A/N:This fic was set into motion while having a random discussion with dear seanmontgomery, in which a plot bunny took a nibble and I had no choice but to feed it. With some encouragement and, well… nagging, by pooh28me over at LJ, I completed it. Major, major thanks to my betas: The Queen herself, htbthomas and the most knowledgeable Sherylyn. Without the involvement of these people, you would have no fluff. My thanks to them, and to all of you for taking a gander at the story.
The din from the Great Hall began to wane as Harry mounted the stairs, wending his way towards Gryffindor Tower. He had no idea in what state he would find his old dormitory; he just hoped he might find some place he would actually be able to lie down for awhile. Sleep. When was the last time he'd truly rested?
His body protesting the further he tramped, Harry felt his legs begin to tremble and his stomach angrily remind him of its unfortunate emptiness. He vaguely realized he was filthy; even beneath his torn clothing, he was covered in sweat and dust and dirt. It was difficult to prioritize which of these biological needs should be assuaged and which could be ignored for now.
Feeling himself pant slightly for breath, he approached the familiar portrait of the Fat Lady who, surprisingly enough, was rather difficult to find amidst the gaggle of visiting witches, wizards, and beasts from other paintings that had swarmed to hear stories and celebrate the survival of the castle.
"Er…" Harry swallowed, coming to a halt before the portrait as all eyes within turned towards him. He could see that the portal into the tower was not entirely closed, but he still did not know the password. He arched a wry eyebrow and gazed up at the Lady. "I have no idea," he admitted.
"I thought not," the Fat Lady replied loftily, brushing at an imaginary smudge on her pink silk before suddenly smiling genially at Harry. "Oh, come now, dear boy, did you think I would hold you to it? You? Not on this day! In you go, in you go, just this once…quickly now."
"Thanks," Harry murmured, stumbling through to the common room and closing the door securely behind him.
The unusual silence of the room greeted him, and Harry did his best not to feel its weight. Tables and chairs were overturned; dust and rubble fragments littered the floor. The typical fire that burned, warm and welcoming in the grate, had been extinguished. All but one of the stained-glass windows had been shattered, their colorful fragments sprinkling the carpet and sills, leaving the room open to the dewy breeze. His feet crunched upon crushed mortar and stone as he mounted the stairs for the dormitory and he found he had to reach towards the wall to aid his progress. If not for the fact that he was certain noisy stragglers would eventually find their way back, he might have dropped on the sofa right there in the common room.
When at last he reached the dormitory, he found it in better condition than he had expected. A few weary flicks of his wand sent broken glass back into place, bedcovers and curtains to their rightful spots, and personal possessions to their owners' beds. With a grateful twinge, he noticed the bed he had occupied the previous six years remained empty; no one had laid claim to it this year.
As Harry lowered himself to the mattress, the nostalgia of the room swiftly descended upon him, and the knot of his insides began to quake. Leaping to his feet in some absurd attempt to keep the inexorable emotions at bay, he crossed to the window he had once managed to wedge his lanky pre-teen body into. Gripping the stone ledge as he looked out upon the sunrise-lit grounds, he felt his breath quicken and his eyes sting with the tears he'd denied downstairs, grief crashing into him with astonishing force.
Bowing his head against the onslaught, he finally decided it was best to get on with it and let the images come. Following their visit to the headmaster's office, he had willed himself back into the Great Hall with Ron and Hermione, despite his body's screams against it. Respects had to be paid before he could so unceremoniously disappear. He knew no one would have begrudged him the immediate reprieve, but, as Dumbledore had once counseled him what seemed like eons ago, it was best to face things head on and admit their reality. Delaying such would only magnify the pain when the time finally did rear its ugly head.
Images flashed, dark and unbidden, from his mind. With forced formality he had steeled himself and walked before each of the fallen, thankful when few paid him much heed. But now that hollow and detached feeling he'd borne as he stared at the bodies, committing each sacrifice to memory, was crumbling away. In its ruin he felt overwhelming despair…
Classmates… friends… their numbers were thankfully smaller than what could have been and yet Harry knew that would do little to lessen their families' grief. Some of them he was ashamed to admit he did not even know. They had stood together, unified. Dumbledore's wish. Too young to fight; too foolish to back down. What if he'd been faster in his quest? Couldn't he have prevented some of this?
