A/N: This was written for a writers challenge on another website. The idea was to give Harry and Ginny 48 hours away from everyone so that they could sort things out. I dedicate this story to my husband, who has loved me through cancer, surgery and radiation to help me feel whole again. Deep thanks to my amazing beta, MyGinevra, because you make me a better writer. FYI: The site where the challenge was put out, I write under the pen name Anima Lupusa. Thanks for taking the time my loyal readers, and you might want some tissues near by. MNF

Broken

A few days after the final battle, the Weasleys decide to return to the Burrow and get on with their lives. But they find a stressed Harry sitting at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall. When Molly Weasley asks what's wrong, Harry spills everything.

"I've been trying to have a private conversation with Ginny since this war ended but nobody will let me. Either some bureaucrat wants me to go with him, or Ginny is guarded by her brothers, or if we do get together, there's a crowd around us that won't let us out of their sight!"

"Well, that's okay. You and Ginny, go take all the time you need," Mrs. Weasley said while looking at the two of them.

So Harry stood up and offered his hand to Ginny, which she nervously took. "We'll be back in forty-eight hours," he replied. And before anybody had a chance to say anything, Harry turned towards Ginny and they both disappeared with a soft "Pop!"

"How did he do that?" Hermione stood up screaming now. This was it, she'd hit her boiling point. Harry had just Disapparated out of Hogwarts, completely going against everything that she thought or believed about magic. "He's not supposed to do that! No one is supposed to be able to do that! You can't Apparate out of Hogwarts!" She slammed her foot down on the ground for effect, and Ron could feel the floor and the bench he was sitting on reverberate as she did. He took a deep breath, let it out and stood to try and comfort her.

"Honestly, 'Mione, you're not supposed to be able to come back from the dead either, but Harry did that too. I somehow doubt that Apparating out of Hogwarts is all that hard for him," Ron tried to calm her as he wrapped his arm around her.

"But, it's..." she stammered. "You can't do it!" she added still frustrated. "None of this makes any sense!" She crumpled into Ron's chest, her anger and frustration giving way to exhaustion and confusion. "There are so many things I need from Harry, that everyone does, and he gets to just run away. Now I have to deal with them, and it's just not fair..." she mumbled into his chest.

"I know, love, but he needs his time away with Ginny," Ron quieted her. "I'll be here, we can take care of it together."

"But...I just want..." Hermione said quietly, turning away from the rest of the Weasley family. She was definitely feeling that there was a lack of privacy in their life right now, and she suddenly knew why Harry and Ginny had gone off like they had.

"Tell me," Ron asked, but Hermione shook her head against him. "Come on, tell me," he tried again, his voice getting lighter in tone and timbre. "'Mione, tell me, or else..." he threatened in a mocking tone now.

"Or else what?" she asked, her tone as light as his. He pulled away from her a little to look in her eyes, a devilish grin on his face. When Hermione saw it, she knew exactly what he was thinking about. She got a grin that matched his, and then cocked her eyebrow on the right side.

"You wouldn't dare," she retorted. "Not after..." she started to blush. "You'd really do that to me after last Tuesday?"

"Oh, you loved it," he said huskily in her ear. "Come on, if Harry and Ginny can take a holiday to sort things out, so can we."

Hermione stared at Ron, and then bit her lip and nodded. Ron turned them round again, facing his Mum. "We will see you in two days as well. Anyone needs us, tell them to see us then." With that, the pair was gone, also Apparating themselves out of the castle to places unknown.

Molly put her hands on her hips, smiling and shaking her head at what she'd just seen. "About time that they all left," she mumbled and then sat down across from Bill and Fleur. "Now, why don't the two of you be heading home to work on me becoming a grandmum!"


Meanwhile, in London, Harry and Ginny arrived in the lounge of a flat. Ginny looked around the room and realized that there wasn't much to see. An old sofa, two chairs, a rather beaten up table that sat between them. She could see through a doorway that there was a kitchen with a table and stools pushed in. She turned around to see two windows looking out onto a street. There were several other doors, but at the moment they were all closed. There was also a fireplace, but it wasn't open; instead it housed a strange metal contraption inside.

She walked over to the windows and looked down. The street one story below was pretty, and she could see that they were close to a busier thoroughfare less than a block away. She turned back to look at Harry.

"Where are we?" she questioned tentatively.

"Um, we're in London," Harry stammered his response, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans, and looking down at the smudge of dirt on his trainers. "Specifically, we're in Chelsea, on Dovehouse Street."

