FIC: May The Second, by pepperam
Title: May The Second
Pairing: Harry/Ginny (with mentions of Ron/Hermione, Bill/Fleur, and Molly/Arthur)
Rating: R, just to be on the safe side, for language and a sexual situation
Word Count: 8,465
Summary: The morning following the battle of Hogwarts is a strange one for Ginny. She watches her family - now changed forever - while desperately wanting to escape, to find her way back to Harry and the way that she felt with him.
Author/Artist's Notes: I am so terribly sorry for being so late in getting this in. Thank you so much to Julie for beta reading this for me on such short notice. st_dl, I am particularly sorry for making you wait so long. I chose to work with your prompt: "Ginny's reflections after the war about herself, her family and/or Harry." This is new territory for me as I usually contribute artwork to these things, and this is my first Harry Potter fanfic (so hopefully it's not a disappointment). Thank you so much for your patience!
Charlie had nipped out to sneak the whiskey in. He didn’t need to go far, and said he thought a lot of people had had about the same idea. “Rosmerta’s not going to be happy to see the state of the storeroom down there,“ he whispers to Bill. Personally, I don’t think she’ll be able to care less…if she’s survived. Has she? I scan the room, at least as far as I can crane my neck in my current position. No sign of her. That can mean a lot of things. I don’t really know what I expected to gain from that.
I don’t know when we switched positions, Mum and I. Maybe it was when I lifted my head and noticed that Harry had disappeared. Hermione had caught my eye and smiled tightly then, and I knew that she knew where he was and that he was alright. That had been enough at the time, but the comfort of it was wearing away already.
Bill and Charlie turn their backs over the teacups. There wasn’t enough sleeping drought to go around, but all my family really needs is a nudge in the right direction.
Dad is standing in the corner talking to a man I’ve never seen before. His head lolls about on his shoulders as he talks to the frizzy haired stranger. He is slumped over, but every minute or so his whole body kind of shakes up into some attempt at good posture. He’s dead on his feet.
It’s funny how you don’t even notice until you’re living death how much death is in your life. I use it all the time and it never even registered. Dead on his feet. Tonks had been dead on her feet. Even when the green flash had faded, it took so long for gravity to pull her to the mud.
Now I was the one who was shaking myself up. I look down into my cup. I keep a grip on it even though it is stone cold now. My trembling hands make ripples through my reflection, but it was hazy to begin with. Tea is not a particularly good mirror. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons it’s so good in a crisis. Who wants to look at themselves in times like this?
George is across from me, his head down, his missing ear pressed against the scrubbed wood. He’s not asleep. I don’t know what he is, where he is, but it’s not really across from me at all. Percy is next over, still as a statue. I know he’s overheard Bill and Charlie too, but he’s not even fussed about their thievery.
Ron and Hermione have gone off again. They left together a while ago. I wonder if they’re sharing a bed tonight? Maybe they’ve already made a habit of it. Poor Harry, if that’s the case. Maybe I can even the playing field a bit, if he still wants me to.
Charlie places a cup in front of Mum and nudges it into her fingers. “Drink up,” he tells her, and then places one each before Percy and George. Bill is approaching Dad with his own piece of china. Charlie’s hand covers my cup, but I tighten my grip and shake my head. I don’t want to be dulled. I don’t want to fall asleep yet. I want to see them all off to bed and find Harry, see with my own eyes that he’s still breathing and real. Then maybe I’ll wash myself off and go for a walk, or maybe I’ll just crawl into bed with him like the crazy, clingy, lovesick idiot I feel. And then maybe he’ll wake up and wrap his arms around me and kiss me and I’ll forget that I’m ticked off at him for trying to keep me out of the fight, and for him going off and bloody dying or pretending to die or whatever the hell that whole fucking awful mess was about. Or maybe he’ll wake up and want me gone.
I’m surprised I haven’t broken this cup, considering the death-grip I have on it. Oh, there’s that word again. What is wrong with me?
I wonder if Mum heard what Bill and Charlie were saying, too. She’s practically inhaled her tea. She puts her empty cup down and I can smell the liquor coming off of it. Her head falls back against my shoulder while Charlie refills her cup for her.
It feels odd to be supporting her like this. I try and think back to a time before today when we were in a similar position and can’t. It’s always been her holding me up, never the other way around, and that makes me feel a bit panicked. I spend so much time wanting to be grown up and wanting to be treated like I’m not a little kid anymore, but now, the second it comes down to me being like an adult in such—really—a minor way, I’m feeling sick to my stomach. She’s my mum and she can’t keep her head up anymore and now she needs to lean on me. It’s making me scared and I want to put my head down too. How can I take care of her? Of George or the rest of them, even a little, when clearly I’m not ready to take care of myself at all? I wanted to be, I really did, but this sick feeling I have is just more evidence that I have been deluding myself. I need them, all of them. I need Fred too, but I don’t have him anymore and I don’t seem to have George and what if I don’t have Mum either?
