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SIYE Time:14:52 on 30th July 2021


Through Shadows
By hp_fangal

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Category: Alternate Universe
Characters:All, Harry/Ginny
Genres: Angst
Warnings: Mental Abuse, Mild Language, Violence/Physical Abuse
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 106
Summary: When Harry goes missing from Privet Drive without a single personal possession, the worst is assumed by the Order of the Phoenix and the magical community of Britain at large. Upon his rescue, Ginny and the others find that everything they thought they knew from the moment Harry returned from the maze with Cedric's body in his arms must be called into question. Will Harry be able to heal from a traumatic ordeal that has left scars too deep to see?
Hitcount: Story Total: 9197; Chapter Total: 737
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
Happy New Year!

knocks on wood

I go back to teaching on January 4, and I anticipate it's going to take a couple weeks to get into the swing of things again after a 2-week break. Because of that, I won't be updating next Saturday. You can expect my next update January 16 so I have time to write and readjust.

Anyway, this chapter is where we see our players put the pieces together to figure out what happened. Enjoy!




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Chapter Seven: Reveal



Ginny thought it over the next two days, between carrying trays of food, dodging Hermione and her brothers as her mother half-heartedly pushed for them to continue cleaning, tossing and turning more than sleeping, and sitting with Harry’s hand clasped in her own. She considered everything that had been said, both by Harry and by others. She thought about his scar, the connection, the completed homework in his trunk, the strange potion Snape had invented which Harry had been forced to take day after day, Hedwig’s bedraggled appearance… all of it.

Harry had barely spoken since that first day, and seemed mostly content to sit in silence while Ginny told him all about the cleaning she and the others had been doing around the house, or stories from her childhood. If he wasn’t listening to her, he was sleeping, instead. Remus had brought Hedwig to him, and he hadn’t said much then either, but instead stroked Hedwig’s feathers and whispered, “Thought he killed you.”

Hedwig had affectionately nipped at his fingers, seeming to understand the quiet Harry needed, but Harry’s eyes had seemed a bit brighter during those precious minutes the two were reunited.

Hermione hadn’t tried coming upstairs, but Ginny thought that was mostly due to Ron insisting she listen to Remus and give Harry his space. The older girl and her brother had been in the kitchen a couple times when Ginny had come downstairs to drop off or collect a tray of food, and if it hadn’t been for Ron placing a restraining hand on her shoulder and shaking his head, Ginny thought that Hermione might very well have insisted on following her into Sirius’s room.

It worried Ginny, truth be told. When would the breaking point hit? She knew Hermione was frustrated and trying to follow Remus’s direction to stay away, but that could only go on for so long.

Ginny had immediately started going to bed long after Hermione, and rose well before her. Molly’s eyes lingered on her longer than usual as though she knew that Ginny wasn’t sleeping well but didn’t dare say anything out loud and break the silently mounting tension between all the occupants of the dark and old house.

If she wasn’t tossing and turning while her mind whirled with all the thoughts she had, then it was nightmares, the most frequent being when Ginny had come to within the Chamber of Secrets to see Tom Riddle emerging from the diary and laughing at her for being so foolish. That awful, wild laughter, so cold and triumphant… Ginny had woken in a cold sweat more than once with the echoes of Riddle’s laugh in her ears.

Worse still was when the sound twisted and became the laugh Harry had made when Voldemort had almost succeeded in overwhelming him that first morning. Though Harry’s eyes had been screwed shut, Ginny had still been able to see Tom in the curl of Harry’s lips, and it had almost been too much. The fact that it was Harry, that she wasn’t a child anymore, had allowed her to push back and force Harry not to give up, but she knew it had been a close thing. She prayed her nightmares would stop mixing up to the two memories so she could find some sense of peace in the aftermath of Harry’s rescue.

While she knew that Kingsley and Tonks had taken Crouch into the Ministry and had ensured the right people were alerted before Fudge could step in, Ginny wasn’t aware of the fallout just yet. Reading the Daily Prophet wasn’t high on her list of priorities, but she thought that she had heard Hermione discussing it with her brothers a couple times when she passed Ron’s room with a tray to take upstairs or bring back to the kitchen. If Remus knew more, he wasn’t volunteering that information to her or Sirius, and neither of them had bothered to ask as of yet.

It didn’t matter much to Ginny, not really. What mattered most was the battered boy on the topmost floor. Neglected letters from her boyfriend Michael Corner on her dresser attested to the shift in her priorities.

