Harry’s eyelids fluttered open to a window, bright with sun.
He pulled the duvet over his head and burrowed deeper into his bed, trying to find his dream again. This one had been a good dream. He hardly remembered at all what it was about. It had just left him with a nice feeling and he was so comfortable and warm.
Suddenly, a loud bang startled Harry. On instinct, he reached for his wand but then he saw the cause of the noise. A lean figure with brown skin and a cloud of brunette curls was bolting through the room.
Harry followed her with his eyes. Ron, who had been snoring half a minute ago, had already pulled her under the covers with him and they were both laughing.
He checked the time. Half-nine. He grabbed his glasses and quickly put them on.
“Ron, Ronald! Please, can you wait until Harry’s out of the room?” Hermione sat up and threw the covers off. “Sorry, Harry. As usual, Ron’s a bit overexcited. I suppose I’ve been gone for a long TIME…” She screamed, followed by laughter.
“Too long,” Ron growled, half awake, and flipped her over. This was cut off by another sharp scream and a scolding from Hermione directed towards her boyfriend.
Harry watched as Hermione leapt off the bed. She ran over to give him a quick kiss on the head, and promptly leapt back into Ron’s bed.
Knowing better, by the time she was comfortable, Harry had already stood and collected his clothes.
“Sorry again. I hope you don’t mind us kicking you out, Harry,” she apologized. “I wouldn’t, normally, but Molly’s not home… Ron!”
”No worries, I think I’ll go find my better half as well.”
“She is your better half, mate!” Ron called from under the covers. “Think on it!”
Harry shook his head. The last he saw of Ron was him motioning for Harry to get out.
The door slammed shut behind him.
Think on it? What did Ron mean by that? Harry suddenly put two and two together in his mind; Ron and Hermione together, and Ron shouting at him to think on it. Last night’s conversation slowly came back to him and he remembered that it was about…
Harry wiped the sleep from his eyes as he began making his way downstairs towards the bathroom. It all came back to him, the question about love and what it was all about and whether or not he loved…
“Owww.” A piercing pain shot through his foot which had caught the door from nearly slamming him in the face.
A small soft voice cursed. A fretful-looking Ginny appeared from behind the door.
“I didn’t know you were there, Harry. I’m so sorry. Are you alright?”
What a morning this was becoming. Harry knelt down to rub his toe. “I’ll be fine. It was my fault; I wasn’t looking where I was… owww… going.” Harry suddenly forgot his sore toe because the smell of flowers was making him drowsy.
Steam was pouring out of the bathroom. Harry slowly looked up, starting at Ginny’s ankles and letting his gaze travel upward, finally stopping to stare at the slit of her dressing gown and the pull of the loose knot around her waist. Harry suddenly noted that she wore nothing else but the dressing gown.
A fine thought, followed by a surprisingly strong instinctive urge to pull her deep into his arms right there in the hallway. He breathed in.
“Are you sure you’re alright?” Ginny knelt down to have a look at his toe, which he just remembered was supposed to be hurting. He realized it was throbbing slightly.
"It's fine.” Harry stood, offering her his hand. “I’ve had worse.”
Ginny smiled as he pulled her to her feet. He didn’t let go of her hand, and she didn’t let go of his. Despite his sore toe, Harry was suddenly quite glad he had bumped into Ginny this way.
“I didn’t think you’d be down here so early. You’re supposed to be sleeping.”
“Hermione came home. Kicked me out.”
“Ah, interesting. I suppose it was a welcome surprise to Hermione that Mum was gone for the day.”
“Yeah, Hermione did mention your mum is out. Where is she?”
“Visiting George. Ron and Hermione really kicked you out?”
“Well, it sort of is Ron’s room.”
“I suppose it is, but still, it’s not fair! You were sleeping.”
He nodded towards his clothes, which were tucked under his other arm. “Was. I didn’t have too much of a choice in the matter. Besides, I definitely was not going to stay around.”
She smirked. “Got better things to do, have you, than watch Ron snog Hermione?”
“Lucky you.” She looked as if she were holding back a smile, and glanced at him, flirting.
Yes, lucky him. He felt more awake now. Maybe a reprise of last night would be nice. Maybe a few reprises of last night before breakfast would be nice.
“What are you thinking so hard about?” She poked him in the ribs.
Harry ran a hand through the back of his hair.
“Err — Nothing. Nevermind.” He took a step backwards, and Ginny pulled her hand away.
“I’m going to get dressed; you can come in when you’re ready.”
Ginny turned from him quickly and disappeared behind the wide plank of knobby wood separating her room from the landing.
