Disclaimer: Everything recognizable belongs to J.K. Rowling.
A/N: I originally started this for the Short 'n Sweet Challenge but didn't get it finished on time. Huge thanks to my very busy beta, Mistral, who has far better time management skills than I do! =) B/N: Heh. I wish.
It was pouring with rain outside; Ginny could hear it beating against the roof and splattering the windows. She paused, hesitating midway down the stairs -- always a dangerous thing to do in a home where loose-limbed men were liable to come crashing around corners. Turning around, she leaned heavily against the wall, rested her head back and breathed out in a long sigh. Her mum was baking again; she could smell ginger biscuits and olive bread. Mum had cooked up a storm for the past few weeks, constantly pressing sugary treats on them and sending hampers to friends and neighbours. She insisted that it was practical work, that with so much upheaval people needed a little help. Ginny had said nothing, merely reaching for her wand and searching her mind for whatever household spells she could remember. A faint, rueful smile crossed her face now. She may have inherited her mum's temper, but her own cooking left a lot to be desired. Hopefully, Neville and his grandmother preferred their cakes on the crisp side. And slightly lopsided.
She opened her eyes at the weary tones. Ron stood before the bottom step, looking up at her. His hair was ruffled and t-shirt wrinkled, a faint fuzz of copper whiskers shading his jaw. Ginny's heart twinged at the subdued expression on her brother's face. She missed his mischievous grin and teasing eyes.
They had every reason to celebrate. But she couldn't shake this horrid sense of...nothingness. Outside the walls of the Burrow, she knew people were joyful -- euphoric. The news was everywhere -- in the pubs, in the streets, on the Wireless, in the Prophet -- just everywhere. It was over. And they were bloody lucky; she knew that. They'd come through better than she'd ever dared hope. They'd come through it. Not everyone had made it to that final day; people who should have had the chance to stand strong, who should have survived into the quietness of that night, had been lost. But the only life destroyed that day had been his. The ruddy, murdering bastard.
Ginny took another deep breath, forcing the familiar claws of hatred and bitterness away. She refused to let them take over; there wasn't room for that, not anymore. Everyone had to heal, had to grieve for what was irrevocably lost, and they had to live. And she wouldn't live in hate and fear. Not anymore. Never again.
"Morning, Ron," she murmured back, belatedly. "How'd you sleep?"
He shrugged, a little listlessly. "Alright. Once Harry stopped his bally snoring."
Despite herself, Ginny snorted. "Oh, yes, Ron. Harry's snoring is the problem in this house. Poor Hermione; I don't know how she copes."
A tiny grin creaked at the corners of her mouth as crimson red surged up Ron's neck and into his ears.
A giggle escaped. It felt a little odd, like it'd been years rather than months since she'd had reason to laugh, but it was nice. Letting a pleasant kick of energy run through her body, she pushed away from the wall and continued down the stairs.
"Don't worry, Ron," she whispered loudly. "Your secret's safe with me." She tapped her finger against her nose in the way that had always irritated him and pushed lightly past his spluttering protests.
"What secret?" Hermione asked on a yawn, as she trudged sleepily down in Ginny's wake. The overly-large sleeves of her dressing gown fell over her hands, and she pushed them back with a practiced gesture, before knuckling her eyes like a child. Something cold in Ron's face immediately softened as he looked at her, and Ginny's throat ached to see it.
"The secret of how I manage to look so dashing and manly," her brother replied airily. "Despite Harry's sinuses keeping me awake all night."
Hermione's snort was even louder than her own had been. "Oh, honestly, Ron. Like Harry's sinuses are the problem. The house-elves at Hogwarts probably heard you last night."
Ron raised an eyebrow at her. "Nah, I reckon they'll still be having a right party over there. Hermione leaves school - no more spew."
Scraping her hair into a loose, unsuccessful bun, the other witch sniffed at him. "Actually, Ron," she began, rather snippily, "I've had my successor for S.P.E.W organised for ages. Luna's got loads of ideas, and I think she'll do a perfectly fine job."
"Luna?" Ron repeated in disbelief. "Since when has Luna Lovegood been a ruddy spew campaigner? What's she going to do -- take them on holidays to find Cropple-Horned Snorkles?"
"Crumple-Horned Snorkacks," Hermione corrected automatically. "And no, of course not. Besides, they'd have to go all the way to Australia, because new theories about the Crumple-Horned Snorkacks suggest..."
Her voice trailed off at the look on Ron's face. Ginny looked on in fascination, enormously entertained and so grateful for her brother's increasing animation that she could cheerfully have kissed her friend.
"Yes?" Ron queried silkily. "New theories about Crumple-Horned Snorkacks suggest...what?"
Hermione's chin jutted out defiantly, and a gleeful light appeared in his eyes.
"You've been researching them!"
"Well..." Hermione said, momentarily lost for words. She hastened to justify herself. "I've decided there's no point in denouncing something until I've proven for myself that it's nonsense. Besides," she added, a little guiltily, "I suppose I haven't always been quite fair to Luna. She was wonderful there, at the end. And she's been doing great things for Theodore Nott -- Merlin knows he needs all the help he can get." She ignored Ron's derisive grunt. "And that article her father wrote in The Quibbler was really quite accurate -- not like that rubbish about Harry and Ginny in Witch's Day."
