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SIYE Time:7:21 on 18th October 2017


For In Dreams
By Senator of Sorcery

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Category: Pre-OotP, Alternate Universe
Characters:Albus Dumbledore, All, Draco Malfoy, Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Minerva McGonagall, Neville Longbottom, Nymphadora Tonks, Other, Remus Lupin, Ron Weasley, Severus Snape, Sirius Black
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, General, Humor, Romance
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Violence/Physical Abuse
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 290
Summary: Harry had never friends, so he imagined one: a red haired girl he kept forgetting to name. Ginny imagined a shy boy with untidy hair and bright eyes, who knew nothing of magic, so she told him. He dreamt of a world of magic and of a girl who wanted to be his friend. She dreamt of a boy who loved to hear her voice, no matter what. Then dreams become a reality when Harry met Ginny.

Rating changed for later chapters.

*Nominated for 2014 November/December DSTA for Best New Story and Best Romance* *Nominated for 2016 January/Feburary DSTA for Best Comedy, Drama, and Romance*
Hitcount: Story Total: 90202; Chapter Total: 1199





Author's Notes:
let it be known that this chapter was a pain in the ass to tag; Harry and Ginny need to stop thinking as much




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Chapter Thirty Eight
Occlumency
Ginny



Dinner that night was a bit tenser than most nights, perhaps due to Malfoy’s assholery, or perhaps because of the impending lesson with Dumbledore. Either way, they ate in a subdued silence, even mentally. When they’d finished, they stood in unison and left the Great Hall, deciding after short mental discussion to wait the next two hours in the library; those two hours did not take long to pass, it was after eight before they realized it was even seven and they were standing to leave.

“The library is closed!” a seemingly begrudged Madam Pince hissed at them as they passed her in the shelves. Ginny waved a hand at her, pointing to the exit, and she glared after them. Dumbledore’s office wasn’t far, and they arrived within ten minutes.

We’re early, Harry thought, looking around for a clock; they still hadn’t received their watches from Dumbledore.

Probably by only ten minutes or so, Ginny replied. We should go ahead and go up.

Probably.


Ginny glanced at Harry. His expression was closed, though that did absolutely nothing seeing as she was inside of his mind. She raised a hand and gently poked his cheek. He looked at her, raising an eyebrow.

“Boop,” she whispered. Harry’s face broke into a smile and he laughed softly.

“What even are you?” he murmured under his breath, shaking his head slightly as he approached the gargoyle hiding the entrance to the Headmaster’s office. He gave it the password, Peppermint Toads, and the hulking stone figure sprang to life and away from the entrance. Ginny murmured a thanks to it as they passed, and the gargoyle nodded in reply. They mounted the revolving staircase, waiting as it slowly carried them up to the top floor of Dumbledore’s office.

They stepped off, and to the broad oak doors, carved with elegant filigree, and Harry lifted the eagle knocker, hitting it against the brass back-plate twice.

“Enter,” came the Headmaster’s voice.

Harry pushed the door open, and Ginny followed him into the office. The Headmaster was seated at his desk, examining a very long scroll of parchment that draped over his lap and extended far past his hands to the floor.

He looked up at them as they approached and gave them a smile. They each took chairs by the desk and the Headmaster released the parchment and waved a hand, causing it to vanish. Harry remembered that afternoon, the door unlocking without a spell or key, and made a mental note to tell Dumbledore.

“Good evening,” Dumbledore said as he leaned back on his chair. “I trust you’ve enjoyed your second week of school so far.”

Harry shrugged. Ginny raised a mental eyebrow at him, before answering their professor with an affirmative.

“Very good,” he murmured, nodding for a bit. Then he sat up straighter in his chair and pulled it in closer to his desk, leaned his elbows on it and looked at Harry over the top of his half-moon glasses. “On a related note, a little bird told me that you had an uncomfortable encounter this afternoon,” he said, “and to get out of it, you managed to non-verbally unlock a door.”

Harry felt his cheeks going red. “How did you know that?”

“I told you,” Dumbledore said, smiling pleasantly, “a little bird whispered it in my ear.”

Harry raised his eyebrows. Dumbledore just chuckled and dropped his gaze, shaking his head.

“Discomfort and fear are often the two biggest factors in learning a new skill,” he declared, “and in your case, I believe it was a great breakthrough. Non-verbal magic is a very difficult thing to learn, and many witches and wizards are incapable of it at all. I am impressed, Harry.”