Harry closed the door to the bathroom and took a deep breath. He had the urge to do everything he had to do at the moment quickly so as not to waste a moment with Ginny. Yet he didn’t want to seem too eager. Therefore, he brushed his teeth for far too long. He threw some soap and water on his face. Everything mindless he did was done thinking of Ginny in her pink dressing gown looking and smelling unbelievably… beautiful, and Ron, who he would now refer to as The Burrow’s-resident-love-expert mucking things up in his mind.
Although, now that he had a quiet moment to think, away from the presence of his well-intentioned best mate, and Ginny who made his mind fuzzy, Harry decided to take advantage of it. He leaned his hands against the sink, and stared blankly at the wall.
Do I love Ginny?
Wait a moment — why was he letting Ron get in to his head? Again?
Harry ran through the same point he had made to himself last night. He and Ginny were only seventeen and eighteen. They were free from constant threats of death and horror. And by some miracle, he was alive. And he was free from everything standing in his way to Ginny before this summer. Things were going great. They were happy. He was happy with the way things were going. Not that it ended there! He could also admit this thing between them wasn’t casual or fleeting and he didn’t want what they had together to go away. That didn’t necessarily mean that he loved her, did it?
Harry turned to look at his reflection, and rubbed the steam off the mirror with his hand to stare at himself.
“Wake up, scruffy!” the mirror called out, startling Harry. Even after all these years, he still wasn’t quite used to the talking mirrors at The Burrow and when he stood in front of one, he often forgot they were bound to call back at him.
“Wipe the sleep from yer eyes, and comb yer hair!” the mirror fussed at him again.
Sod it. Harry turned away. He hadn’t seen much anyhow, just the hazy outline of his face and long hair. He had been forced to take off his glasses as they had immediately fogged upon entering the bathroom that Ginny had just taken a steamy shower in.
Steamy. Ginny. Harry hung his head, thinking distinctly of Ginny’s shapely legs underneath her dressing gown again and the nice knot, perfectly tied at her slender waist. The same fine thoughts he had had in the hallway coursed through him, and combined with the steam in the bathroom, it was making him rather warm. He closed his eyes and, for a second, he imagined his hand pulling at the knot as he watched the dressing gown fall open under his fingertips…
Harry stopped himself mid-thought, turned on the faucet to the coldest possible setting and stuck his face straight into the sink.
Perhaps it was the season? For the first time since he had noticed her back in sixth year, Ginny wasn’t covered up all the time. She wasn’t dressed up in school robes, or Quidditch robes, or jumpers. Her small summer wardrobe consisted of soft shirts and little shorts, and skirts and dresses and bathing costumes; the summer had been an endless supply of Ginny looking right cracking in front of his eyes! It was no wonder that he wasn’t thinking of love these days! Rather, he was trying to get as close to her as possible, as often as he could.
Wait a moment! Harry knew that he wanted to get closer to Ginny in many ways, but he knew enough about the ways of love to know that wanting to… err… share intimacy with someone did not necessarily mean you love them. Look how far Ron went with Lavender! And look what his best well-intentioned mate had been doing with Hermione even though they still hadn’t exchanged sentiments of love. In fact, Ron and Hermione were probably upstairs doing plenty of things right now, all of which were not contingent upon loving one another. He knew that Ginny felt the same way about him. Yet just because they were very, very attracted to one another didn’t mean they were necessarily going to fall in love and get married because of it.
”Don’t just stand there, boy, chivvy along.”
Harry looked up, startled.
“Yeah, yeah,” he murmured. He blinked back at his indistinct reflection and decided to cease worrying about love. From this point on. In fact, he would stop thinking about it at all. There. Easy enough.
Soon he was knocking on Ginny’s door. No answer.
“Sorry, I’ll wait out here.”
“No, it’s fine. One second.”
The door opened slightly. He pushed it open and entered.
Ginny was going about her room, towelling her hair and throwing odds and ends aside. She had put on a soft yellow shirt and jeans. “Good morning,” she smiled. Her room smelled sweet. He breathed in.
Now her hair was half dry and really wavy. It looked so soft to him. And shiny. And beautiful.
It was a strange feeling, contentment. Harry sat on her bed simply because there was nowhere else to sit, which had been convenient this summer, to say the least. Ginny’s room was so cozy; it had been his favorite place to hide all summer. The windows were open and a soft breeze blew though the room. A candle burned, and he realized where the sweet smell came from. It smelled like vanilla and sugar and flowers.
He started to feel tired again. Ginny closed the door and clicked the lock. He took the opportunity to admire her just doing ordinary things, like hanging up her towel. It was ordinary things he had often missed during the war and he appreciated them more because of it.
