Harry shook the water off his head as he stepped out of the bath and dried himself, feeling much better than he had when he had arrived home.
He had been made to do more press-ups that day than he ever had before. During morning exercises, a duel between him and Martin had gone wrong when he had tripped on his untied shoe lace and sent an awfully good Jelly-Legs Jinx in the direction of John Dawlish, a senior Auror who happened to be visiting the exercise facility that day to see the trainee class. Dawlish, who he remembered from the confrontation in Dumbledore's office at the end of his fifth year, had proceeded to, without blinking, put a very powerful Body-Bind on Harry — which he despised. He did not like being unable to move, the memories that such a curse brought back caused Harry to swear profusely. This, Savage had not liked at all.
The resulting punishment had been a lot like being in detention again, except somewhat more painful. He thought it would be very nice to have a Prefects' bathroom at Grimmauld Place and a huge soaking tub for his muscles, but he had to make do with the old claw-footed bathtub in the bathroom at Grimmauld Place.
He went to his room and threw himself down on his bed. He had noticed in the bath that he had deep purple bruising where Dawlish's curse had hit him. He reached into the drawer of his bedside table for the round container of Bruise Paste and watched the black and blue marks dissipate as he rubbed the Paste into his tortured skin. He had forgotten this stuff even existed! Of course, Fred and George had made sure that something existed for everything. How thoughtful of Ginny to tell Ron to bring the Bruise Paste home for him. It made him feel… that Ginny was being a great girlfriend. She really was a great girlfriend. Always wanting to write to him, to make sure he was doing well, and now sending him things he needed. It made him want to do something nice for her. Wait, when was the last time he had done something nice for Ginny? He made a mental note to do something nice for her as soon as possible. Even if it was something small.
He really missed her. Ever since he had spoken with Bill at Shell Cottage, Harry realized that he needed to relax a lot more around Ginny. Perhaps if he did that, his feelings for her would just happen on their own. He hoped to take advantage of the coming two weeks he had off from training — due to the Christmas hols — to spend as much time with Ginny as he could. If things went as well as they had last summer, perhaps by the end of the two weeks he would realistically be closer to knowing how he felt about her than he was now! Bill had said it had taken him about six months to fall in love with Fleur, so there was the distinct possibility that he, Harry, could be quite close himself because of all the time he'd spent with Ginny last summer.
Two whole weeks… he had two whole weeks to spend with Ginny, just as he had in the summer. He remembered feeling that all their time together had never been enough. He remembered feeling as if he had to pull himself from her every night and run back to her every morning. He wanted to forget these last four or so months and pretend they didn't exist, so emotionally painful had they been. All he wanted to do was pick up where they had left off in the broom cupboard a few weeks ago and literally not let go.
Four more days. It still felt like an eternity to wait. For once, he felt like he had something grand to look forward to, much more so than his Order of Merlin, which he was really was beginning to dread.
Ginny came through the Floo in a rush, nearly tripping over her untied shoelace as she exited the fireplace. After regaining her balance, she quickly turned and pulled her bag, Crookshanks' cage and Arnold and his cage through, too.
Thank goodness that, despite back and forth as of late with Professor McGonagall regarding her marks, she had agreed to let her forgo the Hogwarts Express as the only means of travel home. This way was much easier! A nine-hour train ride versus a ten-minute loop through the Floo and two transfers. And it had allowed her to arrive home directly after classes and over a day and a half before the train, which was brilliant!
She would have Apparated of course, if she knew how. Hermione had left the Hogwarts grounds after exams this afternoon to Apparate to her parents' house. Ginny thought about it wistfully. A few more months. They were going to offer classes in the spring for students turning seventeen, so she would have to wait until then, since she had missed them as a sixth-year. She still had no idea how to Apparate and was sure that if she tried, she would Splinch herself horribly, so she couldn't wait to learn.