“Thank you,” Harry replied, though there was still a hint of a confused inflection in his voice.

Dumbledore gave them a nod, then leaned back in his chair again and picked up his wand. “But enough idle chatter, we shall get down to business, though there are no Huns involved…” The Headmaster paused, seemingly to reflect on what he’d just said. Harry barely concealed a snort, though Ginny had no clue what was funny. Dumbledore shook his head with a quick jerk, then continued: “This evening we shall go over the basics of Occlumency. You read the material I gave you on the subject?”

Harry gave a quick nod, Ginny did the same.

“Very good. You know what it is and the basic premises of it, then, so I shan’t bore you with all the details. Let’s simply dive straight in, with mental exercises.”

Dumbledore picked up his wand and gave it a flick; the lights in the room dimmed, leaving them in half-darkness. “Close your eyes, and try to clear your mind.”

Ginny settled back in her chair, closed her eyes, and tried to empty her brain of thoughts. She focused on the sound of her own breathing.

Just empty my brain, Harry thought.

Ginny’s lips curled into a frown. Harry, get out of my thoughts, she thought in a mental whine.

I’m not in your thoughts, I’m in mine!

We have the same thoughts.

Then why did you tell me to get out of yours?

Because you’re being counter-productive.

You’re being counter-productive.


Ginny elbowed him in the ribs. He let out the tiniest of gasps, then opened one eye to glare at her.

“Do your best to remain still,” Dumbledore said. Ginny snapped her arms back to her side.

That was your fault.

Ginny ignored him. She just needed to think of absolutely nothing.

Hey, Ginny?

What,
Ginny thought without amusement.

How exactly do we think of absolutely nothing?

Ginny squeezed her eyes and sighed. By not continuing to ask me questions.

Ginny?

What?

I don’t think this is working.

You know what I think, Harry?

I always do, we share thoughts.

I think you’re being obtuse.


That made him huff, but it also made him stop thinking so loudly. Ginny listened to the sound of her breathing. A soft rustle of air in, a gentle flow out. She thought of a white expanse, bearing absolutely nothing but herself.

Harry leaned into her white expanse. What’s this s’posed to be?

Nothingness, Harry.

Oh.


She tried to ignore him. He could tell that she was trying to ignore him, so he ignored her. They collectively ignored each other, sitting back to back inside her white expanse.

“Now open your eyes.”

The white expanse vanished, and Ginny opened her eyes. She then reached over to Harry’s chair and pinched his leg.

Hey!

You deserve it,
she told him.

What did I do?

You’re very loud.

You’re loud.


Ginny looked at him. He raised an eyebrow. She snorted, and looked away. Dumbledore frowned.

“Sorry,” she said quickly. They really needed to learn to not respond visibly.

But it’s so fun to watch people be confused.

Ginny didn’t respond to his thought, rather she focused on Dumbledore.

“You did well,” Dumbledore said. “That white expanse was a decent trick, Ginny.”

Ginny sat up straighter in her chair. “Wait, what?”

“The point of the exercise was to think of absolutely nothing, so you thought of an empty, white expanse. I used Legilimency to observe your progress.”

“Oh,” she said. “Oh, okay.”

He nodded to her, then looked at Harry. “You quickly adopted the white expanse, was it because she was thinking of it?”

Harry shook his head. “No, I was already in it when she thought of it.”

Dumbledore raised an eyebrow. “I did not observe your thoughts together.”

“Our thoughts were connected the entire time,” Ginny said.

Dumbledore ‘hmm’ed softly, leaning back in his chair and stroking his beard. “I wish to try something. I am going to use Legilimency to enter your thoughts, Ginny, and I will be sure that you can tell that I am there. Harry, I would like you to see if you can sense my presence in her thoughts.”

Ginny glanced at Harry, then shrugged. “Sure,” she said.

Dumbledore met her gaze, and she felt a sudden change in the temperature of her thoughts; she felt the Headmaster’s presence in her mind, quiet and small, but distinct from her own mental sense of self and Harry’s. It felt a little weird, bordering uncomfortable, but the presence of Dumbledore in her mind stayed quite still, unmoving.

That’s really weird, Harry thought.

What? Ginny replied.

Dumbledore. It feels weird.

Yeah, I know. Not bad, or anything.