"Oh," Ginny responded, not sure what exactly it meant. The air was thick, and they were doing everything but making eye contact with one another. Her eyes continued to scan the small room, but nothing looked familiar or reminded her of anywhere that she had ever been before. "Whose house is it?" she finally asked, trying to spur on conversation.

"Uh, well, it's, um, mine," Harry finally got out.

"When did you buy a house?" The question tumbled out of her mouth before she had a chance to think about it. There were so many things that she didn't know about Harry, about what had happened in the last year, even about who he had become. Maybe he'd been living here or something, she didn't even know what to think.

"I ah, I didn't buy it," Harry told her, taking off his glasses and tossing them onto the small table. He then rubbed his hands over his face and then into his hair, which made it only look more like he had just tumbled out of bed than he already did most of the time. "I..." he sighed as he sat down. He didn't look at Ginny, but instead chose to memorize the knot in the floorboards between his feet. "It was Sirius' place. He apparently bought it about the time my parents got married. I inherited it from him, along with everything else that I have no idea how I'll ever use. The only people who ever knew where it was were my Mum and Dad, and Remus," he explained, swallowing hard as he said it. "No one can find us here, not unless we want them to."

"Oh," Ginny replied, not knowing how she felt about being somewhere that no one knew about with Harry, alone. She wanted to believe that he was the same boy that she'd fallen for as a little girl; but he seemed so different now. He seemed old and troubled and...she couldn't quite put her finger on it. She sat down on the sofa across from Harry and looked at him. It was easier now, since he was staring at the floor.

Silence lay in the room like a thick blanket, and covered Harry and Ginny. There was so much that needed to be said, so much that they needed to explain to one another; but neither was certain where to start. They sat there, not looking at each other, not speaking, not sure what they were doing until a church bell rang, chiming out that it was noon. Harry looked up at Ginny, finally making eye contact.

"Have you eaten today?"

"Not really," she answered. "I had a lie–in, and missed breakfast. Mum was going to make lunch when we got home. I think that she needs something to keep her busy, to keep her mind off of Fred..." she trailed off as she said his name.

"Another one," Harry muttered.

"What was that?" Ginny asked him, hopeful that maybe he was going to open up.

"Nothing," he brushed her off. "Um, lunch, right, ah, there's some stuff here, meats and bread and crisps and things. I um, I went to the market last night. I couldn't sleep in the castle, it was just...so I came here, but I still couldn't sleep," he told her without really thinking about what he was saying. He seemed so distracted and distant. "Did you know that Muggle markets are open all night?"

"I didn't know that," Ginny replied, not knowing what else to say. At least she now knew that they were in a Muggle neighborhood, although she had guessed that by the cars on the street below.

"Yeah, I did some shopping at quarter past two, so we can eat if you want," he suggested, and she nodded at him. He stood and she followed suit, letting him lead her into the kitchen. It was small, like the lounge, but it was surprisingly clean. Harry opened the icebox and took out a few things and put them on the table, while Ginny searched the cabinets for plates and glasses. "Tea or lemonade?" he asked quietly, holding up two bottles.

"Lemonade is fine," she replied. She couldn't help but laugh at the dishes she found. Nothing matched, and the glasses all had names on them. They weren't people's names, at least not ones that she knew. She suspected that they were places, since a few had addresses on them as well. "I think that Sirius might have nicked all of these," she added with a grin as she turned to face Harry.

"Yeah, it sounds like something he'd do," Harry said sadly. They sat down at the table, and went about preparing their lunches, and began to eat in silence. If sitting in the lounge was uncomfortable, their silent meal was torture. Several times Ginny tried to make small talk, bringing up announcements about what was happening at the Ministry now, or accolades that Harry had received, but he was completely uninterested in talking about them. It was beginning to frustrate Ginny to no end, and she was starting to wonder how she was going to put up with another day and a half with him if he was going to be like this. Finally in desperation, she brought up the one topic that they surely wouldn't agree on.

"So, um, Mum really wants me to go back to Hogwarts in the fall," Ginny said tentatively. Upon the mention of school, Harry's head came up and he locked eyes with her. His face was hard, his eyes distant.

"Yeah, you should do that," he told her without much emotion in his voice. With his response, she slammed her hands down on the table, rattling the plates and knocking over the jar of mayonnaise, rolling it into Harry's plate, crushing his crisps. He was surprised by her reaction, and sat back into his seat, hands away from the table.