I didn’t realize I was holding my breath until now. Charlie’s put the cup down so Mum has lifted her head up again to drink her second helping of spiked tea. The pressure off my shoulder is like a lever being released and I can gasp in a breath, shaky though it is, and the dizziness I was starting to feel ebbs away a bit. My eyes are watering, but I’m glad to see that no one has seemed to notice my brief loss of control. The last thing I need is to get them thinking they need to fuss over me now. Everyone’s got enough to deal with without me going mental, even if I am.
I’m feeling tempted to just bolt, to get out of here and go find Harry and forget about how messed up things are and how messed up I am. But then I may find out I don’t have him either and I’ll really lose it. Because, really, it would be pretty arrogant of me to just assume that he’d want me back. I haven’t even seen him in months.
Dad’s come back over and has sat down on the other side of Mum. He’s got an empty cup with him and Bill has taken his post with the frizzy haired man. This time, when Mum puts her cup down on the table, her head falls to his shoulder instead. I feel bad that I feel so relieved.
Percy’s finally moved to take up his own cup, but his movements are jerky and he keeps staring out at the same spot. I don’t have to look to know what he’s staring at. At the edges of the great hall, the bodies are lined up, covered in white sheets provided by the house elves. I know that Percy’s eyes are trained on the white lump that used to be our brother.
Charlie has refilled everyone’s cups and is sitting down on the other side of George, whispering to him in a deep voice that doesn’t travel well, so I can’t tell what he’s saying, but it seems he’s trying to ply George into lifting his head off the table. Besides the hum of Charlie’s whispers, my family is eerily quiet. It’s been ages and we’ve barely said a word. It’s all making me a bit antsy. I wonder if George and Percy have even realized Dad’s come back to the table. I watch Charlie pour a straight shot of the whiskey and slide it in front of George’s face. Little flames are dancing around the rim of the glass.
Fleur has come back now; she’s standing just inside the entrance to the great hall looking wound up and a bit desperate. She’s been in the infirmary for quite a while, trying to talk down a hysterical Lavender Brown and explain to her and the others who were victims of Greyback during the battle what to expect from now on. I think Bill had wanted to go with her, to get away from this fallacy we’re making of our family – all broken whispers and tense shoulders and shaking fingers. Charlie is keeping up the old charade the best out of all of us, but maybe that’s because he was able to escape for a bit.
Fleur makes a beeline for Bill and the frizzy haired stranger. As she gets to him, Bill reaches out for her immediately, fitting his arm around her slim waist. I feel instantly jealous. I want to be tucked under an arm, feel that gorgeous pressure of strong fingers at the curve of my waist. Of course, I certainly don’t want this arm or these fingers to belong to my brother. Really, I only want them to belong to one person.
Mum’s hip presses up against mine as she curls her head against Dad’s shoulder. His chin comes down to rest atop her matted hair as he stares at George. Dad’s eyes have a far away look about them, though, and I wonder if he’s really seeing him. Maybe he’s seeing Fred instead. My stomach turns over at the realization that George, even with his hole for an ear, is still mistakable for Fred, and it seems insane now that Fred’s gone that George still looks just like he did. I’m afraid of spotting him one day and thinking “Fred!” or, Merlin, even calling him the wrong name by accident, which, frankly, used to happen pretty regularly. And now, everyday, George is going to see himself in the mirror and the person staring back at him is going to look just like Fred. My nostrils are burning and my heart feels like it’s somewhere in my throat. I close my eyes and take another shaking breath. No going to pieces. Not now. Not with everyone here.
Suddenly, Percy stands up. The frizzy haired man is levitating Fred’s concealed body, the white sheet dangling in the air. George picks his head up in alarm, the first sign of life from him in ages. I feel like someone’s punched me in the gut. What is he doing? “It’s fine son,” Dad whispers to Percy, but his words are clearly for the rest of us as well. “Mr. Mortegen is the… the funeral director.” Oh. Right. My eyes follow Mr. Mortegen and the eerie floating sheet that conceals what remains of my brother. Colin told me once that Muggles pretend to be ghosts by wearing white sheets and shouting “Boo!” at people. It really makes no sense to me, this practice, but I have the absurd idea that Fred, under his sheet, would love it. He’ll pop up now and shout “Boo!” at us and float around with his white sheet like he’s at a Muggle fancy dress party. Except, of course, he won’t, and neither will Colin.
As Mr. Mortegen and Fred disappear out the doors to the Great Hall, I realize everyone else at the table has been following their progression as well. Percy is still standing, staring at the spot where they were lost from view. George’s arms are still on the table, he’s hunched over, but his head is up enough to stare at the spot as well. Then his eyes shift and I see him grab the shot that’s still in front of him and down it in one swift move. It’s only when he thuds it back down on the table that the silence we have built around ourselves is broken. That’s when Percy crumbles.
