A/N: Thank you Aggiebell for the beta and the pep talk. You rock, my lovely. Written for the Passage of Time Challenge at hpgw_otp.livejournal.com
When Harry woke, it was to find dusk painting shadows across the dorm, rather than the harsh mid-morning sun that had been turning dust motes into sparks of light when he had stumbled into his bed.
He fumbled for his glasses on the side table, feeling oddly uncoordinated and flinched when a soft hand stilled his and pressed his glasses into his palm.
'Thanks,' he mumbled, slipping them on. The lenses were in desperate need of a clean – they were splattered with blood, tears, and God only knew what else – but they still bought Ginny into focus.
She gave him a small, wan smile, her eyes red-rimmed and puffy. 'How do you feel?' she asked, her voice quiet and hoarse.
'Rubbish,' he said, too tired and drained to be anything other than honest. 'What time is it?'
'Just after seven,' she answered. 'You've been asleep for ages.'
Harry pushed himself up onto his elbows, wincing at the various aches and pains that his moving provoked. 'I've only had about, what, eight hours? Though I guess that is ages, compared to what sleep I've managed the last few months.'
'Harry, you've been asleep since yesterday morning. You slept an entire day and night away.' She pulled her legs up onto the chair, hugging her knees to her chest, and just looked at him, her tear-swollen eyes intense and unwavering.
He resisted the urge to squirm under her gaze and shuffled off to the bathroom, hunched over and feeling like a little old man. He was so, so tired, both mentally and physically, and he wanted nothing more than to sleep another day away.
When he walked back into the dorm, he found a tray waiting for him, with a bowl of soup, a pumpkin pasty, and a steaming mug of tea set out on it. His stomach growled loudly as soon as he saw the food and he shovelled down spoons of soup in an effort to soothe the empty ache.
Food eaten, his stomach no longer grumbled, but the empty feeling was still there, and he realised that it was nothing to do with hunger, and all to do with the way Ginny was looking at him.
'Ginny ...' he started, reaching out his hand to her, dismayed when she shied away. 'Ginny, please. Please don't be like that.'
'Like what, Harry? I'm nothing special to you. I'm not your girlfriend. What did you expect? That you'd come back, and I'd be waiting? It's not that easy.' Her words were confrontational, but her voice was a monotone, with none of her usual passion or emotion.
Thinking about it, that was what he'd expected. He hadn't really thought about it until that moment – he hadn't expected to be alive, let alone trying to win his ex-girlfriend back – but he'd never stopped thinking of Ginny as his girlfriend, and he'd assumed she felt the same way.
'I just – you know why I broke up with you,' he said. 'I didn't want you to be hurt.'
She looked away then, and he saw her chin tremble. 'I know.'
He wanted to reach for her, but didn't want her to pull away from him again, couldn't stand to see that withdrawn look on her face. 'I'm sorry,' he told her.
She sighed, and put her hand on his chest, unknowingly pressing against the tender, raw wound left by Voldemort's Avada Kedavra, and pushed him back against the pillows. 'You look ready to pass out. You should get some more sleep.'
He would have argued, but his traitorous eyelids felt heavy, and his body relaxed into the mattress. 'B'we need t' talk about us,' he mumbled, reaching for her hand, knowing that something was broken between them, and wanting to mend it, but the words wouldn't come. 'We ... I ...'
'Not now,' Ginny told him, and her voice was no longer soft, no longer gentle, and she pulled her hand out of his grasp. 'I can't talk now, not to you, not about us. I ... I just can't.'
She fled the room, a blur of red hair and white skin, and Harry wanted to go after her, but he was tired, so tired, and if he woke, truly woke, then the grief that he'd shoved into a corner of his mind would overwhelm him.
He wasn't ready for that, and neither was Ginny.
So he slept.
The day they buried Fred was obscenely beautiful. The sky was a bright, clear swathe of cerulean, the trees an explosion of green, and birdsong hung in the air. There was a school not so far away, and the bright, happy sound of children at play was at complete odds with the wet, raspy breathing and sobs to be heard at the graveside.