"Bloody hell," Ginny screamed at him, standing up and throwing her hands into the air. "Everyone wants me to go back to school in the fall, but has anyone asked me what I wanted?" Her voice reverberated in the glasses on the shelf of the cupboard, and Harry could hear them hum in time with her cussing. "I don't want to go back! I was so thankful when my parents pulled me out of school in the spring and put me into hiding, because I was gone from that horrid place! I will never feel safe there again!" The anger dissolved into raging sobs as Ginny spoke, and Harry wasn't sure what to do. He hated seeing her like this, but he knew that he didn't understand. Hogwarts had always been home to him, the one place he DID feel safe. How could Ginny not feel the same?

Harry rose and went to take her into his arms. She'd wrapped her own arms across her chest, as if trying to protect herself, and even as Harry enveloped her, she continued to shelter her body. He laid his cheek against her head, and made gentle, comforting hushing noises to her, the ones he seemed to remember his mother making when he was very, very small. It took a few minutes of his calming presence for her to relax into his embrace, her arms twining around his waist.

"Gin, I..." he started. "I thought that you'd be safe. I never thought..." Ginny pushed off him, her cheeks still stained with tears, but her eyes were now red, wet and angry.

"That's just it. You didn't think," she broke free from his embrace. "Did you really believe that breaking it off with me would keep me safe? Didn't it cross your mind that they would still want to come after me?"

"I swear, all I wanted was to keep you out of this," Harry tried to assure her, but she was having none of it. Her dander was back up, and Harry knew that her wrath was on the way. He'd watched her get angry at all of her brothers at one time or another.

"Keep me out of it, 'eh? I was in the thick of it, often I was the center of it," she replied, pulling her fingers roughly through her tresses, making them a bit wild, like a fiery Medusa. "At first, it wasn't bad. There were enough of us that we made a rather strong resistance. We fought back, and we had the professors behind us. Sure, we'd get detention, but as long as it wasn't with the Carrows, we were safe -- often they were teaching us helpful things. But it all started to change, Harry."

Ginny looked away from him, and was staring off at the wall to her right. Her mouth and cheeks betrayed her previously strong veneer, as he could see her trying to swallow her tears. "After the incident at the Ministry, when the hearings were disrupted, they knew that it was you, and..." she stopped, looked up and rubbed her palms against her eyes. "They'd come for us, the ones that were close to you at school. Professor McGonagall begged us to stop making problems, she tried...they all tried...but..." she continued to look away, her arms once again weaving their way across her stomach and her chest.

"After Luna was taken, Neville and I...we knew that we weren't safe, but we couldn't leave either. At first, it was only when we were caught and had detention, but then...they'd make up reasons. When they started taking students from their beds at night, that's when we really got scared. Every house but Slytherin was affected. You'd go to bed at night, and the next morning you'd wake up and a roommate would be gone," she explained. Ginny's voice had gotten hollow sounding, and her eyes had glassed over. She was rambling now, lost somewhere in her own memories, her living nightmares.

Harry listened, horrified at what she was telling him. He had no idea that it had gotten so bad. "The girls all moved out of their dorm rooms, and we were sleeping in the boys ones. At least there was safety in numbers that way. The older years would protect the younger years. Finally, it got so bad that we had to move into the Room of Requirement. At first it was just to sleep...toward the end, Neville said that they were there full time." He knew that what she was saying was true. He'd heard the same story from Neville a few days ago.

They stood there in silence, Ginny lost in her memories, her face wincing every once in a while at the pain she would recall. Harry was devastated at her news. He knew it was bad, but he had no idea that it was this bad. He had so many questions for her, ones that he'd never be able to bring himself to ask. Ones he wasn't even sure that he'd want the answer to. He knew what had happened to himself, and Hermione and Ron -- if he put what he knew of their experiences into the story that Ginny had just shared with him...he visibly shook his head as if to erase the possible intersections of the two.

He took a step closer to her, just wanting to hold her, comfort her, try to make up for all of the times he wasn't there to protect her. She looked at him as his feet moved closer to her. The rage and fire were gone, and for the first time since he saw her awaken while they were in the Chamber all those years ago, Ginny looked small and broken. Her voice was even thin and weak when she spoke to him.

"Now do you see? I can't ever go back there. I can't, Harry," she stopped to take a steadying breath. "I wouldn't have gone back ever. But I came back for you, and then...we lost too many, I lost you," she began to sob again. "When you were on the ground, I just...I couldn't go on..."

As another sob broke from her, Harry made his move, quickly wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close. His lips kissed her temple and forehead as she continued to cry. "I never want to go back," she stammered again as her legs gave out on her. Harry lifted her into his arms, cradling her to him. They moved from the kitchen and their unfinished lunch, through the lounge and to the door farthest on the right. It opened to a modest bedroom, with a large neatly made bed.