The horrible gasp startles me and I see Percy double over. Mum is up like a shot, Dad standing up with her but then freezing, staring at Percy. I watch Mum’s arms come around Percy and squeeze. Her eyes are streaming and he’s making terrible gasping sounds and I just have to look away. I can’t watch this. I feel cold all over, and if I look at my Mum and my brother crying for another second I’m definitely going to crack. My eyes are wet and my chest feels tight. I can still hear Percy sobbing. I look at Charlie desperately and see George take another shot out of the corner of my eye. Charlie is staring hard at the table, like he wants to hit it. I close my eyes and try and block everything out.
After several more minutes, the sobbing abates. I finally open my eyes and see that Bill and Fleur are back at the table, sitting very close to each other, next to Charlie. I look over at Percy and see that Dad has made his way over there and Mum has moved into Dad’s arms. Percy has straightened up a bit and is now wiping his reddened eyes on his ashy sleeves.
Next to him, worryingly, George—still looking completely absent from reality—has developed a death grip on the whiskey bottle. It’s visibly emptier from the last time I looked at it. I glance over at Charlie and Bill, trying to gather whether or not they have noticed. Bill catches my eye. He seems to be thinking the same thing as me. The last thing Mum and Dad need to see right now is a pissed George.
“Ginny, I think you should take Mum and Dad and go get some sleep.” Apparently he also thinks that I cannot handle a sloshed brother, which is ridiculous. Nonetheless, this is essentially the opening I’ve been looking for to get out of this depressing hall and away from this table and the bodies and all of it.
I get up and move around to the other side of the table. I’ve been sitting for too long and my legs feel a bit unstable. I reach Fleur first and, oh for Merlin’s sake, she latches on to me. She backs up just enough to try and straighten up my hair, shaking her head at it and making a very disapproving sound. Honestly, as if I should give a flying Snorcack what my hair looks like right now. I barely resist rolling my eyes at her. “Sleep well, ma petite soeur.”
I force a smile. Really, I’m glad she’s here and whole and all of that, but if she doesn’t stop tugging at my hair I’m going to lose it. “Good night,” I reply genially and the second her grip loosens, I make a break for it. Bill and Charlie are standing behind her like some sort of strange receiving line. The whole thing just seems far too formal and bizarre and I want to tell them to sit down and stop making such a fuss.
Bill grabs me next. I’m still so short he has to stoop a bit awkwardly. Still, his hug is old and familiar to me and I relish in it for a second. “Glad you’re alright,” he whispers to me. ‘Alright’ might be a bit of an overstatement.
I nod against him anyway, “You too.” He gives me a squeeze and deposits me in Charlie’s oversized arms. His hug, like always, is more awkward. He pats me on the back a bit too hard, though I don’t show my discomfort. I step back and look at George and Percy.
I don’t know what to do. Should I hug them? George looks so closed off and Percy… the last time I saw him I was launching parsnip at his face. Screw it. I wrap my arms around George’s neck from behind. He tenses and then doesn’t acknowledge me otherwise. I try to not be disappointed. “Love you, George,” I whisper as I let him go. No reaction.
Percy’s eyes are still damp and I feel uncomfortable. I was never as close to him as I was to my other brothers, and now I’ve barely seen him in the last three years. So much has happened, I feel like a completely different person than I was.
Does he know I play Quidditch? Or about Dumbledore’s Army and how Neville and Luna and I took it over this year? Or that I was there fighting when Bill got attacked last spring? Or that I’m pretty sure I’m in love with Harry even though I haven’t seen or heard from him in months? I was thirteen when Percy left, barely into my teenage years, and now in a matter of months I’ll be an adult, and he missed all of it. I want to be mad at him for being so stupid and neglectful but I just can’t anymore. So I hug him too and it’s weirdly unfamiliar because the last time I hugged him I didn’t have so much breast getting in the way of things. Well, that and the fact that he’s sitting down still and I’m at least tall enough that it means I have to hunch a little bit. Not much, mind, but still.
Percy’s hands grip at my shoulder blades a bit desperately and I start to get afraid that he’s going to have another breakdown, this time on me. I step out of the embrace to try and prevent that. “See you tomorrow, Perce.” He nods in reply and I turn to our mum and dad. They appear to be holding each other up.
“Come on,” I tell them, “let’s go find a place to sleep.” I link my arm around my dad and walk with them to the door. I look back over my shoulder as we reach it and see George taking another shot, but this time Charlie has joined him. Percy’s the one with his head on the table now, and Bill and Fleur seem to be engrossed in one another. I take a deep breath and step through the threshold into a new kind of carnage.