He shook his head bitterly, refusing to swipe at the hot tears that flowed down his cheeks. Remus and Tonks… little Teddy, who would now grow up as he had, losing his parents in the war against Voldemort… No, he reminded himself adamantly, sobbing against the back of the hand he suddenly pressed against his mouth… Teddy would not grow up suffering as Harry had. He would not be shunned. He would be surrounded by those who loved him. It was the only vow Harry felt capable of making at the moment.
Dobby… Harry's stomach twisted queasily and he squeezed his eyes shut. He'd have been tortured and murdered had the house-elf not bravely entered the domain of his former enslavers. Dobby had made the ultimate of sacrifices. Even in the end, the little elf had bestowed upon him nothing but reverence and the highest of honors.
His mind had only just traveled to the sight of Fred Weasley, looking nothing more than asleep, as if he would suddenly leap to his feet expecting applause for his latest masterpiece of a prank, when the tears came in earnest and Harry slowly sank to the stone sill, burying his face in his hands and weeping openly. He knew the family would harbor no ill feelings against him and that they would make their peace with it. He wondered if he'd ever be able to, himself — he looked to them as a surrogate family — how could he ever feel blameless in their presence again?
Thinking of Fred only brought the additional heartache of Ginny and the tumult of unresolved feelings that dwelling on her wrought. It could have been her lying there, dead… the thought stirred something terrible inside, threatening to engulf him.
The tentative voice hushed his sobs, and swallowing, Harry slowly lifted his red-rimmed eyes towards the door. He blinked. Ginny stood there, her own pale face smudged with dirt amidst her freckles, her scarlet hair disheveled, watching him with an expression of such wariness that Harry was at a loss for what to say. She straightened a bit, but her eyes did not waver. She was beautiful.
"Ginny," he breathed.
Abruptly, Harry strode across the room and, taking her face between his hands, he cast any and all pretense aside. His mouth crushed against hers with reckless abandon and he felt her arms wind around his neck, pulling them impossibly closer. Gathering her in his arms and groping his way up her back, his hands found her thick hair, gently easing her head to the side, deepening their kiss. Her mouth opened to his at his very wish and he thought he just might cry out with the sheer pleasure of kissing her like this — in every way he never thought possible; in every way he'd thought lost as he'd faced his death mere hours earlier.
Her hands tangled in the hair at the nape of his neck, eliciting a soft groan from his throat while he trailed kisses down her neck and back again, his head reeling. He was keenly aware of her curves pressed against him, driven by raw and unbalanced emotion. Little by little, mutual fervor sated for the moment, their kisses grew lazy and punctuated with soft gasps for breath, but still they clung to one another. He felt her smile against his mouth and he chuckled weakly.
"And to think, I almost let the Fat Lady turn me away," Ginny murmured, their foreheads resting together.
"Oh?" Harry questioned breathlessly, leaning more heavily into her. The feeling of her body against his was nothing short of amazing, and the buzzing in his head only seemed to intensify.
She planted a feathery kiss at the corner of his mouth. "Mm-hmm. Seemed to think I would disturb you, but I reminded her there are quite a lot of us hankering for a place to kip—Harry!" Ginny broke off suddenly as his weight shifted precariously against her.
Fumbling for her wand, she managed to grunt out, "Accio!" — a golden-striped pouf skidded noisily across the floor towards them and dutifully halted behind Harry's legs.
"Are you all right?"
He let her guide him to a sitting position on the chair, nodding reassuringly. "Yeah, I'm okay," he replied giddily. "I'm just… a little tired."
He did not resist when her finger lifted his chin and she reached out to brush the back of her fingers against his bruised cheekbone, searching his face. Harry vaguely wondered if he looked as dreadfully peaked as he felt. "You're exhausted," Ginny murmured reproachfully.
"Mm." His stomach then took the opportune moment to snarl furiously, causing him an uncomfortable grimace. "And hungry," he admitted ruefully, glancing accusingly at his body.
Ginny nodded knowingly. Harry had not joined in the meal being served downstairs; of course she would have noticed. Surely she had not come up just to check on him — although, the thought made him feel oddly warm inside.
