“Did you get it, Hermione?”
Ginny shut her bedroom door with considerably more force than was necessary and turned to face her friend.
“Yeah, here.” Hermione smirked as she reached into a large bag bearing the Flourish and Blotts logo. She withdrew a smaller package and handed it over.
“I didn’t think you’d got it, it took so long,” Ginny said, relieved.
Hermione’s smirk morphed into a half-smile. “Only because I had to wait ‘til your brothers were busy with other customers. I didn’t want to risk them seeing what I was buying, so I waited until I could deal with Verity.”
Ginny nodded in understanding. She’d have done the same in Hermione’s place, given the nature of the purchase. “How much do I owe you then?”
“Nothing. Consider it a birthday present.”
Ginny grinned her thanks. When she’d got out of bed that morning, she hadn’t been looking forward to much in the way of a celebration. Her parents and brothers were preoccupied with the war these days, while Ron, Hermione and Harry had gone off somewhere directly after Bill and Fleur’s wedding. In her heart, Ginny knew that wherever Harry had gone had something to do with Voldemort. She’d only wished he could tell her what it was about. She knew now, as she’d known the day of Dumbledore’s funeral that she would have to accept the situation — to cross her fingers and hope for the best — but it was so difficult for her to wait at home doing nothing, knowing nothing. She’d have given anything for the chance to help in some way, but she had no idea what that way might be. The only thing she could be sure of was, come September first, she’d be boarding the Hogwarts Express alone for the first time in her life.
So she’d woken up with the expectation of her father taking a day off so she could go into Diagon Alley to get her school supplies, and perhaps if she was lucky her mother would have time to bake her a cake. When Hermione had turned up in the middle of breakfast, it came as a pleasant surprise. But Hermione was strangely tight-lipped about why she’d come. She tried to convince Ginny that she’d only wanted to wish her a happy birthday, but Ginny was sure there was more to it than that, especially when Hermione added that she’d like to tag along on their excursion to Diagon Alley. “I thought I could pick up a few things at Flourish and Blotts,” she’d said airily.
She’d done that, but she’d also taken forever in Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes after Ginny had asked her to go in and make a purchase for her. Ginny had cooled her heels outside her brothers’ joke shop for quite a while before Hermione had emerged at last. Ginny hadn’t forgotten the previous year when Hermione had disappeared along with Harry and Ron. They’d claimed to have been in the back room the entire time, but Ginny didn’t think anyone had really bought this story. She certainly hadn’t.
Casting a quick glance at Hermione now, Ginny opened the package to pull out a luridly decorated box upon which a girl dressed in a low-cut blouse swooned endlessly into a pirate’s arms.
“You want to be careful with that,” Hermione noted.
“Why?” Ginny asked.
“They don’t always work the way you think.”
Ginny turned the box over and began to read the directions on the back. Patented Daydream Charm. Read carefully before use. Before applying charm, clear your mind and focus on the desired object of your daydream. Make sure you’re in a comfortable location before application. Not recommended for use while standing, flying, or in conjunction with wand-work. Under no circumstances should this product be used in Potions class, as accidental drooling may lead to disastrous results. Failure to comply with these warnings may lead to loss of eyebrows or other, more vital body parts.
“Seems pretty straightforward to me,” she commented when she was through.
Hermione mumbled something inaudible.
“What was that?” asked Ginny. Hermione was turning an interesting shade of pink. “Come on, spill it. What do you know?”
“Well, I tried this one, didn’t I? Last year when your brothers offered me a free sample.”
“And it didn’t quite do what I thought it would.”
Ginny turned the box back over and looked at the front, wondering what Hermione could possibly have been expecting. As far as Ginny was concerned, the illustration made it all too clear what sort of daydream this would lead to. Added to the fact that Fred and George refused to sell this product to anyone under the age of sixteen and their proximity in the shop to the love potions...
“Honestly, Hermione, what could you have...”
“I did!” Hermione broke in, her face quite red now. “Only... Only that’s not what I got!”