Ginny groaned inwardly and immediately decided that eavesdropping had ceased to be interesting. She bit her lip and started to back away before Ron could...
"Oh, right. That." Her brother swung around to stare archly at her. "We haven't actually talked about that, yet."
Ginny rolled her eyes at him, and Hermione made a loud 'Tchaa!" sound.
"Oh, honestly!" she said again. "That sorry excuse for journalism! What a lot of nonsense. As if Harry would ever do half the things they said...or you either, Ginny," she hastened to add. "I mean, this is Harry we're talking about. He still blushes if anyone catches him and Ginny snogging, for Merlin's sake."
"Right," Ginny agreed, nodding her head decisively as she headed toward the living room. She turned back, suddenly, with a wicked grin. "Besides...it really couldn't be that comfortable at all, could it? Doing that on a moving broomstick."
Ron started to wheeze, and Hermione quickly bit her thumb in order to stop a laugh and force a disapproving frown.
Ginny's smile faded again, however, when she pushed open the living room door. For a short moment, she thought it empty, but a small movement drew her eye to Harry's hunched form on the window seat. He was staring blankly out at the morning rain, gaze dull behind his glasses. The door creaked as she closed it behind her, and he turned slowly to look at her. Her heart almost broke all over again at the exhaustion in his face. Like Ron, he hadn't shaved, and she wasn't sure whether he'd dressed or not. His clothes were wrinkled enough that he could have slept in them.
"Good morning," she whispered, for some reason unwilling -- or unable -- to break the stillness in the room.
He didn't reply, but some of the lines around his eyes and mouth relaxed as he watched her walk toward him. Stopping just short of him, Ginny let her feelings flood her face as she drank in his familiar features. As she did every time she saw him again: alive and, if not quite whole, still warm and solid and real.
Harry's chest shuddered as he drew in a breath. As usual, there was tenseness, alertness behind his lethargy. Constant vigilance, she found herself thinking wryly. The suddenness of his movements surprised her, though, when he reached to seize her around the waist, toppling her gently onto the seat between his legs and hugging her to his chest. He pressed his face into her hair.
"Hullo," he murmured against her cheek.
She smiled into his warm skin. "Hi."
His body moved again as he sighed deeply. "Ron and Hermione bickering again?"
"You heard that?" Ginny asked, her smile widening. He snorted softly, and she laughed. "Well, let's face it, Harry. Some things are never going to change."
Harry went still then, and she turned to see his face. He was looking at her intensely.
"Good," he said, firmly. "I don't want everything to change, Ginny."
Her teeth sank into her bottom lip as she met his somber gaze and tried to think of something reassuring to say. Finally, she slid her hands up his chest and carefully palmed his rough jaw.
"The little things are always going to change, Harry," she said, quietly. "But the big things -- the important things -- they'll be there. They'll stay. No matter how hard it gets, or how hard you try to push them away." Her face took on a distinctly wicked expression. "Or how much you argue with them when you know they're almost always right."
Harry rolled his eyes, but he laughed. Feeling bubbles of happiness rise in her stomach at the sound, Ginny gently pressed her thumb to his lips, parting them. Leaning forward, she kissed him and, after several heartbeats of surprise, he responded fiercely, filling his hands with her hair and clutching her tightly. Ginny wrapped her arms around his neck, letting her fingers stroke down into his shirt collar and loving his instinctive shudders.
She loved kissing Harry, period. Really, she wasn't sure how she'd survived so long without doing it. Bugger singing cards: if she'd known what their snogging would be like, she'd have jumped him at the breakfast table years ago. She smiled again, against his busy mouth. Alright, so Harry would never be the world's most skillful kisser, and he didn't always remember the brush-teeth-first-in-the-morning policy, but he was always so lovely and...enthusiastic. And the bottom of her stomach still dropped out with just a peck on the cheek.
Harry's hands stopped touching her, and Ginny blinked at him, her brain rather sluggishly forming a protest. He blushed furiously, apparently also incapable of finding words, and nodded toward the door.
"Good morning, you two." Molly raised a brow at them in that way she had. One fist was planted on her hip, and the other clutched a tray of chocolate bombs. Ginny's nose twitched appreciatively. She loved chocolate almost as much as she loved kissing Harry. Almost. She glared at her mother.
"Morning, Mum," she said pointedly.
"I thought you might like some treats," Molly said, a little archly, approaching them with the tray and taking inventory of their position at a glance. "If you're not too busy to eat, that is."
Harry stared fixatedly at the food, looking utterly mortified. Ginny sighed inwardly. How long had they been dating now?
"But we haven't even had breakfast yet," she suddenly realized.
"It's almost ready," her mum replied, offering them each a handful of sweets. "It won't hurt you to have a little chocolate first."
Ginny looked down at the treats in her hand and then back up at her mother in astonishment. Who are you and what have you done with Molly Weasley?