"Would you like me to go down and see what I can nick?" Ginny was asking him. "There should still be some pudding, at the very least…"
Harry rubbed at his eyes and sat up a bit straighter. "Nah… Kreacher—"
With an unexpected CRACK! the house-elf appeared on the rug before them. Harry was momentarily speechless, not realizing he had actually summoned the elf. Kreacher blinked and looked about.
"Ah, Master Harry," he said, bowing low.
"I'm sorry, Kreacher," Harry mumbled awkwardly. "I hate to disturb you… I was wondering if I might trouble you for something to eat—"
The elf appeared bolstered and rose proudly to his full height. "But of course. Young master must be famished! What can Kreacher bring?"
Harry managed a weary smile and waved his hand dismissively. "Whatever is left over, really… just a little something. A sandwich. Anything."
"Very well. Kreacher shall return."
With another CRACK! the elf was gone. Harry felt his posture slump. He would have liked nothing better than to crawl into the empty four-poster, but he knew his hunger would gnaw at him and prevent him from resting properly. His eyes fell upon the shambles of his robes and he sighed. Then there was the grime.
"What is it, Harry?" Ginny asked gently, leaning against the post of his bed.
He looked up at her through bleary eyes. "I feel pretty disgusting."
A smirk lit up her face. "I have an idea," she offered after a moment, receiving a thoroughly confused look from him. Pushing away from the bedpost, she beckoned him with a wave of her hand. "C'mon."
Harry wasn't so convinced. "I dunno, Ginny…"
"Pish-posh, Potter, come on."
She took hold of his arm and threw it over her petite shoulder, pulling him to his feet. He rewarded her with a beleaguered whine, but allowed her to guide him, supported, down the stairs and into the still-empty common room where they slipped back through the portrait hole. The Fat Lady screeched her admonition as they disappeared down the corridor, threatening various maladies upon their return for treating her like a revolving door.
Harry had no idea what Ginny was up to, but the feeling of her arm around his middle and the thrill of going anywhere alone with her piqued his interest. He was beginning to feel dizzy again, however, as they made their way through the hallway on the fifth floor. They passed the crumpled statue of Boris the Bewildered and Ginny whispered, "Mountain spring." When the door to the coveted prefect's bathroom opened in front of them, he felt more than a little puzzled. She simply grinned triumphantly.
"Ginny, what are you playing at? How did you—"
"Shh," she hushed him, pulling him inside and shutting the door. "Always underestimating me, people are. They forget who my brothers are—"
Her voice caught and she paused, her hand still on the frame. Harry was horror-stricken as her eyes grew wet without warning. It was so unlike her that he was suddenly on auto-pilot, reaching out to draw her near, cradling her face between his hands. She finally looked up at him and Harry bit his lip, brushing the fresh tears from her cheeks with his thumbs.
"I'm so sorry," he whispered mournfully, guessing rightly that her thoughts had traveled to the twins. "I can't imagine," he continued, his chest constricting as he searched for the right words, "I loved him, too — you're all the family I've never had — I'm sorry…"
"Don't you dare, Harry Potter," Ginny hissed, pulling back slightly and shaking her head. There was no malice in her words, only rebuttal. "No one blames you. No one had better dare… you didn't cast the spells and curses that caused all this destruction and don't—" She pointed reproachfully at him, "—don't you dare spout any rubbish about what you could have done differently to prevent it. Now," she squared her shoulders and her tone softened again at Harry's whipped expression, "if we don't take too terribly long, we should be able to sneak back without being harassed…"
Harry shifted, and glanced around nervously at all the golden taps pointing into the dusty marble bath. He cleared his throat. Did she mean what he thought she meant? "Er… we?"
But Ginny was already busy pointing her wand and muttering "Tergeo!" at the pile of disheveled towels in the corner, "Scourgify!" at the tub, and tapping the bejeweled faucets, the scent of perfumed bubbles and the sound of cascading water filling the room.
