After Harry had shown Ginny his memories, they headed straight to Gryffindor Tower. They had to detour around several damaged staircases and blocked corridors. As they tried to find a route up to the Tower, they stopped, fascinated by a bizarre sight: large blocks of stone floating slowly down the halls under their own power.
“I guess the castle is repairing itself,” Harry said with a smile, lifting Ginny up, placing her on one of the stones and clambering after her.
“It’s lucky they’re going our way,” Ginny laughed, and they enjoyed the ride through the castl, until they passed an unblocked staircase that led to the Tower and hopped off.
The Fat Lady, having clearly been celebrating, waved an empty wineglass at them and swung open to reveal an empty Common Room. Harry stood there, just looking around without speaking, for a long time. He has always said that Hogwarts is his real home, Ginny thought.
Then, without a word, Harry started up the stairs to the boys’ dormitory. Harry held his hand out for Ginny to follow him, and she didn’t hesitate for a moment.
They were both surprised to find Harry’s bed made and everything around it spotless. There wasn’t a single speck of dust. “I guess this is how Kreacher’s been keeping busy,” Harry said, surveying the area.
Ginny had no idea what that was supposed to mean, but she didn’t ask; she merely filed it away as one more thing he’d need to explain later.
She didn’t know how long it had been since Harry had slept; she guessed that it could be measured in days. That’s why he isn’t the least bit self-conscious now, she told herself. The last time we were alone like this, he was so nervous!
Harry sat down on his bed and yawned, and Ginny knew she was right. He must have been keeping himself going on the strength of all the emotions running through him, but now, with a moment of calm, exhaustion had caught up with him. He was spent. She sat down next to him, ran a hand through his unkempt hair. He obviously liked that; he made a sound that reminded her of a cat purring. Well, he is a Lion of Gryffindor, and lions are just big old cats, Ginny thought, giggling.
Harry barely summoned up the energy to kick off his shoes; still in his robes, he lay on the bed and, with what Ginny took to be his last burst of strength, pulled her down next to him. She’d been waiting a year for this, too.
“Will you stay with me?” Harry asked. “I don’t want you to go.”
Ginny stretched out, her body pressed against his.
“There’s nowhere I’d rather be,” she answered, pulling the covers over them both and putting her arms around his neck. All the times she’d thought about this, she hadn’t imagined the overwhelming sense of safety she felt lying next to him under the warm blankets.
When she’d been little and hurt herself, or something one of her brothers had said or done had upset her, she had run to her father. He would scoop her up and rock her gently in his arms, and whatever had been wrong would be forgotten. In her father’s embrace, she had been safe; nothing could harm her or touch her. This was the same feeling; lying next to Harry, nothing could be wrong; she was perfectly safe.
“Safe…” Harry muttered. “I feel safe.” And so softly that she could barely hear the words, he whispered, “I love you, Ginny.” Then he was out.
Ginny examined his face. She wanted to memorize every detail, freeze this moment forever. I make him feel safe? she wondered. She could hardly believe that he would think that, and to hear him say it aloud seemed impossible. Harry Potter, who never wanted to admit weakness or fear or need, saying that? But he had, and he’d meant it. It was perfect….
And she must have fallen asleep herself, because she was woken up by the sound of footsteps, and then giggling, and then a truly awful sound: a sort of wet, hungry, slurping.
She knew who it must be, and what they were about, and she had absolutely no desire to see it, yet she couldn’t help herself. She slowly turned her head, trying not to disturb Harry’s sleep.
She turned away immediately; it was every bit as horrible as she had thought it would be: her brother and Hermione Granger.
The Universe has a nasty sense of humour, Ginny decided. All the things that she had envisioned for once the war was over and she and Harry were reunited, and what was she actually doing?
Lying awake listening to her brother and Hermione Granger snogging just a few feet away. Oh, yes, very romantic.Just like in the storybooks, she thought.
She was trapped. She didn’t want to disturb Harry, or worse, slip out him so that when he did finally wake he’d find her gone. She certainly couldn’t sleep with them doing…what they were doing; as it was, she was sure those evil noises and the brief glimpse she’d had would haunt her for the rest of her life. Her only hope was that they would notice her and have the good grace to find somewhere else to…ugh, I won’t think it, I won’t, I won’t!
For ten minutes – it seemed like ten years – she was forced to listen to them. Finally they came up for air, and she heard Hermione gasp.
“What?” Ron said, causing Harry to stir. Then Hermione must have put her hand over Ron’s mouth, because when he said it again, his voice was lower, and muffled.
“It’s Harry!” Hermione whispered. Nice of you to notice,now get the hell out of here and find another room to go and snog in already!
But they didn’t; Ron must have looked over. “He’s with…she…that’s…he’s…what the hell…how…he’s…no…it’s…that bastard…my sister…why…Ginny!” Eloquent as always, Ronniekins!
