A short post-DH story, 2420 words.
Genre: drama, angsty, canon-compliant
Disclaimer: These characters and this magical world are not my property but J.K. Rowling's, so all thanks and credit go to her.
Many thanks to my beta, the lovely Belegcuthalion on Live Journal, who does not post here, and who herself is currently writing a terrific post-DH Snape story called Wolf's Moon .
Summary: On the day after the Battle of Hogwarts, an exhausted Harry and a devastated Ginny attempt to find comfort in each other.
3rd May, 1998
Harry groaned as he fought his way out of sleep. His brain felt like lead. He could hear a thrush singing somewhere. The piercingly sweet notes floated through the topmost window of the boys’ dormitory in Gryffindor Tower. With an effort, he opened his eyes.
Ginny was sitting very still in an armchair beside his bed.
He blinked and sat up groggily, fumbling for his glasses on the bedside table.
“Ginny,” he croaked.
Her face was white and set. Her jeans were ripped beneath her robe and her tee-shirt was grubby and stained with a few rusty spots.
The rigid expression on her face, and those rust-red stains on the once pristine cotton fabric of her tee-shirt, made Harry’s stomach lurch. She looked so much older, somehow.
“Ginny,” he said again, very softly.
She sighed, and shifted in her armchair.
“You’ve slept for hours,” she said. “It’s nearly five o’clock. They’re serving dinner in the Great Hall at six-thirty.”
Her voice sounded brittle. Harry reached out for her.
Their eyes locked: Harry’s, searching and peridot-green; Ginny’s, too-brilliant brown.
Suddenly she launched herself out of the armchair and onto the bed, folding herself tightly against him. His arms went around her at once, pulling her close as she curled up close against his body.
“Harry …” she whispered, her breath a warm huff against his neck, half sorrow and half overwhelming relief.
He rocked her gently, not thinking of anything except how good it felt to have Ginny in his arms, after months of separation … months of gruelling anxiety … months of preparing to meet Voldemort. Which he had. Hours and hours ago. It felt like a lifetime ago. It felt as if it had happened to someone else. Now he couldn’t think of anything except how petite Ginny was as she snuggled against him, her head buried against his chest, how slender and fragile she felt, and how sweet her hair smelled ... fiery waves, spread out over her back, a vivid mane, tickling his nose. He dipped his head to breathe in the flower-fragrance of the tawny tendrils, his body absorbing her warmth. She responded by pressing herself even tighter against him. His whole world consisted of Ginny. There was no war. No death. Only the song-thrush serenading a May evening, and the scent of lilac down in the courtyard … and her.
Then he felt tiny drops like dew on his shirt. She was weeping silently.
“Oh, Ginny …”
She looked up at him, her face wet.
“I haven’t slept,” she said. “Or had a shower. Look at me, I’m filthy. Mum wants me to freshen up before dinner.”
She sniffed, wiping her nose and fumbling clumsily in her jeans pocket for a tissue.
“We’ve been working. All afternoon. Clearing things up. Laying the dead out to rest.”
Her voice cracked, but she kept her composure and gave Harry a watery smile.
“Don’t look like that.”
“Oh, God, Ginny … I’m so sorry … so, so sorry …”
She shook her head. Her hair swept over his face in a russet waterfall.
“Don’t. There’s nothing you can say. I don’t expect you to. You did all you could. You’ve done so much.”
“Not more than any of you.”
Ginny’s head snapped up.
“Don’t give me that,” she said belligerently. “You beat You-Know-Who. You cast some kind of protective charm or power or something over everybody who was fighting for you … we saw it, Harry. You saved us all. You’re everyone’s hero.”
“I don’t want to be,” he said. “I never asked to be,” and then winced inwardly at how foolish this sounded.
“Yeah, well, you are,” she retorted. “So tough luck.”
He couldn’t help choking back a laugh at this, it was so very Ginny-ish. She slumped back into his arms, her sudden fierceness all spent, and he realised how exhausted she was. Tenderly he stroked her hair, with soothing, rhythmic movements.
After a while she spoke again, voice muffled against his chest: “So. All that stuff about Snape and your mum.”