It made Harry sick.
Fred's grave was a raw, gaping wound in the ground, rich brown soil heaped up onto thick, velvety grass, and Harry wanted it to rain, wanted the skies to open up and piss it down with insistent ferocity. He wanted hail and thunder and lightning, wanted the weather to match the turmoil that raged in his brain and his gut.
The world wasn't supposed to go on, not when they were burying a twenty-year-old man who had left half of himself behind. Not when they had already buried so many others, children and parents and classmates.
He stared fiercely at the mound of dirt, eyes burning with the tears he refused to let fall, for fear that once he gave in and let them come, they wouldn't stop.
Somebody touched his clenched fist and it uncurled almost of its own volition, opening to allow slender fingers to entwine with his.
Ginny's grip was painful, but he didn't care, and when she pressed her face to his shoulder and curled her free hand around his upper arm, he kissed the top of her head and held her as she sobbed.
It was the first time she'd touched him since that evening a week ago, in the dorm. Afterwards, she walked away without a word or a glance, but he felt something loosen in his chest, and that was enough to send him looking for a quiet place he could hide away in for half an hour.
He finally gave in to the tears, sobbing into his hands in the little copse of trees that marked the boundary of the Weasley property, and when Ginny found him there, he let her pull him into her arms and he cried against her shoulder.
Something between them was still damaged, but it was mending.
The weeks turned into months, and all of a sudden Harry was turning eighteen, and Molly was insisting that he have a birthday party before he went away for an intensive three-month Auror training camp.
He appreciated her making the effort, he really did, but nobody was really in the mood to celebrate anything, though they all tried their best.
They all ended up in the garden, on blankets and conjured chairs, several bottles of Firewhisky making the rounds as the sky darkened and the stars came out. Harry refused it, sticking with Butterbeer. He had a feeling he'd like Firewhisky a little too much (plus he had to leave for camp at eight the following morning), but nobody else had any such reservations. Even Molly took several large drafts, and she didn't even frown when Ginny silently held out her glass for Charlie to fill.
Nobody really spoke – there was nothing much to say, just a quiet contentment in the shared company.
Harry watched them all, his shattered, heart-broken family. And they were his, every last one of them, from Charlie, who he barely knew, to Percy, who he didn't really like all that much but loved anyway, because he was family.
Ron was stretched out next to him on the blanket, a sleeping Hermione tucked in against his side, and he nudged Harry with a bony elbow. 'Happy birthday, mate.'
'Thanks,' Harry said, nudging him back. 'Eighteen. How did that happen?'
Ron snorted, and Hermione shifted against his chest, murmuring quietly. 'Don't ask me. Last time I looked, we were eleven and rescuing this one from a troll.' He kissed her wild hair, his face softening. 'Best thing we ever did.'
Harry nodded his agreement and turned onto his side, not wanting Ron to see to see the look of jealousy on his face and misinterpret it.
He wanted Ginny in his arms, her hair fanned out across his chest, his chin resting on her head, but she was across the garden, leaning against her mum's legs, and Molly was stroking her head.
She saw Harry looking and wiggled her fingers in a little wave, and that was enough for Harry to get to his feet and walk across the garden to her. She let him pull her up from the floor and didn't let go of his hand once she was standing, and he took that as permission to walk with her, leading her far enough away from everyone that they wouldn't be heard.
'I miss you,' he said, rubbing his thumb across the back of her hand.
She ducked her head, her hair falling forward to obscure her face. 'Me too,' she whispered. 'But I've changed. We've changed. Things are different now.'
His heart pounded in his chest, and he wanted to vomit. 'Are .. are you saying – you don't want to be with me anymore?'
Her head snapped back up, and his Ginny was back, her brown eyes snapping, her face flushed, and she all but snarled at him. 'Don't be stupid! Of course I still want to be with you. But we can't just pick up where we left off. Things have happened to both of us that we need to deal with, and talk about.'
He kissed her then, softly and sweetly, and he closed his eyes and threaded his fingers into her hair. 'Can I write to you?' he asked, once they broke apart. 'There's too much for me to tell you tonight, but I can write to you about it all.'