“You’ve been awfully quiet,” said Hermione when Ginny stepped into their shared bedroom that night. It seemed she had deliberately stayed up to talk to her this time. “Not that I’ve seen much of you, anyway.”

“I know,” said Ginny with a shrug. “I’ve… had a lot on my mind. Helping Sirius and Remus, you know.”

Hermione frowned. “Has Harry spoken to you?”

Ginny nodded. “A bit.” She considered what might be safe enough to say given that so much still didn’t make sense just yet. “He thought Voldemort had killed Hedwig,” she finally settled on. “We asked if Voldemort had told him that, but all he did was shake his head. He was happy to see her yesterday, but…” She sighed and shook her head. “There’s just something that doesn’t add up about it all.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” asked Hermione. “I mean, I know you care, but Ron and I –”

“Know Harry the best, I know,” said Ginny, honestly not offended by the words. “I need more time to try and… make sense of things, I suppose. It’s not that I don’t want to talk about it,” she added quickly at the crestfallen expression on Hermione’s face. “I do, I promise, but I’m scared it’ll all fall apart if I talk about it before I’m ready. I don’t know if that makes sense, but there’s just – something feels like it ought to add up, but it doesn’t. I keep hoping if I sleep on it I’ll figure it out, but sleep has been… well…”

Hermione nodded. “That’s fair, I suppose,” she said. “But – promise you won’t keep it all to yourself forever? We all care about him, and we want to help.”

“I know,” said Ginny. “And I won’t, I promise.”

They both got ready for bed, and Hermione drifted off quickly.

Unfortunately, Ginny still couldn’t sleep. She had barely slept since Harry’s return, seemingly doomed to the reality that she just could not shut off the thoughts in her mind. Tossing and turning, she kept trying to get comfortable, but it just wasn’t happening. She only just managed to suppress a groan as she gave up on being in bed, put on her dressing gown, and headed up the stairs.

Harry was fast asleep when Ginny slipped into the room. As she had expected, Sirius had changed into his dog form and curled around Harry as per usual at night. He raised his head as she entered.

“Can’t sleep,” she whispered, unable to suppress the distress and frustration in her voice.

Sirius cocked his head to the side, and then pointed his nose at the empty side of the bed. “Are you sure?” she asked softly. Sirius thumped his tail firmly, and Ginny took that as permission. She let out a relieved sigh around her grateful smile as she crossed the room, dropping her dressing gown at the bottom of the bed and sliding under the covers.

It was strange, but Ginny felt the pull of slumber within minutes and drifted off, feeling both content and safe.



“Ginny?”

Groaning, Ginny tried to roll away from the voice saying her name, only to find herself bumping up against something warm and furry. She cracked an eye open and realized it was black dog hair.

Sirius.

She had come upstairs and fallen asleep in Sirius’s bed with Harry.

“Ginny, dear, wake up.”

Sitting up and pushing her tangled hair from her face, Ginny blinked hard several times until her mother’s face swam into focus.

“Hi, Mum,” she yawned.

“Hermione came to find me, she didn’t know where you were,” whispered Molly. “How did you end up in here?”

Ginny frowned. “I couldn’t sleep downstairs,” she said, voice dry and cracked from sleep. “Haven’t slept well in days, really, but Sirius let me stay. He’s been right there the whole time,” she added, pointing at him as he remained curled firmly around Harry. “Harry sleeps better if someone real is touching him.”

She felt a twinge in her heart as her mother’s face constricted at the words. Ginny was well-aware of the fact that Harry did not view Molly as real because she had been fooled by Voldemort’s deception. It must have taken her a lot to even dare step inside this room given this painful knowledge.

“All right,” Molly said after a moment. “I’ll have breakfast ready in about fifteen minutes. You’ll come fetch the tray?”

Ginny nodded, yawning again, and her mother left the room. The moment the door shut, Ginny flopped onto her back and sighed. “It’s the best I’ve slept in weeks, you know,” she mumbled.

Sirius moved his head over and licked her cheek. Giggling, she pushed him away and sat up again, sliding from the bed and putting on her dressing gown. Ginny looked at Harry, taking in the sleepy warmth that suffused his hollow cheeks, and the relaxed expression on his pale face. “I’ll be back with breakfast,” she told Sirius, then slipped from the room to head downstairs.

“Where were you?” said Hermione in an accusatory voice the moment Ginny stepped into their bedroom.

Ginny blinked at her. “Couldn’t sleep,” she answered coolly. “I ended up sleeping upstairs.”

“With Harry?”