Here I was thinking the Great Hall was too depressing to stand, that if I could just get out of that room I’d be fine, but the rest of the castle is no better. Blood and scorch marks and people – some fresh and clean and dressed importantly, others battle worn and tattered – are huddled around in corners whispering or embracing. Some more have joined the house elves in cleaning up the enormous amounts of broken glass and rubble. Paintings are torn and knocked off their hooks; others are hanging asunder, some are burnt beyond recognition. We take the stairs slowly, avoiding the areas that have been chipped and blasted away by curses or debris.
All year, this place has felt hollow and cold and unfamiliar, but never so much as it does now. As we make our way up to Gryffindor tower, we’re utterly silent. A few times we need to change route because there’s been a collapse in the floor, or a stairway is missing, or the wall has caved in and there’s a huge pile of rock blocking our path. There’s blood and soot decorating pretty much every corridor, but I’m glad at least that all the bodies have been gathered. What a horrible thing to have to feel glad about.
It’s only when I see the Fat Lady’s painting, a bit off-kilter, her frame a bit scorched, that I realize I don’t remember the password. Even if I could, it’s likely to have changed since Easter. Shit. Mum and Dad are leaning on me pretty heavily now. They’re exhausted, but I don’t know what to do. We step up to the clearly intoxicated Fat Lady and just as I’m about to start freaking out, she slurs out “Weasries!” and swings open for us.
Never, in all of my years, has the Fat Lady let someone in without a password. I would point out her severely lacking security, but I’m far too relieved to have a way in to pick a fight now. Plus, she’s drunk. If there’s one thing I’ve learned at Hogwarts, it’s never engage a drunken painting in conversation.
The common room is, amazingly, pretty unscathed. It seems like no one fought in here, and I am hugely relieved. Two of the far windows have been blown in and the hangings on the walls seem to have been rattled a bit, but otherwise, the room looks the same as it always has. I wonder if the other common rooms have fared as well. I start to lead us toward my room but realize, just as we reach the staircase, that Dad won’t be able to go up there. Boy’s side it is then.
I pull open the door to the first room we come across. It is blessedly empty. If the boys rooms correspond to the girl’s side, this room is normally the current first year’s dorm, which helps to explain why no one’s in there. Dad pulls away from me and heads over to the bed second to the door. “This should be alright then.” It’s the first thing I’ve heard from him since Mr. Mortegen left with Fred’s body. Mum turns to me then, “Let’s get you in to bed, then.” Oh no, that was not the deal. She’s pushing me towards the bed directly across from the door.
“Mum, I’m fine, you and Dad are the ones…”
“Nonsense, you must be exhausted, dear.” It’s then I notice her voice is a bit too high for normal. She’s got a very desperate version of her ‘let me mother you!’ face on, so I relent. She fusses over me, fluffing up the pillows and pulling the bedclothes around me far too snugly for my liking. She just keeps fiddling with the blankets and the curtains around the bed and the curtains on the window next to it, until Dad comes over and puts his hands on her arms, stilling her. I throw him a grateful look, but I’m not sure if he sees it. “Alright,” Mum says, “Goodnight, dear. You wake us up if you need anything.” I nod. There’s absolutely no way I’ll be waking them up.
“Good night, Mum, Dad, sleep tight.”
My mum leans over and kisses me on the head and then Dad follows suit. “Goodnight sweetheart.”
“Goodnight Dad.” I reach up and hug him, undoing Mum’s obsessive tucking. Then I lie back down and watch them make their way to the second bed from the door and climb into it from either side. I pull my curtains closed and turn over. Now I just have to wait until they’re asleep and I can go find Harry. A minute later, I sit up. It’s no good if I fall asleep too. I pull out my wand and start practicing some non-verbals on my pillow to pass the time.
After awhile, I have a rather lopsided and floppy miniature giraffe alternatively gnawing on the bed’s curtains and prancing ungracefully around in circles. More importantly, however, are the telltale signs of my parents sleeping. Both of them have very distinctive snores, so it’s a bit hard to miss. I hastily convert my slightly mutant giraffe back to pillow form and creep quietly out of the bed. I sneak to the door, Mum and Dad both still snoring away. “Goodnight. Love you.” I whisper to them as I slip out.
I push the door shut behind me gently. The hinges protest a bit, and I just hope it’s not loud enough to disturb my parents. I turn back to the staircase and slowly start to make my way to the top, to Harry’s old dorm room.
I’m standing outside the door, my palm pressed against the dark wood. Should I knock? I don’t want to interrupt him or whoever else might be in there, but I don’t really want to wake him if he’s asleep, either. All I really want to do is see him, see the rise and fall of his chest and be reassured that he’s not actually dead. Maybe then I’ll finally be able to dispel the image of him limp and lifeless in Hagrid’s arms.
I decide to split the difference, and rap my knuckles lightly against the door. Hearing nothing, I swallow hard through my suddenly dry mouth and take the door handle.
