The Sugar Quill
Author: Brin Bran  Story: Getting to Shelter  Chapter: default
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Getting to shelter

Getting to shelter

 

                       Harry and Ginny started moving the masses of thick, fallen branches out of their way, trying to get back to the deserted cabin. Despite her relief at the danger being over for now, Ginny was exhausted to the point of having to concentrate extremely hard on each branch, feeling every second like she was going to collapse the next. Neither she nor Harry spoke. Ginny had a vague perception of a thumping pain in her shoulder. The branches were heavy, and sharp in places, but she was too tired to worry about cutting herself anymore.

Harry must have been drained as well. Ginny tried to look at him briefly, but amazingly enough found that even in her exhausted state she could hardly tear her eyes away from him.  Just seeing his familiar form next to her, alive and breathing, gave her a strange feeling of warmth and exhilaration. Her romantic daydreams about Harry just days ago seemed like ancient history. Nothing like that mattered anymore. From now on, she would always be happy just to have him breathing the same air. Whatever he needed to do and whoever he needed to be with to be happy was all right with her.

Ginny felt oddly empowered by her feeling of love - real, all-sacrificing love. She couldn’t help the tears that rose to her eyes at the simple happiness of being with him like this, alive, exhausted, and working together to get to shelter. She glanced at the side of Harry’s face, where blood from a messy, yet luckily, shallow cut had dried. Out of nowhere, her hand moved up to softly touch the dusty grey-looking hair above his ear.

Harry startled at her touch. “What?” he whispered, alarmed, looking quickly around to see if she was warning him of danger. Ginny was again amazed that she could still be embarrassed after all that had happened. “Oh, nothing, I just – you had pine needles in your hair,” she said quickly. For a second, Harry looked puzzled, and then he looked down, apparently embarrassed. Fine, Ginny thought. He’ll think I’m a total lunatic – just out of danger and now I can’t keep my stupid hands off him!  “Sorry, didn’t mean to – you know, startle you.” 

“All right then.” They worked again in silence, but suddenly Ginny felt overwhelmed by exhaustion, cold, hunger, pain and the mortal fear she had been feeling less than an hour ago. Her legs started shaking and she promptly sat down on the ground. Almost simultaneously, Harry was beside her, fear in his eyes. “Are you ok?”

“Yes, I’m fine,” she said, trying to keep her teeth from chattering, aware of how absurd it was to say she was fine. “I just need to sit down for a minute.”

“Ginny, I’m sorry, I should have realised – you must be way too tired to do this – I’m sorry,” Harry spoke in a rush, with a frantic look in his eyes. He gave Ginny a long, searching look and it was impossible for her to hide that she was trembling violently. “Sit down while I clear the rest of the way – you must be freezing too. Here, take this-“ Harry proceeded to take off his school robes and wrapped them around Ginny, who already had on her own. Harry was left with his jumper and trousers on.

“No, Harry, I’m not taking yours, you’ll be cold. Come on, I’ll be all right!” She tried to take Harry’s robes off and give them back, but her shoulder seemed to explode with pain. “Ow!”

“What’s wrong? Is your shoulder hurt?” Harry looked a little more frightened than could have been expected, and moved his hand awkwardly around her shoulder, as if wanting to support her but not knowing how.

“Yeah, I guess. But I’ll be fine, I can’t let you do the work alone –“

“Oh yes you can and you will. Now sit there, this will be done in no time. And keep the robes, I’ll be warm while I do this,” Harry said with a sudden determination and got up to move the rest of the branches. He seemed to have been given new energy somehow. She knew that Harry considered Ron and all the rest of the Weasleys as his family, so he would naturally be concerned about her safety and well-being.  Perhaps even a little of Ron’s protectiveness had rubbed off on Harry.  He was a wonderful and loyal friend. She longed and yearned to be more than friends with him, but she would still rather have him as a friend than not have him in her life at all.

After some time, Ginny and Harry were able to get to the cabin. The door was unlocked. Ginny thought Harry looked determined enough to break the door or window, but that would have lead to a major draught problem, so better this way, she thought.