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Sirius was there the whole time in his Animagus form. We just slept.” She went to her dresser and started digging around for something to wear.

“All you’ve done the last three days is spend time up there,” said Hermione crossly. “You haven’t helped clean at all, you’ve not written Michael back for over a week –”

“What, are you jealous?” Ginny demanded, whirling around and pointedly ignoring that last bit about Michael. “Jealous I’m spending all this time with your best friend while you’re out of the loop?” She snorted derisively. “It must be awful to be on the other side of that.”

Hermione’s face turned red. “That’s not it at all!” she exclaimed hotly.

“Then why the interrogation?” Ginny demanded. “Why are you acting like this?”

“It’s – that’s not even –” Hermione spluttered. “It’s just – why you?” she finally burst out. “Why you and not one of us?”

“Because I’m real!” The words exploded into the small bedroom before Ginny could stop them.

Hermione stared at her. “What does that mean?” she asked quietly.

Ginny swallowed hard, trying to figure out how to put it into words, how to convey just how much this one word had suddenly come to mean to her. “Harry – he seems to be categorizing everyone somehow,” she said at last. “I knew something was off, but I couldn’t figure out what. He gets that. I talked about the diary with him, and he – he trusts me, I suppose. He says I’m real. Sirius and Remus, too. But Mum…” Swallowing again, Ginny turned away to resume digging for clean clothes.

“What about your mother?” asked Hermione quietly.

Ginny said nothing for a bit, deciding on a pair of jeans and a green top. Setting them on her bed, she stared at them as she spoke. “Harry said she didn’t see. He said she hugged him – Voldemort.” She hesitated, then added the last bit: “He said she’s not real.”

From the intake of breath behind her, Ginny thought Hermione must have realized what she was trying to get at. “He must know who was fooled directly by You-Know-Who,” she said. “And he – he doesn’t trust any of those people now.”

Ginny stared at her bundle of clothes.

“Harry doesn’t trust me, does he?”

The question was asked in the smallest voice Ginny had ever heard from Hermione.

“I don’t know,” she said sadly, forcing herself to turn and face the older girl. “But he didn’t want Madam Pomfrey touching him, and Mum said he flinched away from her when she tried to get near him that first night. Remus claimed that even Dumbledore has said Harry has issues with him.”

“Everyone who directly interacted with the fake Harry,” said Hermione, eyes shining. “Harry knows who was deceived and who wasn’t. So – he wouldn’t take well to – to seeing me. O-or Ron. Or even the twins.”

“I don’t think so, no,” said Ginny softly. “I’m so sorry, Hermione. There’s more going on besides that, but – I think it would be wrong of me to ignore his trust. It seems to matter a great deal to him.”

Hermione nodded, tears coursing silently down her face. “Promise me you’ll help take care of him,” she said in a ragged voice.

“Of course I’ll take care of him!” Ginny quickly reassured Hermione, striding over to her and pulling her into a hug. “And anything I can do to rebuild his trust in everyone else, I swear I’ll do it.”

Hermione nodded against Ginny’s shoulder. “I’ll let you get dressed,” she whispered, pulling away and leaving the room. Ginny watched her go, heart aching fiercely at the distraught expression on her friend’s face.

Voldemort had done a great deal of damage to them all. It wasn’t fair, not one iota of it.



Ron had only just finished getting dressed when his bedroom door slammed open and Hermione came flying in, tears streaming down her face as she shut the door behind her. “What –?” He broke off as she threw her arms around his waist and began to openly sob into his chest. “Hermione?”

But the bushy-haired girl only shook her head and sobbed harder. Ron frowned, uncertain what to do or say. Ginny wasn’t one to cry all that much, and his mother usually turned to his father when she got like this. “Is it Harry?” he finally asked.

Hermione nodded against him. Ron felt his chest tighten in fear. “Is – is he okay?”

She nodded again.

Well, Ron was stumped now, had no idea what else to do besides wait it out. Hesitantly, he placed his arms around Hermione’s shoulders and tried to just hold her like he’d seen his father do with his mother. If Fred and George saw him like this, he’d never live it down.

Still, it wasn’t completely horrible to have his arms around Hermione. She had frequently sat next to him when Harry was missing and just laid her head on his shoulder as they worried together about the fate of their best friend. The twins and Ginny had seen this happen several times, but never said a word about it, which was probably a testament to how worried they had been about Harry, as well.

At long last, Hermione drew back, moving to the empty bed that had once been meant for Harry and sitting on it. Ron watched as she pulled out a handkerchief and wiped her face. “I’m sorry,” she finally whispered in a rough voice.

