Title: An Abiding Warmth
Summary: It's summer, so why are Harry and Ginny still so cold?
Author's Notes: Written for the LiveJournal chest_monsters November challenge: In honor of the release of DH, our challenge this month is to come up with some kind of missing moment from DH. It can be taken from any part of the book. NO WORD LIMIT but should be one-shot.
Extra special thanks to my beta rosiekatriona, who let me read this to her. Constructive criticism cheerfully accepted. Praise greatly enjoyed. Flames haughtily ignored.
Harry was miserable. For one thing, the Burrow had always, always, without fail, been warm during the summer. But Harry couldn't feel warm. He tossed and turned on his camp bed, and shivered at the coldness that seemed to be living within his bones. The summer itself seemed rather dull and grey, especially with all the horrible stories that were circulating. The flight from Privet Drive hadn't been that long ago, and Harry had to work hard to suppress the tears that threatened his composure at the loss of his beloved Hedwig. Why? Why hadn't he freed her to travel by herself?
Hedwig hadn't been very understanding of Harry's wish to leave her in her cage that fateful night. She had barked at him, and nipped him, and turned her back. But in the end, she had consented, and even nibbled his hair a bit to show him she forgave him.
But in the end, she had been proven the wiser―surely the Death Eaters that had lain in wait for them wouldn't have bothered an owl? Not when they had been waiting for the owner of the owl. But she had paid the price for his insistence, and a little piece of his heart had died that night, knowing that his best and oldest friend would never again carry his mail.
Resolutely, he turned his thoughts away from his beautiful snowy owl, and focused, instead, on the other beautiful "bird" he had lost. She was lying the next floor down, but she might as well have been in. . . in South America, or Australia. Or the Moon, Harry thought wryly. Not for the last time did he curse his fate and wish that it had been something different that he'd had to do. Just thinking about the distance he'd had to put between them made him even colder. The heat that had infused his life when she had kissed him back seemed to be just a memory of a television show, something that maybe had never been true.
Just when he'd found the one person that he could love without reservation, who had loved him in return, he'd been forced to break her heart and push her away. Harry stopped for a moment and considered his last thought. Was it true that he loved her? What did he know about love?
He knew his parents had loved him―although that hadn't really sunk in until after Dumbledore had been murdered. He had spent as much time as possible with Ginny, after they had finally gotten together. There was just something about her presence, her spirit, that made him believe that anything was possible. Sure, the snogging was brilliant, and her no-nonsense attitude towards his (decidedly lessened) tendency to brood was refreshing. But then Snape had killed Dumbledore, and he knew that he'd have to end things with her. And that's when he understood.
His parents had stood between him and Voldemort. They had probably known they wouldn't have a chance against the Dark Lord, but had willingly done so anyway. And the whole reason was love. Harry had realized that he would do the same thing for Ginny; he'd stand between her and anyone else who tried to hurt her. He would cheerfully have stepped in front of the Killing Curse for her without a second thought. And that's really what love had come to mean to him―the willing sacrifice of anything in order to ensure the happiness of someone else.
And that's how he felt about Ginny. He would die for her. He would fight for her. He would cut off his right hand for her. And, he thought sadly, he would break up with her.
She hadn't fought him, and that worried him. Was she just being accommodating, knowing that he was doing what he felt was best? Was she secretly glad to be rid of him? That last possibility was enough to make him gasp for breath. His heart sped up, and he felt another pain, even greater than the one for Hedwig, invade his heart. He just about climbed out of bed right then, just so he could go down and talk to her.
But then his cooler side prevailed. The one thing that Ginny had never done was deal falsely with Harry. She could act with the greatest of them―she could lie like a rug when she needed to. But she had never done that with Harry. If she had a problem with him, she told him. If she wanted something from him, she came and asked straight out. He couldn't ever believe that she would have wanted out of their relationship―she had never even hinted that.
Perhaps she understood him even more than he had thought possible. Perhaps she knew that this was the hardest thing Harry had ever done, and had made a conscious choice not to make it harder on him than it already was. That would be like her. After all, she had a history of letting Harry do what he felt he should do without complaining. Why else would she have passively let him step in front of her during their ill-fated battle in the Department of Mysteries? She would have castrated any of her brothers for doing the same thing, and yet she acquiesced without complaint that whole horrible time.
