The Sugar Quill
Author: Felix Felicis  Story: Autumn Leaves  Chapter: Default
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Harry lay in bed with the covers pulled up to his neck

Autumn Leaves

By Felix Felicis

Disclaimer – All the characters belong to J.K. Rowling, I’m just borrowing them for a bit and promise to return them as good as new.

A/N – Thanks again to my wonderful Beta, Felina Black.  Your help is so very appreciated, and it always puts the perfect finishing touches on my work.

Summary – The war has finally ended, the four friends are living in a house together, and it’s a beautiful autumn day.  How could it get any better?  Harry and Ginny go for a walk in the woods.  Pure and simple fluff.  4,029 words.

 

Though the sun was rising, Harry lay in his bed with the covers pulled up to his neck.  He always felt comfortable and hidden like this, as if nothing bad could reach him here.  The cool air of the house touched his face and he responded by pulling the blankets a little higher.  It seemed they would have to start working on some warming spells soon or they would all freeze at night.  He smiled comfortably as the warmth of the blanket spread to his face, then he closed his eyes again.

The house was located far back in a large park near Hogsmeade, surrounded by beautiful, wooded hills.  Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny had taken it to be near Hogwarts, to help protect the students if the worst should happen, if Voldemort should attack the school.  Headmistress McGonagall herself had performed the Fidelius Charm for them, to make their home known to no one, and they had been as protected as they could be while the war went on.  Nearly two years of fighting passed before the final victory, a victory hard-fought and painfully won.  There had been horrible losses on both sides – friends, teachers, parents – many had given their lives so that the wizarding world could be free at last. 

When it was all over, these four had gone back home; for that’s what it had become to them, and it seemed only natural to stay.  The Fidelius Charm was lifted, and on this peaceful late-autumn day, a few flowers bloomed in the garden, reminding the occupants that there was still life and hope in the world.  This is where Harry found himself now, only two months after the fall of Voldemort, among his friends.

He felt the sunlight peering through the window at him, and allowed its warmth to touch his face.  Another thing to add to the list, he decided, drapes.  In all the time they had lived there, they had either been too tired, too weak, or just didn’t care enough to put up some of those final touches that make a house a home.  Not that it didn’t feel like home to him.  The only other places he felt this at-home were Hogwarts and the Burrow.  The war had been horrific, but it was always comforting to know that his house still stood, waiting for him to come home to it.  There had been times, of course, when they waited for some one or two of the others to come home, fearing the worst, and simply holding each other tight; but now those times seemed only to make the fact that they were all still together more the wonderful.

As the warm light lay across him, it eased his thoughts, and just as he felt sleep returning, a noise from below caused him to sit up quickly and grab his wand – a reflex from the war that he hoped would fade with time.  He listened closely, then relaxed and put it back on his bedside table.  Oh well, he thought, I should be up now anyway.  He tipped himself off the bed into his slippers and made his way to the door.  When he reached it, he turned for a moment, shivered, and thought, why not?  He crossed back to his bed and pulled the blanket off in one swoop, wrapping it around himself and feeling the warmth still in it.  After another second thought, he doubled back and stuck his wand in his pocket.  For him, it was still too soon not to carry it.

Hermione laughed loudly and freely when he entered the kitchen enveloped in his blue bed-coverings.  He couldn’t help but smile, she hadn’t laughed like that in a long time.

“Harry, you should see yourself!  All wrapped up in your blanket – how old are you now?”

“You’re just jealous,” he said, and stuck out his tongue at her, “You wish you’d thought of it first.”

“Well, you do look comfortable.”  She glanced down at his feet and frowned, “Wait, please tell me you’re wearing something under that…”

He raised one eyebrow at her, “Of course I am!  Who do you take me for, Ron?  I can’t tell you how many times in school we told him to put something on, not that it ever helped.”

Hermione blushed.  Ron was, after all, her boyfriend, and though everyone in the house slept in different rooms, she was still painfully aware of his clothes, or lack thereof, when he slept.