“Ron, quietly!” Not bloody likely!
“No! She’s my little sister! I won’t have her be some kind of…of…” What, Won-Won? What won’t you have me be?
“Scarlet woman?” Hah! She’s never going to let him forget that, is she?
“Well, yeah!” And what does that make you, Ron? All we’re doing is sleeping, you know!
“Ronald Weasley, how can you say that? They love each other, you know! And they haven’t seen each other for a whole year! And H-Harry…he saved the whole world, so give it a rest!” She’s already using his whole name to yell at him…he’s in trouble, Ginny thought, and suddenly felt an involuntary twinge of sympathy for her brother. When a Weasley heard their full name, it was a prelude to a day of de-gnoming or some other equally unpleasant task. Having experienced it far too many times herself, Ginny instinctively gave Ron the benefit of the doubt.
He is my brother, after all, Ginny decided. And if she was being fair, she had to admit that there wasn’t anything wrong with him snogging Hermione. Just so long as she didn’t have to be in the same room while they were at it.
“Oi!” Ginny whispered, instantly ending Ron and Hermione’s row. “He’s asleep, and you two of all people should know he needs the rest!”
Hermione looked appropriately chastened; it took Ron’s glower a few seconds to fade into what Ginny considered a properly guilty expression. “We didn’t think you could hear us,” he grumbled.
“Obviously,” Ginny replied.
“We should go,” Hermione said, pulling Ron up with her. It took all of Ginny’s self-control to keep from laughing, watching Hermione try and drag Ron out of the room. When she finally got him to the door, she turned back to Ginny and mouthed “Talk later?” and Ginny nodded back.
And then they were gone. Hopefully nobody else would disturb her or Harry’s sleep.
What am I thinking? I’m an idiot! Ginny berated herself; there was no need to “hope” that they wouldn’t be disturbed. She carefully pulled one hand away from Harry and searched in her robes for her wand. “Colloportus!” she whispered, pointing it at the door. There, much better!
Now protected from unwanted intrusion, Ginny relaxed. She felt the sense of safety flowing back into her. She kissed Harry, very gently, on his forehead – on the lightning bolt that, she hoped, would never pain him again – and laid her head next to his. She was asleep within moments.
He had never been to a train station before; how on Earth was he supposed to find his way around? His aunt and uncle had unceremoniously dumped him off, leaving him with a heavy trunk, a snowy white owl hooting excitedly in her cage and no idea where “Platform Nine and Three-Quarters” could possibly be. They didn’t number things like that anyway, did they?
Sure enough, there was a platform nine and a platform ten, and nothing in between. Just a brick wall; no door or window or anything else. There was nobody who seemed likely to have an answer. The platforms were full of men in suits and women in dresses waiting impatiently – late for work or important meetings or somesuch – no one who looked as though they’d be happy to help a lost teenager in baggy old clothes and mangy trainers carting around an owl.
But he had to find that platform! The letter was very clear: the train departed at eleven o’clock precisely. No delays, no exceptions.
What would happen to him? He’d be stuck here, he supposed. His aunt and uncle didn’t want him back and he didn’t especially want to return anyway. He had no money, no family, certainly no friends. Nobody to help him, no way to go on alone. He’d have to become a…what? A vagrant, as his aunt called them? Living in the station and hiding from police and eating out of rubbish bins?
The minutes ticked away on the station clock, and he dodged commuters rushing to and fro. Everyone he saw had someplace to go, something to do, somewhere they were wanted or needed or expected, but not he.
It was five minutes until eleven when he saw her: the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen, despite her strange black robes with an odd coat of arms on them. She had long, straight red hair – so unlike his unruly black mop that his aunt so despised – and perfect amber eyes, wide open and bright, obviously delighting in everything they saw. She had the most infectious, brilliant smile. And she was walking past him, straight towards the wall dividing platform nine from platform ten as though she intended to walk right into it.
“Hey!” he shouted, and she turned to him, dazzling him with that smile, gazing into his eyes.
“Your eyes are exactly the same colour as a fresh pickled toad. Did you know that?” she said by way of response. He hadn’t. It seemed an odd thing to say, but he didn’t care as long as she kept smiling at him and he could continue to look into those amber eyes. “You don’t know how to get onto the platform, do you?” she asked him, extending a hand. He took it without hesitation. He would follow her anywhere. Nothing bad could possibly happen if he went with her. “It’s easy, you know. Just walk right up to the wall and go on through. Come with me, if you want to.”
For some reason, he couldn’t find his voice, but he let her lead him towards the wall, following her as she stepped into and through it. He closed his eyes, dreading a moment of impact that never came; like magic, she’d taken him through the barrier and onto…
“Platform Nine and Three-Quarters!”