She always noticed when he did. Sometimes, like right now, she pointed it out even when he didn’t know he was doing it. Apparently, or so she said, he had never smiled much in his previous life.
“Yes, you are. Caught you in the act.” Ginny jumped onto the bed. “But I won’t ask you what for.” She looked up at him with those big golden brown eyes and kissed him quickly on the cheek. He swore her face was still warm from her shower. “How’s your toe. Broken?” She frowned, inspecting it.
He breathed her in again. “No. I think I’ll be alright.”
“You smell like toothpaste.”
He didn't know what to say other than he knew the reason. He had brushed his teeth for at least five minutes longer than he had to, in order to not knock down her bedroom door in his eagerness, yet he had been thinking of her looking lovely in her dressing gown the entire time he was caring for his teeth. Ginny was running her fingertips up and down his hand. He looked down at her and caught her eye. He looked away quickly.
Damn. Ron’s other question had suddenly popped up in his mind. Damn.
If Ginny had died, would life have been sorry and pathetic, would it have not been worth going on?
Not Ginny. Not Ginny, Harry remembered repeating it in his mind during the battle, over and over and over. Anyone but Ginny. I don’t care who. Anyone. Take anyone else but Ginny. Take me.
What a horrible, yet eye-opening thought. He really cared for her so much, he would have rather Colin or Fred or Lupin die? And they had. Too many people had died and Ginny sat right before him, looking at him patiently. Now all he could think was, is this fair? Is this really fair? Why do I deserve this?
Harry felt his chest sink. Another thought from the night of the battle reared into his mind. Right before he died in the forest, when he closed his eyes, he had seen Ginny’s face. He hadn’t thought of this in a while and wasn’t surprised it would pop up now. Truthfully, it had puzzled him and he hadn’t wanted to think too much about it since. He’d never even mentioned it to a single person.
Harry had come to a conclusion on the subject, however. His life was so pathetically void of happiness, and Ginny was the one and only happy spot in his mind, so his mind naturally fell to thinking of the one happy spot. Only once had he considered that it meant something else, far more than he was ready to understand about how he felt for Ginny, but he had tossed that idea right out. It sounded too… strange and silly to him, and far too romantic. To think he had seen Ginny at the moment of his death because he loved her! If that was the case, you may as well write it in a stupid love story. He was Harry Potter! All the stories about him involved death and dying and torture and horror. He had already decided his horrible encounter with death at the hands of Voldemort was in no way linked to anything remotely romantic. Ginny was just his girlfriend. A girl he liked and cared about a lot. Of course he had thought of her; by that moment, she was the only comfort left for him.
He pushed it out of his mind and, at the moment he did, Ginny began humming to herself. It made him smile. He breathed, remembering to, and thought of a day last week when they were playing around near the deep part of the river, pushing one another close to the edge and threatening to push the other in. Finally, she managed to push him in with all his clothes on. Having not let go of her hand, he had pulled her with him. They had emerged from the river laughing in hysterics and sopping wet, and once they were on shore, they were fighting to push the other in again. He wondered what they would get to doing today and was looking forward to whatever it was, since they always had fun.
Flowers and sugar filled his senses, calming him.
Ginny nestled herself into his side and purred in contentment and as quickly as he had hoped it wouldn’t, Ron’s question popped up again. This time, there was more.
Ginny loved him. At least Ron thought so.
It’s not some Ministry secret she’s keeping.
Harry had another horrible thought. If she loved him and he didn’t know how he felt, wasn’t that leading her on or messing her around? He couldn’t live with himself if he hurt Ginny. The last thing he ever wanted to do was hurt the person who cared about him the most. Then again, he didn't want to give her some kind of hope that involved intending to someday marry her. One thing he knew for certain was all the hope she had when it came to him. How she had hoped he would notice her, how she hoped he would come around, how she hoped he would live. Low and behold, he had done all those things. He knew her. She was hoping that he would… fall in love with her and they would end up together. He had a sinking feeling. It would be a huge disappointment to her and probably plenty of others if they didn't. For the first time, Harry worried about the real and eventual possibility of having to be honest with Ginny about the way he felt, regardless of whether or not it hurt her.
It hurt him, literally made his chest ache, to think he would have to hurt her.
Why was he making this so difficult? He liked Ginny plenty, and couldn’t imagine himself wanting differently at any point in the near future, yet for some reason, there stood the same blank black wall in his mind blocking any entry of the word love or marriage or future. The mere thought of spending the rest of his life with Ginny made him fidget beside her. He opened his eyes. Who knew what he would want to do someday? Someday, he might want to holiday in China, but it didn’t necessarily mean he wanted to book his trip now. It didn’t mean he had mapped out a sightseeing tour, or even thought about the possibility of going there, unless it was in extremely vague terms, like someday I might want to holiday in China, but if it doesn’t happen... well, it doesn’t.
