A/N: This takes place directly after the events in Deathly Hallows. I don't own Harry Potter, but when I wish I did I tend to write Harry/Ginny fanfiction for my own entertainment, never profit. Enjoy!
"I wonder if our beds are still up there?" Ron asked around a mouthful of the sandwiches Kreacher had brought to Harry, Hermione, and himself in Gryffindor tower.
"Dunno, but I reckon I'd take a kip on the floor in the dungeons so long as no one bothered me." Harry washed the last of his sandwich down with a glass of pumpkin juice and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "Hermione's got the right idea," he said, gesturing beside Ron.
Hermione, who had been leaning against the sofa, was now asleep with her head tilted back on the couch cushion.
Ron swallowed. "She'll kill us if we let her sleep like that." He looked at Harry. "Do you think the enchantments on the girl's staircase still work? The castle took a beating."
Scrubbing at his face, Harry sighed. "Mate, we don't even know if the dormitories are still there." He looked at his two best friends. Ron was tucking an errant strand of frizzy hair behind Hermione's ear and prying the last crust of her half-eaten sandwich from her hands. "Let's just take her up with us."
At this, Ron sat up straight and said, "What, like sleep with us?"
Harry laughed. "What do you think we were doing together in the tent all year long. You've slept in the same room as Hermione before."
"Well, yeah, but it's not the same now. What if Mum comes in and finds us all in there together?"
Harry brushed crumbs from his jeans and stood up. "Fine, leave her down here like that. I'll point her in your direction for the crick in her neck when she wakes up. Do what you want, but I'm going to bed."
Ron glared at him, but Harry ignored it. He left the two of them on the floor and lit his wand as he climbed the staircase that would, hopefully, lead to his old dormitory. One, two, three, four, thirty-two steps to the familiar door that would lead him to a cushy bed and peace. He held his breath as he pushed open the door. The room was untouched. Relieved, Harry walked over to his old bed and began shucking his clothes into a puddle at his feet.
As he crawled between his sheets he heard something loud coming up the stairs. Harry snatched his wand from the bed and listened at the door. The noise was getting closer, a shuffling sound with heavy breathing. When it came to be just outside the door, Harry threw it open and raised his wand into the face of the intruder.
"Oi! What's that for, Harry! It's only me."
Lowering his wand, Harry saw that it was only Ron, and he was carrying a sleeping Hermione in his arms. "Sorry. Old habits."
"Blimey, I thought you were going to hex my bollocks off. And you in your boxers no less. Fred – er, George wouldn't let me live it down," Ron said, shifting Hermione slightly. "Look mate, she's not real heavy, but I did just climb thirty-two stairs with her, and even Hermione gets heavy eventually, so could you let us in?"
"Oh, right, sorry." Harry backed away and climbed back into bed. Before he shut the curtains he saw Ron standing in the middle of the room, turning in a circle, as if trying to decide where to deposit Hermione. She sighed in her sleep and snuggled further into Ron's arms. This seemed to be some sort of sign for Ron because he went straight for his bed and laid her down on top of the covers.
Harry heard a gentle sigh puff through the small sliver between Ron's hangings before they slid shut. In the muddled whirl of thoughts before he bowed to exhaustion he wondered who had been sleeping in his bed during the school year and whether or not one day Ginny might be sleeping next to him as Hermione was with Ron.
When he woke it was dark once again. His sheets were twisted about his legs in a sweaty knot. He'd fallen asleep with his glasses still on his face, and he shoved them back into place, feeling an impression in his skin where they had pressed into his temple as he slept. His sleep had been dreamless for once, but waking in his old bed at Hogwarts was disorienting after months in the woods. Was Voldemort really gone by his hand? He felt slightly sick at the thought.
Pulling himself upright he grabbed his wand and pulled on his grimy clothes. "Scourgify," he whispered, pointing at his jeans. A bit of the muck came out, but most remained. Giving it up as a bad job, he exited the room as quiet as possible. He needed… something. Not fresh air, not space, but maybe another sandwich. As he descended the stairs his hands started to shake. The idea of facing people now, after everything that had happened nauseated him. The invisibility cloak was still bundled in his pocket, and he arranged it around himself before he reached the common room.
Mrs. Weasley was asleep on the couch before the fire while Mr. Weasley and Professor McGonagall talked in hushed tones. As he wondered how to get out the portrait hole without attracting attention or causing panic, his heart fluttered. Standing in a corner, looking out the window toward the forest was Ginny. His arms ached to crush her against his chest, but he resisted the urge. What if she were angry at him for Fred's death and that of Tonks and Lupin and Colin? He would be angry had he lost a brother or sister. Harry would have to pass her, though, to get to the portrait hole. He walked slow, being extra careful to not even create a passing breeze to alert her to his presence. It was all for naught, though.
