Harry awoke in his four-poster bed in the seventh-year boys dormitory of Gryffindor tower. After having spent nearly a year on the run, it took Harry quite a few moments to register that he was back at the castle he had missed so much and another few until he remembered that in the early hours of the morning he had both died and vanquished Voldemort in the span of an hour.
Smiling, Harry pulled open the curtains of his bed and found that the bed next to his had its curtains closed – Ron had decided to get a good night's sleep in a comfortable bed too. Putting on his glasses, Harry got out of bed and walked over to the window. Judging by the bright sunshine coming into the room, Harry figured it was about three or four o'clock in the afternoon.
After staring out at the beautiful grounds of Hogwarts for five minutes, Harry realized that he was hungry. Rather than wake Ron by having Kreacher pop in, Harry left the dorm and descended the stairs into the common room. Not much had changed there since the last time he had properly seen it – after Dumbledore's funeral; the chairs and couches were still laid out by the fire, the table still sat by the window, the message board still stood by the doorway to the dormitories upstairs. The only thing that seemed to be different was that Harry felt a slightly stuffiness and mournfulness to the room, most likely from the presence of Death Eaters in the school for the past ten months. Thinking to himself that the cheerfulness that had always been present when he had lived there would return in the fall, Harry walked out of the portrait hole and headed down to the kitchens.
A half hour later, Harry reemerged from the kitchens fully satisfied with the house-elves' food, food that not only tasted delicious because he hadn't had a decent meal in months, but had tasted wonderful because the elves had made it specially for him while giving him a hero's welcome, Kreacher at the helm.
When he reached what was once the Entrance and Great Halls, Harry stopped. Consumed by adrenaline, loss, and exhaustion, Harry had not realized the previous night the scope of the damage done to the castle by the battle with the Death Eaters.
"We did some good damage, didn't we?" said a familiar voice behind Harry. Harry blinked and turned around.
It was Ginny. She was smiling at him but Harry could see that she was tired and sad.
"Yes, we did," Harry said as Ginny walked over to him. "I'm really sorry about Fred, Gin," Harry said, taking Ginny's hand as soon as she had stopped next to him.
"Me too," Ginny said, not looking at him but interlocking her fingers with Harry's. Harry knew that she was holding back the tears she rarely shed. "But at least he died laughing. It's how he would have wanted it."
"You should be at home with your family," Harry said, staring out at the grounds where the remaining students celebrated the defeat of Voldemort and the cancellation of the last month of classes, or else mourned the loss of friends.
"Ron wanted to stay here with Hermione, so Mum told me to stay too. She's got Dad, George, Percy, Charlie, and Bill. She'll be alright. Anyway, I wanted to see you," Ginny said looking at Harry and smiling slightly. "How are you?"
"I'm okay. It feels odd, though. I feel relieved and ecstatic that Voldemort's finally gone and that a weight's been lifted off my shoulders. But I also feel the pain of all the loss suffered in a battle that should have been mine alone."
"It was never yours alone, Harry. It was a war. We took sides and there were deaths. It's not your fault any of them died. No one blames you. I certainly don't. And my family doesn't. Fred, Lupin, Tonks, all of them decided to fight beside you, not because you asked them to, but because they wanted to. They believed in what you were fighting for and then wanted to be a part of that fight. They died to make this world and better and safer place," Ginny said.
Harry nodded. "It still hurts."
"I know. And I think it will for a while. But we should focus on the fact that we won." There was a slight enthusiasm in Ginny's voice as she spoke the last sentence.
"Yes. Life can go back to normal – or become normal, in my case," Harry said, the ends of his mouth twitching.
Ginny chuckled. "I missed you, Harry."
"I missed you, too, Ginny. So much. All the time I was on the run all I could think about was whether or not you were okay or if you – if you had found someone else," Harry said.
Ginny moved to face Harry, their hands still intertwined. "I never stopped loving you, Harry. I was so worried about you. I knew we would have heard if you were dead, but I couldn't help fear that you were seriously injured or kidnapped or something. I was so relieved to see you." She pulled her hand out of Harry's and placed both arms around his neck, embracing him tightly.
Harry wrapped his arms around Ginny's waist and pulled her closer to him. They stood like that for a few minutes, the sun shining on them like a spotlight.
When Ginny broke the embrace, she broke it only so that she was looking at Harry; her arms remained around his neck.
Harry looked at Ginny and saw a tear slide down her cheek. He removed one of his hands from her waist and wiped it away with his thumb, the rest of his hand cupping the side of her face.
"Marry me?" Harry asked. "It doesn't have to be now. It doesn't have to be a year form now. It can be however far in the future you want it to be. But I want to marry you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
Ginny smiled and nodded. "But let's wait a while to tell Ron. Let him deal with Fred's death for little bit. Otherwise he might try and strangle you," Ginny said.
"Yeah. Yeah, that's a good idea," Harry said, laughing. "I love you."
"I love you, too," Ginny said, and she kissed Harry like there was no tomorrow.