Harry laid Ginny gently down on the center of the bed, and then went to the far side and sat down, his eyes boring into hers. His fingers tentatively stroked her face and hair, wiping away the tears that were beginning to dry. She reached for his other hand and laced her fingers through his.

"Gin, I swear, if I knew, I never would have left you there," Harry told her with conviction.

"Harry, shh," she whispered. "I just...I don't want to remember, but I have to...I need to tell someone. I need to tell you..." she caught her breath and swallowed down a fresh round of tears.

"No, Gin, you don't need to tell me," he tried to dissuade her, but she shook her head at him.

"Don't you see, I do. Someone needs to know. Someone that I trust, someone that cares about me. Then I won't have to think about it again," she explained and Harry nodded, wondering if he really was strong enough to listen to her tale.

"I care. You can trust me," he told her, and she gently smiled at him.

"I know," she replied, her free hand patting the bed next to her. Harry lay down, his face only an inch away from hers. Ginny began her tale, explaining everything that happened. As she told him of things that were done to her, she would lift her clothing to show him the marks and scars that were left. There were several times that he had to fight down the bile that was building in his throat, but he was aware that this wasn't about him, it was about her. He needed her to be strong, and if there was one thing that Harry had learned in all of his years with the Dursleys, it was how to put on a brave face in a dire situation.

The pair fell asleep in the waning light of the afternoon from emotional exhaustion, Ginny's tale done, Harry's guilt building. She had fallen asleep first, and Harry held her and cried silent tears at all that had happened in his absence to the girl he loved. He wasn't sure that he could ever make it up to her, but if she'd let him, he planned on spending every day of the rest of his life trying to.

The pair awoke when it was dark outside. Harry's eyes fluttered open first, and it took him a minute to adjust to the light and figure out exactly where he was. It wasn't until he looked over at the dresser and saw the picture of his Mum and Dad on their wedding day that he remembered he was in Sirius' old flat. The light from the street beyond the window was shining in, and he blinked several times, trying to clear the sleep from his eyes and his mind.

Ginny lay there, looking so sweet and innocent as she continued to rest. Harry knew though, that looks could be deceiving. There was an innocence that was forever gone in his Ginny, the months of battling within the walls of Hogwarts would have changed her. He vowed to himself that he wouldn't let anyone make her go back, even if it meant running away with her -- somewhere far away where Hogwarts would just be a distant memory. The more that he thought about it, he realized that it would never be the safe haven that it had been in his childhood. The things that he'd seen, the destruction, the pain he suffered, the death, it had changed it all for him.

He heard Ginny's breathing quicken, and he knew that she was awakening. He assumed that she'd be as famished as he was feeling. He also thought that perhaps it was time for them to leave the flat for a while, leave the drama from this afternoon behind and get out. There were plenty of places to eat close by, and he enjoyed the vibrant night life of the London neighborhood. A moment later, green eyes were greeted with brown, and a little smile crept across the lips that went with them.

"Were you watching me sleep?" she asked.

"Um, what if I was?" Harry asked back, a little embarrassed at being caught staring at her.

"Nothing, I'd um," she hesitated, "I'd think it was sweet." Harry blushed at her comment. Before either of them could say anything, a rumble from Ginny's gut made them both giggle.

"How about if we go and get something to eat? There are pubs and restaurants just up the block, or we could go to the market and get something to cook?" Harry suggested, and Ginny sat up, running her fingers through her hair as she went.

"No, I'd like to go out. I've never been much of a cook, no matter how much Mum tried to teach me. Um, I need to brush my hair though, I seem to have grown a nest back here," she explained as her fingers got stuck in the long strands along her neck. Ginny looked over at Harry, now sitting up as well, shaking his head so that his hair was loose and free. She hadn't realized just how long it had gotten, as he had pulled it into a ponytail at his neck this morning. The elastic had slid off while they rested. "Looks like you could use one too."

"Yeah," Harry ran a nervous hand through his locks. "Didn't have time for a trim while I was on the run. The length helps though, it doesn't stick up so much. I saw a brush in one of these drawers. If there was one thing that Sirius was serious about, it was his hair. He had more products and spells for it than Hermione did..." he added sadly, remembering the days he had spent in Grimmauld Place the summer before his fifth year, and being able to spend quiet time with his Godfather in his private quarters. He'd enjoyed taking the mickey out of him about how long it took him to get ready in the morning.

The pair got off the bed and started looking through drawers for the aforementioned brush. Ginny opened a nightstand drawer, her eyes got wide and she quickly shoved the drawer shut. "Not in there."