As soon as he passed within arm's reach of her, his invisible shoulder was caught by her hand. Damned Seeker reflexes, he thought. No, Ginny couldn't just be an amazing Chaser, she had to have the damned Seeker reflexes, too.
"Dad," Ginny called softly to her father, taking a step forward so her foot pressed on Harry's, keeping him in place as she let go of his shoulder. "I'm going to the kitchens for something to eat."
Mr. Weasley looked up from his conversation with McGonagall and stared at her for a moment before comprehension overtook the weariness etched in his face. "Sweetheart, I think if you wait for a bit Bill or Percy will be back. I don't like the idea of you wandering the halls alone. Or perhaps Professor McGonagall would accompany you? I should be here when your mother wakes." He raised his eyebrows at the Transfiguration teacher.
"No," Ginny said, before the older woman could say anything. "I'll be alright. I have a feeling there are still people in the halls celebrating."
"Miss Weasley, be that as it may, I, too, would recommend an escort for anyone." Professor McGonagall looked carved from stone in the flicker of light from the fire. Harry wondered if she or Mr. Weasley had slept at all since the battle. As Ginny opened her mouth to argue, Harry knew what to do.
He tugged the invisibility cloak off and said, "I'll make sure she's safe, Mr. Weasley, Professor."
McGonagall pressed a hand to her chest and whispered, "Potter, don't give an old lady such a fright twice in one day."
"I'm sorry, Professor." Harry tried to keep his voice light, but couldn't help the twinge in his chest. Her scream when Hagrid brought him out of the forest clattered about his head, and soon Ron and Hermione's followed. He ran a hand through his hair and shook his head. "I only meant to sneak to the kitchens myself without creating a ruckus," he said, improvising.
McGonagall's mouth pressed into a thin line as her eyes softened. "Very well, Mr. Potter. Please be cautious."
For his part, Mr. Weasley seemed as though nothing would rattle him, or at least not that he would show. He had the same expression on his face as when Ginny first spoke. "Thank you, Harry," he said. "If you would, bring something back for Molly? She hasn't eaten since… I don't remember when."
"Of course," Harry said. He would send Kreacher up with as much food as the house elf could bear. He would send up the entire kitchens if he had to if only to make sure they were comfortable. He would spend the rest of his life making up for the son he could not save.
Ginny remained quiet during the exchange. Harry looked to her and asked, "May I have my foot back now?"
She stepped back without speaking, still.
"Under the cloak then, yeah?" he asked.
She nodded and allowed him to throw the fabric over their heads, his arm resting across the back of her shoulders to keep it in place. Buoyancy surrounded Harry as her arm wound around his torso to balance herself. If their first kiss in the common room during his sixth year had been like fireworks, then this was like Christmas Day atop New Years and his birthday. For the first time since Riddle had fired the Avada Kedavra at him in the forest, he felt anchored to the world. Did her hand squeeze his side, ever so briefly? No, he thought, must have imagined it.
Together they walked to the kitchens and asked if Kreacher would bring a small dinner, enough for three people, to the Gryffindor common room. Harry grabbed a few sandwiches and Ginny two large cups of soup. Without speaking they walked to the far wall of the kitchen where one end of a preparation table wasn't being used. Both declined chairs proffered to them by the house elves, preferring to sit on the table itself.
Harry didn't hurry as he ate. He wasn't particularly hungry, just empty. He watched as Ginny sipped from a mug of tomato soup. Her eyes were puffy as though she'd been crying or not sleeping. Probably both.
"Would you like some pumpkin juice?"
"Yes, thanks," Ginny said in a soft tone.
Harry stood up and fetched a pitcher and two glasses from a nearby house elf. He stood next to Ginny as he poured two tall glasses and handed one to her. Instead of drinking from it, she set the glass on the table beside her empty soup cup.
Harry was concentrating on his muddled reflection in the orange liquid of his own glass and jumped when he felt Ginny's thumb pressed against the side of his cheek. He raised his face to hers and found her staring at him with a queer expression on her face.
"You're still smudgy," she said, but moved her hand away from his cheek to touch his shoulder, arm, chest, hand. "Are you still here? Are you all here?"