Harry sat up in bed, contemplating how much she really did care for him. She had known him for almost six years now, and known of him for almost her whole life. And that thought made him warm inside. Truly, if anyone really knew Harry Potter, it was Ginny Weasley. And she didn't even have a magical link to him through a curse scar!
Suddenly decisive, Harry arose. Ron was still sleeping, snoring like a thestral with a bad cold, as Harry quietly put on his dressing gown and slipped out the door. If he were going to leave her to go track down the horcruxes, he absolutely, no question about it, had to let her know he loved her.
Ginny should have been hot. It was the summer, and the Burrow was always, always, always hot in the summer. But she shivered under her duvet, and wished she'd worn her flannel nightgown. Stupid girl, she castigated herself. She had been thinking of Harry that evening―well, and that day, and the previous day, and the nights before. And that thought usually brought a quite welcome warmth, as well as dreams that held hazy, vague suggestions of less clothing and more warmth and lots and lots of lovely skin-on-skin contact, although she always woke up frustrated by the lack of distinct memories.
And in thinking of Harry and her dreams, she had subconsciously chosen a much lighter set of pajamas to wear. The silk chemise and tap-pants set had been a rather extravagant luxury, and had cost most of what she had saved up over the past couple years. But when she saw them, in that little back section of Gladrags where the boys weren't allowed to shop unless they were married, she knew she had to buy them. The emerald green color was an exact duplicate of Harry's eyes, and she had found herself imagining his face as he looked at her in them. Suffice it to say that she was always very careful to make sure none of her family ever saw them. Hopefully one day she'd be able to show them to Harry, and he could appreciate them fully.
But Harry was here now, and the broken, defeated look in his eyes chilled her to the core. Yes, he had broken up with her, or rather, he had told her that they needed to back away from each other for her safety. She could tell how strongly he felt about this, and how heavy his normal burden had become with the death of Dumbledore, and she hadn't fought him. But she just about threw her arms around him then and there in an effort to warm him up. But the moment had passed, and she was left frustrated as he smiled a small, sad smile at her before being mobbed by the rest of the family.
She didn't know quite what it was about Harry that turned her into a different person. If any of her brothers had suggested that she and Harry should break up, she would have taught them exactly how painful the Bat-Bogey Hex could be when it affected ALL the orifices in the body. If Ron had stepped in front of her at the Department of Mysteries, then he'd have had an enemy behind him as well as in front of him.
But Harry―Harry was different. She loved him―she knew that now. Yes, she'd had a stupid crush on him for quite some time, but had really gotten to know the person behind the press, and had fallen deeply, irrevocably, til-death-do-you-part, in love with Harry. And that changed her, she knew. She knew that Harry had a deep need to protect those around him. He had a fierce determination to never allow anyone else to suffer something he could help alleviate, and she accepted that from him. She knew it was a part of him, and she wouldn't try to change him. But that didn't mean she didn't wish things could be different.
She knew that he was planning on leaving with Ron and Hermione, some unspecified time after the wedding. She had gathered, through judicious use of Extendable Ears, that the three of them were tasked with hunting down some. . . some. . . things that would help to defeat Voldemort. She supposed it was something Dumbledore had assigned them some time before his death.
If only she were seventeen too! she wished, not for the first time. Being underage meant that she couldn't go with them, couldn't be there to help, couldn't be there to care for Harry. Ron and Hermione were all-but-together, and would be able to support and love each other―well, love each other in their curious pattern of fighting and flirting. But poor Harry, who would care for him? Who would remind him of the good things in life when the search got too painful, or wearisome, or depressing? Hermione loved Harry, Ginny knew. It wasn't a love that threatened Ginny at all, although that had been a concern at the beginning, but now she saw it for what it was; a deep and abiding love between two friends who could have been twins. But even Hermione's love wouldn't provide the type of comfort that Harry needed. No, he needed more.