She leaned into his embrace, her face tucked into the curve of his neck and shoulder, and he could feel the moist warmth of her breath against his throat. 'I'd like that. And I'll write to you about what happened at school.'
They stood wrapped in a silent embrace for half an hour, and no words were needed.
Harry wrote the first letter.
He wrote down everything he knew of Voldemort's life, starting with the Gaunts. He was no great author, but he was thorough, and he knew that Ginny would value honesty over any kind of style.
In reply, Ginny told him about the month after Bill and Fleur's wedding, how she'd been confined to the Burrow for four long, tedious weeks, waiting for news that never came.
Harry told her about the Horcruxes. He debated whether or not to tell her about the diary, but decided that she deserved the truth and wrote it all down, every last detail. He told her that he missed her, and thought about her all the time.
Ginny wrote about her detentions with the Carrows, about the scars their punishments had left, and how the older students had banded together to protect the younger children. She told him that she missed him too, and that Hogwarts wasn't the same without him.
Harry discovered a love of letter-writing; he learned more about Ginny in their exchanged letters than he had in seven years of knowing the Weasleys.
The months flew by and by November, Harry was back at the Burrow. He was writing to Ginny daily, but now the letters they exchanged were about his training, and her latest Quidditch match, and how they both couldn't wait until Christmas.
Ginny told him about how she wanted to play Quidditch professionally, and that she had four different teams scouting her.
Harry told her that he was thinking of looking for a flat near the Ministry, and asked her if she would mind looking around a few places with him during the Christmas half-term.
Ginny was his confidant now, and he felt able to tell her anything.
Then it was the week before Christmas and Harry was standing on Platform 9 ¾ with Ron, waiting for their girls.
The train pulled in, and Ron grinned at Harry, bouncing on his heels. 'You ready for a lot of squealing, mate?'
'Don't squeal too much, we're getting stared at enough as it is,' Harry said, watching as the doors opened and people spilled out onto the platform, dragging trunks and owl cages behind them.
He saw her climbing down from the furthest carriage and he automatically moved to meet her, walking at first, then breaking into a run that she matched, sprinting down the platform and into his arms.
He held her tightly and buried his face in her hair. 'I missed you,' he whispered, shivering as her fingers latched at the nape of his neck.
She kissed him then, and it was familiar yet new, strange yet comforting, the Ginny he'd left behind finally clicking into being with the Ginny he'd come home to, and it felt right. He felt whole with her in his arms, and he suddenly realised that Ginny wasn't just a girl he liked, she was the girl he loved.
Overwhelmed, he tightened his hold even further, pulling her as close as he possibly could and deepening the kiss.
After a minute or so, Ginny pulled back, her face flushed and her lips pink, and she laughed at him, touching his face tenderly. 'Bloody hell, Harry!' she grinned. 'Did you forget that we're on a train platform?'
He returned the grin, somewhat ruefully, and took her hand. 'I told you I missed you,' he said, as he grabbed the handle of her trunk and tipped it back on to its wheels. 'And you started it.'
'True,' she chirped, starting in the direction of Hermione and Ron, the former beaming widely, and the latter looking awkward but chuffed. 'But what's a girl to do when she hasn't seen her boyfriend in nearly five months?'
He smiled to himself, letting Ginny tug him along, and then suddenly stopped short as his brain registered what she'd said.
She'd called him her boyfriend.
'Ginny?' he said. 'You called me ...well. Does this mean we're going out again?'
She snorted. 'I don't snog just anyone in front of almost the entire school. So yes, if you'll have me back, then we're going out.'
It was Harry's turn to snort. 'If?' he echoed. 'If? Of course I want you back.'
'Good.' She kissed him again, a swift, sweet peck on the lips. 'Now, let's get home. We've got a lot to talk about.'
He followed her to the Apparition point, smirking when Ron rolled his eyes in mock disgust. He didn't care that he was going to get weeks of stick from his best mate – he had Ginny back, and they had somehow managed to take what had been broken and build it back up into something even better.