He stiffened suddenly, caught her by the shoulders. “Oh God, Snape - he’s not still in the Shrieking Shack, is he? Kingsley has to tell the Ministry – did they – ”
“It’s okay, relax,” Ginny said tiredly. “Dad and some of the Order members went to get him. They brought him back. He’s lying with the others who fought for our side. They’re all in a chamber off the Great Hall.”
Harry let out a long breath. “Good. It would have been horrible if any Death Eaters had found him – Merlin only knows what they would have done with his ... his body, once they knew he’d been working against Voldemort –”
“You’re right,” Ginny said. “Nobody would want that. Even though he was horrible to you. Don’t get me wrong, Harry, I believe what you said about him – we all do – even the Malfoys looked like they believed it. But he was horrible to you.”
“Yeah, well,” said Harry. He didn’t feel capable of discussing the revelations of Severus Snape at any length. Not just yet. “In many ways, he was. And yet he wasn’t. It’s complicated, Ginny. I’ll explain it all to you, I promise. When – I feel able to.”
“It’s okay,” said Ginny. “Like I said – I believe you.”
She nestled back against him.
“Him and your mum, though,” she mumbled. “That’s weird.”
Harry snorted: a barking sort of laugh. “Yeah,” he said. “No kidding.”
“You know, I ought to have guessed something,” Ginny said dispassionately. “About Snape not being quite what he seemed, I mean. When he caught Neville, Luna and me trying to nick the sword of Gryffindor, we expected him to turn the Carrows on us … they’d already tortured Mike …” She shuddered. “But all he did was send us on detention with Hagrid in the Forest. Neville thought that was really strange, not much of a punishment. He joked about Snape losing his grip. I was too wound up to take much notice of what Nev was saying, I was just glad at the time that we’d got off so lightly. But, there you go … Snape was really our protector, after all.”
“Yes,” Harry murmured. “Yes, he was. He was mine, too.”
His arms tightened around her.
Just as I want to be to you, he thought. I want to be your protector.
She felt so small, slim and fragile.
He had saved the world, what he knew of it - but he hadn’t been able to prevent Ginny’s brother from dying. They were just two teenagers, hugging on a bed, with the whole universe outside … a universe full of birdsong, but also vibrating with loss.
“I’m so sorry about Fred,” Harry whispered.
Ginny said nothing. He could feel tremors rippling through her body, and his own tears were not far away, prickling at the back of his eyes.
He muttered, “Don’t leave me.”
At once his thoughts tumbled wildly and he cursed himself: what a selfish thing to say when he had abandoned her for months, not allowing her to come on the dangerous Horcrux hunt and barely speaking to her during the Battle of Hogwarts. He had no right to demand anything of her, especially as her own brother had been killed for fighting on his side. But her arms tightened round him fiercely in response.
“I, leave you?” she choked. “Leave you? Harry, don’t you dare leave me. Not again. Not ever again.”
Her voice gave out; she dissolved into tears and suddenly she was weeping, crying harder than anyone Harry had ever seen, not even Cho after Cedric’s murder (his thoughts gave a brief, guilty twinge at that) – crying in huge, gulping sobs and he could think of nothing else but Ginny, sobbing in his arms for her dead brother and not wanting Harry to leave her, ever again. He held and rocked her as she cried. It felt right. It was all he could offer, but it felt right.
They lay like that for a long time, Ginny’s sobs eventually subsiding. He dropped tender kisses onto her hair. She reached up her hand, stroked his cheek.
“I never stopped thinking of you while you were away, Harry. Wondering how you were. I was so scared for you. And Ron. And Hermione.”
“So was I,” he murmured. “Scared for you, I mean. I used to watch out for you on the Marauders’ Map.”
Ginny gave a watery laugh, somewhere between a hiccup and a sob. “Your dad's magical map? Harry, you prat, we could have done with that here! Having the Map would have helped us no end this past year, stuck at Hogwarts under those prowling Carrows.”
She giggled shakily.
“We probably could have succeeded in nicking the sword, because we’d have been able to track Snape’s movements.”
“What were you going to do with it?”
“I don’t think we’d got that far in our planning, to be honest. I suppose we’d have tried to get it to you … Merlin knows how.”
“It was a really brave thing to try to do,” Harry said gently. “I’m proud of you.”
He paused. “Do you realise, Ginny – we did get the sword –”
“You had the sword? I don’t understand – it came to Neville when he needed it – you mean, you had it before?”
