Disclaimer: JK owns it. I do not.
Never in all her life had she been so tired.
Somewhere in the back of her mind, Ginny thought she should be celebrating. She should join the gatherings around her where butterbeer and firewhiskey were passed around. It was over. He was gone. No longer did they have to live in fear, wondering who among them would be next. Who would be snatched off the streets and never seen again. The dread of coming home to find the Dark Mark staring menacingly from above your house would not touch them again. There was a sense of freedom, of lightness that many of those gathered had never known in their lifetime.
Her gaze drifted over to George, looking lost and bereft as he sat next to the still form of his twin. The two had been so intertwined that it seemed impossible to even consider life with one but not the other. They had been known more as a singularity rather than two individuals. Fred and George. George and Fred. Two halves of one whole.
How would George make it alone?
Remus and Tonks. She closed her eyes, desperately trying to shut out the image of the pair lying side-by-side. They had looked so serene and calm, as if they were both simply sleeping. How unfair it was that they were taken, leaving a tiny, parentless child behind. Would Teddy ever hope to understand one day the sacrifice they had made for him? Would he appreciate that they had given their lives so that he could have a hope of a future?
No one had seen The Boy Who Lived since the battle ended. He had vanished, taking Ron and Hermione with him. Ginny struggled not to be resentful and angry. When the words "Harry's Back" came up on her DA galleon, she imagined a tearful and tender reunion between the two of them. But he hadn't appeared pleased to see her as she climbed out of the passage behind Ariana's portrait, and he had scarcely spared her a glance when they encountered one another throughout the battle. She could rationalize that he was distracted, focused on Voldemort and the tasks before him. She'd nearly convinced herself of it.
But she wasn't sure.
She remembered the way her heart had stopped when Hagrid had come out of the Forbidden Forest, carrying Harry's seemingly lifeless body. For a moment the world had faded and stopped spinning. She could swear that she'd lost the ability to breathe, that it was someone else that screamed his name. The chaos and confusion created by Neville's bold decision to step forward and kill the snake Nagini had torn her attention from Harry's battered form, and she'd lost track of him. She hadn't been able to even think of him while she battled Bellatrix Lestrange alongside Hermione and Luna, so focused was she on simply keeping herself alive.
And then The Chosen One was the Boy Who Lived Again. Harry had survived. He persevered and he did what many had thought impossible.
Voldemort was gone.
Ginny's head lifted from her mother's shoulder when Ron and Hermione entered the Great Hall at the far end of the room. As they approached, she raised an eyebrow at their joined hands and met their gazes with a small, knowing smirk. "It's about time," she said, bemused.
Hermione blushed and ducked her face into Ron's shoulder from behind. He merely grinned at his sister unapologetically. "I suppose the world nearly coming to an end makes you realize what's important." His expression clouded briefly and he glanced over his shoulder where George remained by Fred's side. "You just don't know when it'll all end."
The smile faded from Ginny's lips and she nodded slowly. She tried to resist, but she couldn't stop herself from glancing behind them to the open door, an unspoken question on her face.
Casting Ginny a knowing look, Hermione squeezed Ron's hand. "Do–" She caught herself and her eyes clouded with sorrow. Swallowing hard, she went on. "Kreacher."
A loud crack echoed through the Great Hall and the bulbous-nosed house elf appeared. He was clad in a white tea towel around his waist, a locket resting against his thin chest. "Yes, miss?" he croaked.
"Kreacher, could you bring me some sandwiches and perhaps a flask of pumpkin juice, please?" Hermione smiled gratefully. "It's for Harry."
"Master Harry? Kreacher should take it to him, miss. Master Harry, defender of the house elves. Kreacher will see to Master–"
"It's okay, Kreacher." Hermione bit back a smile. "We can see to Harry. Can you just bring the food?"
Shaking his head and muttering under his breath, he disapparated.
"You three leave Harry be," Molly spoke up. "I'm sure he's exhausted. Let him sleep."
Ron shrugged. "He did say, Mum, that he'd like a snack before he nods off."
Another deafening crack cut her off as Kreacher reappeared. Offering Hermione a most disapproving look, he handed her a rather large plate of sandwiches and a flask. "The sandwiches, miss. Though Kreacher really should–"
"Thank you, Kreacher." Hermione smiled kindly. "No go and get some rest. You've earned it."
Once the house elf was gone, Hermione handed the plate and flask to Ginny with a rather sly grin. "Gryffindor tower, his old room."
Molly stood, aghast. "Ginerva, leave him be!"
Ginny ignored her mother and slowly got to her feet. She stared down at the plate in her hands. "Are you sure he even wants to see me?"
"Over the last several months, Ron and I have had to share extremely tight quarters with Harry every night," Hermione replied. "And do you know what I learned?"
Ginny looked up. "What?"
"Harry talks in his sleep." A slow, knowing smile spread over Hermione's lips.
Ron rolled his eyes and heaved a long-suffering sigh. "Try listening to it for seven years. Every night, blathering on about something – Oof! Oi!"