Only after getting inside, Ginny realised how wet her clothes were in places. Harry seemed to know that too, because after making a fire, he came to her and looked very awkwardly at her clothes, with all their large wet patches. “Listen..” he said, and looked like he was totally unable to continue. He even blushed.

“Yes?”

“Your clothes are wet, and – we have to get you warm somehow – don’t want Ron and your mum and everyone else to kill me, you know – and I’m not trying anything, you know – but you really have to take those off – I’ll see if there’s something dry here.” he managed, scarlet in the face. He turned around and started going through a chest standing under the only window in the small room. Very soon he stopped, disappointed. “There’s nothing made of fabric in here.”

Ginny turned her eyes on the bed. “Well, there’s the bed,” she said, noticing that this conversation would warm her face, at the very least.

Harry was relieved. “Yes, that’s right! I’ll check if it’s all right, and you can get in there,” he said, going over and lifting the bedclothes, feeling if they were dry and making sure that no nasty surprises like marracoons, with their disgusting hairy shells were in there. “I guess it’s ok, a little cold, but it’ll get warmer. So, take off the wet things - I’ll just – turn around, shall I.” He turned his back. “Leave them there, I’ll hang them near the fire to dry for you.” 

“Thank you, Harry,” Ginny croaked, moved that he would make such an effort for her even now that the danger with Voldemort was over and there was no more of that saving-the-life-of-your-best-friend’s-little-sister for Harry to do. She took off her robes and her sweater – starting a little at the pain in her shoulder – and trousers, but left her t-shirt on – it was closest to her skin and would dry up soon – she couldn’t bear the thought of suddenly being in the same room with Harry in nothing but her underwear. That would be mortifying unless... no, she couldn’t do that. It must be hard enough for him like this, cooped up with her, knowing about her “silly crush” on him and not feeling the same.

Ginny lifted the covers and slid her legs in bed, and then, still sitting up, drew the covers up around her, taking care not to move her shoulder any more than was necessary. The bed was chillingly cold and almost as damp as her clothes had been, but she tried to keep from shaking. The fire would warm up the room soon. “All right, I’m decent,” she said and Harry turned back around. To her surprise, a smile crept up on his face as he looked at her sitting in bed. Gradually, the smile died, and was replaced by a look of conflicting emotions, that only danced in his eyes, while he stood immobile. He looked like he was working hard to restrain something, but lost the battle in the end.

“Ginny,” he whispered hoarsely, “I – “ he regained the use of his legs and came to sit down on the bed.

Ginny had almost forgotten to breathe. “Yes Harry, sit down, you deserve a break, after – everything – “ she stammered.

He turned to look at her again, with a look totally different to anything she had ever seen in his eyes. Her heart sped up. “Ginny, I want to talk to you about something. I have to –“ he said, sounding exasperated, so she presumed it was with her.

“No, Harry, it’s all right, you don’t have to say anything, I know what it must be like –  I’m sorry – I’ll stop, I promise –“ she tried to respond, deeply embarrassed that Harry would have to talk to her about behaving like a silly puppy at a time like this. But now he was looking really confused.

“Stop what?” he asked, wrinkling his brow just a little. “I just wanted to say how happy I am that you’re – alive – and, you know – that we made it, and – “ he stopped and looked down. Ginny loved the way the warm glow of the fire was reflected in his face. She struggled to keep her hand from reaching up to touch his face near the cut. She would help him clean it up in just a minute. Suddenly, she started feeling very light, once again not caring very much how silly she must look. She loved him, damnit. He could live the rest of his life in peace if she could just touch him this once... just a little... she lifted a hand uncertainly but quickly towards his jaw. Just then he turned his head a little, and Ginny’s fingers ended up brushing his lips. She felt electrified and mortified at the same time. The pleasure of feeling the intimate warmth of his lips beneath her fingers for a fraction of a second mixed with the deep embarrassment of – well.

