The line dividing daylight from darkness crept slowly westward across Europe, bringing dawn to the people of the continent in a predictable, comforting pattern. When it reached the British Isles, the sunlight quickly burned away the light coating of mist covering the southern half of England. Tall trees, lush grasses, and spring-swollen streams were revealed in the vicinity of Ottery St. Catchpole, and the first hint of light crept into the smallest bedroom of a very peculiar house.
Inside that room, two children lay comfortably together as they slept. Their bed was narrow, but they were young and small for their ages, so they did not care or even notice. The boy lay on his back, and the girl's face rested comfortably on his stomach, rising and falling with his breath. Her left arm was tucked securely along his waist beneath his shirt, while his own left hand rested on her delicate shoulder. Her knees were pulled up alongside his leg, and an indistinguishable shape filled the hollow between their bodies.
The room slowly lightened, revealing a handful of pale freckles scattered across the bridge of her nose and a jagged scar on his forehead.
At that moment, the peaceful scene was interrupted by the incessant beeping of the boy's wristwatch.
Harry groaned, raised his head slightly, and fumbled with his watch before silencing the alarm. When the room was quiet once more, he relaxed back onto his pillow and stared at the cracks in the ceiling of Ginny's room. Even one minute more of peace was worth treasuring.
I wish we could have a lie-in sometimes, Ginny said.
Yeah. I can't remember the last time anyone let us sleep until we woke up on our own.
Must've been after Christmas.
Hardly counts, though.
Sighing, Harry reached down and rubbed Ginny's shoulder gently until she also stirred and woke. She especially would have preferred to continue sleeping, but neither of them wanted to risk the nightmares that could develop if they slept while separated. The idea of being apart all day bothered them enough already, and as they woke, they began a continuous battle against their instinct to stay as close together as possible.
They sat up, and Ginny leaned against Harry for a few moments as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Once she felt more-or-less able to function, Harry put on his glasses, stood, and stretched. He still luxuriated in the ability to move freely, and Ginny smiled sleepily up at him as they felt his pleasure.
Even after nine months, they occasionally needed a moment or two to adjust to their senses when they first woke up in the morning. Ginny looked up at Harry and saw herself looking up at him at the same time, while Harry watched himself smile at her in return. After a night's sleep, the odd sensation of lying on a soft, warm bed and standing on a hard, cool floor at the same time was even more bizarre.
They remembered how Harry would be spending his day, and their happiness faded.
It's worth it, right? he asked.
It'd better be. Ginny reached out and squeezed his hand as she rose to her feet. I'll be there.
Here, you mean?
She straightened her slightly-faded blue pyjamas and rolled her eyes at him affectionately. Whatever.
Harry grinned at her, and a moment later he was standing in the middle of the smallest bedroom at number four Privet Drive. Ginny sat at her small desk, pulled her hair out of its loose braid, and began brushing it slowly, letting her eyes remain closed for a few moments longer. Harry stood silently, ignoring the gentle rasp of the brush, and listened for the sounds of anyone else stirring in the house. Reassured that he was the only one awake and, therefore, had not arrived too late, Harry opened the door and walked down the hall to the lavatory.
After showering, he pulled on the least-oversized shirt and trousers he had, combed his unruly hair as well as he could, and then went downstairs to the kitchen. With the dexterity of long practice, Harry started the coffee-maker and began preparing a large breakfast of eggs, sausages, bacon, and toast. Ginny paused for a moment, closing her eyes, and marvelled at Harry's actions.
You make that all seem so easy.
He shrugged. I've had lots of practice. You knew I did all of these things.
Yeah, but … it's different to actually feel it all instead of just remembering it. I don't think I can move the way you are. Everything is so … so fluid, or something.
It's the same way you are on a broom, Gin. This is just something I've done a lot of, same as flying is for you.
Conceding the point, Ginny stumbled down the stairs and dropped into her chair at the kitchen table. At one end, Mr. Weasley sat sipping tea and reading his newspaper. Her mother sat at the other end with her own cup of tea, looking out the window at the first glow of sunrise.
"Good morning," her father said.
"Morning," Ginny said, letting her head fall forward onto her crossed arms. She had no problem thinking clearly with Harry, but she was not yet quite prepared for outside interaction.
"You're up quite early," Mrs. Weasley said quietly.
"Have to make breakfast for the Dursleys," Ginny mumbled to the tabletop.
"Well, I'll start making it for you, then," her mother said.
Harry had long ago learned to cook quickly and efficiently without making a mess. If he dribbled egg on the countertop or let crumbs of toast fall to the floor, he would have to clean it up before he was allowed to eat. As a result, he kept his motions controlled and precise, and the neat array of food on the platters at his elbow grew quickly.