The bed curtains are all open, the beds neatly made. I’m surprised; I was expecting for Ron, at least, to be in here. I wonder where he and Hermione went off to, if not to their dormitories? Part of me is glad that they aren’t here, of course. It makes for fewer obstacles to my snooping and I would never live it down if Ron caught me sneaking a peak at Harry like this.
Speaking of, Harry seems to have passed out on top of his quilt fully dressed. He got one shoe off but it looks like he just gave up on the other. I feel a rush of affection for him and a smile twists up my face. I think it’s the first genuine smile I’ve had since right after the battle ended, before the weight of everything had sunk back in.
He’s flat on his back, his head turned to the side. His overgrown hair is partially in his face. At least he managed to take his glasses off. I step closer until I’m standing at the foot of his bed. I watch his chest rise and fall, his hair shift slightly as his breath puffs it away from his face, then pulls it back again. He’s beautiful. He’s whole and breathing and, Merlin, I just want to push that hair out of his eyes and kiss him goodnight. He needs a shave. I’ve never seen him with facial hair before and I wonder what it would feel like against my skin.
I am completely pathetic, aren’t I? Just standing here, watching him sleep, and… he could have moved on. Dating opportunities may have been thin on the ground, but that doesn’t mean he’ll want me back. It’s the old insecurity. I spent so long wanting him and trying not to want him, it’s still hard to believe that he could want me back. And he did, before, but I don’t know if that means anything anymore.
I really hate being reduced to this. I hate this desperate feeling I have when I look at him or think about him, how easily I forgive him. I am not a weak person, I do not let myself be walked over by, or contingent of, someone else. I learned that lesson, I really did.
Except that Harry has always been able to weed his way through everything I’ve ever tried to do to protect myself.
Still, part of me has held on to the notion that once he did this thing that he had to do, we would pick it back up where we left it. The rest of me just can’t imagine a life that he’s not in, at least in some way.
For someone who hates the idea of needing anyone, I’m sure finding myself needing a lot of people. I always find it’s the braver things I do that show me how weak I actually am. It makes it all the harder to do them in the first place. This whole year, I have felt so feeble. The thing is, the frailer I feel the more I feel I need him (and my family and friends, as well, but him kind of especially). Even as he makes me needy and sappy and desperate, he makes me feel strong and able and good, perhaps because he is all of those things in spades. It is easy for me to feel justified in my weaknesses, my need and my desperation, when I’m with him. Merlin, I just want to be with him.
I wish I could see his eyes.
I think I officially count as a crazy person. I have been standing here, staring at a slumbering Harry for an absolute age, not moving. I’m going to get his other shoe off and then I am going to get the quilt off Ron’s bed for him and then I am going to stop being a creep and get out of here before someone finds me drooling over my ex-boyfriend. Right.
Getting this shoe off is proving to be a bit difficult. I can see why he gave it up as a bad job. It doesn’t help that his feet smell ghastly right now, though I’m sure mine aren’t much better. Aha! Past the heel, now I just pull it up and off. Perfect. I set the shoe down next to its other and straighten back up.
I start. He’s awake. He’s rubbing at his eyes and looking adorably groggy. Shit, I woke him up.
“Hello.” I respond. I’m trying so hard to be nonchalant and act like I haven’t just been caught standing at the foot of my ex-boyfriend’s bed while he sleeps.
“What are you doing here?” he asks with a yawn. He’s stopped rubbing his eyes but is blinking a bit excessively.
“Er…” I was looking for you and now I’m in your old room watching you sleep like a lunatic. Oh, and I just took off your shoe. Yeah. Not sure actually telling him that would go over too well. Shit. “I was just…” I don’t know what to say, except it’s seeming unimportant now because he’s put his glasses on and he’s looking at me in a way I’ve forgotten – although, come to think of it, I think he was looking at me the same way in the Room of Requirement. That feels like a lifetime ago, though. His eyes are scanning me slowly as if he’s reading something—trying to commit it to memory—and I am the page that it’s on, and there’s that light in his eyes that I remember from when we were together. It’s exhilarating. “ I was looking for you,” I finish, more confident. Honestly, what am I so worried about? It’s Harry.
He smiles and it’s a bit smug and I want to laugh. I roll my eyes instead. He obviously sees that because he makes a little snorting noise and his smile grows. “You’re not going to take off with my shoes are you?”
“I thought they’d make an impressive substitute for a dung bomb.”
He sits up fully and stretches to try and see over the end of the bed. “That bad, huh?” We’re much closer now. The butterflies are having a field day in my stomach. “Ginny…” he reaches out as if to touch me but seems to lose his nerve and starts to pull back his hand. I grab it in my own and try and smile reassuringly. Please touch me. I want you to touch me.
He squeezes my hand, and stares at me for a second, clearly trying to make up his mind. Then he’s scooting up to the very edge of the bed -- rather awkwardly, I must say, and I barely contain my amusement. He narrows his eyes at me because he can tell I’m trying not to laugh at him, but he’s smiling at me and he’s still holding my hand and now he’s kneeling just in front of me. “Hi,” I breathe. He squeezes my hand again.