Harry shook his head, “At least he does usually wear boxers.”  He gave a fake shudder, “I don’t even want to think about him sleeping full starkers.”

Hermione only blushed even more, and disappeared to go sit in the sun room.  Harry poured himself some hot cocoa and followed.  He loved this room in the morning.  Three walls of windows facing the open woods made for some beautiful views, especially this time of year.

“Mind if I join you,” he asked, indicating the open spot on the sofa next to her.

“Only if you share your blanket.”  She made her eyes wide and indecently innocent.

He set his mug down on the side table and fluffed the expansive blanket over her as he sat down.  She leaned against his shoulder, warming her fingers on her own mug, and he put an arm around her.  This is what it used to be like, he thought, comfortable and easy, no worries, no fighting… no war.  Maybe… maybe it could be like that again.

They sat in cozy silence, broken only by the occasional sipping of hot cocoa, and enjoyed the scene painted before them.  It seemed nature too was celebrating victory, and had outdone herself with more shades of red, yellow, and orange than Harry had ever seen.  For the first time in years, he felt wholly at peace.  That is, until they were discovered.

“Oi, Potter!  Get off my girlfriend!” a voice rang out from the doorway.

Harry turned, putting on his best virtuous face.  He pulled Hermione a little closer and said, “What’s a little snogging between friends?”

Instantly a pillow smacked him dead in the face.  Ron feigned innocence, so Harry pretended nothing had happened and covertly pulled his wand under the blanket.  Hermione played along and crawled up into Harry’s lap, putting her arms around his neck.

“Really, Ron,” she said, putting on her best innocent look, “It’s only Harry, and well… we’ve been doing this behind your back for how long now, Harry?” 

He pretended to think about it.  “Oh, at least since sixth year.”

Zoom!  Another pillow went for Harry, but he deflected it and sent it fast for Ron, hitting him squarely in the chest.

Ron looked out the window, apparently quite interested in a bird sitting in its nest.

“Well, I’ll just have to go find another girl then,” he said, “I hear that the Hogs Head has some very fine women.  Maybe one of them would be true to me and not cheat with my best mate.”

“Yes,” said Harry, sending two more pillows at Ron, “I believe you’re right.  I’ve heard – ” he ducked a returning pillow, “that the Hogs Head – “ Hermione fell off his lap dodging a second hurtling pillow, “has some very good looking women.  Some even men dressed up as women.”

Ron turned and openly flicked his wand, smiling gleefully.  But before he could get started, it seemed all of the pillows in the room suddenly took flight.  What made it worse was that instead of hitting and dropping, they followed each person around, whacking them repeatedly on the head.

Finite Incantatum!  Harry yelled, laughing, for he knew who had done it.  The only person with that much experience at vicious pillow fights was one red-headed Weasley girl.

Accio Ginny!  He yelled again.  She flew backward through the door, and landed neatly in his lap, where Hermione had been only moments before.

“Hi, Harry,” she said, smiling broadly as if nothing had happened, “good morning.”

“Hi,” was all he could say, his face getting redder with each passing moment.  It seemed he hadn’t quite planned this out properly.

“Gosh, Harry,” Ron said seriously, “What’s wrong with your face?  It’s suddenly gone all red.  Maybe it’s because you’ve got a Ginny on you.  Here, let me get it off.”

He reached over and tried to extract Ginny from Harry’s lap, but she merely put her arms around his neck and held fast.  Hermione stood off to one side, trying her hardest to control her fits of laughter, and failing miserably.

“Well, I can’t seem it get it off.  You’ll have to deal with it yourself.”  He crossed his arms and put his finger on his chin, as if thinking deeply about how to solve the problem.

“Maybe,” said Ginny, “he doesn’t want to be rid of me.  After all, if he can go about snogging Hermione all the time, why can’t he and I do it too?”