Ginny looked around at the small living room, feeling pleased. To her, happiness was The Burrow. She belonged here, and knew she always would. The Burrow smelled like her mother's pies and biscuits, worn wooden floors, her mum's flowery perfume and the faint scent that something had been burning, left over from years and years of her father running Muggle objects with magic, like vacuum cleaners and hair dryers. It had been extra hard on her last spring when her family had been forced into hiding at Aunt Muriel's during Easter hols, so now arriving home to stay made her appreciate this place all the more.
"Mum!" she called, but heard nothing in response. She flounced into the kitchen, checked the clock, running her eyes over it quickly. Everything mundane, really. Ron and George were at the shop, Bill was at the bank, her dad at work. She noted happily that Mum was home.
"MUM!!" Ginny called out for her once more.
Not hearing a response, Ginny ran upstairs to find her, thinking she must be in the attic.
She hurried up the first flight of steep steps to the landing where Fred and George's room was. The door to the twins' room was cracked open.
"Really, I didn't expect…" She heard her mum's voice. Ginny wondered who she could be speaking with.
Then she stopped short, her heart racing suddenly. There was another voice, one she did not expect.
Ginny pushed the door open a crack and was met with the most incredible thing she thought she had ever seen.
"Oh, Ginny, you're home early!" her mother noted cheerfully, before quickly picking herself up to give her a huge hug.
Ginny hardly heard her or noticed. She felt as if she were in a tunnel and her mum's voice felt very far away.
Her eyes were locked with Harry's. She surveyed him with her mouth half open. He was standing on a quasi-platform her mum had probably conjured there, wearing beautiful and, most likely, extremely expensive dark green dress robes. The fabric was fine, and so dark you couldn't tell they were green, but they were the most complimentary shade he could ever wear. His messy, long black hair stood out to her because she loved it so. The curve of his shoulders, which were now broader than she ever remembered. His eyes, so brightly green when he grinned at her, and said hi.
Ginny felt herself freeze up. She couldn't think to speak because her mouth just wasn't working. She tried to say something, anything, but she couldn't.
Would her voice begin to work again?
Oh no, it really wouldn't work.
Her eyes burned with tears as she ran out of the room as quickly as she could. She didn't know why or how to explain why this was happening to her.
Her throat burned. She ran to her room. Flying at top speed, she came to her wide wooden door, which she pulled open. Fumbling with her wand, she locked the door, closed her eyes and sank to her knees, trying desperately to catch her breath.
Harry shook his head at Ginny's quick entrance and ever quicker exit. He had been so surprised but happy to see her. It hadn't been so comfortable to come face to face when least expected, but he had hoped she was pleased to see him, too. He felt sorely confused at what had just happened.
"Do I look that bad, Mrs. Weasley?"
"Harry! Tosh! Look at yourself, sweetie!" Molly Weasley turned and directed him to the mirror. "You look all grown up! She's probably flustered seeing you here, wearing these robes."
Harry thought about the word 'fluster' and what it meant. Did he really fluster Ginny? Like, make her feel nervous or bothered somehow?
Harry felt puzzled. He surveyed himself furtively in the mirror so as not to arouse its attentions.
"Did she know you would be home early?" Mrs. Weasley asked. "I asked Minerva to send her home by Floo, but figured she would want to spend one more night in the common room with her friends."
"No, I didn't tell her," Harry admitted. "I suppose she just wanted to come home early. Maybe she missed it. Must be a happy coincidence, though, that I'm here." It was, for him.
Then, a horrible thought hit him. Perhaps she ran away because she really didn't want to see him. It couldn't have been from being flustered! He had never thought he was a particularly good-looking person. Except for Ginny, the only interest most girls had ever had in him was due to the fact that he was the Boy Who Lived, or the Chosen One, or now, because he had ended the war. He ran a hand through his long, mussed-up hair, and studied his thin, slightly stubbly face, thinking about whether or not Ginny thought he was that handsome. He knew — since she wanted to marry him someday — that she liked him a whole lot, but he figured that it wasn't for his hulking good looks. It had much more to do with his personality and sense of humour, didn't it?