“Yes,” said Harry. “I found it in the Forest of Dean. Snape sent it to me.”
“He must have Apparated into the Forest. It must have taken him hours to track us down. I didn’t see him, I only saw what he sent to lead me to the sword. His Patronus. A doe. It was beautiful, actually. The same as my mother’s.”
“That’s what you said to You-Know-Who,” Ginny said wonderingly. “That Snape had the same Patronus as your mum. Well, I don’t suppose any plan of ours could have beaten what Snape conjured up. He was one step ahead of us then.”
“When all’s said and done, he was a pretty clever bloke,” Harry said.
He stared out of the window, over Ginny’s head, into the soft, silver evening.
“And a brave one,” he said quietly.
Ginny sighed. “I suppose so,” she said. “I can’t really work it all out right now. I can’t think of – anything, much.”
He kissed her.
“You don’t have to,” he said. “I’m here for you. I’ll always be here for you – I promise.”
“That’s a big promise,” Ginny mumbled, but she kissed him back anyway.
The clock in the courtyard struck six. Ginny roused herself from Harry’s arms.
“I need a shower. I need to be presentable at dinner. I look a right mess.”
“You look beautiful.”
She smiled wanly.
“Yeah, I know.”
He took her hand, very gently, and pressed his lips to it. Ginny didn’t laugh, or tease him in response, as she might have done once upon a time. When he looked up, her smile had gone and the expression in her eyes was one Harry had not seen before: he’d recognised it in others, but never in her: it was a sorrow beyond measure. He realised, with a chill, that Ginny would be able to see Thestrals now. He leaned forward and kissed her cheek. It felt as silky as a petal.
“I’ll wait for you,” he said, “outside the portrait hole.”
She nodded, rising gracefully, and then she left.
All was silent in the corridors. Harry paced a little outside the portrait hole. The portrait of the Fat Lady was empty. All the portraits were empty, in fact: clearly all their occupants were still gathered down in the Great Hall; Harry imagined them all watching the day’s events in a ceaseless buzz. He could see the signs of battle everywhere: scorch marks from curses along the walls, chairs and desks and furniture flung down the staircases, crumbling statues … Harry thought of the gaping hole in the battlements when the air had exploded and he had heard Ron, George and Percy screaming in an agony of loss. His heart twisted at the memory.
He had not seen Mr and Mrs Weasley for hours. From what Ginny had said, her grieving parents – like herself – had busied themselves all afternoon, helping with the clean-up operations. Perhaps that was the only way they’d been able to cope with the first raw shock, the jagged gap that Fred’s death had left in their lives. While he, the hero, had been allowed the luxury of sleep.
He clenched his fists. Well, not any more. He would no longer rest at their expense, or anybody else’s.
At the sound of movement behind him, he spun round. There, clambering as elegantly as she could through the portrait hole, parting the crimson-and-gold curtains of Gryffindor as she did so, was Ginny.
She had found a clean school robe and a cleaner pair of jeans. Her long, auburn hair, still damp from the shower, lay in gleaming strands over her shoulders. She was still pale, her clear brown eyes were still sorrowful, yet the sad corners of her mouth lifted themselves into a smile.
“Hello again, you,” she said.
“You look gorgeous,” said Harry.
“You’re daft, Harry Potter. Daft as a brush.”
She came to him and he pulled her close. They stood like that for a minute, gently swaying together.
“You smell nice,” he murmured.
She did: of jasmine and honey.
“One of Hermione’s Muggle shower gels,” she whispered into his neck. “She left me a whole load of them, enough to last the school year.”
Downstairs, a bell chimed the half-hour.
Ginny’s face was very serious.
“Are we – together, now?”
“Do you have to ask?” he murmured.
“It’s been a hell of a year,” said Ginny. “Yes, Harry, I had to ask.”
He bent his head and kissed her. She responded at once, her mouth soft against his, but neither of them deepened the kiss any further, only brushed their lips against each other’s in a yearning, wistful dance.
There was enough time in the world for deep kisses.
First, however, they had to rebuild their world.
And before they could do that, they had to mourn.
Harry took Ginny’s hand in his, and together, hand in hand, they slowly descended the staircase to the Great Hall, down to where the people who loved them were waiting.
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Last edited by Pearl_Took; July 20th, 2010 at 3:04 pm.
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