By the time Harry, Ron and Hermione made their way down from the headmaster’s office, the sun had fully risen. As the trio approached the Great Hall a variety of sounds and voices could be heard. Harry stopped a few feet from the double doors, not completely sure he wanted to go in. He didn’t think he could take one more “Thank you” from a well-meaning witch or wizard. He wasn’t ready to look upon the injured, and he didn’t have the energy to shake hands with the survivors. Most of all, he couldn’t bear to see the look of grief on Mrs. Weasley’s face as she sat, unmoving, next to Fred’s body.
What he really wanted was to go up to Gryffindor tower, curl up in his old bed and sleep until the final battle and the deaths of Fred, Tonks, Lupin and countless others were nothing but a distant memory. Lost in his own thoughts and exhausted beyond measure, Harry barely heard Ron calling his name.
“Harry? Are you coming, mate?” Ron asked.
“Oh, uh, well I-” Harry stammered running a hand through his messy hair.
“You know Mum will be worried if you disappear,” Ron interrupted.
“She’ll want the whole family close for awhile I expect.” Turning, he grasped Hermione’s hand, gave it a gentle squeeze and opened the door to the Great Hall, gesturing for Harry to go in ahead of them.
Taking a deep breath, Harry entered the Great Hall and began making his way to where the Weasleys were gathered around Fred’s body. His steps faltered as he observed their grief. Mr. Weasley was holding his weeping wife while Bill clung desperately to Fleur. Charlie and Percy stood with their arms around one another as silent tears rolled down their faces. George, however, was not crying. He was sitting next to his twin’s head staring at the floor. Even though there were no tears, Harry could see the agony in his eyes. Ron had gone over to him immediately, knelt down and wrapped his arms around him, causing George to finally break down. All of a sudden, Harry felt very out of place. Just as he turned to leave, however, he was swept up into a bone crushing hug by Mrs. Weasley.
“Oh, Harry! I’m so glad you’re alright. I don’t know what I would have done if I had lost another one of my children.” She sobbed, pulling back and cupping his face in both hands.
“I’m fine, Mrs. Weasley, really,” Harry replied. To his horror, Mrs. Weasley wrapped her arms around him again and began weeping into his shoulder. He was at a loss, and his heart was breaking for this woman who had been like a mother to him for so long. Overcome with guilt, he pulled away from her.
“I’m so sorry Mrs. Weasley. If I had just…if I hadn’t…” He cried brokenly, unable to meet her eyes. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I never meant for Fred-”
“Now you listen here, young man, Fred’s death was not your fault! There is nothing for you to be sorry for. Do you understand?”
Harry shook his head and allowed himself to be pulled back into her motherly embrace. “Thank you,” he heard himself say. “Thank you for everything.”
“No worries, dear,” came her soft reply. “Family takes care of one another, and you are just as much my son as any of the other boys. Arthur and I love you, Harry, just like one of our own.”
At that moment, Arthur came up behind his wife, rested his hands on her shoulders and smiled at Harry. “Alright, Harry? Has Poppy had a chance to look you over?”
With a nervous glance at Mrs. Weasley he answered, “I’m fine, Mr. Weasley.”
It was evident that Molly Weasley was not convinced, but just as she was about to launch into full mother mode, Arthur Weasleycame to Harry’s rescue.
“Right then,” he called, saving Harry from dealing with Mrs. Weasley, however well-meaning she may be. “McGonagall has informed me that we can use Gryffindor tower to get some sleep. Let’s all turn in and we can have a family meeting after we’ve all rested. Turning, he wrapped an arm around his wife and began walking from the Great Hall, followed by Harry, Hermione and the rest of the Weasleys.
Looking around as they made their way to Gryffindor tower, Harry noticed Ginny was not with them, and that she hadn’t been in the Great hall either. Catching up with Charlie, he whispered, “Where’s Ginny?”
“She was exhausted, so Mum had Madam Pomfrey patch her up and then sent her up to bed.”
“Patch her up? Was she hurt?” Harry asked his face full of worry. She was supposed to stay safe, not get herself injured.
Before he could get his answer, they had reached the portrait of the Fat Lady who, without a word, swung open and allowed them to enter. The Gryffindor common room was completely unscathed; someone had even lit a fire in the fireplace. The big, red, fluffy armchair that he and Ginny had cuddled in last year sat empty by the fire and Harry was tempted to fall into it and sleep for days. Instead, however, he quietly moved away from the Weasleys, who were discussing who would sleep where, and made his way up the stairs to the boys’ dorm. Two things were on his mind as he approached his old dorm, sleep and Ginny, and as much as he would like to reverse the order in which they came, he was dead on his feet. Sleep would have to be first today, but he promised himself that as soon as he awoke he would find Ginny. He would find her and tell her how sorry he was for leaving her and how he had thought of her every day since he left.