When she had finished, she suddenly plastered a stoic expression on her pretty face and made to busy herself needlessly with the towels in the corner. "I won't look," she murmured softly, folding and refolding them. "Just tell me when you're decent… I mean, when you're ready… well, in, I suppose…" She sighed, obviously flustered, but turned around and burst out, "Oh, good heavens! I wouldn't mind taking a bath myself, and there's no sense in refilling it… it's large enough for the both of us…"
Harry noticed her cheeks were becomingly tinged with pink before she spun back around. He awkwardly reached up to unfasten his robes, grinning foolishly himself. "Oh… well, okay…"
He silently realized that their communal embarrassment was a testament to the fact that neither one of them stood in familiar territory, nor did they harbor ulterior motives, but as Harry hurriedly shed his jumper and trousers, he knew he'd be lying to himself if he denied feeling at least a little bolstered. That did not stop him from feeling a bit apprehensive, though. Haphazardly folding his clothes, he backed himself towards the tub and gasped involuntarily as he carefully lowered his body into the foamy depths. The water was hot and it felt heavenly.
"Okay," he called softly, having settled on an inconspicuous ledge beneath the mountains of foam.
He fumbled for his glasses and laid them atop his pile of ragged clothing. Leaning back against the ledge, he shut his eyes just as the soft thwump of a towel and what seemed strangely akin to a rucksack hitting the floor sounded to his left. He hadn't noticed that she'd been carrying anything…
"No peeking," Ginny warned him, padding around to the other side of the tub and slipping into the water.
"Don't worry; no glasses, no vision."
He lifted his heavy head and forced his eyes open; Ginny's fuzzy form glided towards him. He swallowed thickly and felt his heart-rate quicken. Water glistened on her bare shoulders, and even with less than optimal vision, he was able to discern the gradual swell of Ginny's cleavage as it disappeared beneath the bubbles the closer she came. His mouth opened, but nothing more than a squawk escaped. She was barely able to reach secure footing, the tub was so deep, and from the way she bobbed up and down he could tell she must have been standing tip-toe.
"Give me your hand," he offered, the crackle in his voice betraying his nerves. He held his hand out above the bubbles so she could clearly see it. "There's a ledge here. I can slide over a bit…"
Pulling her towards him, Harry was careful to steer clear of more contact than necessary. He noticed that she held in her other hand a nicely sized coral sponge from the supply rack, and his eyes darted back to her face.
"Ginny, I—" he sucked in a breath when she offered it to him. "Okay, look. I wonder if, perhaps… perhaps we should have a little discussion… I mean…" His eyes were wide and his cheeks puffed out with his exhalation of breath. He stammered on. "Not that I don't find this… er, appealing… I mean to say, but…"
He was appalled when she began giggling, and the look of utter astonishment on his face drew more sincere laughter out of her. She shook her head.
"Oh, Harry… I know. Believe me! I know. Don't worry," she declared, "I'm not suggesting…" She stifled a snort when his eyes widened impossibly further and the tips of his ears burned red. "Seriously, Harry. Just relax, okay?"
He stared back at her for a moment, silence settling. When she pierced him with one of those matter-of-fact looks, he finally nodded and eased back against the tub wall. "All right."
"Close your eyes."
He did as she told him, catching the flutter in her voice as well. She was being beyond bold, even for her, he knew it. With a gentle wringing of water, she brought the sponge to his temple, the warm water sluicing down his cheek as she dabbed at the gashes left by projectile stone and his glasses during all the fighting. The soap stung, but he did not mind. She was equally as tender in swabbing his arms, his chest, his back, minding the numerous cuts and bruises. She lingered momentarily over the bruise that spread angrily across his breast bone, where Voldemort's Killing Curse had slammed into him with the force of a wrecking ball.
"Did it hurt?" she whispered.
"Not when it happened, actually… no."
"Does it now?"
Harry's eyes opened to her concerned golden-brown gaze. "Yeah. A bit."
His mouth twitched at the corner. "All right. Quite a bit."
Her hands had found his legs and he sucked in his breath, but she was careful not to wander so as not to embarrass either of them. Harry knew he was exhausted when his mind could not muster the strength to roam, either. For this he was grateful; neither one was prepared for other circumstances to arise. Her ministrations were slowly but surely loosening the kinks in his muscles, relieving some of their ache. By the time she had finished rinsing the soap from his hair, he was half asleep and would have been very happy to remain there.
He dimly heard her murmur something about cleaning up, herself, but the next thing he knew, she was calling his name from far away, her long damp hair tickling his forehead as she leaned over him.
