“...and hour by hour, he put off saying the thing that he knew he must say, doing what he knew was right to do, because it was too hard to forgo his best source of comfort.”
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, American Edition, pg. 634
When Neville’s breathing had steadied and Ron’s snores were loud and even, Harry opened the curtains around his bed and pulled on his dressing gown. He stuffed his feet into his slippers and padded as quietly as he could down the winding staircase to the common room.
He stoked the fire before settling onto the couch, staring unseeingly into the blaze, too tired to sleep, too tired to think. He heaved a great sigh and laid the back of his head against the couch. His rage was gone, his anger, his disbelief, leaving him with an aching void in his chest.
He anticipated the footfalls long before he heard them, and then Ginny was sitting at his side, her hand warm and sure in his.
“Hi,” he said, not bothering to disguise the weariness in his voice.
“Hey, Harry,” she responded and he leaned heavily into her. She turned and took him in her arms and he pressed against her fully, seeking her warmth. The emptiness in his chest was replaced by a comforting peacefulness and he sank into it.
“Couldn’t sleep,” he mumbled into her hair.
“I know,” she answered, rubbing his back gently. Harry pulled back and brushed the hair away from her face, marveling at the way the firelight highlighted the red and gold in it. He reached into his pocket and found the locket and clenched it tightly, the cold metal biting into his palm.
“Ginny,” he began, forcing to his mind the words he knew he had to say, the words he was putting off moment by moment.
Ginny shook her head and placed her fingers over his lips.
“Did I ever tell you about the first time I flew?” she said, her eyes smiling. Harry pressed his lips against her fingertips and shook his head. Ginny slid over and patted her leg. Harry came willingly, glad of the reprieve, and rested in her lap.
“I was six,” she began, and Harry closed his eyes, letting her voice wash over him, the steady hum of her. Her fingers were in his hair, moving, and he had to grin when she paused to untangle a knot she found there.
“Mum must’ve beaten Charlie senseless. I always reckoned that’s why he ended up working with dragons. Mum beat all the sense out of him. But I couldn’t stop thinking about being on that broom. I’d dream about it at night, the wind in my hair, the ground getting farther and farther away. And then closer and closer,” she said with a laugh.
Harry moved his head slightly, burrowing further into her lap.
“And that was when I started breaking into the broom shed. It was a year later I realized Dad knew what I was on about, because he started leaving the door unlocked for me. Flying, it was the most natural thing in the world. Like it was what I was born for, why I got up in the morning. It just made sense to me.”
Her hands were gentle on him and as she traced her fingertip over the length of his scar, he closed his eyes and dropped off to sleep.
She was perched at the top of the staircase, waiting for the footfalls she knew would come. There was shuffling on the stairs, then the clank of iron, and she knew he was stoking the fire. She heard him drop heavily onto the couch and sigh deeply. Her heart ached at the sound.
He didn’t move when she approached, and she knew he was waiting for her. She took the seat beside him and pressed her hand into his much larger, rougher one.
“Hi,” he said wearily.
“Hey, Harry,” she answered, and he leaned against her. She wrapped her arms around him, breathing deeply as he pressed against her. She could feel everywhere that he was touching her, and she struggled to commit the feel of him to memory.
“Couldn’t sleep,” he mumbled, and her heart gave another painful thud.
“I know,” she said, moving her hands on his back the way her mother did after her first year, when she was having those horrible nightmares. She pushed the thought from her mind.
Harry pulled away and touched her hair, and Ginny felt him searching her for something. His eyes blazed at her and he tensed beneath her palms.
“Ginny,” he began, but she raised her hand to his lips and shook her head.
“Did I ever tell you about the first time I flew?” she asked, hoping she betrayed none of the panic rising within her. Harry pressed his lips against her, and her fingertips burned with his touch. He shook his head and she slid along the couch, patting her leg.
Harry laid his head in her lap and she clenched her fists tightly before relaxing them and letting them drift into his black hair.
“I was six,” she began, and Harry closed his eyes. “It was Charlie’s fourth year and he was home from school for the summer. I snuck into his room and found his Quidditch robes. I was trying to get them on when he came in and found me. He laughed and pulled them off me, and asked if I was going to play Seeker for Gryffindor when I grew up. I told him of course I was, and he said that I’d need to learn to fly properly. He took me out back and put me on his broom. I reckon I must’ve been ten feet up when Mum came tearing out of the kitchen. She started yelling at Charlie, and I looked down and just fell. He caught me of course, but Mum was livid.”
She continued talking, watching as Harry moved slightly in her lap, the tension slipping from his face, the worry easing from his brow.
“...it was the most natural thing in the world. Like it was what I was born for, why I got up in the morning. It just made sense to me.”
She ran a fingertip over his scar and felt his body relax completely, and she knew he was asleep.
The firelight was flickering across his face and Ginny raised her eyes, watching as it grew dimmer and dimmer. At the moment before the flames became embers, she pointed her wand at the hearth, and the fire roared back to life.