Harry looked at her, and realized that he couldn't see her freckles through the bright red blush on her cheeks, and he had to see what was in the little pull-out that had made her so embarrassed. He quickly scrambled across the bed and pulled on the knob, making the nightstand open again. He looked in and his eyes got wide as he felt his own cheeks get red.

"Um, well, safe to say that was his hiding place for his 'entertaining aids'. I..ah...yeah, well, we can just...um..." Harry stammered.

"I only know what some of those things are in there," Ginny said quite frankly. "Only about half is Wizarding supplies." Harry turned his head and looked at her shocked. "What, I have brothers, lots of brothers. Bill alone would have been enough of an education. He was quite a ladies man," she threw out and Harry couldn't help but laugh at her bluntness.

"Yeah, I bet he was," he added sheepishly. "I guess what you don't recognize is the Muggle stuff. Dudley always bought things and showed them to me. Like any girl was ever going to..." he shook his head. "Nice to know that Sirius was prepared for any situation."

They continued to stare at the contents of the drawer. Finally, Ginny queried, "Do you think any of it is still good?"

Unintelligible sounds left Harry, and he just shook his head as he slammed the door shut. He wasn't ready to find out, not right now. He'd dreamed about Ginny, but, well, they had a long way to go. They'd only been to two broom closets while they were dating, and that was over a year ago. He hastily moved away, and pulled out the top drawer of the armoire, finding the brush he knew that he'd seen the day before. He handed it to Ginny, and she glided it through her locks. Harry did the same, and then again secured his tresses with the elastic. Harry grabbed the jumper that Ginny had discarded when they arrived late this morning on the arm of the chair, and they left the flat, Harry discretely locking the door with magic.

When they reached the street, Harry instinctively took Ginny's hand, which inspired them both to look over and smile at the other.

"Do you know what you'd like to eat? There's just about everything around here," Harry explained. Ginny gave him a non-committal shrug, not really knowing what she'd like to dine on.

"I don't really know, what do you like to eat?" she asked.

"I'll eat just about anything, just, no mushrooms, ate too many of those..." he said quietly. Ginny knew that he was talking about his time on the run again, and it immediately silenced them both. They rounded the corner onto King's Road, and Ginny was stopped short in her stride by all of the sights and sounds. She'd so rarely been around Muggles, and she'd never seen so many bright lights, automobiles going by and people talking, yelling, and moving so. It was completely different from being on Diagon Alley, the only other busy London street she'd ever seen.

"Um," Harry said as he noticed that she was so taken with the sights. "If you don't have a preference, the Italian place across the street looks good."

"That's fine," Ginny replied. "Mum tries to make pasta and such at home, but honestly, if it isn't roasted for hours, boiled or fried, Mum has trouble with it. She likes her old-fashioned dishes." Harry laughed, remembering the time that Mrs. Weasley had tried to make spaghetti and got so frustrated that she banished the pot as well as the contents. He watched the traffic and guided them across the street, dodging people as well as bikes and parked cars.

The couple was seated, and immediately started looking over the menus. After they had ordered, they looked at each other lovingly, and Harry reached across the table for her hand.

"You do realize, this is our first real date. I never got to take you into Hogsmeade, I didn't even get to escort you to your brother's wedding," he told her quietly.

"We went to Professor Dumbledore's funeral together," Ginny reminded him.

"A funeral isn't a date," Harry told her soundly. Ginny nodded and looked away. Conversation once again died between them, and they were thankful when the waiter brought the bread to the table.

Each one tried to start a conversation, but it ultimately led them back to Hogwarts or to Harry's year hunting the Horcruxes, or worse, to someone that had died. Their food came, and they chose to eat in silence, both of them thinking that this wasn't going the way that they'd like it to. Finally, Harry decided to start a conversation that would lead them away from their haunted past. "Ginny, what do you want to do after we have to go back?"

"Well," she said quietly, "we've got Fred's funeral, and I'm sure that there will be others..."

"No, that's not what I mean," Harry stopped her. "I know we've got to do all of that, and I need to talk with Mrs. Tonks about Teddy and figure out what I can do to help her, too. But what I mean, is after that, what are your dreams? Where have you always wanted to go?"

Ginny thought about it for a minute, and then answered him with a smile on her face. "I know that I have to finish school, and I've thought about asking Fleur about Beauxbatons, especially since Gabrielle will still be there. But, there must be other schools that I could go to, maybe even one in America."