“S’all right,” said Ron uncomfortably, sitting down next to her. “I mean, if you’ll tell me what brought this on, that might help, though.”

Hermione’s breath hitched as though she was about to start sobbing again, but instead she nodded, dabbing at her eyes again.

“I got Ginny to talk a bit just now,” she admitted softly. “She’s been spending so much time up there with him, and I just… I wanted to know why her and not us.”

Ron nodded quietly. It would be a lie to say he hadn’t himself wondered just that; he had felt so confused by why everyone was being kept at arm's length when Harry had to know how much they all cared for and worried about him.

“I thought maybe he was too fragile or something,” Hermione went on. “Or – well, I don’t know what I thought, not really. But Ginny says…” She buried her face in her hands, shaking with suppressed sobs.

Ron swallowed and said nothing, deciding to wait and let Hermione explain things on her own terms.

“Harry knows who was fooled,” she whispered. “You-Know-Who must’ve told him, because the people who interacted with the fake Harry – he doesn’t trust them.”

It took a moment for the full impact of these words to sink in. Ron blinked, feeling lightheaded and sick as it occurred to him what Hermione meant. “He doesn’t trust us,” he said softly. “We spent so much time with the fake and had no idea – and now he doesn’t trust us.”

Hermione started crying again, face still buried in her hands. Ron felt numb, yet strangely, he was not shocked. It made sense that Harry would be distrustful after everything, that he might feel hurt or betrayed, but how did that make sense when it came to Ginny? She may not have interacted directly with the fake Harry (it was so much easier to call him that than to think about who he had truly been), but she hadn’t known the truth, either. Nor had Sirius and Remus when it came down to it.

“He trusts Ginny?” he forced himself to ask.

Hermione nodded. “He – he knew she had spotted – seen something off,” she forced out between sobs, “and he doesn’t – hate her for not – not knowing – he knows she was confused, and it – he trusts her.”

Ron nodded, thinking it over. “I don’t think he hates us,” he finally said. “Not trusting… that’s different from hate.”

“Is it?” Hermione said, burying her face in her handkerchief again. “We know him best, and we had no idea! We were fooled, Ron! Completely fooled!”

“I know that,” said Ron irritably. “I wouldn’t trust anyone if I was in Harry’s position , either. But hate, that’s…” He shook his head. “Harry could never hate us. We – we just have to show him that he can trust us, that’s all.”

“But what if he never does?” whispered Hermione.

Ron swallowed hard at the question. “We just have to take that risk,” he finally said. “I don’t know about you, but I think Harry’s worth it, isn’t he?”

Hermione blew her nose loudly into her handkerchief and looked up at Ron. “You’re… you’re right,” she finally said. “He’s worth it.”

Ron knew there was a long road ahead of them, but he also knew he was determined to do whatever it took to regain his friend’s trust. Even at the height of their distance this past year, the moment Ron had tried to apologize, Harry hadn’t wanted or needed it. Though the circumstances now were vastly different, Ron was determined to never waver again. One way or another, he would prove himself, and he knew Hermione would, too.



“Hey,” said Sirius in a low voice when Ginny entered with the breakfast tray. “Everything all right?”

Ginny smiled and nodded, setting the tray down next to all the potions Harry had to take. “Porridge again, looks like,” she said. “I suppose that’s easier than anything else right now as far as breakfast foods go.”

Sirius hummed a bit. “I’ll be in the loo,” he said, leaving the room. Remus was gone until the following morning to meet with a group of werewolves, so that just left Ginny for the moment.

Sighing, she picked up the bowl of porridge, then turned around to see Harry was awake and staring at her.

“Hi,” he said softly.

Ginny smiled brightly at him. “Morning,” she said, sitting the bowl and spoon on the bedside table.

Returning the smile in his usual subdued way, Harry looked around the room. “Where –?”

“Sirius just popped down to the loo,” answered Ginny quickly, “and Remus is gone until tomorrow, remember?”

Harry nodded and slowly pushed himself upright. Ginny bundled the pillows behind him once more and handed him his glasses. “Thanks,” he whispered as he slid them on, and Ginny was pleased to see his trembling was lesser today than it had been the day before, almost completely unnoticeable save close scrutiny. That clearly meant the potions were doing their job.

“You’re welcome,” said Ginny, dropping into the seat Sirius usually sat in when feeding Harry.

An awkward silence fell, and Ginny cast about for a topic of conversation. “D’you want to wait for Sirius to start eating?”