She was shocked to see Harry looking at her intensely and – oh god – he took her hand! His hand was warm and sooty, and the way he gently squeezed hers sent a shock of warm fluttering inside her, filling her lungs with restless air and driving her heart from its usual place all the way up to her throat. How often she had watched him gesturing during his conversations with Ron and Hermione, wishing desperately she could find out what it felt like to touch those beautiful hands. Ginny tried to figure out whether this was reality or not, and she could not pinpoint any piece of proof that would confirm that it was real. But the feeling attached was so powerful that it had to be – real.

                    “Ginny,” Harry said again as if he had just found out that was her name, and she wasn’t the least bit impatient for him to continue. It was the sweetest her name had ever sounded. He held her hand with one hand, and slowly extended the other to – touch her cheek with trembling fingers! Ginny was elated enough to scream and at the same time terrified in a thrillingly pleasant way that was all new to her. It almost seemed that her vision was diminished to the point where she could only see the boy in front of her, with his dusty hair, bloody face and familiar, yet heart-stopping, green eyes that were looking very large and bright and intense at the moment. He was holding her hand securely in his, and his other hand was trailing tentative paths on her cheek. She thought she would burst with emotion; this was way too good to be true. This was Harry, and he was touching her – on purpose. She didn’t even care to be embarrassed when she felt the prickling in her eyes and throat. Let the tears run, I’m bloody entitled, she thought, and almost chuckled at the image of Ron that came to her mind. The first drop left the corner of her eye and started its way towards her chin. To her shock, Harry gently wiped off the tear. Ginny realised she now probably had soot on her face from Harry’s hand, and it was such a happy thought it made her shed several more tears.

                    “Don’t worry, we’ll get back in no time,” Harry said softly. “I’m sure everyone’s all right.” Ginny felt a stab of pain and guilt – here she was, all giddy about having a glorious private moment with Harry, and she didn’t even know for sure if all her family members and friends were alive. Still, after all that she had gone through in the past twenty-four hours, and after all the years she had spent pining for Harry, this moment couldn’t be thrown away. She had survived Voldemort together with Harry, and now they were stuck alone together for either an hour or a whole day or longer, who knew, and she was starting to feel a closeness with him – perhaps he felt it too – and she decided to push worries that she could do nothing about out of her mind for just a little longer.

She turned her eyes back on Harry’s, finding him still looking at her so intently that she felt a jolt in her chest. His look was steady, but a little uncertain, like he was searching for something, some confirmation, in her eyes. Ginny couldn’t help glancing at his lips – the daring brought heat to her cheeks. Before she even knew it, she had lifted her hand again, and repeated, on purpose, what had happened by accident just a couple of minutes ago. She brought her fingertips to his lips in the lightest of touches, and was surprised to see Harry blink involuntarily and silently draw a quick breath. When he opened his eyes, they looked a darker green than she had ever seen before.

“Close your eyes, Ginny,” he said, with a voice that was merely above a whisper.

She closed her eyes, heart hammering. After two seconds that felt like two hours, she felt Harry move closer. She felt him cupping her face with both hands – beloved, slim, strong hands – and she felt the heat radiating from the whole of him closer and closer to herself, and now she sensed his breath on her face – warm, sweet, it felt joyfully familiar, although brand new to her – and then his mouth was on hers. Happiness bubbled inside Ginny so forcefully it was hard to keep still – and yet she couldn’t possibly have moved half an inch away from this, her first kiss, from the boy she had been in love with forever. His lips may have been chapped and his face bloody, but he was so warm and gentle it was mind-blowing. Their lips, open just a little, moved together softly, silently. All too soon it was over.

He pulled back from the kiss, looking the slightest bit worried. Ginny couldn’t stop touching him, not now. She leaned forward and rested her head on his chest, and was delighted to feel him put his arms around her, carefully to not hurt her shoulder. She managed to take some deep breaths, revelling in the scent of pine, dust and firewood that was coming from him.

Yes, everything else could definitely wait a while longer.

                     

//
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