"I bet there are," Harry responded, smiling that they'd found a topic they could discuss that made them both happy. "I've always wanted to see America too. I would sneak Uncle Vernon's discarded newspapers to read, and there was always a story about some new invention or something going on in them. It was usually something that was happening in America. I'd like to see that, be somewhere that big."

"Yeah," Ginny said, her grin growing. "I want to see Paris, but what girl doesn't?" she threw out, and Harry nodded, remembering how Hermione would gush about it after she'd gone with her parents on holiday. "I also want to go to India."

"Why India?" Harry asked before he shoved another forkful of his dinner into his mouth. Ginny had to swallow before she could answer.

"Their magic is so different. When I was learning about healing, I was really interested in how they treat both the spirit and the body together," she explained before she took another bite herself.

Their conversation became easy and comfortable again, and they chatted straight through dinner, dessert and after. It wasn't until Harry realized that they were some of the last patrons left in the eatery that he suggested they head back to the flat, and paid the bill. The street wasn't quite as busy now, and as they reached the door to the building that housed the flat, they heard the clock tower chime the midnight hour.

"I can't believe that it's only been twelve hours," Ginny said quietly as they slipped inside. "It feels like we've been through several days today."

"I know, but I'm knackered. Um, if you want the bed, I can sleep on the sofa. There's a second bedroom, but the bed isn't in very good condition, and it doesn't have any blankets. I think that it's where Remus slept when he lived here with Sirius..." Harry trailed off, mentally kicking himself for bringing up the pair of lost Marauders.

Ginny stopped and put her hands on his shoulders so that she could look at him head on. They were in the hallway, standing in front of the door. "Harry, stop it. We shared the bed earlier, and it was nice. I liked having you hold me, do you think that we could do that again?"

Harry's face softened, and he kissed her forehead. "I think that we can." He let them into the flat and Ginny took his hand and led him toward the bedroom. Harry stopped her just short of the bedroom door.

"That's the washroom. I don't know what you do magically and what you do manually, but there are towels and soap and..."

"I can figure it out, Harry," Ginny said with a sweetness to her voice. "What I am regretting right now is not thinking to grab any other clothes. I'm not quite prepared to sleep in what I'm wearing, but I think that I need to wear more than my knickers." Harry's eyes got wide and he blushed for the second time today.

"Uh, yeah, I think that would be best," he stammered. "I can give you an old shirt. It will be too big, but it's better than sleeping in your clothes."

"That would be fine. My favorite thing to sleep in is a shirt I stole from one of my brothers anyway," Ginny told him apologetically. Harry thought that the comment was endearing. They continued to hold hands while they walked into the bedroom, and Harry went to the armoire and opened it and took out a white oxford–style shirt, and handed it to Ginny, hanger and all.

"I think that it went with his uniform," Harry told her, pointedly trying to avoid saying Sirius name.

"It'll be fine," Ginny told him. "I'll go and change in the loo?" Harry nodded and Ginny leaned up and kissed his cheek quickly before dashing out of the room. Harry leaned against the door of the open closet and sighed, his hand going to his cheek by instinct. After a moment of daydreaming, he roused himself and went to dig through the bureau again. He found a pair of pajama bottoms and a quickly stripped down out of his clothes and put the pajamas on with the tee shirt he had been wearing that day.

Ginny was back in a flash, her clothes folded neatly in her arms. Harry tried not to look at her legs peeking out from under the dress shirt, but it was very hard. If he'd been given the choice, he'd just stand there and stare at her all day. "I used your toothbrush, I hope you don't mind, but the whole underage magic thing...I didn't want anyone coming looking for us here over something so stupid."

"It's fine," he answered her, still very much taken with her beauty.

"Why don't you go and get ready," she suggested and Harry nodded, and headed toward the door, crashing into the frame and uttering a swear under his breath as he went. Ginny giggled at his behavior, but also at how he made her feel. She quickly got under the covers and pulled her knees to her chest to wait for him.

When Harry came back, a silent conversation passed between them. He outed the light and climbed into the bed with her, and together they slid down into the pocket of the sheets. There faces were very close to each other on the pillows, much like they had been while Ginny had told him her story this afternoon. Harry wrapped one arm around her shoulders, while the other came to rest on her waist. Ginny put her one hand under her cheek, and the other stroked Harry's face. After a minute, she pulled herself over to him, and kissed him soundly on the lips. Harry was all too willing to return the kiss, and they lay there, lips moving with the other's, until they had to breathe. A large, deep yawn from Ginny signaled their deeper need for sleep, for there would be time to snog in the morning. The pair snuggled closer, and let the comfort of being in bed with someone who loved you lull them to sleep.