Hermione cut him off with a sharp elbow to the stomach and then turned back to Ginny. "Trust me."
She hesitated only for a moment before striding purposefully towards the doors.
Blessed, deafening silence. For so many years Harry had the continual presence of Voldemort humming in the back of his mind that he didn't even know the pleasure of being alone in his own body. The sensation was nearly euphoric. Of course, he supposed, the near-delirium he currently experienced could also be attributed to the soul-deep exhaustion that had fallen over him in the last few hours. He couldn't move. He could barely think.
Lying there in the semi-darkness he occasionally tried to force his mind to wrap itself around all that had happened and all that he had learned. But each time he started to, Fred or Lupin or Tonks came to his mind and the grief threatened to overwhelm him again. Sighing, he removed his glasses and pressed his fingertips to the corners of his eyes. He couldn't think about them just now. He didn't want to think about any of it.
A soft sound from the door drew his attention, and Harry slowly forced his eyes open. He expected Kreacher had come to fuss over him, and was surprised by the figure that hesitated in the entryway.
She awkwardly held a platter overflowing with sandwiches. She bit her lip and smiled almost shyly. "Hi."
Groaning softly, Harry pushed himself up to a sitting position. After all of the horror of war that he had faced that day, she was the most beautiful sight he had ever seen in his life. Her flame-kissed hair tumbled around her shoulders, her face streaked with tearstains, soot, and dirt. And he didn't care. A crooked smile bloomed on his lips. "Hi yourself."
She stared at him for a long moment, and then suddenly seemed to remember the plate she carried. "I brought you some sandwiches." She paused, a hint of sheepishness in her eyes. "Actually, I took it from Kreacher."
He raised an eyebrow. "Stealing from my house-elf?"
"He may never speak to me again," she replied. Cautiously she stepped closer to the bed and set the plate on the nightstand. "I've robbed him of a chance to fuss over Master Harry." Ginny held out the flask of pumpkin juice and Harry accepted it gratefully. As he took a long, soothing drink, she wrung her hands nervously. "Anyway, I won't bother you long. I just wanted to– I needed to–"
Harry set the flask next to the plate. "You're not bothering me. You can stay if you want."
"Do you want me to?"
He fought the urge to wince as he leaned over and took her by the hand. "Gin, stay." Gently he pulled her towards him. "Please."
Gingerly, she sat down next to him. "I wasn't sure. You didn't seem too pleased to see me when I arrived with Fred and George."
"I wasn't." Gently he tucked a finger under her chin and lifted her face to look at him. "I was furious with you. I was sure you would be at home where you were out of the way and safe. But no. You were right there along with us, putting yourself right smack in the middle of the danger." He shook his head. "It wasn't that I didn't want you here. What I did want is for you to be safe."
"I couldn't stand the thought of sitting at home, alone, and not knowing what was happening. Wondering who was coming home and who wasn't." Her face clouded and he slipped his arm around her waist to pull her closer to him. They sat in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. "I know you're exhausted, and I won't keep you up any longer. I… just needed to see for myself that you're alright."
Harry laughed, short and bitterly. "No, I'm not." He scrubbed his eyes with the heel of his hand. "Fred is gone. Remus and Tonks have left behind a parentless child." He paused, realization hitting him like the Knight Bus careening through London. "Merlin, I'm a godfather to a one-month-old baby, and I don't know the first thing about changing nappies." He blinked. "I'm not alright, Ginny. Not now. But I will be."
He rested a palm against her cheek. "I have so much I want to tell you. The last few months have been–" Harry shrugged helplessly as words failed him. "My entire reality has been turned upside down. The things that Ron, Hermione, and I have done. I have loads to tell you – but I can't." Ginny sighed with annoyance and started to turn away, but Harry tightened his arm around her. "Not tonight. I'm still trying to wrap my head around it all. Give me a few days. Then we'll talk."
She rested her forehead against his. "In the meantime, I should let you sleep."
He shook his head. "In the meantime, there is something I've wanted to do for months." Cupping her face in his hands, Harry leaned forward and captured her lips with his.
He moaned when he felt her melt under his touch. Her lips were soft, warm, and inviting, and tasted every bit as heavenly as he remembered. It felt as though bolts of electricity danced up and down his limbs as a slow warmth began to well up within him.
When at last they broke the kiss, Harry was startled to find tears on her cheeks. "Ginny?"
"I was terrified," she said. "Hagrid carried you out and it looked like you were–"
"I'm here now." He smiled reassuringly at her. "And I'm not going anywhere."
With a strangled cry, Ginny threw her arms around him and buried her face in his neck. "Don't ever do anything like that again."
Pain exploded through Harry's chest and he closed his eyes and groaned. His breath hitched. "G-Ginny," he managed to gasp. "Hold on."
She pulled back, confusion etched on her face. Harry took several steadying breaths. "I survived the Killing Curse, sure." He lifted the front of his shirt and revealed an impressive, colorful bruise spreading from the center of his torso. "I didn't say it was pleasant."
