Measure Of Peace
by Laura Smith

It was dark outside when she knocked on the door, glancing around the quiet forest that surrounded the small cabin. She rocked on the balls of her feet, her hands falling nervously to her sides, then back up to the door, knocking again.

"Go `way."

She didn't answer, just knocked, leaning against the door now, feeling him on the other side of it. She could hear him shift, wondered if he was sober or drunk. Wondered if he was sane.

Knock again.

"Go. Away."

It was like a whisper, a plea that tugged at her heart. Her fingers splayed on the smooth wood, picturing him touching it on the other side, pictured the heat between their hands. She closed her eyes and bent her head.

Knock again.

The door swung open and she caught herself before she could fall inside, grabbing the doorjamb and hanging on. Her muscles clenched and she managed to stay on her feet, raising her eyes to his.

"Oh, Harry."

He started to shut the door, no words slipping past his parched lips. Reaching out, she caught it with her hand and held it still, her strength against his. He held her still for a long moment then released the door, crumpling to the floor.


Large green eyes like demented emeralds stared up at her, completely unseeing. He was skin and bones, skinnier than when the Dursleys had starved him, paler than when Voldemort had haunted his dreams. His lips parted again and he swallowed, thick words stuck in his throat.

"Water?" She held up the glass then lowered it to his lips, letting the cool liquid slide carefully into his mouth. He coughed at the first drop, spluttering like he was drowning. He shook his head, attempting to push her away again. She set the glass down and reached out, her hand empty, brushing his long hair away from his face. "It's okay. We'll take it slow."

"Go away," he whispered hoarsely.

"I can't do that, Harry. No matter how much you might want me to." She got up from the edge of the couch and moved to a chair across the room. He stared at it then at her. "I conjured it."

He nodded then turned toward the back of the couch, closing in on himself. His hair was down past his shoulder, still a frenzied mess. His clothes were dirty, worn too long, the stains on them causing her to shiver, to remember.


He didn't respond except to curl into a tighter ball.

"Dumbledore wanted to come." His head turned slightly and she smiled, working hard to keep the change out of her voice. "He's still weak, Harry, but he lived."

"No thanks to me."

"That's not true, and you know it."

"I don't know anything." He snarled the words, the only emotion she'd heard from him. Anger flared to life in his eyes and, for a moment, she didn't recognize him. He saw her expression and laughed bitterly. "What's the matter? Didn't they tell you everything before they sent you here to see me?" He sneered. "To heal me. That's why you're here, right?"

"I'm here because I want to be, Harry. Because I want to help you if I can." She looked away from him, embarrassed by the tears that stung her eyes. "Because I love you."

"Love me?" He sat up, his energy frenetic. He strode over to her and knelt down before her chair. He grabbed her chin and held it, forcing her to watch his eyes. "How can you love me?"

"I've always loved you."

"Did they tell you anything? Or are you believing all the faery stories in the Daily Prophet?" He shook his head and released her. "Go home."

She stared at him defiantly. "No."


"It didn't work when I was standing outside the door, Harry, and it's not going to work now. You might as well get all this ordering out of your system, because it's going to get boring very quickly." She pushed him away from her and got to her feet. "I'm not going anywhere."

He grabbed her and pulled her down to him, both of them kneeling on the floor, both suddenly breathing hard. "Look at me."

She did, without reservation. His eyes glinted with emotion and madness, his face was hollow, the bones standing out sharply, the veins a dark blue against the paleness. "I'm looking, Harry. What do you want me to see?"

"See him."

She blinked and there was suddenly a distinct almond shape to his eyes, a reptilian cast to his features. "He's not in you, Harry. He's not you. You're not him." Her fingers brushed his forehead and suddenly he was Harry once more. "You were bound to him in life," she nodded, her eyes filled with sympathy, with understanding. "Not in death, Harry. Don't let him drag you down with him."

He brushed her off and stood, walking away from her. "I'm going to bed." He stopped at the door, not looking back. "Do us both a favor. Be gone when I wake up."


She could hear him retching. She continued cooking, her back resolutely to the door to his bedroom. The sound changed to dry heaving then coughing, his chest rattling so hard it hurt her. She left the stove and moved to his bedroom door and stood there, breathing slowly, calming herself. When he was silent, too silent, she knocked softly. "Breakfast is ready."

She moved back from the door this time as he pulled it open, escaping a tumble into the dark room. Harry glared ferociously but she ignored it, moving back toward the kitchen. "I'm afraid there wasn't much here to work with."

"I don't eat."

"I can tell."

She set a cup of coffee in front of him. "I brought some things. Flooed to Hogsmeade for a few supplies. I disconnected the fireplace from the network when I returned."