“What did you get then? It wasn’t anything stupid like my brother, was it?”
“Ron was in it, actually, only he wasn’t paying me any attention,” Hermione muttered, her face now nearly purple.
“Don’t tell me! Not Lavender!”
“No! He was reading Hogwarts: a History! I’d have asked for my money back, except they’d given it to me for free!”
Ginny’s mouth dropped open. “He read Hogwarts: a History for a whole half an hour? How romantic! I didn't think he had it in him.”
“It was one of the best parts,” Hermione protested. “All about... Oh, never mind!”
“Well, why didn’t you tell me sooner, when I asked for this? Unless... They must have given you a bad one for a laugh. They haven’t touched this at all, have they?”
“Not that I saw. I told you, I waited to buy it from Verity.”
Of course she had, and for the same reason Ginny had asked Hermione to buy her the Patented Daydream Charm in the first place — to avoid her brothers’ inevitable teasing.
“Hermione,” Ginny began, changing the subject and giving voice to the question that had been on her mind all day, “how’s Harry?”
Hermione sent her a smile full of genuine sympathy. “I think he misses you.”
Ginny couldn’t respond right away. The lump that had suddenly materialised in her throat was in the way.
Later that night, Ginny lay on her bed, letting the cool dark of the August night envelop her. Hermione had left after supper, going back to wherever Harry was. Ginny was envious but only of her friend’s proximity. She felt none of the deep, raging jealousy she would for a romantic rival. If she understood anything about Harry, she knew exactly where his heart lay, and that was with her. She knew, she understood, but she still hated the situation that this put her in.
She rolled over onto her stomach. This would not do. She needed to think happier thoughts if this daydream charm was going to be worth anything. Casting about in her mind, she settled on the day of Bill and Fleur’s wedding. What she wouldn’t have done to change the outcome of that day, one that she and Harry had had to spend pretending there was nothing between them. He’d looked wonderful in new dress robes of deep red, and it had been difficult to keep her eyes off him.
As the day progressed, Ginny realised that Harry was having the same problem. Suddenly she loved the robes that Fleur had chosen for her, robes that her mother definitely disapproved of and which Ginny herself had felt rather self-conscious about as they hugged her figure in a way that could only be magical. Her brothers had spent the day casting dark looks in her direction as she moved through it, giving all the proper replies to whatever she was asked as the occasion demanded, but without any of it really registering.
Not until after the wedding supper when the dancing had begun. She hadn’t expected to be allowed even one dance with Harry. She was shocked when he asked her, but as soon as they assumed their stance on the dance floor, a proper foot between their bodies, she understood. This too was for show. It was almost as if Harry was defying anyone in the room to claim that he had any sort of romantic designs on the youngest Weasley. They danced together almost stiffly, and Ginny was forcibly reminded of dancing with Neville Longbottom at the Yule Ball. The only saving grace was that Harry managed to avoid treading on her toes.
It was only when the song ended that she dared look into his eyes, and the heat in his gaze burned through her. She’d seen this look on his face a time or two before, but only when they’d been quite alone. Only when they’d come up for air...
Her heart began to pound in her chest, and it was all she could do to stop herself from stepping closer, beyond the limit of what was strictly platonic, and kiss him in front of the entire gathering. Harry seemed to realise what was happening at the same moment, for he dropped her hands as if they burned him, gave her a terse nod and stalked off.
It was only much later in the evening, after Bill and Fleur had said their goodbyes that she actually got to say anything to Harry. The crowd had thinned considerably due to the lateness of the hour, and Ginny was sitting alone in a secluded corner, when she felt something brush against her arm. Turning, she saw nothing beside her, but then she heard his voice in her ear.
“Ginny,” he said, “just pretend I’m not here — can you do that? I’m under my invisibility cloak.”
Ginny glanced quickly about the room before replying. “No one’s looking now, but if anyone does, I’m going to look stupid sitting here talking to myself.”