Harry stared at the bedroom door for a moment. “The diary,” he said abruptly, and Ginny sucked in a surprised breath. “You never saw what he was doing?”

Ginny stared at Harry before shaking her head. “Never,” she said. “I – I couldn’t remember what I’d been doing for hours at a time. I’d find myself somewhere and not know how I got there.” She bit her lip. “Do – do you see what he does?” she asked hesitantly. The question had long been on her mind, but she had been too scared to ask it before now.

Harry stared at her for what felt like an eternity before he nodded. “Had to,” he whispered. “Every day.”

Ginny couldn’t breathe. The pieces of the puzzle she had been grasping at desperately suddenly began to fall into place. “The potion,” she said woodenly. “They made you see what he was doing every day. You may as well have been him.”

Harry nodded again, eyes anguished. “Used memories,” he said. “Thoughts, he… he used it all.”

“He fooled everyone by using your mind to create the perfect Harry,” finished Ginny in a hollow voice. “All those people who didn’t see, they’re not real to you because only real people see you, the real you.”

“You could see,” said Harry.

“Not soon enough,” said Ginny bitterly.

“You still saw,” said Harry. “Saw it three times. Common room. The train. The station.”

“Four,” corrected Ginny. “Right after the maze, too.” She leaned forward. “Was that before he made you see?”

Harry nodded.

“They all feel guilty for not seeing,” Ginny told him. “Ron and Hermione, my mum, the twins… they’re devastated they didn’t see what was really going on.”

Harry looked away. “Not real,” he said. “They… they’re not real.”

Ginny’s chest felt tight. “How do they become real again?” she asked. “Harry, they want to be real.”

Harry just shook his head. Sirius stepped into the room a moment later. “Everything all right?” he asked, taking in Harry’s stiff posture and the expression of heartache on Ginny’s face.

“I know what happened,” whispered Ginny after a moment.

Sirius frowned and approached the bed. “What’s going on? What are you talking about?”

Ginny looked at Harry. “Do you want to –?”

Harry shook his head again.

That was fine. Ginny could explain. She swallowed hard and met Sirius’s eyes.

“Voldemort figured out about the connection between them,” she said. “He made Harry take that potion Snape invented to force him to look through his eyes so he could – so he could use every memory and thought Harry ever had to fool everyone at Hogwarts. Harry watched his friends, my mum, Dumbledore… so many people looked right at him without seeing that it wasn’t really him. And he had to see that every single day.”

Sirius’s face drained of all color. He stumbled to the edge of the bed and collapsed on it. “That’s – Crouch, he said Voldemort was conducting experiments on you,” he said.

“That was the main one,” whispered Harry. “Others came after he killed –” He broke off and shrugged.

“When he murdered the Dursleys,” finished Sirius. Harry nodded. “And you saw that, as well.”

“Saw everything.”

“When you said he was bored, you stated ‘we needed something to do’, and you meant the both of you,” said Sirius softly. Harry nodded. “So your homework was… which one of you did it?”

Harry shrugged. “Don’t know what came from who most of the time. Hard to… feel real.”

It suddenly occurred to Ginny that Harry had not once used personal pronouns like ‘I’ or ‘my’ or ‘mine.’ He hadn’t referred directly to himself at all this entire time apart from a singular ‘we’ that first morning about the homework.

“It’s all mixed up,” she said. “You’re feeling too mixed up to know your own mind because you spent so much time trapped in his.”

Harry looked at her, eyes grave. “Yeah,” he sighed.

Ginny closed her eyes for a moment. “You’re real, Harry,” she said, meeting his gaze directly. “It doesn’t matter how mixed up it is. You’re still real, and you can untangle it, I know you can.”

“Ginny’s right,” said Sirius, seeming to regain his determination. “We will figure this out, I promise you. Me, Ginny, Remus, and anyone else who is real to you… we’ll do whatever it takes, I swear it.” He reached out and took Harry’s hands in his own. “Thank you for trusting us with the truth,” he said.

Harry nodded a bit and looked away. “Food?” he finally asked.

“Absolutely,” said Sirius, and Ginny moved out of the way so Sirius could feed him the porridge. Harry managed about half of it before turning away. He drank the necessary potions, and was soon asleep once more.

“What do we do, Sirius?” Ginny asked at length. She had curled up on the other side of the bed next to Harry, holding his hand in her own once more while Sirius ate his own breakfast. “This is… this is so much worse than I thought, and we still don’t know what happened during those last two weeks.”