"You should have stayed gone."

"Probably. But I've always been a glutton for punishment." She leaned against the counter and sipped her own coffee. "After all, I did my coursework in Potions." She saluted him with her cup, smiling as he glared down at his own, now half-empty. He didn't remember drinking any of it, she could tell that from his expression. "Don't worry. It's not poisoned."

"What was in it?"


He narrowed his eyes, the reptilian look back in his eyes, flat and cold as they raked over her. "Gryffindors make horrible liars."

"Did I ever tell you the hat almost sorted me into Slytherin? Apparently having six older brothers can give you a serious need for vengeance." She set her cup down and moved back into the kitchen. "I was sort of surprised. I figured I'd get Ravenclaw, even though the whole family'd been Gryffindor."

He didn't say anything, didn't even appear to be listening. He'd pushed his coffee away, but his skin didn't look quite so sallow.

"Hermione," she set a plate of scones in front of him, a huge dollop of jam on the edge of the plate, "sent these."

"Is that customary?"

She looked up at him, her eyes, for the first time, wary. "What?"

"To mourn by baking her...lover's murderer scones?"

"Her lover," her voice shook, though more with anger than tears, "was my brother."

"Which is why I thought you'd be the best person to answer the question." He got to his feet and moved over to her, his voice dropping until it was silky and warm. "Did they tell you I laughed, Ginny? Did they tell you that I watched and laughed? That I held the wand that cast the Crucio spell?" He held her shoulders, feeling her shake. "Did Hermione tell you that when she handed you a plate of scones?"

"You didn't kill Ron, Harry." Her voice broke slightly on her brother's name. "There's nothing you can say that will make any of us believe it."

He whirled her around, slamming her hard into the counter. Ginny gasped softly, tears slipping down onto her cheeks, burning hot. He held up the edge of his black robe until the light reflected on the hem of it, the color flatter than the rest, the fabric matted. "Do you see that, Ginny? Do you know what it is?"

She nodded, not seeing anything past her tears. "It's Ron's..."

"It's Ron's blood."

"You didn't kill him!"

"Do you know how it got there?" His voice was quiet, conversational. "How it got so deeply imbedded in my robes, Ginny?"

"He was bleeding..."

"He was bleeding because I cast the spell that threw him against the rocks. I broke his back, Ginny. I stood over him, watching the life bleed out of him, knowing he was beyond feeling anything, so I increased the power of the Crucio so it would get through despite the dead nerve endings. I modified it, Ginny, so that it was psychological pain as well as physical. In his last moments, do you have any idea what he saw in his mind's eye?"

"Voldemort was dying, Harry. He was using you." She was weeping openly now, staring into his eyes through her tears. "He used the hold he had on you to do those things. They weren't you."

"Ron heard my voice, Ginny. He heard me and he saw me. Do you think he cared, when he died, whether or not it was me? Did you know that the last thing he said...the last word to slip past his lips was `Why'?"

"And what was your answer?"

He continued looking at her, all of his emotion gone. "I didn't have one."


He watched her as she moved around the small cabin, cleaning up a year's worth of his life. Books he'd never read were shelved, alphabetized. She had dusted and scrubbed, doing everything she could to keep busy, to avoid looking at him. He'd observed her constantly, refusing to give her a moment to look at him without him seeing.

"How is your mother? Does she mind you being here? Or are you keeping that from her?"

"Mum is...dealing."

"Tell me, does she still consider me like a son?"

"What does it matter, Harry? No matter what I answer, I'm sure you'll find a way to twist it to fit into your self flagellation."

"So tired already, Ginny? You've only just got here."

"Percy was killed in a raid on the Ministry of Magic by some of Voldemort's followers the day after you killed him. Would you like to take the blame for that one as well? In fact, my great-great- great grandfather died a couple of weeks ago from old age. There's credit to be had there, Harry. Better grab it before some other self-involved prat does."

"You forget, Ginny, I suffered through Professor Snape's classes too. Your insults are going to have to be better than that to sting."

"I'm not insulting you, Harry. Well, I take that back, your intelligence, maybe." She turned and leaned against the fireplace, looking at him with her own piercing gaze. "But then, you're making it an awfully easy target." He started to say something and she continued, cutting him off. "Snape, by the way, has a few words for you about guilt, if you'd like to hear them. I suggested he send a Howler, but without an audience, they're not nearly as effective."

"I always wondered, Ginny, did you study under him because you fancied him? I mean, I understand there's something about him that the girls like. Maybe you thought you could save him too, huh?"