Harry attempted another long, furtive look in the mirror. He had noticed — now that he had on these robes — that his shoulders and muscles were filling out a bit. He had been so rail thin at the end of the war that his body was reacting very well to the weight he was putting on in training and from eating so much pub food on Sundays and sharing Indian take-away with Asheem on their lunch breaks. Come to think of it, he was a bit taller now than he had imagined he would ever end up being, which he liked because he had always been such a small, titchy kid.
"What are you staring at, sir?" the mirror suddenly remarked. "You should really brush that messy hair."
Harry rolled his eyes and looked down. The mirror was right. Had he brushed his hair today? No, he remembered, he hadn't, except with his fingers. His teeth? He made a mental note to eat some mints when Mrs. Weasley was through.
"Can't you make the mirrors stop talking?" he complained. "I know I should be used to it by now, but I'm just not."
Molly laughed. "Sadly, no. The charm is permanent. When you have your own brood one day, you'll realize how handy the mirrors are, especially in the children's rooms."
Harry thought about his own brood for a moment. Yet, he didn't imagine a simple family picture. He had no idea what forced him to, instead, conjure the image of him and Ginny, old and living in a shoe, like that old Muggle nursery rhyme, with tens upon tens of ginger-haired children coming out the windows.
He shook his head to clear that scary thought away and, avoiding the mirror at all costs, he looked down at his robes to see how the hemming process was going. He was fascinated by Molly's skill at tailoring. She had enchanted several pins and a needle and thread to work simultaneously with a measuring tape, which was turning up the material at precise intervals around the bottom hem of his new robes. When he had purchased the unhemmed robes from Madam Malkin yesterday at lunchtime — he'd been in a hurry and didn't have time to have her hem them for him — the elderly witch had remarked that the specific fabric she had chosen for him played upon the colour of his eyes quite nicely.
As much as he hated to admit it, Harry agreed with her. Out of all his features, he believed his eyes were his best, even if they were mostly hidden behind his glasses. He knew Ginny thought they were a nice colour since one night last summer he had overheard her remark on this to Hermione. He recalled the admission had spread a pretty blush over her cheeks and he knew he had dwelt upon the beauty of her eyes many times the previous year when he had been feeling lonely.
Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, he admitted, "I still don't understand why Ginny ran out of here. I know she didn't know I'd be here tonight, but I didn't know she'd be here, either."
"Well, you said it was a happy coincidence." Mrs. Weasley smiled that knowing smile she used to direct towards him last summer.
"It is." He grinned. "Hey — now we have one more evening together that we didn't expect to have, I suppose."
"One more evening?" Molly asked, sounding surprised. "Oh, I see what you mean." She hesitated a moment and then added, "You know, Harry, all the time you two have together, now is really time you never expected to have, isn't it? I'm sure it's time she never expected to have, either."
Harry stopped to consider Mrs. Weasley's words. It gave him a bit of a chill, thinking of this in Fred's old room. For a while he had nothing to say. He just stood there, thinking of how all their time together was borrowed time. Hadn't they both almost died this year? And yet, they were together. Harry didn't feel like thinking about what he had compared to what other people had lost. He had gone over that in his head too many times, and still he had no idea how to not feel guilty and undeserving. He wished suddenly that he was alone on the streets of London where he could choose what to think and feel. His insides gnawed at him.
At length, Mrs. Weasley broke the silence, which startled him out of his thoughts. "I'm only her mother and she tells me nothing, but I'm sure she's quite glad that you're here. It's a bit chilly in here." Mrs. Weasley crossed the room and closed the window. "Harry, I'm not going to ask questions about you and Ginny. I'll simply ask the same questions I ask my youngest son every time I see him. Are you happy? Are you eating well? Are you treating Hermione well and being respectful? Oops, I mean Ginny, of course."