Just… weird.


Ginny did her best to keep eye contact with the Headmaster, and as the exchange with Harry finished, the presence shifted slightly.

“Ginny,” she heard.

Dumbledore?

Hi Dumbledore!
Harry thought.

“Are you conversing with Harry?”

Dumbledore’s voice in her mind was distant, very different from Harry’s, and it sounded almost echoey, as thought they were shouting across a large room to hear each other.

Yeah, he can tell you’re here. Didn’t you hear him say hello?

“I did not. Ask him to think something else.”

Something else,
Harry thought.

You are a giant ball of obnoxiousness, Ginny said to Harry.

“What?” Dumbledore’s presence said.

He thought ‘something else.’ I said he was obnoxious.

“I see.”


“I am going to attempt to reach your deeper thoughts, Ginny,” Dumbledore said aloud, his voice sudden and distinct from the mental conversation. “Just past the surface of your consciousness,” he added, a reassuring tone in his voice. She nodded, and felt the mental presence of him move. It shifted, becoming darker, farther away from her foremost thoughts and mental sense of self. She felt a memory from a few years ago be stirred; a simple recollection of being with her mother and learning to make gooseberry pie.

I’ve never had gooseberry pie, Harry thought. What’s it like?

Ginny brought up the memory of the taste and smell of the pie after it had been finished, rather than actually explaining it in words.

Now I want gooseberry pie, Harry sighed mentally.

I want pie too, she thought.

“Pardon?” Dumbledore’s presence said.

Discussions of gooseberry pie, she explained to him. The mental presence shifted, coming to a memory that was more recent, from when she was about twelve. An afternoon in early July, when she, her brothers, and Harry had played Quidditch in the apple orchard.

That was fun, Harry said. The two of us need to play Quidditch more often.

Angelina will be graduating this year,
she said, maybe next school year I’ll try out for the team.

That would be great,
Harry thought.

“Are the two of you conversing again?”

Yes, talking about Quidditch.

“May I ask why?”

You opened a memory about it, just now.

“I was not able to access that memory.”


Ginny frowned. What d’you mean?

“I mean I was unable to see what the last memory I retrieved contained.”

It was just us and my brothers playing Quidditch.


Dumbledore’s mental presence shifted again, she could feel him sifting through her surface memories, and strangely he seemed to be passing on many of them. The mental presence retreated, then it was gone.

“It seemed that I could not view many of your memories without pressing further,” Dumbledore said aloud, and Ginny opened her eyes again.

“I could tell you were there the whole time,” Harry said to the Headmaster, “and I could hear whatever you said. I guess that counts as hearing.”

Dumbledore pressed the tips of his fingers together, bringing them close to his beard. “I could not sense you at all, Harry,” he mused. “Or perhaps I simply did not register the difference between yours and Ginny’s thoughts…”

Ginny frowned. Harry said: “What?”

Dumbledore tapped his nose with one long finger. “There was a legend circulating several years ago, an urban legend, concerning soulmates and their skills as Occlumens. There was a woman, who with her husband, claimed that she and he were so seamlessly connected that if anyone attempted Legilimency upon one of them, they would not be able to tell which mind they were reading.”

“Was it true?” Ginny asked.

Dumbledore shook his head. “As I said, it was an urban legend. The two of them gained a great deal of fame very quickly, however a skilled Legilimens disproved their claim, and in fact revealed that the two of them were not even married. But the idea sparked much research in the field of Legilimency, and there was in fact a study done that year by the Ministry of Magic in Spain on the mental connections between soulmates such as the two of you.”

“And what happened?” asked Harry.

Dumbledore spread his hands. “As much as I heard, they showed that it was possible to have a constant empathic connection between two people, there was numerous evidence to support the idea, however as true soul bonds are so exceedingly rare, they found nothing so astonishing as your constant telepathic connection.”

“So, you think there might not actually be a difference between my thoughts and Harry’s?” Ginny said.

Dumbledore slowly nodded his head. “Perhaps. But I can say for certain, that your current mental safeguards, being raw and unprocessed, are quite good. I could not access many of your memories or even certain parts of your thoughts, I assume because they had to do with Harry. Now, I also assume that Harry has the same sort of basic safeguards in his mind, based on what I saw in yours and what I saw in my initial test of the two of you. What we shall attempt to do now is build up those basic safeguards.”