“Hi.” He smiles and then his arms are around me, a bit unsure. Well, none of that. I burry my head against his shoulder and wrap my arms around his middle. He’s feeling bonier than before and I worry about how he’s been eating, but then he pulls me against him and I forget everything else. I’m tucked against his shoulder, and his strong fingers are pressing against the curve of my waist and it is gorgeous. We stay there like that, holding onto each other, as the seconds tick on. His head is pressed against my hair; I am breathing him in. It’s not the best he’s ever smelled, but Merlin I missed it. This probably should feel awkward, him kneeling on the end of his bed and hugging me like this, but it’s not. It’s just right.
His hand comes up and strokes down my hair. Well… tries to. His fingers get a bit caught up in all the tangles. I laugh as he gingerly pulls his hand free, murmuring apologies. In the kerfuffle with my rats’ nests he’s pulled back enough that I can look into his eyes again, but his other hand doesn’t leave the small of my back. “I missed you.” Well, shit. I really didn’t mean to be the first one to say it. It just spilled out.
His newly liberated hand comes up and brushes back some of the strands of hair that have fallen into my face. It’s such a tender gesture, and brave, too, considering his recent experience with the mess that is my hair. “I missed you too.” It’s the way he says it that makes me melt. There’s relief and desperation and all of the things that I am feeling wrapped up in that one little phrase. Merlin, I am such a sap.
I mean, really—in reality—I should be mad at him, shouldn’t I? When some guy breaks up with you, you’re supposed to be mad at him. When some jerk runs off with your brother and your best friend and proceeds to drop off the face of the earth, leaving you with no idea of where he is or what he’s doing or if he’s alive—if any of them are—you should be furious with the wanker. When he then shows up after all of that and proceeds to try and lock you up in some bloody tower like some incompetent, pathetic little princess—which you are not, and how dare he? You should be hexing the bigoted prick from here to Dubai. Or something. And really, when some arse goes faking his own death, shouldn’t that make him dead to you? I mean, it is practically my obligation as a woman: take no nonsense, don’t let men walk all over you like that …and so forth.
Except that Harry isn’t just a run of the mill someone, and, of course, none of it’s really that simple.
Sometimes being angry just isn’t worth it, justified thought it may be. And really, I just can’t muster it up. We’re here, together, like I’ve been desperately wanting for months now, and so many others aren’t. Righteousness just feels petty.
“Ginny?” Oh, right, I spaced out there a bit. My eyes jump back to his. “Are you alright?” He winces. “Sorry, that’s kind of a stupid question…” I shake my head; it’s not stupid.
“To be honest I think I’m the most alright I’ve been in hours.” Maybe a lot longer than that, even.
I have, however, had enough of sandwiching this footboard with him. I pull away just enough to swing my bum over on to his side of the divide and end up sitting next to him, the insides of my knees hugging the top edge of the footboard and my calves hanging out over the end of the bed. Harry’s grinning at my fancy little manoeuvre—much more graceful than his earlier feat, if I do say so myself. He gets down from his kneeling position to sit cross-legged beside me, turning so that we’re face to face. This is better.
“So… no Veela then?” Let’s get this bandage ripped off nice and quickly. He looks confused. I love it when I can catch him off guard. He recovers after a moment though and returns the favour.
“Just the one.”
Just the one? My nerves have just shoved a brick down my throat. He’s been trying to look aloof but I think my worry must have shown through because he breaks the act instantly. “Seeing as she’s your sister-in-law I’m pretty sure she’s well spoken for,” he adds. Right, stupid, he stayed with Bill and Fleur. “Not that I’d be interested anyway,” Harry says.
“Is that so? Not feeling it for Fleur?” I wiggle my eyebrows at him. Harry laughs.
“Definitely not. Although I can’t say I’d be feeling it for any other Veelas either, or… well, anyone else in general, really,” his hand has found mine again and our fingers intertwine. I love holding his hand like this, there’s something so intimate about it. My heart is dancing around my chest; still, I’m going to make him work for it.
“Anyone else but whom?” There’s a flush coming over his cheeks. I wish I blushed like that. Instead I heat up like a boiled lobster. It’s really not pretty. It’s no wonder I used to scare poor Harry so much when I was younger.
“I know I don’t really, I mean, I understand if you’ve… er, moved on, and… but I just,” he exhales in frustration. He’s so flustered and adorable. How could I have moved on from him? “I’ve missed you—so much, and I just… I just want to be with you, and I was hoping that maybe we could—if you want to—we could try again. I know I—“
He didn’t get out any thing past that because I sort-of hijacked his mouth. I couldn’t help it. I just had to kiss him immediately. Merlin, I missed kissing him. He’s recovered from his initial shock admirably and is sliding his mouth against mine in the most delicious way, and even though I’m in a ridiculously awkward position right now with my legs still slung over the footboard, I could just stay like this, right here.