"If I were going to fuck a Slytherin, Harry, I think Snape would have been preferable to Malfoy, don't you? Or would you rather think of me with my legs spread for Draco?" Her voice matched his for coolness, her eyes disinterested. "I suppose that would make it easier for you, wouldn't it? To picture me running away from you? Or just running toward someone else?"

"Where were you, Ginny? During the fighting?" He pulled at his bottom lip, watching as she turned back to the mantel and dusted it. He could see the pain in the lines of her stance, in the straightness of her back. "Safely back at Hogwarts?"

"I thought generals always knew the deployment of their troops, Harry."

"Perhaps I've forgotten in the aftermath."

"You told me that I was to stay in the infirmary helping the wounded. You didn't want me on the front lines. You looked at me and told me that you couldn't bear it if anything happened to me." She laughed, the sound bitter. "Of course, we all know now that that was a lie."

"Nothing I said that day was a lie." He let the implications of his statement settle in. "Nothing."

"So, being myself, I ignored what you told me, left Colin Creevey in my place and I fought alongside Neville and Professor Sprout in Hogsmeade."

"No one survived Hogsmeade."

"That's obviously a lie, isn't it? What's the matter, Harry? Been reading those faery stories in the Daily Prophet?" She dusted her hands off and looked down at her clothes. "Now, as much as I'd love to join you in your disgusting state, I'd rather fancy a shower and a change of clothes. You don't mind, do you?"

She didn't wait for his answer, just headed for his bedroom. He made a soft sound behind her, but she ignored it, pushing the door open and turning on the light.


He was behind her in an instant, catching her as she fell. Her eyes were locked on the walls, the moving pictures he'd conjured from his mind, the horrors of war replayed on an endless loop. She stared, her body overcome with soft, shaking sobs, watching her brother die again and again. "Finite Incantatum!" She pulled away from him, staring at him with fresh horror in her eyes. He gave her a wry smile and shook his head, shrugging slightly. "I killed him, Ginny."

"Why do you need to believe that so badly, Harry?" She closed her eyes and got to her feet, moving toward the bathroom door. When she reached it, she looked back at him, so very Weasley in her appearance. With all the pain she could muster in her voice, she spoke so softly she wasn't sure he could hear her, absolutely sure he would. "Why?"


She didn't move as the shower door opened behind her, as his body pressed against hers. She simply stood under the spray, letting it wash away her tears, her pain. It stung as it hit her, like boiling nettles branding her, but she didn't make a sound until his hands snaked around her waist, hissing as they slid up over her stomach to her breasts, cupping their gentle weight.

He breathed softly, almost gasping as he bent his head to kiss her shoulder, licking the heat from her skin. He turned his attention to her neck, nibbling the smooth flesh up to her ear then biting the fleshy lobe. "Ginny," he panted, his body hard against hers.

She closed her eyes, inhaling deeply, sharply. Trying desperately to ignore his hands kneading her breasts, his fingers rolling her nipples gently, his thumb brushing the hard flesh.

He turned her around, keeping her in his arms. She faced him and opened her eyes, her body dotted with freckles, her skin milky white where the water had not touched it. Harry looked at her, feasted on her like a starving man, his thumbs still teasing her nipples.

His eyes said nothing as they raked over her followed by his mouth as he bent his head and licked her breasts, capturing the taut peaks and suckling them gently, holding them in the haven of his mouth, bathing them with heat.

She shivered, gripping the slick walls of the shower, holding herself steady as Harry's hands began exploring her, his eyes following their progress, his mouth occasionally finding skin to taste. He skimmed her hips with his fingertips then brought one hand down to brush the silken tangle of curls between her thighs.

Moving instinctively, Ginny's spread her legs, allowing his finger entry between the warm flesh, sliding against her clit as he sank to his knees in front of her. He looked up at her then, his eyes dark with emotions she couldn't identify, his long hair slicked back, his face different without his glasses to amplify the pained knowledge in him.

Harry's tongue flickered across her flesh, his teeth scraping her thighs. She shook above him, her muscles straining as she forced herself to remain standing. He made it more difficult, lifting one of her legs and easing it over his shoulder, giving him better access to the wet flesh, his tongue snaking in further, finding her clit.

Ginny shivered with reaction, a soft cry parting her lips. Heat surrounded her as Harry slipped two fingers inside her, thrusting slowly as his tongue teased her clit, circling it then pressing against it, alternating the amount of pressure until she was gasping, one hand reaching down to curl in his dark mass of hair.

Harry pulled back and met her eyes again. They stayed frozen for a long moment until he got to his feet again and lifted her, resting her wet warmth against his cock, feeling her against him. He shuddered painfully then reached down, muttering softly under his breath, the spells coming second nature as he used them to hold her aloft as his hand guided his cock inside her, just the tip bathed in her heat.