“And how do we do that?”

“The way I was taught Occlumency was through slow and meticulous processing.”

“What was that process?”

“I did my best to appear to be focusing on my History of Magic class while I was in fact sleeping,” Dumbledore said matter-of-factly. “The then professor was a very talented Legilimens, and it took months to accurately build up a defense between my wandering dreams and his lecturing thoughts.”

Harry blinked. Ginny raised an eyebrow. Dumbledore smiled pleasantly at them.

“Really?” Harry said.

“Yes. At the end of my seventh year, he pulled me aside at my graduation ceremony to commend me on my fantastic Occlumency skills during my more awake moments. It was then that I learned that those safeguards do not remain stable once one has entered deep sleep. Or REM sleep, as it is called now.”

Ginny looked over at Harry and raised an eyebrow. Did he seriously just admit to having self-taught himself to use Occlumency so he could get away with sleeping during class?

I think he did.

What even is this?

I think it’s awesome.


Ginny rolled her eyes and looked away, back to the Headmaster who did not seem to have missed their little exchange.

“Do you do this around everyone?” he asked.

“Do what?” Harry asked.

“Chat with each other silently, the way you just did now.”

Ginny shrugged. “We keep still when we’re out in public, but around family, or other people who know, yeah.”

Dumbledore slowly shook his head. “I can’t imagine how aggravating that is to your friends.”

“You can’t,” Harry confessed.

Dumbledore raised an eyebrow and dropped his gaze down to the surface of his desk for a moment, then gave a little sigh, barely noticeable, and looked back up to them. “The method of which I used to shield my roaming thoughts during History classes was a fairly simple one, one that was easy for me to pick up and while it was at the beginning relatively weak compared to my teacher’s skill, it was enough of a defense that I was immediately aware of any prodding thought from my professor and therefore able to quickly change my course of thought. It is a very good starting point for beginners to Occlumency such as you, and a very good foundation for later, more complicated methods.”

“Where do we start?”

“The first thing to do is to somehow make your thoughts into something that you can mentally defend. The method recommends imagining your mind to be a house, with you at its center, and your thoughts, memories, desires, secrets, and so forth strewn about it. In the beginning, the house is unguarded, with plain doors and windows, and no locks. Imagine this, please.”

Ginny closed her eyes, and called to mind a visualization of her home. She sat in the kitchen, the heart of the Burrow, at the table. Harry sat down next to her, as she expected, and leaned on the table.

So, we just imagine our minds to be the Burrow? Harry thought.

I guess, Ginny answered. Unless you want your own house.

Why would I want to do that? The thing I want to protect most is you.


Ginny felt her cheeks coloring. You’re a giant sap, Harry, she thought. She felt his hand slide into hers, and he squeezed it quickly.

That’s because I am hopelessly in love with you.

She was sure she was bright red at that point. Seriously, we’re supposed to be focusing! How am I supposed to do that with you rotting my teeth?

I would hope I rot your teeth, I have to think really hard to come up with all of these cheesy lines.

They are cheesy.

You’re not supposed to agree with me, Ginny!


“Are you visualizing this house?”

“Yes,” Harry said quickly.

“Are we allowed to be in the same house?” Ginny asked.

“I would suppose that would work, yes, go on. What house is it?”

“The Burrow.”

“A good starting point. Now, think of each room of the house as holding a thought of yours, a memory, a dream, something you enjoy doing, et cetera. As the rooms go further up to the top of the house, place memories and thoughts you least wish to be viewed in the least accessible parts of the house.”

Ginny started remembering the rooms, trying to think of which ones would be best for what kind of thought to put in them. She decided that her room ought to house her personal memories of family, loved ones and fun times, the kitchen pantry her recollections of all the relatively useless trivia she’d accumulated through life, mostly things of Muggle life she’d gotten from her father, the second floor bathroom received her recollections of all embarrassing moments, whether they happened to her or she witnessed them — Hey! The entirety of my grade school is not one giant embarrassing moment! Harry protested as she sent her second-hand memory of his experience directly into the toilet —, her memories of anything and everything to do with school and boring trips to the Ministry and the like to Percy’s room, memories of Quidditch to Charlie’s, childhood dreams and hopes to her parent’s room, knowledge of pranking and mischief to Fred and George’s room, all thoughts about careers and futures for her to Bill’s, and her prayers for her friend’s and her family’s future successes to Ron’s room. As she did this, Harry went along behind her, placing his memories and thoughts throughout the house, almost in identical places, though his thoughts on the future were placed in her room and his good memories of family and friends in the sitting room. The very last thoughts she placed were her own bad memories, and all of Tom’s. These she put all the way up in the attic, and she made sure that a mental version of the family ghoul was there to keep Tom company.