Ginny awoke with a chill sometime later in the night, and as she reached over, she realized that she was alone in the bed. She sat up and listened, and was greeted with a sound that she knew all too well, the muffled echo of a sob in the night. She gingerly got up out of bed and crept for the door. She opened it to find Harry on the floor of the lounge, one candle lit before him.

Harry was shaking everywhere as his head was thrown back against the seat of the couch. His breathing was tortured and rapid, as if he couldn't get air into his lungs. He was drenched in sweat, and his hair had been matted down to his head. She could see his skin glisten from the dampness, and she wasn't sure if it was the cold or his crying that was making him shiver, but her heart filled with empathy and love for him. She padded back to the bed and grabbed the comforter off the bed and carried it with her. With the blanket, she covered his shaking form, and then slid herself next to him, cradling his head to her chest. Harry just sobbed. She knew that it was too soon to try to find out what was terrifying him so, instead chose to hold him and gently sing the lullaby that her mother had sung to her as a small child when she'd awakened from a bad dream.

Sleep, my child and peace attend thee,

All through the night

Guardian angels, God will send thee,

All through the night

Soft, the drowsy hours are creeping

Hill and vale, in slumber sleeping,

I, my loving vigil keeping

All through the night.

Love to thee, my thoughts are turning

All through the night

All for thee, my heart is yearning,

All through the night.

Though sad fate our lives may sever

Parting will not last forever,

There's a hope that leaves me never,

All through the night.

Ginny sang through the song twice before he had finally calmed down enough to wrap his arms around her and give in to her embrace. They sat there on the floor for several more minutes in silence, Ginny stroking his head and back, letting her touch speak for her.

"I didn't mean to wake you," Harry finally croaked through his tears.

"Harry, it's okay," she quieted him. "I wish you'd awoken me. Whatever it was, we could have faced it together."

"It was just a bad dream," he tried to slough it off.

"It looked like it was more than a bad dream," she told him. "You know, if you get it off your chest, you'll feel better. It helped me."

Harry shook his head at her. "It's too much. It's all just too much..."

"Stop it," she commanded him. Harry met her eyes, surprised that she'd spoken to him that way. He was hurt by the tone of her voice, and it must have shown in his eyes because Ginny softened as she continued to speak. "What I mean is that you don't have to do it alone. Harry, do you love me?" she asked.

Harry looked away and nodded. "I do, I love you so much." Slender fingers and a gentle nudge pushed his face back towards hers.

"I love you too, more than I can say."

They stared at each other, these being their first spoken affirmations of their feelings. When he couldn't take it any more, Harry looked away from Ginny.

"That's what scares me," he confessed.

"Love scares you?" she asked. It was beyond her comprehension. Love was beautiful and warm in Ginny's eyes. Love was the thing that gives you strength when you feel that you have none left, and it is the only thing worth fighting for. She couldn't understand how you could be afraid of love.

Harry nodded, his eyes still averted. "I don't know how to love, Gin. Everyone that I've ever loved has left me." The reality of the differences in their lives dawned on her.

"Oh, Harry," she said embracing him fully. "I won't leave you, I promise."

"But don't you see, everyone who gets close to me, they all end up..." he stopped, a fresh sob breaking free. "I think that I'm all broken inside. I've seen too much, done too much. I...Ginny, I died and for a moment, I just...I could have gone on and been with the people that I love, but I was...I didn't..." his sobs choking out his words.

"You died?" Ginny asked, having never heard any of this before. Harry didn't respond to her, his emotions were once again getting the best of him. She held him, trying to soothe him while trying to get her own emotions straightened out. When he had calmed himself down again, she pulled away from him, looked in his eyes and stroked his face. "Why did you come back?"

Harry looked at her hard, and then sucked in a steadying breath. "I came back..." he took another rough breath, "...I came back for you." A bright smile graced her face as tears began to fall from her eyes.

"And you think that you don't know how to love?" she rhetorically asked, tilting her head as she did.

"I didn't think of it that way..." he started to try and explain his actions away, but Ginny wouldn't let him. She kissed him passionately, her whole body molding to his.

"I can't believe that you...Harry....oh, I love you," she mumbled, unable to find the words to fully express what she was feeling, instead relying on her kisses to once again tell him the depth of her emotion.

"But, Ginny, I'm still so...how could you want to be with me? After all that I've been through?"

"That's why I want to be with you, Harry. You are the bravest, noblest man that I have ever known. You think that you're broken, but I think that you're just a little tarnished. Let me show you, please. Let me show you what it's like to be loved," she begged him. Harry wasn't sure what to think, much less what to feel. He wanted to let her in, so badly he wanted it, but he wasn't sure how she'd react when she knew it all. He wasn't even sure that he deserved to be loved the way that she was suggesting.