In the meantime, he had kissed Ginny all summer long. He had done more than kiss her too, on a few occasions. And they were constantly touching and holding hands and had been rather inseparable these days. To an outsider like Ron, he saw how it would seem like they were barmy in love. Maybe she thought he was, too. Did that mean he was already messing her around?
“Tired? Maybe I can help lull you back to sleep. Mum won’t be back until…”
She was still talking but he wasn’t listening.
After a few moments, Ginny fell quiet, but continued to trace her fingers up and down his hand, and soon he felt her link her fingers in his.
“Hullo? Harry, are you there?”
Startled, he shrugged. “What?”
He knew her, and she was suspecting something. Of course she was. She was a bit too in tune with him sometimes or she tried to be. Sometimes it was cool. Sometimes, like now, it was a bit intrusive.
“Nothing. You just completely zoned out. Are you okay?” She was concerned, and he immediately realized it was probably because his zoning out used to mean that he was either seeing images from Voldemort’s mind or something bad was about to happen or had already happened.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” He sat up. Out of nasty habit, he rubbed his scar.
“Is it hurting?” she asked quickly.
“No. No, not at all.” He hastily tried to change the subject and tried to sound and behave normal, tried to act normal, which was increasingly harder to be by the second. “Sorry. Why didn’t you go with your mum today?”
“I dunno. I’m not feeling so cheerful, and I can’t pretend to be for George’s sake, if you want the real answer.”
“Nothing.” Ginny shrugged.
“You said you weren’t feeling cheerful.”
Ginny threw herself back on the bed and settled on her side. He laid back again, hands behind his head.
“I don’t know.” She sighed. “It’s nothing. I mean… I’m just pretty upset about having to go back to school next week, but let’s not talk about it.”
“We can, if you want.”
“I know. But what is there to say? It’s useless to think about it when there’s nothing we can do to stop it.”
“Than why get upset?”
“Exactly. I mean, I’ll miss summer, and having you around, of course, but it’s not worth moaning about all week. I think we deserve to enjoy our last bit of summer before I go off to school and you go off to Kingsley Shacklebolt and the Aurors.”
Harry smirked. “Sounds like a rock band.”
Ginny giggled. “Sort of. Although I’m pretty sure they won’t be teaching you how to play the drums.”
“Unless they’ve invented some sort of… Dark drums.”
Ginny laughed. The sound tickled him and made him laugh a bit as well. She had such a great laugh.
“Dark drums,” she repeated, giggling. “You’re nutters.”
“Would be sort of cool if they did teach me drums.”
“Yeah, especially with the hair.” She patted him on the side of the head. “You do look more and more like a rock star, Harry.”
“Is that why you like me?” He motioned towards her poster of the Weird Sisters.
“It’s exactly why,” she said rather seriously. “You've got me sussed.”
He laughed, and then reached out to tickle her side. They laughed and thrashed about for a few moments until she sighed.
“Well, summer’s not over for me.” He reached out and smoothed her hair. “I’m not moving out until the Order moves headquarters. Could still be another two or three weeks.”
“I did say, our last bit of summer… not yours.” She settled into him again.
Ours. Harry turned the word over in his head, liking it more and more. Ours.
Nothing had ever been theirs before, together. Nothing had been allowed to be theirs, until now. Even if it was simply time.
Ginny nestled herself closer to him and sighed. He felt her small frame against his and lost all sense and thought for a moment. He took a deep breath. He felt her damp hair. He felt her breath on his arm.
She turned to him, and they were face to face.
“Hiya.” She shot him a great smile. Her skin looked so beautiful in the morning light; he had an incredible urge to kiss her, to touch her, to feel her against him.
She must have felt the same way because she kissed him first. Once.
“Great morning,” he corrected her. Next thing he knew, she was kissing him like crazy. Hell. Yes. He wrapped his arm around her waist.
Our last bit of summer.
Ginny was in his arms. Ginny wanted him and nobody else.
He pulled her hard against him, and he didn’t care if she loved him, or if he loved her, or why it mattered.
All that mattered was there were seven more days of summer, and every waking moment of it was theirs. All that mattered was now.
A/N: I hope that you readers enjoy the interaction between Harry and Ginny in this second chapter and the angst and confusion building in Harry's mind here. To those who have left comments, they are much appreciated and I look forward to hearing from you again. Thanks as well to my amazing beta for reminding me of the wonders of talking mirrors!