Ginny found herself standing next to her bed, not even aware that she had arisen. But now that she was up, her course of action was completely clear to her. She donned her dressing gown absent-mindedly, tying the sash quickly around her waist. Taking notice that Hermione was sleeping very deeply―the drool on the pillow serving as an indicator―she slipped out of her door. She turned to pull it quietly closed, then turned back to go up to Ron's room, and stopped immediately.
There was Harry.
The couple stared at each other for a few moments, then Harry opened his mouth to speak.
Before he could get a word out, Ginny gestured silently to be quiet, then reached forward and took his hand. He looked at her curiously, but she just tugged slightly and turned to lead them downstairs.
Carefully stepping on the sides of the stairs, and skipping the one that creaked no matter where you placed your feet, Ginny guided Harry towards the kitchen.
Harry went to sit down at the table, but Ginny tugged him away and towards the back door.
"Ginny, what are you-" he tried to ask, but Ginny just shook her head, and quietly opened the back door.
On the back porch, she turned back to the young man who owned her heart. "It's too easy to overhear the kitchen―I think the twins planted Extendable Ears in some rather obscure places, and Mum hasn't found them all. But I think we're okay out here."
She led him to the hammock that hung back there, and carefully sat towards one end. When she tried to pull Harry to the hammock, he resisted.
"Ginny, um, I'm not sure that I should sit with you," his lips said.
But Ginny wasn't a student of Harry Potter for nothing. His eyes, which were just barely visible in the light of the moon, said just as plainly as anything that there was nothing he'd rather do than sit next to her, and hold her, and let his lips wander over the soft skin of her neck, and see what kind of interesting sounds he could produce from her.
She smiled a little smile at him, and tugged again. "Harry, no-one's around to see. And I'm not planning on seducing you. Surely you can sit and talk with me?"
Harry resisted a bit, although it was more than likely that he was lost in thought about the whole seducing part rather than being stubborn. But he finally gave in to her entreaties and sat down in the other end of the hammock.
Ginny had been expecting this, so when the hammock adjusted its position to accommodate the two bodies, and they were thrown together, she made sure that she leaned on him as much as possible while they got more comfortable. After some almost tippings-over, and some quiet giggling, they managed to find positions that allowed them to relax, although they were obviously much closer than Harry had planned.
"Harry-" Ginny started, just as he said, "Ginny-"
They both did the obligatory chuckling that always happens after people talk over each other, then Harry motioned for Ginny to talk first.
She smiled at his chivalry, and took his hand again. "Harry, I want to talk to you about us, okay? No, don't interrupt," she warned with a grin to take away the sting. "I let you talk after the funeral, but now there's some things I need to tell you, okay?" Harry nodded his agreement, and she continued. "I understand your reasons for breaking up with me, and I'm not arguing with you about that. I know that we'll both be a little safer if we publish the fact that we've broken up, and we can do that, if you like."
Ginny was saddened to see the hurt in Harry's eyes, and hurried to explain her thinking. "Now, just because we're not officially together doesn't mean we can't still act like friends, yeah? I mean, it's quite the cliché for people to say 'We can still be friends,' because it usually doesn't work out. I mean, I never really talk to Michael anymore, and Dean seems to be avoiding me, but we're different, right? I don't really care about Michael and Dean, and I never really loved them. But Harry-" and she turned slightly, not coincidentally leaning more against him at the same time, "-I love you. I love you more than anything, and I never want to lose that. Sure, we can't act like it where others can see it, and I think we can handle that. But I see you hurting, and I want to help you."
Ginny was a little surprised to feel her eyes tearing up a bit. She sniffed, then continued. "I can tell you and Ron and Hermione are planning on leaving―you have some sort of mission to accomplish, right?" Harry nodded, and she continued, "But I want you to do your best to come back to me, okay? I love you. I always will. And I'm not okay with you not coming back. You go off and do what you need to do, but you try your hardest to get back to me as fast as you can, because I need you in my life, understand?"