“Have you finished sorting through your thoughts?” came Dumbledore’s voice.

“Yes,” Ginny answered, opening her eyes.

“I’m still trying to decide if my memories of grade school should stay in the bathroom or if I should put them in the attic with the ghoul,” Harry answered.

“Pardon?” asked Dumbledore.

“Never mind,” Harry said quickly. “I’ll just leave them in the toilet.

Ginny looked over to him as he opened his eyes and raised an eyebrow. He shrugged, and she looked back at the desk in front of them, shaking her head slightly.

“Very well, we shall move on then. Now that you have sorted out your thoughts into the house, consider the exterior of the house. You started with plain walls, plain doors and windows, with basic locks upon them. Consider the kind of locks on all the openings, and how they might be stronger.”

Ginny paused first to slowly inhale a lungful of air. Then she considered the imagined house her mental sense of self stood in, and she exited it to view the house. Harry followed her, the two of them imagining the outside of the Burrow together.

What do you think? Harry asked. It’s just a normal house right now, but how could we protect it?

Ginny considered what Dumbledore had said, and since he hadn’t given them any criteria other than improving the current defenses, she decided not to limit her options.

Dragons, she thought.

I was thinking some lasers, but okay, Harry replied with a mental shrug.

We could have both, she suggested.

What about dragons with robots riding them with laser cannons for hands? Harry thought excitedly.

Ginny opened one eye to look at him. What even are you, she thought.

What?

Fine,
she sighed. We can have dragons with robot riders who have laser cannons for hands.

Harry clapped his mental hands. Awesome. What else?

We should probably give the house steel walls.

And set it on an asteroid!

What?

Too much?

I don’t know if there is such thing as too much…

So let’s put it on an asteroid. With volcanoes.

And dragons and robots that have laser cannon hands? Oh my.

You’re making fun of me, aren’t you?

I wonder, how on earth did you guess that!

Haha, Ginny.


Ginny just shook her head and turned back to the mental house. At the moment and in real life, it was made with wooden walls, but she imagined this Burrow to be different. She imagined it to be made entirely of metal, thick walls of steel plating each outside surface. The house in her imagination quickly changed, becoming a monochrome monstrosity of metal. Harry’s imagination was revamping the landscape, and when she next looked around, they were standing on gray, rocky ground, in the distance there were mountains spewing smoke and red light, and directly above them hung the stars.

Wow, she thought. That was quick.

Watch this,
Harry said, and a moment later a battalion of robots, all twelve feet tall, stood before them, with their laser cannon hands raised in an attentive position. Ginny rolled her eyes, thought show off, then imagined dragons for the robots to ride. The house was quickly surrounded by robots and dragons, all of them with the same ferocious expression.

Now what? Ginny thought.

I dunno.

That’s very helpful, sweetheart.

Look who’s talking.


Ginny once again rolled her eyes, then walked back to the house. She pushed open the door, which was now shiny steel, and stepped back into the imagined building. We probably should put extra armor over the rooms we don’t want people getting into.

Which ones do we not want people getting into?

Practically all of them except Percy’s.

Yeah, but which ones do we most want to keep protected?

The attic,
she thought.

And the second floor bathroom, Harry added.

We probably ought to armor plate the toilet, she mused. Harry sniggered aloud. She elbowed him lightly, then began up the stairs. She trailed her fingers over the walls, and as she did, she imagined them to be changing to steel like the outer parts of the building had. She thickened the metal around the second floor bathroom, her bedroom, the attic, Ron’s and her parent’s rooms, as Harry walked behind her and added his own touch. In a few moments, they’d made a complete round of the house, and by the time they reconvened in the sitting room, the house was barely recognizable.

That ought to do it, Harry said.

I think we should put a troll in that bathroom, Ginny thought.

Kay, done. What else?

There’s already the ghoul in the attic, but it’s just there to set the atmosphere.

Another troll?

Five.


She and Harry gave it another few moments of thought, then finally opened their eyes together and looked to Dumbledore.