Harry thought for a moment. "I'm fine, really. Am I eating well? Funny that you ask Ron that question every time. He eats well enough for the both of us." Harry watched, amused, as the corners of Molly's lips turned upwards.
"Yes, Harry, we know Ron can eat in ample amounts, but it depends on what he's eating and if his choices are good choices. I wouldn't be pleased to hear that he's going around eating pub food every night. Luckily, I know he's eating well when he's with George. Felicity is kind enough to cook meals at the shop."
Harry thought for a moment about the pubs he frequented in the city. "Well, what's the problem with pub food, Mrs. Weasley?" He muttered, "I know it wouldn't be considered eating well, but it tastes good."
"It tastes good, but it isn't proper eating!" She narrowed her eyes at him. "Harry, are you and Ron making meals together and visiting the market for fresh vegetables and fruit?"
Harry half laughed. "I rarely ever see Ron, Mrs. Weasley. He makes breakfast sometimes, but usually I just take a coffee in the morning, and I eat lunch. Ron is the one who goes to the market, but mostly he buys fixings for sandwiches, sausages, eggs and beans, so usually that's what's in the cupboard. Sometimes I'm too tired at the end of the day to bother eating when I get home."
Molly took a deep breath. "What are you eating at lunch? Are you visiting the ministry cafeteria?"
"Sometimes. Take-away, mostly. In training, I have a good friend named Ash who's turned me on to Indian food."
Molly surveyed him for a few moments, which made him feel slightly uncomfortable. "Harry, it doesn't sound like you're taking very good care of yourself. Are you sure you're all right, dear?"
Harry wasn't sure how to answer that question, and he hesitated for a few moments. If Mrs. Weasley was critical of his diet, he felt a bit defensive. After eating mushrooms, edible plants and bits of burnt fish for months and months last year, he figured that his decision to feast on spicy samosas, pasties and chips as often as possible was the very least of all his problems.
"I'm okay. Really. And to answer your next two questions, they've been alright with us, in training. I'm doing these midnight exercises once a week, which have been very cool. I'm just extremely busy…" He stopped as Mrs. Weasley smiled, seemingly urging him on. "Oh, and Ginny? We're just fine, although I feel like the days are so short, I never have time to write. And it's been about a month since we talked, I suppose. I did write to her a few weeks ago…"
Mrs. Weasley sat on Fred's old bed, watching the knitting needles that were working on what looked like a very tiny Weasley jumper. She eyed him shrewdly. "That's quite a bit of time to go without speaking, Harry."
"I know." He mussed his hair up in the back and shifted from one foot to the other. "I missed the last Hogsmeade weekend. I had to work."
Mrs. Weasley looked up indignantly. "They're working you too hard at the Ministry!" she exclaimed as she dug into her knitting bag and extracted a pair of tiny scissors. "I'm going to bring it up with Arthur! You're just eighteen years old and after last year…"
"No!" Harry stopped her with the force of his response. Even though he really did appreciate that Mrs. Weasley thought of him as one of her sons and wanted to defend him as such, he felt he needed to fight his own battles. "Please don't do that, Mrs. Weasley. I want to work. I like working. Right now, it's the only thing… nevermind."
"It's the only thing what, dear?"
"It's the only thing I have, I suppose," he mumbled, still looking down at the pins dancing at the hem of his robes. "Most of the time."
"Harry James Potter, you know that's not true!" she exclaimed, sounding hurt. "I can't believe you think that! You have us."
He swallowed, a bit taken aback by her ferocity. "I know, Mrs. Weasley, but there are times when work… when it's the only… when I can… oh, bloody hell, I'm sorry I said that!"
Mrs. Weasley scowled at him, but said nothing about his language. "Harry, promise me you won't shut us out," she said instead.
Harry felt his ears grow hot. "I won't, Mrs. Weasley..."
"You're the same as a son to me, Harry. You know that Arthur and I will always be here for you, no matter what."