Harry's eyes had cleared, as she talked, and the hurt had disappeared. He smiled, then laughed a bit. "How is it, you beautiful, beautiful girl, that you can take care of me so well?" He leaned in and kissed her on the cheek―or rather, he tried to, but she turned slightly and he ended up kissing her on the lips. He pulled back before the moment got away from them, and smiled again. "You don't know how much it, it, it warms my heart to hear that. You're like a flame, a fire in my heart, and all I could think about was how cold I felt without you there."
Ginny gasped a bit, but didn't interrupt as Harry continued. "I just need you to be safe, and I can't think of anything else we can do to ensure your safety. I don't care if you go tell everyone you meet that I left you and told you I don't care about you. You can even, I don't know, pretend to date Neville or something-"
Ginny heard Harry's words, but read his eyes too, and shook her head. "Sorry, Harry, I can't do that. I might just tell everyone that you hurt me so bad that I can't think about another relationship, but I couldn't hurt Neville, or anybody, by doing something like that. Yeah, he'd know the truth, but it would still hurt him."
Harry's relieved look spoke volumes. "That's a relief―I don't know that I could stand having you date anyone else. But Ginny, I was coming down to tell you something, and I think it's time that I did." He looked less sure of himself now, but carried on. "Ginny, I've often wondered what this thing that I feel inside is, and well, I was thinking about my parents' dying tonight, and I thought about you, and how cold I was and I've never really known before, and I don't know if-"
Ginny pressed a finger to his lips. "Harry," she said, "you're babbling. I promise, you don't need to be afraid to tell me anything you want to, so just say it, yeah?"
Harry kissed her finger before she drew it away. "Ginny," he said, very seriously, "I love you."
Ginny's eyes really did fill with tears now. Harry'd never said that before, and she wondered if he'd ever be able to. She wasn't ignorant of the world he'd been raised in, and knew, through observing him throughout the years, that he was emotionally damaged, and that she would probably have to help him heal from the years of emotional abuse that he'd suffered. But to hear him use those words, and to look him in the eyes and see the truth of his statement―it was more than she could take.
Harry found himself with a beautiful, sobbing girl in his arms. Thinking wryly back to when Cho was crying, he realized that when the girl who was crying was someone he loved, he had a much different reaction. All he wanted to do was hold her, and comfort her, and let her cry as much as she needed to. So he did―he held her close, and stroked her hair, and even found himself whispering nonsense words into her hair as she wept.
As the tears finally slowed and her sobs turned into hiccups, Harry found himself with another dilemma. Ginny's crying and throwing herself into his arms had, somehow, opened the sash of her dressing gown, and he could see a thin sliver of emerald fabric. He wasn't sure what this was, and was absolutely certain that he shouldn't be looking, and even more convinced that he really wanted to see more. With a herculean effort, he dragged his eyes away from the smooth green swatch, which was growing slightly larger as Ginny moved a bit in his arms. He finally closed his eyes, hoping that he'd be able to control his almost-overwhelming desire to snog this beautiful girl, but found that his brain had no problems with inventing all kinds of green . . . um. . . things that Ginny could wear.
Ginny had calmed down enough to be able to sit back, and as she did so she noticed Harry's determinedly-closed eyes. "Harry?" she asked, wondering what was going on.
Harry very carefully opened one eye, just a crack, to see if it was safe to look again. But when Ginny had sat up, she had unknowingly allowed her dressing gown to open even wider, and the swatch of green silk assaulted Harry's eyes, much like a niffler after a treasure trove, which, Harry realized, was an all-too-apt description. He slammed his eye shut again, and croaked, "Your. . . you. . . green. . . "
Ginny giggled at Harry's obvious distraction, and then looked down. Both were quiet for a bit, Harry waiting for Ginny to tell him it was okay to open his eyes, and Ginny trying to decide what she should do. Yes, she wanted to show Harry, but with their relationship as it was, would it be pushing too much? And what if he didn't like what he saw? She knew that she wasn't as . . . curvy as even Hermione, let alone someone like Susan Bones. But Harry had only ever complimented her, and she'd never caught him staring at other girls who were, in her estimation, much more stare-worthy than she, herself, was.
Finally, she made a decision. "Harry," she said softly. "Open your eyes, please."