“Finished?” Dumbledore asked them.

“Yes,” Harry answered.

“What have you set up?”

“We turned the walls into steel,” Ginny began. “And put the house on an asteroid.”

Dumbledore raised an eyebrow for a moment. “Indeed?”

“Yeah,” Harry added, “and we set out dragons, a few robots, and some trolls to guard the house.”

“Oh my,” Dumbledore joked. The three of them exchanged amused chuckles, before the Headmaster continued speaking. “That’s quite imaginative. And rather apt, I’d say. The void of space surrounding the house of your thoughts, that is.”

“What else?” Ginny asked, wishing to continue the lesson.

“I test your guards, of course,” Dumbledore said. “I shall attempt to access your thoughts, and you shall attempt to maintain this mental protection via your imagination. As it is your imagination, I cannot actually view what you have created, but the safeguards will hopefully be genuine. Are you ready?”

Ginny glanced at Harry, who nodded. She looked back to the Headmaster, and nodded her head.

Thus went the next hour. Dumbledore alternated between performing Legilimency on the two of them, and they both tried to keep their imagined safeguards in place and effective. On the first try, their dragons and robots appeared in fact rather useless, as the Headmaster quite easily accessed ‘the sitting room’ part of their thoughts and memories before they even noticed him, let alone repel him. But as the hour went on, the attempts to defend themselves became more and more effective. They weren’t completely effective just yet, but by the time they had finished Harry had managed to successfully prevent Dumbledore access to his subsurface thoughts twice, and Ginny once.

“That shall be the end for tonight,” said Dumbledore, and just as he finished his sentence, a nearby clock chimed the hour. “Continue to practice these exercises, and I will see you again on Thursday, the same time. Although, before you go, here, take your watches; I have modified them appropriately.”

They rose from their seats, and Dumbledore handed the two wristwatches to them, then he showed them to the door. As they took the slowly spinning staircase down to the fourth floor entrance, Harry put his arm around Ginny’s waist and set his forehead on her shoulder, preparing to fall asleep.

“Hey that’s not fair,” she said, poking him in the chest. “We’ve got to get back to our room before you can do that.”

Harry grumbled gibberish under his breath. “I’m tired,” he finally said.

“I realize that, but you’re also too heavy for me to lug up all those stairs.”

“Are you calling me fat?” he asked in a fake tone of offence.

Ginny rolled her eyes. “I’m calling me skinny. Up. I’m too tired to banter with you.”

“You’re not skinny,” Harry mumbled.

Ginny raised her eyebrows. “Did you really just say what I think you said?”

“You’re curvy,” Harry added. “That’s not skinny. Skinny is stick-like.”

“You’re digging yourself a hole there, love.”

“I love your curves,” he mumbled.

Ginny blushed a rosy shade of pink. “I, um… You still have to walk on your own.”

Harry sighed, just as the staircase reached the entrance. “Fine,” he muttered, lifting his forehead from her shoulder and standing upright. But he left his arm around her shoulders, and when they exited the Headmaster’s office, Ginny was still bright red.

They took their time on the stairs, and as they passed the floor with the two Defense Professors rooms, Ginny poked Harry in the side.

“What?” he mumbled, his eyes closed, he’d been using her sight to move.

“We should go and apologize to Sirius and Remus for frightening them this afternoon,” Ginny told him.

Harry winced at the recollection. “Now?” he asked. “It’s past ten. They’re probably asleep.”

“It’s not that far past ten,” she pointed out. “Besides, it’ll give you closure on this traumatic event.”

Harry gave her a cross look. She smiled brightly, and tugged on his arm, pulling him in the direction of Remus and Sirius’s rooms. There was light coming from under the door, and Ginny could hear voices and the sound of the radio playing from inside.

She knocked on their door, and waited patiently while Harry stared at his feet for someone to open the door. After a moment, it opened to reveal Remus, who immediately blushed scarlet at the sight of them.

“Oh! Evening, you two,” he said, sounding both surprised and as if he, like Harry, was feeling the repercussive awkwardness from the ‘encounter’ that afternoon.

“Evening, Remus,” Ginny said. “Can we come in?”

“Er, sure,” he said, stepping back and opening the door further. Ginny stepped inside, Harry behind her, and saw Sirius sitting on the sofa, his feet up on the coffee table and his arms draped over the back of his seat.