Ron narrowed his eyes at her, and shot virtual arrows at Hermione, who was doubled over laughing outright now.  Suddenly his face cleared and he smiled again.

“Well, it’s because you’re my sister,” he said, as if it weren’t obvious, “and Mum and Dad made me promise to look after you.  I don’t think they’d want you hanging around with riff-raff like this.”  He jerked his thumb at Harry.

While he was talking, Ginny had been preparing, and with a quick flick of her wand, every last pillow in the room attacked Ron, knocking him to the floor and pelting him relentlessly.  Then she turned back to Harry.

“See the things you learn in a girls dormitory?”

“Yeah,” he laughed, “I’m very impressed.”  And he was impressed, especially at how she managed not to show any embarrassment, even with her somewhat questionable seating arrangements. 

She got up gracefully from his lap, “Well, I’m just glad I was dressed before I came down today, otherwise who knows what might have happened!”  Instantly she bit her lip and her face went red.  She said to the room at large, “Who wants breakfast?” then skipped out the door before anyone besides Harry could see her bright red ears.

They ate breakfast, continuing to laugh until their faces hurt, and then spent the morning lounging about in the sun room.  Hermione and Ron took over the smaller loveseat, leaving Harry and Ginny to the whole sofa.  Harry, who chose to read a magazine detailing the newest Quidditch players from regional teams, propped his feet up and sat sideways at one end.  Ginny, looking much more like her old self, with pink-tinged ears and all, took the other.  Under the pretense of reading a book, she propped a large pillow on each side of her, but in a very short time fell softly asleep.  Harry, being careful of Ron’s notice for reasons he couldn’t figure out, slid his feet out along the front edge of the sofa and gently pulled Ginny’s pillow toward him.  Her head followed, and soon she was snoozing quietly, her pillow on his chest, and his arm resting comfortably around her shoulder.

He couldn’t figure out why it felt so right again, and chose not to examine the situation too deeply, even though Hermione had said it was time to focus on some things they had missed during the war.  She then acted on it by taking the initiative and asking out Ron.  Once Ron got over the initial shock and said yes, they had been a remarkably happy couple, considering Harry’s memories of how often they used to row in school.

For him, however, it didn’t seem so easy.  He knew that Ginny still had feelings for him, but his feelings for her were foggy, at best.  She had, of course, become one of his dearest friends long ago, and he certainly thought her beautiful, in that there was no question.  Even having met certain Veela like Fleur, to him, there was no one in comparison to Ginny.  Sometimes, to his very great annoyance, he would find himself utterly spellbound by her, and completely miss half a conversation he was having.  Their short time together in his sixth year seemed like a lifetime ago now, and to Harry it felt like he was starting all over again in their relationship, but that didn’t stop the fact that he always thought her beautiful.

He did wonder, though, how Ginny had put up with him all those years.  He almost felt a portion of jealousy for her.  She obviously knew herself better than he did, to live day-to-day with the thought that she loved him and he didn’t love her back, and still be okay with herself.  Of course, he still held very deep feelings for her, even during the war, but he kept them safely locked away, even from himself.

Then there are days like today, he thought, where I’d be happy to spend the rest of my life like this.  He looked down at her softly sleeping form and sighed deeply.  Her red hair reflected exquisitely in the sun and all he wanted to do was lean his head against hers and close his eyes.  Soon after, he did the very thing, and joined her in his dreams.

Following a rather uncomfortable moment after Ron woke them up, they walked up to the Three Broomsticks for lunch and to ruminate with Madam Rosmerta about how much Hogsmeade had come to life in the past few weeks, even with the cooler weather.  She especially thanked Harry, and gave him a peck on the cheek as her repayment.  Harry received it happily, much to the chagrin of Ginny and Hermione.  And Ron got a smack on the arm from Hermione for saying ‘Nice going Harry’ under his breath.

