Harry and Ginny sat at the edge of the lake, trousers rolled up to mid-calf, leaning back on their hands with their bare feet dangling into the cool water. They were taking a break from the Hogwarts rebuilding efforts—something that, without much discussion, had become a joint project for many of those who had participated in the Battle of Hogwarts and come (more or less intact) out the other side. The work was physically and magically demanding, and seemed to fulfill a deep-seated need in the battle’s survivors to both tangibly repair the damage done to their world and to exhaust themselves to the point of suppressing the nightmares that plagued so many of them in the aftermath.
“I suppose it’s time we talk about it, isn’t it?” Ginny asked, breaking the companionable silence that had lingered between the pair. Harry sighed and laid back, closing his eyes beneath his round-framed spectacles against the glare of the summer sun.
“S’pose we should,” he answered. Ginny copied his pose, the bright flame of her hair fanning around her head on the grass.
“I don’t think we should get back together,” she said without preface, her tone matter of fact. Harry smiled slightly, unsurprised, his eyes still closed.
“No, I don’t reckon we should,” he answered.
“Really?” Ginny asked, relief audible in her voice, turning her head toward him. Harry rolled onto his side to face her, opening his eyes to meet her hopeful gaze and propping his head on his fist.
“Really,” he affirmed.
“Oh thank goodness,” Ginny replied, her smile almost hiding the shadow of mourning and loss behind her eyes. “I still care about you so much but… I don’t think either of us are who we were when we were together. It seems a little… I dunno. Now that everything’s over, I think it’s better to just… move forward, I guess. You know? Figure out who we’ll be without the war.”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed, flopping back onto his back. “You’re still one of my best friends, but I think I need to be on my own for a bit, sort myself out. I honestly don’t really know what I want to do now. I’ve spent the past seven years with Voldemort hanging over my head; I don’t even know who I am without that.” Ginny smiled.
“You’re Harry,” she replied simply. “Just Harry.”
“Just Harry,” he agreed, a grin just beginning to tease at the corners of his mouth. “I like that. I feel like I haven’t been Just Harry in ages.” The water lapped at their toes, and the sun beat down on their upturned faces. For this one moment, Just Ginny and Just Harry lay in companionable silence and enjoyed the fact that they had survived.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~
As the summer went on, Harry and Ginny spent more time together than they ever had when they had been a couple. Harry had moved into 12 Grimmauld Place, not really knowing where else to go now that he wasn’t stuck at the Dursley’s, and Ginny had started showing up regularly shortly thereafter. She was ostensibly there to help him clean the place up, but in reality, they both knew that she was fleeing the oppressive air of mourning that had overtaken the Burrow in the wake of Fred’s death. They had only addressed it once, before letting the topic drop.
“It’s not what he would have wanted,” Ginny had stated plainly, “and I can’t stand it. I don’t want to associate him with that. I want to remember him like he was.” Harry had nodded in understanding, and that had been that.
When they weren’t rebuilding the school, therefore, they were continuing the work that had begun when the house was the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix — ripping down fusty velvet curtains and trashing cursed relics; rolling up dark, heavy carpets and stripping ornate wallpaper stained by the frames of the long-discarded collection of house elf heads. Harry took a vindictive pleasure in destroying the remnants on the house that had so haunted Sirius and making it over anew. They refinished the wood floors with a clear lacquer, leaving them a glowing, pale gold, and painted the walls bright white. When the portrait of Walburga Black in the front hall screamed at them for desecrating her ancient and noble house, Ginny very matter-of-factly stated that she would paint right over her face if she didn’t shut up, which turned out to be a much more effective deterrent than the heavy curtains had been. Walburga glared and flounced out of the portrait, and aside from the occasional grumble from the empty frame, they heard very little from her after that.
The heavy furniture and un-cursed but still overly ornate heirlooms were piled unceremoniously in the back garden to be vanished or donated to families who had lost their homes during the war. Harry offered to let Andromeda take anything she liked, but she had assured him that she wanted nothing to do with the house of the family that has disowned her. On an odd whim, he had also sent an owl to Narcissa Malfoy. She was, after all, also a Black, and she had saved his life, even if it was for largely selfish purposes. He received a curt but polite owl back shortly after sending his note over, thanking him but declining. The fate of the Malfoy family was still uncertain as the Death Eater trials moved forward (Harry had provided testimony for the Ministry’s evidence cache of Draco and Narcissa’s key moments of treachery to Voldemort’s side that had been so critical to the winning of the war, feeling obligated to ensure that their actions were separated and distinguished from those of the Malfoy patriarch — Lucius could rot in Azkaban, for all Harry cared, but something about the idea of the other two ending up there made him a bit queasy) and Harry supposed that accruing more heirlooms from a notoriously dark wizarding family wouldn’t be in their best interest. Still, he was glad that he had offered.