"I know you are and I'm grateful for it," Harry mumbled, suddenly feeling more than a little uncomfortable.
"You don't need to thank me, Harry," Mrs. Weasley said. "We treat all our children equally."
Mrs. Weasley's eyes rose toward the ceiling, where one floor above, her daughter probably sat, thinking who-knew-what of him. At that moment, Harry felt he could bet all the gold in his Gringotts vault that the Weasleys wanted him to be with Ginny, but he knew they would still care about him regardless of what happened with their daughter, which was very nice to know.
"Err. Thanks." He glanced in the mirror again and combed his hair briefly with his fingers.
"With a brush, sir, with a brush!" the mirror exclaimed. "You'll find one in the chest of drawers right here. And straighten out those glasses."
Harry scowled at the mirror as his leg jumped impatiently.
"There, there, dear. Stand still. Just a few more moments," Mrs. Weasley remarked, laughingly.
"Sorry," Harry muttered. He hoped the needles would finish up soon so he could go to Ginny and ask her what her quick escape had been all about. Just then, as if it were reading his mind, the whole sewing kit seemed to close itself up and float itself neatly back to Mrs. Weasley's knitting bag.
"You're finished up, sweetheart. Get dressed now, and I'll go see what's wrong with our little girl."
"I'll talk to her about it, if that's alright with you. Thanks for the help with my robes, Mrs. Weasley." Then he gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
"Oh, yes, of course. Very well, then." Mrs. Weasley seemed flustered, too. "I'll go start on dinner."
Mrs. Weasley closed the door behind her.
Harry quickly and carefully removed the dress robes, which he had been wearing over his jeans and vest, and hung them neatly in Fred's wardrobe.
He then pulled on the worn, old black- and white-checked flannel shirt he had been wearing earlier and left the room to climb the one flight of stairs to Ginny's door, while he hurriedly buttoned the front of his shirt. As he gained the landing, he dug in his pocket for a few Toothflossing Stringmints which he quickly chewed as he knocked on the wide plank of wood that was Ginny's door. This, the same door he had knocked on so many times last summer. His heart was beating the same now as it had the first time he had knocked on it back in June. The monster in his chest was now frantically pacing back and forth.
It was so hard to be patient. He wanted to see her so much, more than ever, but he became suddenly nervous again. He wasn't sure what had transpired downstairs was all about. Why had she run from him and not just flown into his arms like usual, or smiled at him, or walked up to him and kissed his cheek? He knew she hadn't expected him to be here, but was that all? She had run away from him last time they were together. Was she angry with him for some reason and not wanting to see him?
"Come in." He heard a small, soft voice say after a minute or so.
The door creaked as it cracked open and he closed it behind him, forgetting for a moment that her mum was downstairs.
It hit him then how much he had missed her room. It smelled like her, like flowers and vanilla sugar. The memories they shared in this room last summer all came rushing back to him once he entered her small, cosy space.
He cleared his throat. "Err… Hi, little girl."
"Don't call me that," Ginny remarked sharply. She did not look up at him.
He stood there, feeling suddenly strange and hurt by her lack of affection towards him.
"Should I leave?"
"No." She shifted, then scratched her leg but still did not look up. She was sitting on her bed, cross-legged, reading what Harry suspected was some sort of Quidditch magazine. Her long red hair was spilling onto her bed and hiding her face. She had changed from their brief encounter downstairs, and now wore worn blue jeans and a grey Hogwarts jumper. He walked closer to her and stood directly over her, noticing that the page was open to a section on the hottest racing brooms for 1999.
"Sorry. Your mum called you 'little girl' and it just came out."
"Well, don't you call me that." She flipped the page angrily, not looking up.
"Sorry." He shifted his feet. "You're obviously angry that I'm here, so I think I'll go."
"Don't go." She flipped the page and the paper made a loud rustling sound.