"Harry. Harry, come on… you're going to shrivel into a prune…"
It took every ounce of effort to peel his eyes open. The bubbles had dissipated to a mere frothy layer atop the water, and as he groped for the large towel Ginny waved before his face, he realized she was already dressed in a clean change of pajamas, her hair pulled into twin plaits that dangled over her shoulders.
When she turned around, he hoisted his leaden body out of the water and slung the towel about his slender hips. Water pooled at his feet as he reached for another towel and did his best to dry off, but his limbs were refusing to cooperate. The bath had reduced him to little more than jelly.
Some minutes later, Harry managed to pull on a pair of flannels and a t-shirt (although it took a few tries), which he found Ginny had procured by way of Hermione's charmed beaded bag. After consenting to her dressing a few of his deeper cuts with dittany and bandaging tape, Harry rubbed at his eyes and shoved his glasses on his nose, bringing the hazy room into better focus. Ginny had deposited their towels in a pile and siphoned the puddles of water from the floor with her wand; she was waiting for him, a wry smirk on her lips.
"What?" Harry croaked, sounding more than a little cranky.
She shook her head, sighing. "You're a mess, Potter," she replied, steadying his teetering form and ducking beneath his shoulder again, steering him out of the private bathroom.
They tramped through the corridors, Ginny coaxing him to move more quickly any time they heard voices, making their way back towards Gryffindor Tower. Managing to avoid any encounters along the way — with the exception of Professors McGonagall and Sprout, who both took one stern, but exceedingly affectionate, look at Harry and 'ordered' him directly to bed — they arrived and Ginny lugged Harry through the portrait hole.
Harry wondered aloud whether anyone had actually returned yet to the dormitory; the common room was still eerily devoid of human inhabitants, although a young fire crackled in the hearth. Odd recollections flitted through Harry's mind as Ginny guided him towards the stairs — memories of experiences past, friendly gatherings and games of chess, the face of a loved one amidst the coals — and he was forced to look away.
Kreacher had outdone himself, preparing a quaint assortment of sandwiches, a flagon of pumpkin juice — even a bowl of steaming onion soup, which Harry had often mentioned to the elf was quite good — and an obviously contraband bottle of butterbeer. Ginny lifted the tray and, as he situated himself against the headboard of his bed, Harry realized just how ravenous he felt.
He cracked open the butterbeer and then patted the spot on the bed next to him, taking a long swig. She obliged by crawling across the bedcovers towards him, and he cocked an eyebrow, lowering the bottle and swallowing rather deliberately. When he held the drink out to her and she took it, her fingers brushed against his, sending jolts of sensation up his arm. He hadn't realized he was staring until he noticed her licking her lips and he suddenly felt parched, though it had nothing to do with traditional thirst.
"Yes?" she whispered, matching his tone.
His eyes flicked back to hers, and he wondered if they betrayed the longing he felt. Harry cleared his throat unnecessarily and forced himself to swallow again.
"May I kiss you again?"
His mouth curved into a half smile. They carefully leaned towards each other, Ginny's arms locked on either side of the tray they hovered over, Harry threading his hand through the hair at the back of her head to pull her nearer. Their lips met much more tentatively this time around, the taste of butterbeer lingering as their tongues met in a slow and deliberate caress. Harry sighed; it was perfection. It felt completely natural and as if he could let down every guard, opening himself more in the moment than he would have ever dared before. The emotions left both of them breathless once again.
Ginny broke their contact first when he grunted slightly against the strain, but not before brushing the tip of her nose lovingly against his, smiling. "You need to eat," she murmured pragmatically.
Harry sighed again, conceding, taking the sandwich proffered him and devouring half of it in a single bite. He made a mental note to offer Kreacher payment on a regular basis. Fatigue was etching away at his equilibrium, and he found that his hands shook when he raised the soup to his lips. With his stomach finally somewhat satiated, Harry felt his eyes grow heavy. Ginny had the grace not to laugh when he missed his mouth completely because he had dozed off, but instead reached out and took the unfinished sandwich from his hand and removed the tray from the bed.