Harry pulls back and rests his forehead against mine. “Is that a yes?” I nod, and it wasn’t the best plan because our heads bump a bit painfully, but he seems unfazed because he just kisses me again, right as I’m gasping out “yes.” My back is quite angry with me for putting it at this angle again. Harry’s little scoot forward earlier looks like ballet in comparison to the appalling lack of grace I display trying to swing my legs over onto the bed mid lip-lock. I kind of kick him and then bump into his nose and well, it’s altogether not pretty. I pull back reluctantly to try and prevent further injury. Harry’s glasses are nearly sideways, I’ve knocked them so out of whack. I snort. Harry starts laughing.
“I am just winning all sorts of lady points today,” I gasp out as I fall back, trying to stop laughing and untangle my limbs.
Harry falls back chuckling beside me, and the mattress bounces pleasantly as his weight registers next to mine.
It’s strange feeling so giddy and lovely while still being so broken and battered and bone-tired. I’m being pulled in so many directions, but I just want to be happy. Harry wants me and he’s here with me and it’s so right. I turn on my side so I’m facing him. He’s already facing me. I can tell he’s been watching me and it makes me shiver with excitement. It’s amazing how much he can make me feel just by looking at me the way he does. I hope I make him feel like that, too, because it’s wonderful.
I kiss him again. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get enough of it. I’m finding it hard, still, to comprehend that he’s really here and he’s whole and he’s not going to have to leave again. Will he? What If there’s something I don’t know about? Something he still has to do? I pull back, suddenly scared. Harry looks puzzled and delightfully rumpled.
“You’re done right? You’re not going to go off again and leave me behind?” I ask, trying not to sound pathetic or petulant (although, if I’m honest, I feel a bit of both).
“I’m not going anywhere,” Harry replies firmly. Then we’re kissing again. Our lips are a bit chapped, and maybe we’re not masters at snogging, but, Merlin, it feels ridiculously good. He’s cradling one side of my face in his hand and his other hand is pressed against the small of my back, holding me to him. His stubble tickles my face. His tongue runs along my lower lip and I open my mouth. I’m getting lost in him. My hands are buried in his hair and trailing down his back, gripping him to me. I want to be closer. Our legs are tangling together and he’s just made this fantastic little noise in the back of his throat. We pull apart to gasp in air and then come together again.
The next time we come up for air, I’m on my back and he’s above me, looking down at me a bit foggy-eyed. His glasses are just a disaster and so I pull them off for him, and stroke the hair out of his eyes. His thumb rubs against my cheek. I pull him down to me. The kiss is slow and deep and I can feel it reverberating in my toes. His weight is pressing down on me and between that and the kiss I am feeling pleasantly breathless.
His warm hand works its way under my shirt and he’s whispering out my name whenever our lips part. I’m feeling hot all over. I can feel his arousal brushing against my upper thigh and it sends a jolt excitement through me. I am losing myself in him.
Suddenly, he grinds his hips down against mine, but then pulls away with a gasp. He turns onto his back beside me, his arm is pressed against mine. I try to catch my breath as I crash back to earth.
“I’m sorry,” he gasps.
“It’s alright,” I answer quietly, still out of breath. And it is, I think, or maybe it’s not. Because it’s right because it’s Harry, and that’s the way it always is with him. But then it’s wrong because I can see the ash on his face and the scrapes on his skin and feel the blood dried on my arms and under my fingernails and there’s that smell of smoke sitting heavily in my nostrils and it’s all wrong. Everything is wrong. And this thing that almost just happened, even though it’s so right because it’s him and me, it won’t fix this wrongness, it won’t help it at all. And doesn’t that kind of make it wrong too? Or maybe it’s just wrong that I want it to. I want to fall into him and for everything to go back to being all right. I don’t want this to be wrong. I don’t want anything between us, anything that is ours, to ever be wrong. Of course, I know that’s crazy, that it’s a pipe dream, but I need it right now. I need our rightness or I think I’m just going to loose it completely.
We stay like that, side by side in silence, for I don’t know how long. I’m trying to recover, to calm down, and I’m feeling the exhaustion that I’ve been keeping at bay for so long creeping up on me. Unexpectedly, Harry breaks our silence.
“I… there’s so much I have to tell you,” he whispers. I nod against his arms. My head feels heavy.
“Mmmm,” I mumble. My eyelids drift shut. I pull them open. None of that. Going to sleep doesn’t seem like a good idea. I’m not sure I can face it yet. Harry shifts a little beside me and I’m losing this battle, I think. I feel his lips against the crown of my head, held there again my hair—which is just completely matted and disgusting, but he doesn’t seem to care.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers. “That I left and if I hurt you and that everything… just, for everything. I’m so sorry.”