In the afternoon, Hermione decided that she and Ron would stay in Hogsmeade to do some shopping.  Ron tried to protest, but she merely flicked her eyelids at him a few times and he quickly agreed to stay.  Harry and Ginny had a lovely walk back to the house, strolling through piles of fallen leaves, and deciding what shapes the clouds resembled.

“There, that one there, see… it looks like Dudley.”  He pointed straight up.

“Harry,” she laughed, “they all look like Dudley!”

“Yeah, that’s what makes this game so easy!”  She punched him lightly on the arm, and he turned to look at her, perhaps letting his eyes linger on her a little longer than normal.

“What is it, Harry?”

“Nothing,” he said, then faltered a bit.  “Ginny,” he said slowly, looking her in the eye.  Her breath caught in her chest at the way he said her name.  “Let’s go for a walk.  The woods… I think the trees are really nice right now, and there are some great trails…”  He shook his head.  “Boy do I sound stupid sometimes… and… I just said that out loud didn’t I?”  His face reddened and he dipped his head to look at his shoes.

She touched his arm, “I’d love to go for a walk with you.  I just need to get a jumper from the house.”

They walked the rest of the way in silence, not awkwardly, but enjoying each other’s company companionably.  Ginny retrieved a warm jumper from the house and they set off for the side yard in search of a trail. 

They walked for several minutes into the trees.  The leaves had all changed color by this time, and while some had fallen, most were still clinging to their branches.  The warm afternoon sun streamed down, exciting the leaves into their truest colors, and bathing the path in its glow.  A sweet breeze rustled around them and tossed fallen leaves across their feet.  The path was dry underfoot, and welcoming as it wound out of sight ahead of them.  The crunching and shuffling below kept them company, and the lack of conversation wasn’t even noticed. 

Eventually they reached a place along the trail where the trees opened up to one side, revealing a broad view across a wide valley.  Nature’s fireworks held them captive for several minutes until Harry went in search of a place to sit and enjoy this beauty.  He knew he could have just conjured a seat, but for him, it would have ruined the picturesque.  Finding a large fallen tree, he beckoned Ginny to come sit on the trunk by him.  She did, although not as close as he suddenly knew she should be, so he shifted over slightly.  She looked a little surprised, but not at all displeased.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” he said.

Mhmm,” she replied.

“I think I could sit out here all day.”  He looked at her for a moment.  “Are you warm enough?  You could borrow my coat for a bit, if you like.”

He couldn’t help but notice her blush a little, and she only gave a shy ‘no thanks’ to his question.  He stole another quick glance at her and noticed her hand resting on her leg.  His cheeks started to go hot.  Her hand was so pretty, he was suddenly filled with the desire to entwine his fingers with hers, but the more he thought about it the more nervous he got.

Come on Harry, it’s Ginny, he thought.  She’s your friend right?  You’ve held her hand loads of times before, why can’t you do it now?  His mind was racing, and it seemed to be filling up with thoughts of her, and only of her.  When did this happen again? He questioned himself, then sighed deeply, knowing the answer.  It had been coming on for a long time now, he had just always denied it, and shoved it back down deep while the war was still going on.

Perhaps now it was time to give in.

He screwed up his Gryffindor bravery, which he was still annoyed he needed just to hold her hand, and reached out…

The first contact sent warm goose-bumps up his arm, and all he could do when she turned her head was give a small, shy smile.  She too, seemed to be thinking the same thing, as she turned quickly away, hiding a smile with her free hand.  Harry laughed quietly to himself.

“What is it Harry?  Why are you laughing?”  He stopped in a heartbeat when he saw her face, it was a mixture of hope, fear, and mortification.

“Nothing, I just… We seemed to be having the same thoughts.  It was silly to be struggling just to reach out and hold your hand.  I mean, I’ve touched you before, but this… I didn’t want to screw this up, because… because it’s you.”

‘Me?’ she said silently, her mouth open just slightly in disbelief.  Her blush spread prettily across her face, and Harry found he couldn’t look away.