Ron and Hermione had gone to Australia together to try to restore the Grangers’ memories, which meant that outside of the Hogwarts restoration, Harry hadn’t had much company besides Ginny. From time to time, Neville or Luna would come by Grimmauld Place to help out or just keep company with Harry and Ginny, but it was largely just the two of them, or Harry on his own. When Neville came by, he helped overhaul the back garden, assisting Harry in picking easy to care for plants that wouldn’t require him to spend hours tending the lawn like he had back on Privet Drive. Luna was more likely to flutter around the house making small decorative additions — adding lopsided vases full of dried flowers and odd, pinwheel-like contraptions, or painting swirling patterns over window frames. Harry grinned every time he came across one of her whimsical contributions. He couldn’t really explain why, but they made the place feel more like a home. Sometimes, he caught Ginny watching Luna with a fond and somewhat speculative look on her face, and sometimes he saw them chatting together, heads bowed close, smiles bright. He didn’t think too much about it, however, until one day while the two of them were scrubbing down the outsides of the windows with extra strength scouring charms she suddenly made an announcement to him.
“So, I think I might be in love with Luna?” she dropped in an overly casual tone. Harry paused in his work, studying the still-streaked glass.
“Oh, yeah?” he asked, keeping his voice as unconcerned as possible.
“Yeah, I reckon so. Is that weird?”
Harry shrugged. “Not really,” he answered honestly. “We already said we weren’t getting back together, and you’re one of my best friends. I want you to be happy. Whether that’s with a bloke or a girl or no one at all doesn’t have much to do with me, does it?”
Ginny laughed. “I guess not,” she agreed. They went back to cleaning, the buzz of summer insects humming in the heavy air; the heat and humidity raising beads of sweat that prickled at their exposed necks.
“I can’t say I’m not a little surprised, though,” Harry admitted, eyes still on the window which he was now washing the last streaks of soap off of, after a few minutes of companionable silence had passed.
“Really?” Ginny asked cautiously, “Why’s that?”
“Well,” Harry answered awkwardly, “I just, I wouldn’t have guessed that you were gay. I thought we were pretty good together, honestly.”
Ginny’s arm dropped to her side, and she turned sharply toward Harry, giving him an exasperated look. “Harry,” she said, staring at him until he looked over at her, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly, “We WERE good together! I’m not gay, I’m bisexual!”
“You’re…” Harry asked, blinking at her in confusion.
“Bisexual? I like both?” Harry’s eyebrows drew together, his face still puzzled.
“That… that’s a thing?”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “Of COURSE it’s a thing. What, you thought everyone was just either gay or straight?”
Harry flushed. “I mean… yeah?”
“Did you come of age under a rock?!”
Harry glared a bit. “In a cupboard, mostly, actually.”
Ginny’s eyes widened and she shot him an apologetic look. “I’m sorry,” she said earnestly, “I forget sometimes. I guess the Dursley’s didn’t talk much about that kind of thing with you, did they?”
Harry snorted. “Unless you count Uncle Vernon yelling at the telly about how all the poofters ought to be hauled off to jail, not so much, no.” Ginny rested her hand on his shoulder briefly, and he raised his to meet it, giving it a quick squeeze before getting back to work, wafting a soft drying charm over the now-spotless window. Harry let his mind roll this new information around as he labored. Bisexual. Huh. He thought back on past conversations with Ginny, where they’d discussed how fit certain quidditch players were, focusing on one particular tipsy conversation where Ginny’s insistence that Gwenog Jones was the best looking captain in the league had raised fiery objections from Harry, who thought it was obvious that Iskander Kouris took the title. He’d just assumed that everyone had an appreciation of attractive people of any gender. But now that he knew that Ginny was actually ATTRACTED to women, pieces began to move around inside his mind, clicking together in new and unnerving patterns.
Later that night, after Ginny had retired to the room that she occasionally “crashed” in (but which, in reality, she had more-or-less moved into and occupied at least three or four nights a week), Harry laid on top of the soft white cotton sheets of his own bed, in the room that had once belonged to Sirius, and stared at the poster-plastered ceiling, his mind still whirring with new information and insight. He thought over his friendships with various boys over the years; the fascinations that he’d never quite had a word for. The buzz of anticipation that had tinged his interactions with his earliest friend, a boy called Simon, before Dudley and his gang has scared him off of hanging around with Harry. The way he had assessed Oliver Wood’s lithe form as he navigated the air on his broom, his hair flying back off his face as his cheeks pinked in the cold wind. The confusing, gut wrenching sensation when Cho had told him that she was going to the Yule Ball with Cedric — how it had stung more, somehow, than if she had named a different boy, as though his jealousy hadn’t only focused on her interest in someone else. The way he had noted the beautiful, haughty lines of Blaise Zabini’s face during the first meeting of the Slug Club.
The way that, for seven years, he had watched Malfoy, always aware of where he was; what he was doing; what he was wearing; the shine of his white-gold hair and the curve of his sneering lip. The way that they would constantly make eye contact across the crowded Great Hall during meals, glaring or taunting each other but always, always seeking out each other’s gaze. The obsessive way Harry had followed Malfoy sixth year; the way he had tracked his name around the Marauder’s Map; the strange spark of HOPE he had felt when face-to-face with his supposed rival in Malfoy Manor during the war.
Harry’s breath stopped in shock before he brought his hands up to rub them over his face, shuddering slightly as all of the pieces fell, inexorably, into place.
“Christ,” he hissed to himself. Then, a moment later, “Well, fuck.”