Harry thought suddenly that there was a chance she had been crying and didn't want him to see her face because of it.
"Err… so, if you don't want me to go, why did you run away? Was I that ugly?"
She finally looked up at him, then. Her eyes were a bit red. He wondered why she had cried. He didn't want to embarrass her, so he dared not ask. She surveyed him sincerely for a few moments, and then sighed, looking down at her magazine.
"Harry," she sighed again, this time it sounded a bit shaky, "you're not ugly."
"Then why did you run?" He sat on the edge of her bed. "If I wasn't hideous? And why are you acting this way if you aren't angry?"
Ginny closed the magazine and sat for a few moments in silence. He looked at her petite hands as they played with the corner of the shiny front cover, which showed a very excited Kestrels Seeker on the new Firebolt. He wondered briefly when he would ever become interested in replacing his broom and felt very interested in reading the article that Ginny had been viewing.
"I'm sorry. I'm a bit embarrassed at what happened just now." Ginny's voice brought him back to focusing on her and the situation.
"Don't be. I just want to know if it's me. I'll leave, if you want. I'll go home."
"I don't want you to leave." She turned her face to the wall, still not looking at him fully. "I was being a little girl. You're right. It's ridiculous how I reacted to seeing you, but I couldn't control it."
"I don't know. I just wasn't expecting you. I… you know that I used to be scared of you, a long time ago, when we were younger. Do you remember?"
He nodded, thinking of a much younger Ginny who would generally hide from him when he was around, or run the other way when she saw him. In fact, he had hardly cemented in his mind exactly what she looked like until the end of his second year after the Chamber of Secrets.
"Yeah, of course I remember that. I just hadn't thought about it in a long time."
"I know you must remember. Except you were always very nice to me; you were the only one who never brought it up or teased me about it."
"I thought it was a bit weird, actually, Ginny." He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "But nearly everything was weird those first two years or so, in general. I guess I thought you used to run away because I was Harry Potter, more than anything. And I hadn't thought of that in years. Can I tell you something even more embarrassing about me?"
"When I liked you at school, I swear you scared me just as much."
"I did not."
"You have no idea. Although I didn't run away, I just stared at you, but sometimes it was hard for me to talk, too." He couldn't believe he had just shared that, but he thought it would make her feel better. "Err… so, I wasn't hideous in my new dress robes?"
"You were the opposite of hideous, Harry. I love your dress robes. You looked really… handsome. Very grown up."
"You hesitated on that."
"I can't find the right words right now." She shook her head and looked out the window. "I'm sorry. My mind is somewhere else."
"So is mine. I completely understand."
He gave her a quick, slightly awkward hug, which he pulled back from very slightly. Wishing to show her how he had missed her and hoping to kiss her, he leaned in.
"Hey, you." Ginny turned her face away.
"Hi." He leaned over and managed to kiss her just once on the cheek, very quickly.
He grabbed the magazine from her. "So what are the top racing brooms for 1999?" He opened to the centrefold which showed a Moontrimmer Retro Series 2.
"The Cleansweep 2001 is what I'm looking at." Ginny crossed her arms over herself. "Something more trim for me and they've redesigned it so it's a great value for the price, I think. Although the new Firebolt SE is insane," she snatched the magazine from him again, "This one here — is said to reach a top speed of over 150 km an hour. I think I would die on a broom like that. You would like it though; you're basically the fastest I've ever seen."
"You're fast, too!"
She shrugged. "Not really, Harry. I'm quicker, if that makes sense, and nimble, I think."
"Aren't quick and fast exactly the same thing?"
"No. Not really. I'm sure if we raced for distance, you would win. If you want to play two a side later, we can try to race, unless it starts to snow, of course. I'll bet you haven't been on a broom since summer and you'll still win."
They flipped about the magazine for a few more moments together.
"Are you here to stay?" she asked finally.
"Why so early?"