Finally she managed to get it out in a small voice, “Me?”

Now he was the one whose face went red.  You, Ginny.  We’re sitting here holding hands, and it’s not because we’re joking with Ron, it’s… because we want to.”  He ducked his head just slightly and looked up at her.  He couldn’t believe how hard this was, after all, he had kissed her before.  But somehow, it was brand new now, as if he was getting to know her all over again.

The look on his face nearly melted her heart.  It was needing to know that she felt the same way, at the same time as it was longing to be loved, and to be loved by her.  He was about to cross the line he himself had created.  He knew that what she said next could either give him love beyond love, or crush him forever, and he could never remember being so nervous in all his life.  He was prepared to open himself up unconditionally to her, it she still wanted him.

A few stray hairs caressed her cheek, but she didn’t bother to brush them away.  Instead, she felt a tear run slowly down, disappearing into her soft skin.  She brushed it away with a quick swipe and turned back to face him.

“You? Harry, wanting to know how I feel about you?”  She paused, almost in disbelief, then continued in a soft, but true voice, looking deep into his eyes.  “I’ve been in love with you since the day I first met you, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that you don’t… didn’t feel the same way.”

He saw the truth in her eyes, and said, “Ginny, I don’t know what I did to deserve your feelings.  I can only say that I think you’re amazing, I have for a long time.  You’ve shown kindness, honesty, loyalty, and love all at once… and… you’re… well, you’re also the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.”  He turned bright red and covered his face with his unused hand, then laughed.

“Look what you’ve done to me, Ginny!  Made me turn as red as you do.”  But then he looked more serious, “But I love it, so don’t ever stop.”

She smiled sweetly at him, “It was always you who made me do it.”  She reached over with her other hand and gently touched the back of his.  The feeling of her fingers wriggling into his shot charges up his arm and made his stomach do flip-flops.  He had to concentrate just to keep his breathing normal.  She moved closer to him, passing her arm through his, and leaning her head on his shoulder.  He closed his eyes, hoping this wasn’t just a dream, and wondering what had changed that made him want this so much.

It was so right he never wanted the moment to end.  After all they had been through – so many years of school, so many trips to the Burrow, months of fighting side-by-side, relationships on and off – he finally understood how she felt all those years.  His heart went out to her, and he knew, he knew that this was how it was always meant to be.  It wasn’t so much a thought in his head as it was a feeling in his heart.  A part of him that had always been so close, but just out of reach, now fell into place.

What he felt was hardly something he could describe.  It seemed that none of the words he could think of were appropriate to say what was going on inside him, but at the same time, he knew that he didn’t need to describe it because she already understood.

He tipped his head to look at her, and she turned to look at him.  His green eyes met her brown ones, and he was very aware of how close they were.  It was overwhelming, and then a new feeling burst forth.  An urge to kiss her, to give her the proof of how he felt.  He moved an inch closer, and she slowly closed her eyes.

There wasn’t an explosion.  There weren’t even fireworks, there was only Ginny.

The girl that he loved, because he truly understood now what that word meant.

Half and hour earlier, in Hogsmeade, Ron had finally convinced Hermione it was time to go back home, and on the way they too decided it was a fine day for a walk.  When they reached the house, they started down a trail from the side yard into the woods…

Now, standing in a secluded part of the trail hiked earlier by Harry and Ginny, Ron held Hermione close as they watched from a distance.  The sight of their two best friends enjoying their second first kiss was somehow moving to Ron.  Next to him, Hermione stood, her head resting against his chest, and wiped slowly at her eyes.

“They’ll be happy you know,” she said.

He didn’t reply for a moment, just watched as Ginny rested her head on Harry’s shoulder and he put his arm around her, pulling her close.  It really did seem right.

“I know,” he finally answered with a sigh and a smile.  “They will be, just like us.”

And they were, all of them.

~ The End ~

//
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