Molly turned back at the door and beamed at them. "Your father and I used to sneak out to the Quidditch pitch before breakfast at Hogwarts," she said. "We'd sit in the frost and eat the homemade chocolates that my mother sent. Did I ever tell you that?"
"No," Ginny said, fascinated.
A smile slipped onto Harry's face. "I bet he loved that. Being brought chocolate at school. Can help a bloke realize a few important things...eventually." He quirked a look at Ginny, and she stared at him with incomprehension.
Her mother's words brought their attention back to her. "Life's made of little moments like that, I always thought. It helps to remember that when you're trying to deal with the big things...the harder things. There's so much reason to be joyful."
Ginny swallowed a lump in her throat. She nodded silently, trying to let her eyes speak for her. Molly looked a little teary as she nodded back. They understood each other; they always had.
"Thanks, Mrs. Weasley," Harry said, a little huskily.
Molly smiled at him. "Breakfast is in ten minutes, dear. Enjoy the chocolate." She slipped through the door, leaving it open a crack. "Oh, and Ginny, love?"
Ginny bit into her chocolate bomb. "Yes?" she asked, her mouth full as the sweet exploded and fudge ran over her tongue.
"Life may be for enjoying now, but if either of you touches that firewhiskey in the pantry, you'll be enjoying the summer from the garden. Degnoming. That goes for your brothers, as well. Understood?"
Ginny grinned. That was more like it. "Yes, Mum."
Molly's footsteps receded, and Harry turned to look at her, licking a smear of chocolate from his hand. "I thought you said Ron drank the firewhiskey on his birthday."
"He did," she said blithely. "It's cold tea. If Mum decides to make her firewhiskey trifle, he's buggered."
Harry snickered. "I s'pose if Ron gets stuck degnoming, we'll get a break from the arguing, at least."
"Or, more likely, Hermione'll stand out there with anecdotes about whiskey-dependent wizards."
"Can you imagine how exhausting that relationship must be?"
"As their former third wheel, I know exactly how exhausting that relationship can be, thanks." Harry snorted. "Besides...we can't really talk, can we? You don't always accept that I'm right."
Ginny shoved him with her foot and grinned into her chocolate. "You wish, Potter."
It was true, though, she reflected. Who would have thought they'd have such a...fiery relationship? In all her early fantasies about Harry, she'd pictured them happily in love, living a peaceful, harmonious existence, with nothing to worry about except what Fred and George might do next.
Her nose wrinkled.
How boring did that sound?
Harry looked over at her and smiled. His hair was still messy, and he still hadn't shaved. And -- typical boy -- there was a small chocolate stain under his lip. Ginny tilted her head and reached out to grab his free hand in hers. She definitely preferred the reality to the fantasy.
Besides, given the fact that they were fairly well matched in temper -- that of the quick-boiling, explosive, short-lived variety -- she didn't know how she'd ever thought they wouldn't argue much. As Hermione (who Ginny strongly suspected was a closet romance novel fan) said, there were potential adverse reactions to any strong chemistry. She'd actually gone on to explain a theory once: that stagnation in a relationship was the key to failure but, fortunately, she and Ron had friction, while Harry and Ginny had passion, to keep them going.
At which point they'd both become completely mortified and remembered forgotten chores at opposite ends of the castle.
Ginny thought that conversation had taken place right after The Breakup. Which actually hadn't been especially momentous; they'd been back together by dusk. But, still. A breakup was a breakup. It'd been over Harry's tendency to be overbearing and act like yet another male, as she'd found herself yelling in the midst of a crowded DA meeting. Or, according to him, it was her inclination towards recklessness that caused the argument.
Nonetheless, at Ron's prodding, they'd worked things out. Harry had crossed his fingers behind his back and sworn not to be so overprotective. She'd lied through her teeth and promised to think before rushing headlong into dangerous situations.
Harry polished off his remaining chocolate and reached out to pull her back into a hug. Pressing a rough kiss to the side of her neck, he studied their linked hands over her shoulder.
"What do you want to do today?"
Ginny shrugged, playing with his fingers. "Don't know. We could play chess, I suppose. Or..."
"That reminds me, Ginny!" Molly's voice echoed from the kitchen. "I need your help cleaning the attic today."
How did she always know when to do that?
"Or we could help your mum clean the attic," Harry said, ruefully.
Ginny groaned. "Sorry."
"I don't mind...honestly," he insisted, at her pointed look. "I like being able to help out. And it'll be something to do...until we can sort things out...where to go from here."
She squeezed his hand, hating the lost note in his voice. "It'll work out, Harry," she promised. Turning her head, she met his eyes. "There's so much reason to be joyful, remember?"
He leaned his forehead against hers, his body moving in a sigh, and they sat silently for some time, listening to the rain pad on the window.
"It's raining again," Harry murmured eventually and unnecessarily.
"No flying yet, then, I suppose," Ginny said, regretfully.
She looked up and saw the mischievous smile twitching at his lips. "What?"
He looked around and then leaned forward to whisper in her ear, a laugh hiding behind the words.
"Does that mean we can't try doing that on a broom again?"