Ginny's amazement shifted to irritation as he worked. Harry no longer really thought about what he was doing, but for her the experience was new. Each motion he made brought forth memories of the past, when he had made a mistake and been punished for it in one way or another. Even the possibility of breaking an egg yolk reminded her of mornings when he had not been allowed to eat at all because he had 'wasted' an egg.
It was a long time ago, Harry said.
That doesn't make it okay! Not in the least!
Yeah, but I can't change it now, can I?
Harry heard the Dursleys clumping about upstairs, and after a few minutes Vernon entered the kitchen, already dressed for a typical weekend day full of television and grumbling. He poured himself a cup of coffee, scowled at Harry, and then collected the newspaper and the milk from the front step.
Hello to you, too, Ginny said darkly in the back of his mind.
Harry watched Uncle Vernon settle into his place, and Ginny opened her eyes so they could watch her father. Both men sat reading a paper, drinking their morning beverage, and waiting for breakfast to be served, but the difference between them was stark. Vernon radiated an aura of irritable contempt, while Mr. Weasley simply looked imperturbably content.
Over the next ten minutes, in a bizarre parallel, the rest of the Dursleys and Weasleys arrived for breakfast. Petunia and Percy were first, followed by the twins. A few minutes later, Dudley sat down at the table, and shortly thereafter Ron took his place at The Burrow.
Petunia said nothing, but her eyes followed Harry closely as he put the last two eggs and slices of toast onto platters and transferred the entire meal to the table. Her sharp gaze flicked from his hands, to the eggs, to the kitchen behind him, and her face never shifted from its tight, suspicious frown.
If Muggles were right about what witches are like, she'd be a perfect one.
Harry stifled a laugh. I'm glad the real thing is you.
Ginny grinned briefly as Harry's humour and affection washed through her, but she noticed that the air around her in The Burrow's kitchen was slightly warmer than it had been. She took a few deep breaths in an attempt to control her temper.
When Dudley had successfully wedged himself into a chair, he immediately served himself four eggs, six rashers of bacon, five sausages, and four slices of toast. Vernon's breakfast was slightly smaller, while Petunia claimed only two eggs. When they had started eating, Harry reached out and claimed a single lukewarm piece of toast for himself.
You will eat more than that, Ginny stated flatly while continuing to fight her irritation.
He shrugged silently. Have to start somewhere.
Molly Weasley was taking a bit longer to make even more food than Harry had, but no one at The Burrow minded. With an absent motion, she opened the window to let cool air into the warm kitchen. Mr. Weasley lifted his head when he heard the window move, and he looked down the table at Ginny with a curious and slightly concerned expression.
Harry finished his toast quickly and reached for a rasher of bacon. As his hand approached the platter, Vernon reached out almost without looking and slapped Harry's hand down onto the tabletop. The beefy man's thick, golden wedding band rapped sharply on Harry's knuckle, and he jerked his hand back to his chest as he swallowed a cry of pain.
"That's for Dudley," Vernon said shortly. "You've had enough."
Ginny yelped and straightened in her chair, also cradling her hand to her chest. Her eyes flew open as adrenaline woke her completely, and she did not even attempt to restrain the heat that immediately filled the room.
Leave! Right now! Just leave!
"Are you … are you alright, dear?" Mrs. Weasley asked.
Ginny . . .
Harry did not bother leaving the kitchen at Privet Drive or even standing up from his chair. As Mr. Weasley opened his mouth to speak, Harry willingly let Ginny pull him to The Burrow.
Trying to ignore Harry's pain and her family's surprised expressions, Ginny picked up his hand and held it gently in both of her own, examining the red mark forming on his knuckle. Incensed, she looked up and met her father's eyes.
"Ginny, what… ?" Mr. Weasley began, rising from his chair.
"He ate one piece of toast! One! And when he reached to get more of what he had to cook for those greedy pigs, that great oaf hit him! He told him he couldn't have any more!"
The older man's eyes shifted to Harry. "Vernon hit you? Where?"
Ginny pushed Harry's hand towards her father as Harry spoke. "He smashed my hand into the table. It only hurt because his ring hit my knuckle."
"That's still hitting you, Harry," Mr. Weasley said firmly, although his voice was quite soft. He crossed the room and tapped his wand against Harry's hand, and the pain faded almost instantly. "Molly, keep some breakfast warm for me, will you?"
She sighed. "Of course."
Mr. Weasley turned back to Ginny and met her eyes. "I want you both to stay here until I get back, alright?"
She nodded. "You're going to talk to him?"
"Yes, Firefly. I said I would, and I meant it."
"Okay. We'll wait, Daddy."
Mr. Weasley patted Ginny on the shoulder and ruffled Harry's hair, and then he stepped out through the kitchen door. A moment later, a soft pop announced his departure. Ginny brushed Harry's knuckles with careful fingertips, and within a few moments they were able to let her anger fade into the background of their minds.