Harry trusted Ginny implicitly, so he obeyed. And as soon as he saw her, he slammed them shut again. "But, Gin!"
"Harry, please. I want you to see how much you mean to me."
Harry cautiously opened his eyes, to see Ginny sitting there, nervously holding the side of her robe open farther. She was dressed, if that was the word, in beautiful shiny green clothing that looked as if it were expressly created for testing his self-control. "Ginny," he croaked. "Are you trying to kill me?"
She smiled then―she had hoped for a good reaction, but hadn't been sure. "No, Harry, I'm not. I just, I wanted you to know that I bought these for you. I wanted to have something pretty to wear that reminded me of you, and these were perfect."
"What do you mean, you bought them for me?" Harry asked, still trying to swallow around the dryness in his mouth.
"Well, in case you can't tell, they match your eyes. They reminded me of you, and I thought of what you'd do if you ever saw me in them."
"But, you were thinking. . . that?" he gasped, unable to really cope with the reality of his incredibly beautiful ex-girlfriend wearing something so, so, so perfect.
"Harry, you boys think you invented sexy thoughts. But we girls occasionally have them too, you know? I wasn't planning on showing you yet, but I decided I wanted you to have something to think about while you're gone."
"You've definitely given me that, Gin. But, can I ask you a favor? Please don't show me again, until we're married―I want to see you in them, but I want to wait until the time is right, and I don't think I'd be able to stand waiting if I knew you were wearing them all the time."
Ginny smiled, and closed her robes. Then she gasped as she realized what Harry had said. "Harry, are you. . . are you proposing to me?"
Harry's brain hitched a bit, but decided that he didn't want to back down―he'd had enough of not talking to this beautiful, fiery girl. "No, Gin, I'm not proposing yet―I don't know that I could leave you if you were my fiancee, and we both know that I have to go. But I am promising you that I will marry you when I come back. I promise you, Ginny, that I'll do my best to return to you, and when I do, I'll be yours forever. I don't want anything else to come between us, and after I kill Tom, I won't ever leave you again."
They both grimaced at the unwelcome reminder about Lord Voldemort, and Harry felt like he needed to keep talking. "Ginny, I'm not sure what's going to happen. But," he took a deep breath. "Luna. . . well, Luna said that the ones we love never really leave us. And even if, even if I don't make it, or die, or something like that, don't give up." Harry took out his wand. "I promise you that no matter what happens, I will come back to you. This I swear, on my magic."
A blue spark came out of Harry's heart, flew twinkling around his head, and dived into Ginny's chest, causing her to gasp.
"Harry, what did you do?" she exclaimed.
"I don't know, Gin, but if magic can bring us back together, then I don't want to miss out on the chance."
Ginny thought for a bit, and reached over and took Harry's wand. "I promise you, Harry Potter, that I will do what it takes to be with you forever. This I swear, on my magic." Once again, the blue spark appeared and flew into Harry's chest.
Harry gasped, and his eyes teared up. "Ginny, that was―I just. . . I felt this incredible wash of, of, warmth, or something. What was that?"
Ginny looked into his eyes and said, very seriously. "Harry, that's how much I love you."
Harry's eyes started to tear up, and he pulled her close, and wept on her shoulder. Ginny held him close, and took her turn comforting him as he cried on her. She was better at it, having learned it from her mother, but had never really had the opportunity to do so with Harry, and was incredibly touched that he was allowing her to take care of him.
Eventually Harry pulled back a bit, and they rested comfortably together. Harry noticed that Ginny had tied her dressing robe back together, and smiled his thanks. "I'm not sure I could wear something so summery," he commented, then nudged her as she started to snicker. "Stop that―I didn't mean that I would wear your girly clothes, just that I've been so cold lately that I think I'd freeze with that little clothing on."
Ginny grinned back. "Are you sure that's all you were thinking? You weren't thinking about getting into my clothes?"
Harry blushed tremendously at this. Ginny looked shocked for a minute too, then blushed to match Harry. "That's not what I meant, you prat! I just meant-"
"I know, Gin," Harry laughed, "but you have to admit, that sounded rather like a proposition."