The next thing she new, something hot and silky was covering her, and she found herself face to face with Harry. “We need to talk, Ginny. I don’t know when I’m going to see you again.”
That pronouncement had shocked her. While he’d told her at Dumbledore’s funeral that he had things to do, she’d never considered that he might not come back to Hogwarts in September. But now he was clearly hinting at just such a situation.
When she didn’t answer him right away, he went on, “I don’t want you getting any ideas about trying to follow me. Stay at school.”
“What makes you think I’d try to follow you?” she hedged.
“Because you would. I know you would.” She raised an eyebrow at him, and he added, “Listen, Hermione told me about how you used to sneak into the broom shed and practise flying.”
“Remind me to hex Hermione for telling you that next time I see her.”
Harry gave a half-hearted sort of smile before going on. “Just promise me. I need to know you’re safe.”
“I can’t promise you I’ll stay safe no matter where I am. Nowhere is safe these days ever since...”
“I know but...”
“You’re just going to have to trust things’ll work out. How do you think I get by?”
There was a long pause, while Harry looked contrite as he no doubt remembered all the times that he’d rushed headlong into danger. Before he could answer, Ginny’s mother came by, muttering under her breath about finding Ginny. In any case, the party looked as if it was breaking up. They’d had to separate and there hadn’t been time for a proper goodbye, not if they were going to maintain their facade of not caring for each other.
Back in her bedroom, Ginny sighed at the memory, cursing Harry for being so noble. She might have hoped for a different sort of outcome that night, but she still might have a chance at it, if only in her head for the next half hour. With those thoughts running through her head, she reached for the Patented Daydream Charm and opened it.
For a split second, Ginny felt like she was falling through space, but once she landed she didn’t couldn’t tell that anything was different. She was still surrounded by the darkness. The charm hadn’t worked — yet she was standing now. Looking down at herself, she saw a glimmer of gold — the robes she’d worn to the wedding. But now they lay on her body in shreds as if she’d been fighting.
Suddenly the darkness was no longer a comforting blanket. It pressed on her from all sides as if it had cold hands with a hundred searching fingers. The shiver that passed through her was one of fear, not desire.
And then the darkness unravelled, as the heavy clouds, tattered banners of some forgotten battlefield, were swept apart in a sudden breeze. There had been battle here. She was standing in the midst of a blackened plain surrounded by the dead. Nothing moved but the swirling cloud, and her solitude weighed on her, pinning her to the spot and preventing her from leaving.
Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a ghost of a movement and spun about, wand at the ready. All she could see was a solitary figure picking a path through the bodies towards her, the light behind it casting it into silhouette, obscuring its distinguishing features.
“Who’s there?” she shouted, heedless of anything else.
There was no reply, but the figure began to move faster, something about its gait striking a familiar chord in her memory.
“Harry?” she cried, as her heart began to pound.
He was running towards her now. She could make out his beloved features — unruly hair, pale skin, glasses, scar. They were drawn with exhaustion and care, and even as he reached her, he collapsed at her feet. A trickle of blood oozed along the side of his face.
Crouching next to him, she heard him whisper, “It’s over.”
He was clutching at her, holding on for dear life, and she knew a moment of panic. She had no clue as to what he’d been through, what he’d had to do to vanquish the Dark Lord.
“Harry... are you all right?”
He swallowed hard and nodded.
“Let’s get out of here then,” she said. “Can you stand?” With her help, he struggled upright, and then she asked, “Can you Apparate?”
“I don’t know,” he rasped.
“Hold onto me then.”
“Where are we going?”
He clung to her arm, and she turned on the spot. Somehow she’d just known what to do, and somehow, miraculously, they appeared in her bedroom at The Burrow. Harry staggered towards the bed, pulling her along with him. She fell on top of him, her mouth sought his, and suddenly it was as if they’d never been apart.
They kissed for a long time, with a fierceness as if she was breathing the life back into him. His hands roamed freely over her back, pressing her against him, seeking bare skin. Skin. Ginny wanted it too. Him moving against her with nothing else between them. She smoothed her hands up his chest, tearing at the clasps of his robes.