Sirius sighed and set his half-eaten plate of food down on the desk. “I don’t know, to be honest,” he said heavily. “I feel like I escaped not being real by mere circumstance rather than anything I actively did or said. Remus will undoubtedly feel the same once he comes back tomorrow, but you…” He looked directly at Ginny now. “He saw you look at Voldemort with confusion and doubt, and that has made all the difference. No one else did that. You’ve earned being real in a way Remus and I have not.”

Ginny shook her head. “I still didn’t see soon enough.”

“That clearly doesn’t matter,” said Sirius firmly. “You saw Harry in a way the others didn’t, and he recognizes that. It’s not up to us to question who Harry trusts or doesn’t trust, even if we doubt ourselves or don’t feel worthy of said trust.” He looked down at his sleeping godson with a tenderness that made Ginny want to avert her eyes than bear witness to how much Sirius cared for his godson. “We’re here for him, come what may.”

Ginny nodded and leaned against the headboard. “It’s just – odd,” she finally said, “to go from Ron’s little sister to – to being real. Ron’s his best friend, and he’s not real, but I am, and all I had was this tie through someone who’s been more important to him –” She broke off and shook her head.

Sirius chuckled. “And yet, here we are,” he said. “I’m grateful Harry has the ability to trust anyone at this point.”

Ginny nodded. “True,” she allowed. A sudden yawn overtook her.

“I think you’ve more sleep to catch up on,” said Sirius in amusement.

“I’m fine,” Ginny quickly insisted. “Just – give me Harry’s copy of Flying with the Cannons, reading their numerous failures will keep me going.”

Sirius snorted, but obliged. “I’ll take the tray back downstairs,” he told her as she balanced the book on her legs. “I haven't read the Daily Prophet in a few days, and I’m feeling rather out of touch with everything else going on.”

“I don’t care what’s going on out there,” said Ginny through another yawn. “This is the only space that makes any sense right now.”

Sirius nodded. “I’ll not be long,” he promised before he collected the remains of breakfast and left the room.

Ginny used her free hand to flip open the book to one of the Chudley Cannons worst defeats in their history of losses and glanced at Harry. He seemed so at peace despite the horrors he had endured, and to be this close to him, to have his trust…

Don’t think about him like that! she told herself firmly before her thoughts could take that old path. You’re with Michael. You’re happy with Michael!

Was she, though?

Refocusing on the book propped on her legs, she forced herself to read, but it was so warm and comfortable on the bed, Harry’s hand fitting so right in hers…

Ginny’s eyes drooped, and she forced them open. The game against the Appleby Arrows that season saw the team lose by more than 300 points…

So warm… so comfortable… safe...

And sleep claimed her in its warm embrace.



It was warm, and Ginny snuggled into the source, feeling content and safer than she’d felt in years.

Until the rough, wet tongue of the source of warmth made a disgusting track against her face, that is. “Urgh!” she groaned, pushing Sirius’s snout away from her and wiping at her face with the blanket that covered her.

A low, rumbling chuckle interrupted her, and she cracked open an eye to see Harry facing her, his haunted green eyes veiled with amusement and a small, but true grin on his thin face. “Glad to see someone’s enjoying himself,” she muttered, embarrassed that she’d not only fallen asleep next to Harry, but that Sirius had slobbered all over her face.

Harry pushed Sirius completely out of the way and lifted the blanket himself, catching some dog drool Ginny had missed on her cheek. “The look on your face,” he said, still grinning. “It was funny.”

Ginny snorted. “Fair amount of blushing, too,” she admitted.

“It’s cute,” said Harry softly. “Remember when you knocked over your bowl of porridge?”

“I knocked over a lot of things that summer,” said Ginny with a scowl. Harry’s grin widened.

“Your face was glowing,” he said. “Like… like the setting sun.”

Ginny laughed. “You were always too kind, just ignoring everything I ever did. I’m sorry I was so silly back then.”

Harry shrugged. “Just wanted to be friends with you. Glad you’re talking now.”

Ginny smiled. “Hermione said I needed to stop being so stupid and just be myself,” she told him. “It’s hard to be friends with someone who can’t even talk to you without sticking their elbow in a butter dish.”

Harry actually laughed, and the sound gave Ginny a thrill. She grinned rather stupidly at him, pleased to have brought a smile and even a laugh out of him.

She would do almost anything to see him happy again. Thoughts of Michael barely crossed her mind the rest of the day. There was plenty of time to sort out her dating life in the face of Harry smiling at her like that.
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