. He was too far gone to notice anything that wasn't a part of the girl in his arms. It was Ginny's startled gasp that finally broke through the fog in his brain enough to make him pull his mouth away from her collarbone long enough to notice they were no longer alone.
Harry turned and shielded Ginny from view as she re-buttoned her blouse. He didn't even remember unbuttoning it to begin with. All he remembered was suddenly feeling the contrasting feel of rough lace and smooth skin beneath his hands.
Two brown haired girls stood by the portrait hole, gaping at them like a couple of fish out of water and Harry seemed to be having trouble deciding if he was more embarrassed or angry. Was nowhere private anymore? Given, the kitchens weren't very private to start with, but suddenly the damn castle seemed entirely too crowded!
The taller of the two girls suddenly turned beet red and covered her gaping mouth with her hand. And kept staring wild eyed at Harry and Ginny.
"I'm so sorry." She mumbled against her hand.
Harry felt Ginny's hands tugging on his shirt, trying to pull it back into place. She brushed against his back as she slid off of the counter.
Before he could say anything to the shocked girls in front of him, Ginny slid her hand into his, giving an embarrassed laugh as she pulled him past them and into the corridor.
She laughed again as they began the walk back up to the common room.
"What is so funny?" Harry asked, a small smile creeping up on his own face. She seemed so happy it was contagious.
"I hope you weren't planning on keeping that secret for very long, because that was Brianna and Lexie, the biggest gossips in my year. Everyone that is anyone will know by sunrise."
Harry shook his had at her. He was still so wrapped up in thoughts of Ginny that he didn't even notice the stares from the few people they passed on the staircase.
They passed a corridor with rubble and debris strewn all along the floor and he paused, his smile sliding off his face as reality began to seep back in. His light mood evaporated.
He turned and looked down at the beautiful redhead beside him, her brown eyes pleading with him.
"Not yet." She whispered, tugging him along. "Morning will come soon enough. Until then, let's just pretend to be two very normal, hormonal teenagers in search of a very private broom cupboard so we can have a nice, uninterrupted snog."
Harry chuckled in spite of himself as he marveled once again at how easily she read him.
"Sounds like a plan, Miss Weasley." He teased as he pulled her to him to brush his lips over hers. "Now about that broom cupboard…"
Author's Note: Yes, I know! Interrupted again! So not fair! But hey, at least our favorite couple is off in search of a broom closet! *wink, wink*
To those of you who are waiting for a little less fluff, hang in there. But I must warn you, this is a romance fic. There will be plenty of fluff scattered all through the story! Also, I want to send out a tremendous thanks to my beta, Fairqueen2, who puts up with my bad spelling and can fix this word salad into something more readable. Thank you so much!
Please don't forget to leave a review! Reviews are an author's best friends! They also make me very happy! And a happy me is a me that writes more! LOL! Thank you for taking the time to read my fic!