When hewalked into the dorm, however, he was greeted with a sight he had not quite expected to see. There, in his bed, was the sleeping form of Ginny Weasley. Stopping at the foot of the bed, he stared at her for what seemed like hours. She was curled on her side, her bright red hair fanned out across the pillow and her full lips slightly parted. There was a small bruise under her left eye, and a tiny scratch on her cheek, but other than that she appeared to be unhurt. Many moments passed before the shock of finding Ginny in his bed abated, and he reached out and gently touched her shoulder.
“Ginny,” he called quietly. She groaned slightly and rolled to her back, but didn’t wake up. “Ginny?” he tried a little louder.
Her eyes fluttered open, “Harry?”
“It’s me, Gin,” he answered. “What are you doing up here? Not that I mind, but…”
“I came up here to see you, but you weren’t here, so I waited. I just wanted to rest my eyes, but I must have fallen asleep. ” She glanced out the window. “What time is it?”
“Late morning, I guess. Are you OK?” He wasn’t sure what he would do if she said no.
“I’m fine, really. I missed you so much, Harry,” she whispered as tears formed in her eyes. The words were so soft, that Harry wasn’t even sure she had spoken. He took a deep breath and reached out to take her hand in his.
“I missed you too, Gin.”
They smiled at each other and for a moment remained still as they stared into each other’s eyes. Then, before Harry could process the fact that Ginny had moved, she was wrapped up in his arms. Harry had both arms wound tightly around Ginny’s waist and she was clinging to his neck as if he were her only life raft on a sea full of angry waves. Both were crying, but neither seemed to notice, they were too occupied with each other and neither was showing signs of letting go.
Finally, Harry pulled back just enough so that he could see Ginny’s face. She was smiling. Even with the tears, bruises and puffy eyes, she was still the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. There was so much he needed to tell her, so much he wanted her to know. The sudden desire to share every dangerous detail ofhis journey, to tell her about every lonely moment he hadspent looking at the Marauder’s Map, to reveal every fear he had been harboring for the last ten months, surprised him. It was not like him to want to be so open and forthcoming. Harry kept to himself, he was the king of bottled up feelings and unexpressed emotion. Looking at Ginny, however, with her tear-stained face, puffy but beautiful rich chocolate eyes, and brilliant smile, he knew that he would give her anything. She, of all people, deserved to know everything from beginning to end, and he would tell her. He would tell her anything she wanted to know as long as she kept smiling at him the way she was at that moment. Now, however, was not the time for lengthy discussions, perhaps tomorrow they would talk. Smiling back at her, he gently wiped away her tears with his thumbs. Leaning in, he placed a soft kiss on her forehead, each cheek, and then, finally, her lips. Pressing his forehead against hers, he whispered, “There is so much I want to tell you, Ginny, so much you deserve to know. I want to tell you everything; I need you to understand, and I just … can’t …. right now, that is. Please, just give me today and tomorrow; I promise we will talk for as long as you want. I’ll answer any question you ask me, I swear. Just-”
Placing her hand over Harry’s mouth, she interrupted him. “Shhh… It’s OK, Harry. I understand. I do want to know everything, just not today. We are both exhausted and with Fred-” her voice faltered. “I’ll give you all the time you need. Just the fact that you want to tell me says so much, but I won’t push you. For now, let’s just get some rest and we can talk later. OK?”
“Ok,” Harry was relieved she understood. Then again, Ginny always understood.
Ginny scooted to the far side of the bed, pulled back the duvet and patted the bed with her hand. “Come on then, in you get.”
Wide eyed, Harry stared at her. “You… want me… I mean… you want me to sleep in this bed, with you?”
“It’s only to sleep, Harry. I could go back to my room, but…” She blushed scarlet and looked away.
“What? You can tell me Ginny.”
“Imscaredtobealone,” she mumbled, still not looking at him.
“Huh? I didn’t catch that.”
She took a deep breath, raised her head and looked into his emerald eyes. “I said I’m scared to be alone. I was hoping I could stay here with you.”
Without another word, Harry climbed under the covers andstretched out his arm to Ginny. Smiling gratefully at him she laid down, snuggled close to his side and closed her eyes.
“No reason to be afraid, Ginny,” Harry whispered sleepily. “You’re safe. I’ll always protect you.”
Ginny cuddled even closer to Harry, draped an arm over his stomach and kissed his jaw. “Goodnight, Harry.”
“Goodnight,” he replied pressing his lips to the top of her head. No sooner had the words left his mouth, he heard soft snores coming from Ginny. Smiling to himself, Harry Potter fell into the most peaceful sleep of his life.