"Merlin…" Ginny murmured. She gently traced a fingertip along the edge of the black and blue and bit her lip. "You – " She cut herself off and closed her eyes. "You should go and see Madam Pomfrey. She could give you something–"
Harry silenced her with a kiss. "I'm okay," he said firmly. "This?" He pointed to his chest. "This is nothing three days' sleep won't fix."
He tried to smile, to reassure Ginny that he was, indeed, just fine. The bruises would heal. The aches would go away. He would sleep, he would have a real meal, and in a few days he would physically feel better.
And the rest? It would take time. He had a lifetime to work through the rest.
"At the very least, you need some sleep." Ginny's firm tone reminded Harry eerily of her mother. He didn't dare argue with her as she pointed to the pillow, and he carefully eased himself back onto the bed.
He sighed blissfully when the warm bed welcomed him in like an old friend. "Stay?" He laced his fingers through Ginny's and peered up at her pleadingly.
A bemused smile tugged on her lips. "You realize I have six–" Ginny caught herself, a shadow falling over her face. "–Five older brothers." She swallowed hard. "Five older brothers who will cheerfully hex you if they find me in bed with you."
"I'm willing to take the risk."
She hesitated a moment more before stretching out next to Harry. He smiled and kissed her temple as she rested her head on his shoulder. They lay quietly for a long time, and Harry had nearly drifted off when Ginny broke the silence.
"I wasn't sure you'd want me again."
Harry sighed and pulled her closer against him. He fought hard to ignore the pain screaming from his chest. "There was a moment – just one moment – right before the end when I forgot about Voldemort and went after Bellatrix Lestrange instead." He gently brushed a lock of hair away from her cheek. "When she missed hitting you with a Killing Curse by only an inch."
Ginny sat up slightly. "You nearly gave up on Voldemort for me?"
He nodded. "That's why I couldn't take you with me these last few months. I needed to know you were safe and protected. If you'd been in half the danger Ron, Hermione and I have been in, I couldn't have concentrated on what I needed to do."
"I thought… you didn't trust me enough."
"Ginerva Weasley," Harry said firmly. "I am perfectly aware that you are capable of taking care of yourself. I didn't think any less of you than I did Ron and Hermione." He smiled. "Believe me, it would have been nicer to have you with me than Ron. For starters, he snores."
Ginny laughed and kissed him. "Thank you." Tenderly she brushed the hair off of his forehead. "Now sleep. You've earned it."
Again they settled, tangled in one another's arms. This time, it took only moments for sleep to overtake Harry.
"I can't believe that the charms on the girls' dormitory still work even after all that."
Hermione chuckled as she and Ron slowly made their way up the boys' stairs in Gryffindor Tower. "Someone wanted to make perfectly sure that no boys ever made in there."
"Shame, really." Charlie yawned behind them. "I always wanted to see the girls' dorms."
"It would be improper." Percy cast Hermione an indignant glance, as if he were affronted by her presence in the boys' section of the tower.
"Oh, stuff it, Perce," George rasped, tiredly.
Ron stifled a grin and pushed open the door to his old room. "There should be empty beds in here. I–" He paused at the foot of Harry's old bed, eyes wide. "Bloody hell!"
"What?" Charlie glanced around sharply, and then arched a brow when his gaze came to rest on Harry and Ginny, sleeping peacefully together. He watched them for a minute, and then shook his head and scrubbed a hand over his face. "I know he just saved the world and all, but I just had the overwhelming urge to punch him in the nose."
Percy was beside himself, eyes bulging as he pointed furiously at the pair of them. George lazily clapped a hand around his brother's head and covered his mouth. "If you wake Harry up," he threatened in a low voice, "I will take your wand and introduce it to a place that is neither comfortable nor sanitary."
"To bed, all of you." Hermione's voice held no room for argument. "You can threaten Harry's life if he breaks your little sister's heart in the morning. Let him at least get some sleep before he faces the Weasley Inquisition."
Ron held up his hands innocently. "I didn't say anything!"
With a quiet huff, Hermione led Ron to his empty bed. There was a soft rustling of sheets from the other side of the room as Charlie, Percy, and George all climbed in to seek some rest. Ron pulled Hermione against him and was settling down to sleep when he caught Percy staring at him resentfully.
"What?" he hissed, exasperated.
"First Ginny, now you!"
"Percy, for the love of Merlin, shut it!" Charlie growled.
"Maybe if you weren't such a prat, you wouldn't be sleeping solo either," George put in drowsily.
Behind the curtains surrounding their bed, Harry felt Ginny's shoulders begin to shake with silent laughter. He snorted softly and bit his lip against his own chuckle. She glanced up at him, her brown eyes filled with mirth as they heard Charlie threaten to bind and gag Percy and Ron both if they didn't quiet down.
Maybe, thought Harry, it won't take as much time as I thought.