"Just a day. Your mum offered to help me with my robes for the Order of Merlin thing so I took advantage of getting it out of the way and she promised to make me toad in the hole and onion soup for dinner tonight if I stayed."
"Wait, what do you mean, Order of Merlin thing? Harry, it's a really big deal. I'm not sure if you remember History of Magic and what it all means. Very few wizards are awarded Order of Merlin and only the most accomplished… and at your age… I think you're the youngest ever to be…"
"Thanks but…" Harry quieted her. "I'd rather not talk about it. Now." He didn't want to talk about it. He didn't even want to think much of the honour they were giving him that he felt he didn't in any way deserve.
"Oh." Ginny looked at him strangely. He wanted to elaborate but he thought that she wouldn't understand. "Well… err… at least you have new dress robes." Ginny looked back down at the magazine. "It was nice of my mum to help you. And I'm glad you're here to stay."
He reached over and gently placed his hand on hers. "I'm glad to be here, too. I'm especially glad you didn't run away because you thought I was hideous."
She gave him a silly look. "Hideous, no, but careless, yes. Your buttons are done wrong. I noticed when you came in. Can I fix them for you?"
He looked down at his shirt. As he had buttoned up quickly coming up the stairs, it was all misaligned. Now he felt a bit embarrassed. "Sure."
"Come closer," she said softly.
He complied, moving closer to her. His heart raced while, without speaking, she unbuttoned all the buttons, straightened out his shirt, and re-did them perfectly. While she worked, he watched her face. He felt very much like kissing her and would have done but, since his first attempt at kissing her had gone so poorly, he didn't know what to do or what she wanted.
"There. That's better. You are very distracted lately, aren't you, Harry?" She rubbed his forearm gently.
He thought about her comment for a moment. "Yeah. I suppose… yes."
"And by the way, you are so not hideous, Harry." She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, sending prickly waves of delight down his face and neck. "In fact, I think you're very, very handsome."
"Err. Okay. If you say so." He grinned, wanting to tell her he felt that she was very, very pretty too, but the words just didn't come out in time.
They sat facing one another for a few moments more. She smelled so good. He really did want to kiss her again. He was just about to try, but she turned and opened the magazine again and began reading him the article about the racing brooms. He closed his eyes and, after listening to her voice for a few minutes, he drifted off into an unusually deep sleep.
Ginny thought of her robes with disdain and stared back down at the magazine, trying to hide the burning in her eyes and hoping that Harry wouldn't suddenly wake up. Why was she still crying? She shouldn't be embarrassed. He had been so understanding! He had been wonderful.
And he was here. She had missed him like crazy and here he was, in her house, sleeping in her bed. He hadn't left her to fret over waiting for him to show up. She should be ridiculously happy, but she just wasn't.
Harry was exhausted. He looked it and she knew he felt it. He must have been very tired, and she was glad that he had a few weeks off to rest now. She studied him as he quietly slept, stretched out on her narrow bed. She had just enough room to curl up with her magazine and watch him. Of course, she had gone to tell Mum he was asleep so she wouldn't think they were up to anything.
She watched Harry sleep. How in Godric's name did he not know how gorgeous he was? Did he really think he was ugly? To her, his jet black hair and bright green eyes were enough to turn her into Flobberworm guts. His height and now the muscles he was developing in training just added to his aura, giving him the ability to turn her legs into jelly with just a glance.
She thought of this blooming, new and improved Harry, compared to the rail-thin, scarred and weak Harry from after the battle. She loved both Harrys, but couldn't believe how seven months could change a person. Although he was no longer tan from summer, he looked healthy and fit in his perfect, expensive robes.
Ginny stood and tiptoed across her room. She opened her wardrobe quietly, so as not to wake Harry, and surveyed the robes that were hanging there.