I feel absurdly like crying. I haven’t shed a tear all this time and now I feel like crying. And mostly I feel tired, deeply, bone-tired. Harry’s lips are still pressed against my hair. I can feel his breath against my scalp.
“I know,” I whisper into his arm. I roll closer and hope he doesn’t notice the tears running down my cheeks. My face is hot and it stings and my chest feels like someone is standing on it and I just really hate crying. It’s such a crap feeling and I want it to stop. But right now, wanting it to stop just seems to make it worse, and I know there’s no hiding it now because I’m almost starting to hyperventilate and my vision is all blurred up and distorted. Harry hates crying girls. Merlin, stop it. He’s shifting again. “ I’m sorry,” I gasp out pathetically. Now I’m the one apologizing. I’m definitely scaring him off now.
Harry’s arms come around me and pull me against his chest as he turns on his side to face me. “Merlin, Ginny, you don’t have to apologize,” we murmurs. But I’m already feeling the urge to do it again. I hate crying, he hates girls who are crying, and I’m feeling like a hypocrite for ever thinking of Cho Chang as a human hosepipe when clearly I have cornered the market on waterworks now. And I really don’t like Cho bloody Chang, especially after that stunt she tried to pull earlier. As if I couldn’t see right through that, honestly. So feeling like a hypocrite in regards to Cho Chang really isn’t helping.
But then, fuck’s sake, how petty am I to be thinking about that now? I don’t even remember seeing her at the end of the battle. What if she died? What if she died and I’m lying here balling my eyes out and cursing her for making me feel like a hypocrite? I am such a bitch.
Poor Harry, he’s probably thinking I’ve lost it, and he’d be right. I’m trying to get myself under control but it’s not working out very well. And now he’s rubbing my back and being so sweet and it’s just making my stupid body go ‘cry more!’ And I do.
The giddiness and loveliness are gone and have been replaced by this horrible anxious misery. I’ve been holding it in so long and I’m just so exhausted that now it’s all just rushing out of me at once. My eyes are squeezed shut and I’m trying to get it all out of my mind so I can just stop this, but it’s not working. All I can see are the images of Fred’s body, of Tonks being murdered, of that Hufflepuff girl I didn’t even know dying in my arms, of George looking so broken and empty and then clutching that fucking bottle of firewhiskey, and Mum and Percy crying, and Fred’s white sheet floating through the air, and the bodies lined up in the Great Hall, and Harry, dead in Hagrid’s arms. I can’t get them out. Even when I open my eyes I see them. I stare hard at the sheets beneath me, trying to stop thinking about it all, as Harry holds on to me, but they’re white sheets. They’re just like the ones that were draped over the bodies in the Great Hall, just like the one over Fred.
I’ve opened the floodgates, and it’s like every bad feeling, every bad thing from the last several months has just pushed its way to the surface to make itself known. I can’t think enough beyond it anymore to really be ashamed of the fact that I am falling apart on Harry, and it’s probably the last thing he needs, and I may even be screwing everything up. Everything fucking hurts and I just can’t take it anymore.
Except, Harry is being wonderful. He’s holding me and it makes me feel better even as a fresh wave of tears wracks my body. I realize that he’s shaking too, and then realize that it’s because he’s also crying. I wrap my arms around him and try and comfort him the way he’s comforting me. Somehow, the fact that he’s crying too makes me feel calmer. Still, it’s quite a while before I feel even remotely like myself again.
Still sniffling, I try to lighten the mood. “We’re a pair, aren’t we?” It’s a weak attempt, but Harry let’s out a sad little laugh and I feel a bit more in control. All of the sobbing has left me even more exhausted than before and it’s difficult to keep my eyes open. Harry kisses my forehead, and then starts trying to work the quilt out from under us. I get the hint. I sit up, my limbs heavy and unwieldy. “I should let you get some sleep,” I say through a yawn.
“What? No! I mean… stay,” he implores. The blush is back. “I mean, if you want. You don’t… Or I could take one of the other beds, if you want me to…” He wants me to sleep with him. I mean, not like that. Now I’m the one blushing. My tired mind tries to caution me – what if someone catches us? What if my family catches us?
I realize I don’t care. I’m still feeling fragile and I’m too tired to really worry what anyone else thinks. I just want the comfort of his warmth next to me tonight. “No.” I tell him, “stay.” He pulls the quilt free and I lie back, my eyes drifting shut. I feel him taking off my shoes and smile a bit.
Harry lies down next to me and pulls the quilt up over us. I blink my eyes open for a second to see his still tear-stained face looking at me that way that he does. “Goodnight Ginny,” he whispers, and I reply sleepily in kind. I burrow in closer to him, letting myself get lost in him – his warmth and his scent and the comfortable weight of his arm as it settles over me.
He’s here and I’m here, and there are a lot of things that still aren’t right – and maybe they never will be again—but this, at least, is.