"Ha...Harry." She shook her head, her hair darkened by the water, sending splatters against his skin as it whipped around her face. "Please."

His body jerked, nearly convulsing as he pulled away, the words hitting him hard, the overwhelming need to be inside her warring with his instincts. He thrust forward, sliding inside her in one smooth motion.

Ginny gasped and buried her head against his shoulder. He gripped her hips and kept moving, unable to stop. She looked at him as he whispered again, sending her into silence, her cries and words lost in the spell. Pain lanced through her and she looked away from him, her body still moving with his, just as incapable of stopping as he, even though her heart was shattering, slipping out in silver tears that burned his back as she cried.

He pressed her against the wall, the full force of the spray off of them. His flesh was hot and she could feel the blood pounding through his veins, pulsing underneath his skin. His cock slid inside her again and again, pressing her against the smooth surface, mindless thrusting, his head buried against her neck.

She kept speaking to him, knowing he couldn't hear her. She willed him to hear the words, repeated them like a mantra. Please look at me, Harry. See me. Look at me. Look at me.

Harry gasped and shuddered then went still, holding her to the wall. He lay against her, breathing deeply, swallowing air like he was drowning. Without a word, he pulled free of her, stepping back so that the spray washed hit his waist, washing it all away. He didn't look at her as he stepped out into the bathroom proper, closing the obscure glass door behind him.

Ginny gasped without sound, still spelled, and sank down onto the floor of the shower, curled in on herself as she cried silent tears of shame.


His bedroom was worse than the rest of the house, obviously where he spent most of his time. She gathered trash and disposed of it, straightened his few personal belongings and cleaned. She washed windows and floors, her hands shaking slightly the entire time. After several hours, she sensed him entering the room and ignored him as he moved to the bed and sat on it, leaning against the headboard as he watched her.

"You're quiet."

She glared at him, turning the full force of her anger on him. He stared at her for a long moment then smiled, shaking his head.

"Finite Incatatum."

"Fuck you." The words were hard and steady and she turned back to her work without another word. Harry continued watching her, her movements smooth then growing jerky as she felt his eyes moving over her.

"How is Remus?"

"Ask him yourself."

"I thought you were here to help me, Ginny. I thought you loved me."

She looked at him steadily, her jaw clenched. "Yeah, well I never thought Harry Potter capable of just fucking me, so I guess we were both mistaken." She inhaled and forced the words out slowly, calmly. "What's the matter, Harry? Surely the Boy Who Lived doesn't have trouble getting laid? Hell, just go to a bar and flash the scar around. I'd bet you'd have girls lined up around the block."

"Is that what you do, Ginny? Ask the boys if they want to fuck the ex-girlfriend of the Boy Who Lived?"

"Surprisingly, Harry, if I want to get fucked, I don't have to bring you up at all. Some people don't mind fucking me just because I'm smart, sexy and a natural redhead." She winked at him. "Of course, finding that out is more of an incentive than anything."

"Who else have you been fucking?"

"Ask the man who sleeps with my brother's dying image playing endlessly? Is that what you get off on, Harry? I'm surprised. I'd think me begging you would have turned you on more in there."

He was off the bed in a flash, her shirt gripped tightly in his hand, lifting her slightly off the floor. "You know nothing about me."

"I know everything about you, Harry." She smiled at him, a knowing glint in her eyes. "I know what it's like to have him inside you. I know what it's like to be totally out of your own control. I know what it's like to be afraid that you're losing yourself to someone else." She managed to get away from him, putting distance between them. "You always so conveniently forget that, don't you? Forget that he touched me too. Forget that you always talked in your sleep, Harry. Forget that I used to lie beside you at night and hold you. Forget that I could hear the dreams, that I could hear the voice just as clearly as you could sometimes." She crossed her arms over her chest, her smile victorious. "For all that you hate being bound to him, you just hate to think that anyone else might have suffered because of him, don't you? Hell, I'm surprised you even remembered that Hermione loved Ron. It doesn't really suit your purposes to remember, does it? It'd be better if you could just view it as the fact that you had to kill you best friend, wouldn't it? That way you could shoulder all the guilt, all the pain. It could be all yours and you'd be so fucking valiant for taking it all on, for saving us all. Well, Merlin praise Harry fucking Potter."

"Shut up." He advanced on her and pinned her to the wall, his eyes like fires, his hair a wild black tangle around his too-pale face. "Just shut the fuck up."