The robes she was planning to wear in two weeks weren't the gold ones from Fleur and Bill's wedding. Those had too many bad memories for her and they had torn badly during the escape. The robes hanging in front of her were ankle-length, light purple robes with a ribbon trim and slim lace edging on the collar and edges of the sleeves. They weren't from Gladrags or Madame Malkin's. Her mum had sewn them for her fifth year. She had worn them to Slughorn's Christmas party. Mum always said that lavender was a beautiful compliment to the colour of her hair, and she had always liked the way she looked in the colour, too. Mum had offered to replace the ribbon trim, which she had. However, Ginny had wanted a new set for the Auror's gathering, but she had decided that, unless Hermione did end up dragging her to Diagon Alley in the end, she didn't want her parents spending the money on her anyhow, even though they would in a heartbeat, for Harry's Order of Merlin, and she knew it. He had no idea what an honour he was about to receive, and it didn't seem like he cared, really, which was odd.
Bugger all. Perhaps it was a poor choice and she should go shopping with Hermione. What would she look like on his arm now that he was gorgeous, incredibly handsome, Order of Merlin Harry Potter and his dress robes were impeccable and she was… Ginny Weasley, boring, ginger-haired Hogwarts student in the same robes she had worn at fifteen.
Harry stirred, and she closed her wardrobe.
He didn't know or care, which made him even more wonderful. Harry had never had much as a kid, and probably only got the new robes because her mum had insisted he invest in a good set of dress robes that would last him. Knowing Harry, most likely he didn't really care what she wore, and was just glad she had said yes, she would go.
Yet would she look like she belonged with Harry, to others? What if someone snapped a photo of them? While he kept getting more and more wonderful and desirable and gorgeous, would she keep on being plain, old, boring… herself? Would he ever want someone more stylish or glamorous like that stupid pop idol Verona Vie? For the first time in forever, she thought of how it had felt when Harry fancied Cho Chang, who was beautiful and exotic, and always had stylish robes at events. She had never imagined, while Harry was going through his Cho Chang phase, that he would ever notice her.
Harry woke up in a state of confusion as to where exactly he was and, in the moment before opening his eyes, he panicked. When he finally opened them, he immediately calmed down because he realized, from the pattern on the quilt, that he was in Ginny's bed. His face was pressed into her pillow. He was pleasantly surprised as he sat up sleepily and stretched his arms out.
He smelled dinner and baking bread and he took a deep breath before lying back down and nuzzling his face into Ginny's pillow. Even after not being slept with by her for months, somehow, it still smelled like her hair. He breathed in again and checked his watch. It was nearly seven o'clock in the evening. He couldn't even remember falling asleep, and he realized he hadn't taken a three-hour nap in ages. Since summer, he'd had trouble sleeping at night, and often woke up at all hours.
Harry washed up in the bathroom to wake himself, and went back to the twins' room, where he changed his shirt.
When he finally entered the kitchen, the first thing he noticed was Ginny sitting at the scrubbed kitchen table with her mum. Dinner bubbled in several cauldrons on the cooker.
Harry's stomach growled.
"Good evening, sweetie." Molly smiled. "Peaky? Arthur is travelling. He'll be here soon."
Ginny caught eyes with his. It was weird that he didn't have to say anything, but she simply knew he needed a drink and, in an instant, he had a nice glass of pumpkin juice with ice in his hand.
"Thank you," he whispered, his voice scratchy, and he took a sip of the juice.
"Sleep well?" she asked.
"Yes, yeah. I must have needed to rest."
Ginny's hand briefly caressed his bicep, sending a tingle through his body that made the monster in his chest sit up alertly. "Well, hopefully you'll be resting a lot the next two weeks, Harry," Ginny smiled. "I think I'll need to make sure of that."
To be continued...
A/N: Thanks so much for reading. I only ask that if you have read through, you let me know. Since I spend an awful lot of time working on my writing, comments and reviews are important to me, so please, if you've taken the time to read, tell me!
Thanks for reminding me of Fred and George's Bruise Paste, Arnel. I'm glad I could utilize it! How is it that one person can always be full of brilliant ideas?