“Where did you think you were going?” the most beautiful girl in the world asked him.
“I-I didn’t believe it, I guess. The letter said…but it didn’t make any sense…” Although it hadn’t, anything was better than the life he had been living. And now that he was here on the platform, everything seemed somehow familiar. He hadn’t ever been anywhere like this, and yet it all spoke to him.
All around, boys and girls and men and women wore robes just like the girl’s. The boys and girls mostly had trunks, and some had owls like his, while others had cats or toads or other animals he’d never seen before. They were all chattering and laughing, and some were boarding a train: a scarlet steam engine, puffing smoke into the bright blue sky.
This was his train, and it was taking him home, and all these people on the platform were his friends, even though he had no idea where the train was going and he hadn’t met a single one of them.
He could not begin to imagine what his life would be like when he got off the train, but that didn’t matter at all, because the smiling red-haired girl would be with him there, and he could spend the whole train ride talking to her and getting to know her and sitting next to her, his arm around her and her head on his shoulder, and there wasn’t anything in the world better than that…
It seemed to Ginny that they had walked every inch of the grounds. From the Quidditch pitch to the Lake to the edge of the Forbidden Forest, she and Harry had wandered without any particular destination in mind. They’d slipped out of Gryffindor Tower and then outside under the Invisibility Cloak just after sunrise and set off.
The sun was just beginning to disappear behind the mountains off in the distance. Ginny was amazed that they’d spent the entire day; it seemed to her that they’d only been walking and talking for a few minutes. It had been wonderful, with nobody else to worry about or answer to, just she and Harry together.
Bill used to take me for walks like this, Ginny remembered, when he was home from Hogwarts for the summer before his seventh year. She had been six years old, and she’d been thrilled that her oldest brother actually wanted to spend time with her instead of all the other, much-more-exciting things that she imagined he could be doing. They would walk through fields and across streams – Ginny riding on his shoulders when they were too deep – and he would talk to her. She didn’t understand half of what he said, but that didn’t matter. It was enough that he thought her worth talking to, and that, when she did understand something and had an opinion about it, he took her seriously.
He made me feel like… “…the most important person in the world,” Ginny heard herself say.
Harry turned to her. “What?”
“Oh, I was just thinking about Bill,” Ginny said. “When I was little, we used to walk like this, and it always felt as if there wasn’t anybody else around for miles and miles. He would tell me all about Hogwarts, and his friends, and what he wanted to do when he finished school.”
“He was your favourite,” Harry said.
“I love all my brothers,” she answered, and then, after a pause, added, “even Percy. But, yeah, Bill…he made me feel…”
Harry finished for her. “Like there was nobody he’d rather talk to than you. Like what you said really mattered to him.”
Ginny nodded, blushing. “That’s how I feel right now, with you.” As she spoke, an image came into her mind: Harry, wearing ratty clothes that didn’t fit, with a sad and lonely and lost look on his face, standing by the barrier at King’s Cross, without a single idea how to get through, waiting helplessly, until a girl – a beautiful, perfect girl with red hair and amber eyes – came to him and helped him through.
“Ginny?” Harry’s voice broke into her thoughts.
“I’m sorry,” she shook her head. “I was just thinking…” He was dreaming about me! I’m the girl! He thinks…
The words tumbled out before Ginny could catch them: “Do you really think I’m the most beautiful girl in the whole world?”
“Well, yeah,” he said as though it was the most obvious thing in the world, and then, suddenly, she felt him withdrawing. He’s remembering the dream. “You are, Ginny,” he said, coming back to her. He took her hands, squeezed. “But that was in my dream. How did you know?”
Ginny shrugged. She had no more idea than he did. The image had just come to her without warning. Just like… “Harry, do you remember the last thing you said to me before you fell asleep last night?”
“I said…I-I love you.” He pulled her closer. “I do.”
“And I love you, Harry Potter,” she answered, forcing herself not to kiss him. It took all her self-control. “But...do you remember what you said right before that?”
Harry thought about it; Ginny could see the effort he put into remembering. “You told me that I made you feel safe, just like your Dad did when you were a little girl, and I said that you made me feel safe, too.”
“I thought that, but I never said it.” The feeling was so strong, and he could tell! He knew what I was thinking! “Harry, how are we doing this?”
Harry mulled it over. “Maybe it’s Legilimency? We’re doing it without meaning to. Maybe any time a witch and a wizard are in love, they can do it?”
Ginny considered that. It did make some sense. I wonder if Mum and Dad…on second thought, I’m not sure I want to know about them! “I don’t know, Harry. I’ve never heard of anything like it. But I guess it could be one of those things nobody tells you about, and you have to find out for yourself. We’ll figure it out. We have plenty of time,” she said, and now she did kiss him.
Much later, he answered her. “I think we’ve got all the time in the world.”