She just glared at him, but couldn't keep the glare for very long. Deciding the best course of action was to carry on, she said, "I've been really cold too, lately. It's like I can't get warm, no matter what. I should have worn a flannel nightgown tonight, but I was thinking too much about you."
Harry squeezed her closer to him, and said, "I've felt the same way. It's like I've had some illness or something that makes me cold." He stopped and thought for a bit. "I think it started back the night of the funeral. All I can remember is waking up freezing, and wishing the house-elves had put warming pans in our beds, like they do in winter."
Ginny looked thoughtful. "Harry, what about now―are you still cold?"
Harry looked up. "What? Oh, um, no, I'm not. In fact, I feel much better―like it's finally summer. Why?"
"I've been trying to figure out when I had started being so cold, too, and it was the same night. And I'm pretty warm now-"
"Well, I've always thought you were pretty hot."
She slapped him lightly on the arm. "Shush, you. Anyway, do you think it's related in some way to our having broken up? I mean, the night we broke up we started being cold all the time, and tonight, finally, after we've been able to talk and make some future plans, we're finally warm again. . ."
Harry beamed. "That must be it! It must be some magical thing, right? Some sort of spell. . ." He trailed off as he saw Ginny shaking her head. "What, you mean it's not magical?"
Ginny shook her head again. "No, Harry, it's just being in love. Even Muggles can feel this way."
"Oh, um, that's too bad―I like thinking that we're magical."
"Oh, Harry," she said, as she leaned in closer and put her head on his shoulder. "We're magical no matter what. Don't ever doubt that, okay?"
Silence descended on the couple, and they relaxed, listening to the quiet of the night, and basking in the warmth that had been missing for so long.
"Harry," Ginny said, after she noticed that his breathing was deepening and becoming rather more rhythmic than normal.
"Huh? What?" Harry said, waking up. "Oh, sorry, Gin, I must have drifted off. I guess we should probably get back to bed. Um," he said, shyly. "I love you, Gin."
She smiled up at him and leaned in for a good-night kiss. "I love you too, Harry." She bit her lip and then continued. "Do you think, maybe, I could sleep in one of your shirts? I mean, you don't want me wearing this, right?"
He flushed a bit and nodded, jerkily.
"Well, then, maybe you could give me a shirt to sleep in, so I can remember you, but not make you so, um, hot and bothered. Would that be okay?"
Harry ran his hand through his hair. "Well, now I have the image of you wearing one of my old quidditch jerseys, and that's almost as bad." He looked at her again, and smiled. "But I can't deny you anything, so yeah, go ahead. Do you want me to―wait, I've got a better idea. It would be better for you to be able to tell the truth, right? Well, what if I accidentally left out a shirt on my bed, tomorrow, and you just kind of, um, stole it from me?"
Ginny sat up and smiled. "I think that's great! Then, whenever anyone asks about it, I can just casually mention that one summer when you were staying with us, I stole it, and never gave it back. Yeah! That's great! Thank you," she said, and kissed him on the nose.
"Okay," Harry said, and they levered themselves out of the hammock together. They walked back into the kitchen holding hands, then over to the stairs. "I think I'd better let you go up by yourself, Gin-love. As much as I want to see you to your room, I'd better not."
"That's all right, Harry. I don't know that I would have enough will-power to not drag you into my room. Good-night, Harry. I love you."
They sealed their words with a kiss, deep and powerful, knowing it was probably the last opportunity they'd get together before they had to pretend to not care about each other. Ginny slowly backed away, loath to let go of her grasp on his hand, but finally she turned and slowly climbed the stairs.
Harry watched her as she went up, thanking all the magical spirits he could think of that he'd had the chance to talk to her that night, and that he hadn't completely destroyed his chances of happiness. Eventually he took a deep breath and blew it out, then climbed up those same stairs, passing Ginny's door with a small smile, and climbed into his own bed.
Both of them slept better that night than they had for quite some time, and the next evening, Ginny went to bed wearing Harry's third-year quidditch jersey, and a secret smile as she watched the fire ignite in Harry's eyes, as he tried not to watch her.