“I told you they’d come by,” Sirius said to Remus in lieu of a greeting.

Remus rolled his eyes and motioned for them to sit down on the sofa not occupied by Sirius. Ginny did, Harry dropping down a bit more roughly beside her, his gaze still fixed on his feet.

“I figured we should apologize for what happened earlier,” Ginny began.

“We?” Sirius repeated gruffly. “You weren’t there.”

“Yeah well, Ginny is always everywhere I go,” Harry said, finally looking up. “I’m sorry that I frightened you. That was what I had been trying to avoid.”

“We forgive you,” Remus said immediately, as he sat down beside Sirius. “It wasn’t your fault. We should have been more observant.”

“I shouldn’t have tried to be sneaky about getting out,” Harry sighed. “It just made the whole thing worse.”

“Let’s just agree to blame Sirius,” Remus suggested.

“What?” Sirius said in almost a gasp. “Me? How is it my fault?”

“If you weren’t such a horny little bastard, this never would have happened in the first place,” Remus said quite calmly. Ginny sniggered. Harry lowered his head into his hands. Sirius at first looked like he was trying to appear affronted, but eventually he sighed and shrugged.

“That’s actually a good point,” he mumbled. Remus adopted a smug expression in his victory, then looked back to them with raised eyebrows.

“Would you like some tea? Or if you’re hungry, we have a few packets of crisps in the cupboards.”

“No we don’t,” Sirius said quickly. Remus shot him a look, and he deflated a little. “Fine.”

Harry shook his head. “No, it’s late and we really ought to be getting back to our rooms.”

“Oh, that’s fine as well,” Remus said. “We’ll see you tomorrow at training.”

“Bright and early, with a cheery Tonks!” Sirius said, clasping his hands under his chin dramatically. “So cheery, in fact, she might end up murdered for her morning attitude!”

Remus rolled his eyes, then looked to Ginny and raised his eyebrows, giving her an expression of “Boys. Am I right?” Ginny giggled and nodded.

They rose, bade the two professors good night, then exited their rooms and began the walk back to the marble staircases and Gryffindor tower. Lady fortune seemed to be smiling upon them that evening, perhaps in reconciliation of what had happened after Defense class, and they met no one on their way. Curfew was ten for them, and it was ten past.

When Harry finally shut the door to their sitting room behind them, Ginny heaved out a sigh and collapsed onto the sofa, flinging an arm over her eyes and a leg over the side of the couch.

“No, you can’t sleep there,” Harry said, walking over and prodding her in the side with a hand.

“I’m already laid down, go ’way,” she mumbled.

“No, come on, if I’m not allowed to sleep while walking back, you’re not allowed to sleep on the couch. You’ll wake up with backaches and a crick in your neck and all sorts of sore muscles. And you still have to brush your teeth and wash your face and brush out your hair and all that other crap you do before bed.”

Ginny lifted her arm and looked at him with narrowed eyes. “Other crap? Pardon me, Potter, but you literally mentioned all three things I regularly do before bed.”

“I did?” he said. “Oh.”

Ginny heaved a sigh, but lifted herself into a sitting position, then raised her arms up and looked at him. He gave her a look. Really?

“Shut up and pick me up,” she mumbled. Harry rolled his eyes, but took her hands and pulled her up, then wrapped his arms around her waist to keep her standing. She leaned on his shoulder, her eyes closed.

“You do have to walk, you know.”

“What use are you, then?” she asked with an even heavier sigh. She could practically feel his eyeballs rolling in his skull as she turned away and started towards their bedroom.

In all honesty, getting ready for bed really did take only a few minutes, even if she pretended it was ages. She only quickly combed through her hair before braiding it, then flopping down on the bed, snuggling down into the pillows.

“That’s my pillow, you know,” Harry called from the bathroom.

“Exactly,” she said. “It smells like you. You’ll get it back when you get over here and I can cuddle the real you.”

“You are very tired, aren’t you?” he laughed.

“No more than you are,” she mumbled. A normal person wouldn’t have heard her, but she didn’t even need to speak for her husband to hear her. Ginny smiled a bit and inhaled deeply, her mind already drifting towards sleep. She still noticed when Harry slipped in beside her, despite being in the brink of sleep, and she shifted closer to his body, draping an arm across him and breathing in the scent of him. He smelled like comfort and safety.
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