Her eyes were bright and her nose pink. Harry's gut clenched. He'd seen Ginny cry once before, he knew the signs, but he hadn't been the cause. It was so much worse to be the cause.
"I'm here, all of me," he replied, wincing as her fingers brushed the spot where Riddle's killing curse had hit him in the forest. A large purple bruise was spreading from the center of his chest and up toward his shoulder.
"Not bad. Not enough to see Madame Pomfrey. She has enough to deal with right now."
"Good," Ginny said firmly, and slapped him across the jaw.
Harry stepped back, shocked, and then stood still, watching her.
"How dare you," she whispered as she pushed herself off the table. "How - dare – you," she said louder, punctuating each word with a shove. Harry tried not to wince as her hands hit his bruised flesh.
"You were dead, and Fred and Tonks and Lupin and Colin, little Colin. You were all dead and you left me again and you keep leaving and coming back and why do you come back? They won't! The others won't!" Ginny's voice was only a squeak at the end, but the sound of it hurt worse than the shoving. Harry was backed against the wall of the kitchen. Several house elves had moved forward as the scene had unfolded, but Kreacher kept them from interfering, scolding them back to their business.
Looking Ginny square in the eye, he asked, "Do you want me to go?" He couldn't help the cold sweat coating his body. His worst fear was coming to reality. He would do anything for her and her family, even if it meant disappearing from their lives. No more pain would come from his actions. Maybe he could send them some money every month or something to recompense them for their kindness and loss.
Before he could process any of his thoughts, Ginny tackled him, but instead of fending off clawed hands or punches, Harry found himself being suffocated by the largest hug he'd ever received. "No, you're never to go anywhere ever again. I wished I had died beside Fred when I saw you in Hagrid's arms."
Harry's throat tightened. "When—" he started, choking as he remembered. "When I heard you scream my name out there, it—it reminded me of my mother, her voice, when the dementors get near me."
She was crying then, and he cried with her as the house elves bustled around them, ever cooking and cleaning, scrubbing pots, feeding the fire that burned in the hearth at the other end of the room. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he kept whispering in her ear. In the end, he was the one who broke off first.
"Ginny, could you shift to my other shoulder, please?"
She leaned back, but kept her arms around him, which encouraged him a bit. "I've gotten your shirt all snotty."
"No, it's not that. I think this shirt is ready for the rubbish bin actually." When Ginny smiled, he went on. "I've got this massive bruise on this side of my chest and—wha—what are you doing?"
As he had been talking Ginny's face had gone from sad to apologetic to concerned to determined. She tucked her fingers under the hem of his shirt and lifted it up to assess the damage.
"Oh, Harry," she said, her voice no more than a breath. "You need to go to the hospital wing."
"If it's still there," he muttered.
Ginny ignored him and began pressing her fingers along the edge of the bruising. During her explorations he doubled over and stepped to the side a bit.
"Did I hurt you?"
Harry smiled and shook his head. "Ticklish," he said.
"That's right. I remember now."
Harry's smile faded. "I know you probably don't want to think about this right now, but I wanted to let you know that I don't expect you to come running back to me, er, 'us' I guess."
Ginny gave him a wavering smile. "No, I don't want to think about an 'us' right now." She stepped closer to him. "But later I'd like that very much."
Harry relaxed. "I'm not ready now, either, but I want to be there for you and Ron and Hermione."
"Oh, you will be. Remember, you're never to go anywhere without me," Ginny said.
"Ever again, if I remember correctly."
"That's the one." Ginny shook her head and smiled before weariness plastered itself across her freckled face.
"Have you slept at all?" Harry asked.
"Some, not much." She looked shy for a moment. "I haven't had nightmares this bad since the Chamber of Secrets."
"I didn't sleep well either," Harry said. "I doubt your dad or Professor McGonagall would let you come up to the boy's dormitory with me—not like that," he said quickly as she blushed. "We're not, er, 'us,' you know?" He made awkward hand motions in the air, making Ginny laugh. "But with a blanket and a couch, there's no harm in leaning on each other for support, you know, physical and mental?"
"No," Ginny said, "I suppose not." She yawned.
"Shall we go back then?"
With her acquiescence he threw the invisibility cloak over them and replaced his arm across her shoulders. This time when she wound her arm around his middle there was most definitely a squeeze.
A/N: A little melodramatic? Perhaps. If any of you stray toward the X-File or Star Trek Voyager fandoms, check out my other fanfiction from highschool (oh how long ago that was) under the username ATX. I forgot my password and lost the email address set up for password retrieval. If not, no worries! Leave me a review here instead. Cheers!