"No, Harry. I won't. I won't shut up and I won't let you stay in your room and watch Ron die over and over. I won't run away and I won't go away and I won't let you be here alone for another year so that you can become even more of a self-obsessed, whiny little prick that you already are."

"Get Out!" He roared the words, all the power he'd ever held in his hands behind his voice.

Ginny simply stared at him. "If you want me to go, Harry, make me." She shouldered him out of her way and began walking around him in a slow circle. "Do something so horrible I can't stand the sight of you."

He waved his wand at the walls and Ron was dying again all around them. Ginny shook her head. "Shock value's gone, Harry."

She could see his anger boiling, see it rising in his skin like a living thing. His eyes came alive, dangerous, his hand tightening on his wand. His pulse pounded in his jaw, in his forehead. He pointed the smooth stick at her. "Get out, Ginny."

"Make me go."

He was suddenly taller, more imposing. He was suddenly Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived. The Man Who Killed Voldemort. He was suddenly everything he was inside, facing her with fury in his eyes.

She swallowed her fear. He was also Harry Potter, The Man She Loved. "Make me go." The wand was leveled at her, it didn't move, didn't shake. "Say it, Harry. Do it." Tears stung her eyes and she blinked them away, her pale lashes suddenly dark with the moisture. "Kill me, because that's the only way you'll ever be rid of me."

Ron's blue eyes looked up into the gray sky, staring at his best friend, his face a mask of agony. Suddenly there was sound all around them, Ron's voice soft and plaintive. "Why, Harry?"

His eyes widened and a flash of pain burned through them.

"Why me, Harry?" Suddenly he writhed in pain again, gasping as the brief burst ended, not screaming. His mouth bled as he opened it, his tongue nearly bitten in two. "Why?"

"Answer him," Ginny whispered softly. "Answer him and let him die."

"Why, Harry?" His voice was thick with blood, his swollen tongue making the words difficult. "Why?"

"Please, Harry? Let him die so we can all go on living."

Harry's gaze was fixed on Ron's face. "No one in my life had ever..." he stopped, tears forming against his will. "Until I met Ron, no one had ever been my friend. I had no idea what it was like, to love and hate someone so much all the time. I didn't know what it was like to know that, no matter what you did, in the end it would be forgiven." He turned his head and looked at her, tears spilling down his cheeks. "I had just met Hagrid, but it was his job, you know? He had to be nice to me, even though I know it wasn't just a job to him now, but Ron...Ron didn't even care that I was who..." A sob shook him and he turned away from her back to her brother's searching gaze. The Crucio hit him again and he endured it, tears streaming from his blue eyes, but he still made no sound.

"Why, Harry? Why?"

"Because," he touched the picture gently, brushed his fingers over Ron's forehead, offering the only measure of peace he could, "he knew what you meant to me, Ron. He knew that, if anything could make me weak, it would be losing you."

"Why Harry? Why?"

"He knew..." he stopped and closed his eyes, the tears sparkling on his long lashes, "he knew killing you would kill me. Slowly. Painfully. Forever." He looked back at Ginny and gave her a watery smile. "Of course, Voldemort always did underestimate my friends."

She nodded, her own tears tracking down her cheeks. "Damn Gryffindors are awfully loyal."

"Stupidly so, I imagine Snape would say."

"Yeah, well, he's sort of stuck by you and Dumbledore as well, so he's got no room to talk." She nodded toward the wall. He faced it as well, watching Ron's face. The endless loop was about to cycle again and Harry braced himself for the question that had haunted him for over a year. Instead, Ron said nothing, his eyes closing as they finally had when Harry had been standing over him.

"They died at the same moment, did you know that? I felt him dying the entire time, but he was still so strong in me." He didn't brush his tears away. "I left Hermione with Ron and I found him. I cast the death curse. I thought...after what he did to Cedric..."

"I'm pretty sure you're safe from a trip to Azkaban." She touched his shoulder, rubbing her thumb in a small circle. "Sirius has been cleared of all charges, you know."



He turned to her, the pictures of Ron no longer moving. "Yeah?"

"Can we get out of here now?"

"I don't know..."

"It's Christmas, Harry. And everyone's at Hogwarts. Not...not celebrating, exactly. But being...being a family." She smiled through her tears. "You're a part of that, Harry. A part of the family."

"I don't know if I can face everyone."

She pointed to Ron as the pictures slowly faded from view. "You faced him, Harry. Everyone else is easy."

He stared at the blank wall as she walked toward the door. She held her breath for a long time, about to release it in a resigned sigh when he turned around. "I should probably change first, don't you think?"

She turned and nodded, running into his arms. She buried her face in his chest, reveled in the feel of him, and only him. "Harry, don't ever change."


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