He painstakingly shifted his body down and collapsed into his pillows, already drifting back into the haze of sleep, Ginny carefully tugging the sheets from beneath his legs… he was sinking further into the mattress… floating, really, his mind foggy…
Harry could not have been on his feet, wand in hand, any faster if he had been spring-loaded; his knee-jerk reaction gained a stifled scream from Ginny and she actually jumped out of the direct path of his brandished wand. His body all but screamed in complaint at the sudden movement, and he felt the color drain from his face, his wand trembling. In her hand Ginny clutched the cap from the empty bottle of butterbeer, which he surmised had clattered to the floor as she bent over. Their breathing staccato in the otherwise silent room, Harry finally blinked and jerked his head, dismay clouding his ashen features.
He slowly sank to the bed, scrubbing his hand over his face. He took a great, shuddering breath. "Sorry," he mumbled.
"It's all right," Ginny assured him. She hastily placed the offending piece of metal on the dinner tray and rushed towards him. "Oh, Harry — you're shaking!" she exclaimed, wrapping her arms around him and allowing him to bow his head against her chest.
He groaned in defeat. "It's ingrained. I don't know if I can sleep; every little noise… for so long… I don't know if I can relax enough…"
"You have got to get some rest."
"Maybe I'm too tired, y'know?"
"Harry, that's not good," she answered reproachfully, her voice laced with concern.
He turned his head slightly, reaching around her waist and intertwining his fingers as she rested her chin atop his head. "Yeah, I know that…"
She drew her hand up to the back of his head, kissing his hair. "Okay, I have an idea," she said decisively, reaching behind her back to take the wand from his hand and putting it on the bedside table.
She stretched over and placed the pillows at the headboard, then, shaking her head, took out her own wand and conjured a few extra ones before kicking off her slippers, stooping to remove his, and finally crawling behind Harry to situate herself. She placed another pillow across her lap and patted it in much the same way Harry had patted the bed earlier.
"Lie down," she encouraged him.
Bewildered, Harry finally swung his legs onto the mattress and let her guide him to lie back between her legs. He gazed up at her from the pillow and she smiled tenderly, carefully slipping off his glasses and putting them next to his wand. She caressed his cheek with the back of her fingers, eliciting a timid smile from him.
"Close your eyes," she commanded softly, just as she had done before in the bath.
He yawned deeply and allowed his eyes to shut. Then, ever so gently, her fingers plunged into his hair. He made the tiniest mewl of contentment. With each pass through she made, he grew numb and more of his weight sank against her until finally his head lolled gently to the side, his chest rising and falling with deep, slow breaths.
Ginny waited, lightly raking her fingers through his raven hair. It was soft and smelled faintly of the woodsy soap she had used to wash it. She feared he would pull himself from much-needed slumber at the slightest noise; voices were traveling up the staircase from time to time. She worried someone would stumble upon them, harmless as their situation was, but she was comfortable and did not in the slightest wish to move. More importantly, her intentions were fulfilled. Harry was asleep.
She chanced a drowsy glance at his face. The deep slashes at his cheek and temple were already looking improved beneath their thin bandage stitches. He had complained so little, really, considering the copious abuse his body had withstood. Ginny bit her lip fretfully and carefully adjusted a long strand of Harry's wayward fringe. He looked quite different without his glasses, yet somehow the same; his dark lashes stood out as they fanned against his pale cheek. His parted lips were pink and swollen from their kissing… Leaning her head back and allowing her eyes to drift shut, her fingers still tangled in the ends of Harry's long hair, she quite thought she would never have enough of his kisses…
They would not hear people murmuring as they tiptoed in and out of the dormitory, nor would they hear the calls of Molly Weasley as she came to round up her children and cart them back to the Burrow, despite their protestations to stay.
"C'moffit, Mum," Ron was grumbling, his arm tight about Hermione, both of whom Mrs. Weasley had managed to roust out of slumber on the common room sofa.
"Not another word, Ronald," the robust woman warned her son, wagging a disapproving finger at him. She was not entirely thrilled to have found her youngest son sleeping with a girl, however much she may have liked Hermione. "I would prefer it if everyone was home, safe, under one roof… now, where on earth has your sister run off…?