Harry steadied himself, and then he began to talk, intentionally keeping his eyes from hers. He told her everything, starting at the beginning with the Horcrux hunt while Dumbledore was still alive. He told her about being on the run, and the numerous times that they had narrowly escaped from Voldemort. He shared the horrors of Malfoy Manor, and his deep emotions at the death of dear Dobby, even explaining why he dug the grave by hand.

He told her of seeing Snape killed, and witnessing his memories and how they made him feel. He could barely describe the horror he felt at seeing the bodies of Remus and Tonks lined up with the rest who had given their lives, how the grief had nearly stopped him in his tracks. He explained his walking out of the castle, and seeing her, and desperately wanting to run to her and let her beg him to stay with her, for he was sure that was what she would have done.

He described the walk into the forest, where he was surrounded by his parents, Sirius and Remus. How they had given him strength and promised him that he would be alright. He told her of dying, that his last vision had been of her and his time at what he perceived as King's Cross. He didn't sugarcoat what happened when he went back into his body, and the Death Eaters felt free to torture him.

Ginny listened intently as he finished, explaining to her the way the final battle felt and then his escaping to see Dumbledore's portrait. She understood as he explained the few days that had passed since the battle, how it was all a blur until they were finally together and alone. When he was done telling his story, he finally looked up into her eyes, and was stunned to find only love there. She wasn't afraid or repulsed or angered at him, she was truly in love with him. It gave him the courage to tell her the last thing that he needed to say.

"I know that it wasn't right of me to leave you without a word, but I had to know that you were alive. I could keep on living if I knew that you were still here. I won't ever leave you again, Ginny. On this I swear, if you will have me, I won't ever leave you again."

Ginny just stared at him, astounded by his words. "If I'll have you? All I have ever wanted was you."

That was all that Harry needed to hear. His past was no longer his alone to bear, and his future wouldn't be a solitary road either. He had someone who loved him, someone who would be with him. His lips met hers and they passionately kissed, mouths exploring. They held one another tightly, and when the adrenaline had abated, they snuggled on the old sofa and once again fell back to sleep in each others arms.

They awoke late the next morning, slightly stiff and sore at having slept on the old couch in a most awkward of positions. Harry smiled as he made Ginny breakfast, hungrily taking in the sight of her sitting on the kitchen chair, her bare legs still peeking out from under the large shirt. He decided right then and there that there was nothing more beautiful or alluring than Ginny in a man's shirt. He wanted to make sure that she always slept that way.

After they ate, they both cleaned up for the day, Harry finding that he could wear Sirius' old clothes quite well, and Ginny scrounging together an outfit that she could show Harry how to transfigure to fit her. They'd discussed what they wanted to do today while they were eating. There were three errands that they needed to take care of today, before they would come back to the flat and enjoy the remainder of their time away from the rest of the Wizarding world.

Harry and Ginny arrived home a few hours later, each of their left hands bearing a plain gold band. Harry had needed to Confund the superintendent registrar for the ceremony, since they were both technically under-age and he wasn't even sure if it would hold up once they were back in Wizarding society; but for right now, Ginny was his and he was Ginny's.

Their second stop had been at a travel agent, where he booked them airline passage and hotels to visit America on an extended holiday, beginning four weeks hence. He hadn't worried about a return date, instead deciding to wait and see how things worked out while they were there. Perhaps they would both return to school together, where they were just two regular students, completing their final year together. Harry thought that sounded like the perfect thing to do.

And lastly, Ginny insisted that they go to the Muggle market. She marveled at the size of it, and at the foods that they could buy there. She had filled the cart with things, some of which Harry wasn't even sure what they were, or how they'd use them. He didn't care, the smile on her face was worth it. For a moment they were both carefree and happy.

Upon reaching the door, Harry opened it, and told Ginny to wait while he unloaded all of the shrunken parcels from the market and stowed them in the kitchen. He then went back to Ginny, her face contorted into a look of frustration at having to stand in the hallway.

"Sorry, but we're doing this right," he apologized before lifting her and carrying her over the threshold and straight for the bedroom. Outside, the clock struck twelve again.

"Only twenty-four hours left until we have to go back," Harry said as he nuzzled his face to Ginny's neck as they lay on the bed. "How ever will we fill the time?" he questioned between kisses.

"Well, if we get bored, we can always open the 'entertainment aids' drawer there," Ginny quipped back and they both laughed until their lips met and they twined together in a passionate kiss.