She felt the tremor that passed through him, and at first she thought it was a reaction to her touch. Except it didn’t stop. She tore her lips away from his and then rolled to one side. He was shaking all over now, his hand covering his eyes as he gasped for breath.
“C-c-c-cold,” he muttered between chattering teeth.
“Get under the blankets then,” Ginny said. “I’ll stay with you. Unless... Harry, do you need to go to St Mungo’s?”
Harry sat up and looked straight at her. “No!” The word was surprisingly emphatic. “No,” he repeated more quietly.
Ginny pushed herself up on an elbow until could wrap her arms around him. “What do you need then? Tell me; I’ll do what I can.”
“I... I don’t know. Just... I don’t want anyone to find me.”
“Not even Ron and Hermione? Harry... are they...”
“They’re fine, yeah. They’ll be okay.”
“And what about you?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know how to say this. It’s just... Oh God, do you remember what it was like last year when we were together?”
Ginny nodded as images from the end of her fifth year at school filled her mind — so many walks down by the lake, laughter over inconsequential thing, heated kisses in that secluded spot they’d found — but she wasn’t at all sure where this was leading.
“I never felt at such peace. It was like a break from everything, you know?”
“Like something out of someone else’s life,” she said, echoing his words to her at Dumbledore’s funeral. “But you said it was over. He’s gone now; Voldemort’s gone, isn’t he?”
Harry could only look at the ground and nod.
“And if he’s gone,” she went on, “then we’ll get some peace.”
“Maybe, maybe you will,” he said bitterly. “But they’re never going to leave me alone now. Remember all that ‘Chosen One’ rubbish last year? It’ll never end.”
Ginny had no idea how to reply to this. She knew he was right. He’d never be able to go out in the wizarding world again without people staring, pointing him out and whispering about him. And just as she’d known that time in Flourish and Blotts when she’d told Malfoy to shut up, she knew now that he still didn’t want all of that. He’d never be some Gilderoy Lockhart preening in front of the camera for the benefit of his middle-aged female fans.
She leaned her head against his shoulder and tightened her embrace, as it dawned on her now what he needed. He needed to have this one night to himself before he had to step out and face the world again, before the Ministry of Magic would come and present him with all manner of public accolades that would mean nothing to him, before the Daily Prophet would descend on him to get that exclusive interview.
“You’ll always have me,” she whispered. “I’ll always be here for you.”
“But I broke things off,” Harry protested.
Ginny had to fight back the urge to laugh. Instead she raised her head wand waited until he was looking her in the eyes. “It was only temporary. I knew that then. I’ve been waiting this entire year for you.”
Harry was shaking his head in disbelief. “You shouldn’t... You didn’t have to. You had no idea how long it was going to take.”
“It didn’t matter. Don’t you know by now that I love you?”
He didn’t say anything for a long moment. His eyes never left hers as he brought his hands up to cradle her face, while his expression told her he was wrestling with incredulity. When he lowered his lips to hers at last, his kiss was soft and accepting. His hands drifted along the sides of her neck to her shoulders, the tips of his fingers skimming her collarbones. A shiver of pleasure raced down her spine, and she pressed closer. Her lips parted, and their kisses deepened...
Ginny awoke with a jolt to find herself in her bed alone. The thirty minutes had passed far too quickly. Hermione had been right — the charm hadn’t been anything like she’d expected, but maybe that was just as well. Even as it was, she was going to miss Harry more than ever.
And it had all been so real. She had been there, living those moments with Harry. If she set any sort of stock in Divination — and she didn’t — she’d have sworn she’d seen the future in a way. She might not have been able to give herself to him, but she had been able to give him what he’d needed. Hugging her pillow to her, wishing it was Harry, she stored the memory away in her brain. She still might need it someday.
But when we wake, it’s all been erased.
And so it seems... only in dreams.
A/N : Marian says this is fluff, at least for me. Please review — it’s been a long time and I feel like a complete newbie.