Ron and Hermione shared a significant glance as Molly went back to call up the girls' dormitory steps, and slipped quickly up the other side to where they were pretty sure they would find the missing girl, and likely, Harry Potter — hopefully before Mrs. Weasley.
They took the stairs two at a time, as fast as their tired legs would carry them, anxious to save their friends any rebuke. They rounded the landing and burst through the door, only to come to a skidding halt once immediately inside.
"Blimey," Ron breathed, unsure of how to feel at the sight of his best friend sprawled across the bed with his sister, sound asleep.
"Oh," Hermione gasped. "Look at them! They look so peaceful…"
"Oh, Ron, sod off. How long have we known Harry?"
He threw her a perturbed look.
"Rhetorically," she whispered fiercely. "You know they're crazy about each other. And you've always shared sleeping quarters with Harry, much longer than I… have you ever seen him sleep like this…?"
Ron looked back into the room and sighed, appearing rather at war with himself. Harry lay cradled between Ginny's legs, his head resting on a pillow in her lap. One arm rested across his stomach with Ginny's, his hand clasped loosely about hers. His breathing was deep and even, and the ever-present grimace he always seemed to have worn, even at rest, was gone. If he was being honest, he would have to admit that they did look peaceful, and he knew Harry was long for a good lie-in now that the weight of the wizarding world's well-being had been lifted from his shoulders. Harry was his best mate… but Ginny was his baby sister. At this rate, Harry would wind up being his brother… that thought wasn't so bad…
At that precise moment, the hurried footfalls of Molly Weasley became louder and louder — Ron had just barely backed into the doorway to block her entrance.
"Did you find her?" Molly demanded. "Ginevra Weasley, what are you—"
"What are you doing? Stand aside, Ron, I'll get her myself."
"What did you say?"
"No, Mum. Just… no," Ron entreated, raising his hands in supplication. "Look, they're asleep. Just leave them be, Mum, please."
"No, I will not leave her be with some boy. Ronald, I am ashamed that you would allow your sister to—"
But as she shoved Ron aside, she too was stopped short by the scene before her. Ron had never seen his mother struck so speechless before. She blinked rapidly, her mouth falling open as she stammered.
"Wha—she's with Harry?"
Both Ron and Hermione noticed the sudden hush to her words and smirked.
"You didn't know?" Ron was enjoying the dig.
"That they were seeing each other? Of course — no. I honestly didn't…" Her ruffled feathers seemed to smooth back into place and her expression softened. "Well," she continued airily, "I suppose it would be all right to leave them be this one time…" Ron snorted with indignation, but Hermione's elbow in his ribs quieted him, "…after all, it's Harry… oh, the poor dear must be utterly exhausted… I do hope he's all right…"
Ron fumed and hissed out, "Oh, so it's all right for Ginny to sleep with a boy because it's Harry, but I can't sleep with Hermione? Honestly, Mum, I think we've all earned it!"
Mrs. Weasley whirled around, but just as quickly, her ire deflated, and she looked up into the face of her youngest son, who, she suddenly realized, was no longer a boy. She looked from him to Hermione, and finally smiled a watery smile.
"You are of age, I suppose…" and she reached out to both of them, her hands resting against their outermost cheeks. "I remember what it was like… your father and I… oh, all right. Shoo. Go on and get some rest, the both of you…" She sniffled slightly and bustled towards the door, leaving a shocked couple in her wake.
Just as they turned towards each other with grins plastered on their faces, Mrs. Weasley paused. "But!" she warned, her eyes flashing momentarily as she pointed at them. "None of this 'hanky panky' stuff you teenagers are liable to get into… and keep an eye on your sister, Ron… not that I don't trust Harry implicitly…" She threw a fond glance at Harry's sound-asleep form and fell silent.
"Yeah, yeah… I get it. It's just sleep, Mum. We need it."
Molly Weasley let out a disgruntled sigh and turned to go. But as she descended the steps from the dormitory, however, she found she could not help smiling at the images she had of her future grandchildren…
Beta note: Sorry, I just couldn't resist adding a note on this particular story. :-) OHGinnyFan and I were introduced to this lovely author via an LJ friend, and we both immediately set about recruiting her for PhoenixSong. Please be sure to let her know what you think of her story (and help "welcome" her to PS!)… maybe we can encourage her to write more ;-)