Disclaimer: Characters, settings, and themes from the Harry Potter universe are property of J.K Rowling. I neither own, nor am making profit from the writing or sharing of this story.
"Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss in life is what dies inside us while we live." – Norma Cousin
There is nothing in the stillness of the night that comforts him at times like these. He wakes in a pool of sweat, droplets running across his chest, breath heaving in and out as if someone is pulling it from his lungs by pumping an iron fist—first one, then the other. He aches for the endlessness of it.
As he does every night, Harry throws his legs over the side of the bed. He reaches for his glasses and slips them over his ears. The thin wood of his wand, clutched in his fist throughout the night, is lit with a silent Lumos. Soft light plays across the table next to the bed as he reaches for the parchment there. He spares a moment to look behind him, seeing a splash of yellow fall across a sleeping face before turning back around.
"I solemnly swear that I am up to no good." The oath is whispered, the words roll easily off his sleep-deprived tongue. Though he isn't in the castle, the map unfolds to show him the whereabouts and names of everyone who is. Deep emerald eyes glint off the light of his wand as he scans every corner and hidden passageway, including those that lead to Hogsmeade. When he feels that he's looked at them all, and neither the given name nor chosen title are found, he taps the map, croaks, "Mischief managed," and falls back against the sheets. There is no more light as his breath stutters through the night, uneven and waiting for morning.
After the war, Harry and Ginny lead a rather expected sort of life. They mourn loved ones, attending funerals and staying close to home. In the months that follow, they help in the restoration of Hogwarts. Harry throws much of the Black fortune at the castle, hoping that some of the best curse breakers, Unspeakables, and hidden talents of their time can band together, do whatever is necessary, and bring his home back to life.
Hogwarts was, after all, his home—not Grimmauld Place, even though he'd moved there shortly after his defeat of Voldemort. He'd certainly never called the Dursley residence home. Harry had never felt safe anywhere other than Hogwarts—and even that illusion had been ripped away from him. He exhausts himself and his resources trying to fix that. By the time the next term rolls around, he is proud to see the castle in all her glory, opening doors to both incoming and returning students. Minerva speaks with all the seventh years, asking if they will return and finish their schooling, take their NEWTs. Hermione eagerly accepts, and Ron declines in favor of acceptance into the Auror training program. Harry, however, declines both. He feels that he can't serve anyone properly if he can't get through one night without fighting off demons that no longer exist.
When Ginny moves in, Harry asks her to sleep in an adjoining bedroom. She looks at him as if he's lost the plot, but he looks back shyly.
"It's for your own safety, Gin."
She sees the sincerity on his face and does as he asks—at first. Their relationship is passionate. They spend many days holed up in one of their rooms doing nothing but exploring the way a body can move against silk sheets. They sometimes fall asleep after an intense round of sex—but never for long. His paranoia prevents that from happening.
Until the night she brings the whiskey in. Harry shakes his head and says they don't need it. Says that if she needs some liquid courage, she can help herself, but he will wait until morning. She smiles and offers him a shot off her belly button. Harry's brows rise and his cock about jumps out of his trousers then and there. With various other encouragements, he's soon pissed out of his mind. They have drunken, sloppy sex, and Ginny goes wild with her new-found control over Harry. She laughs at his inability to control the slurs from his slippery tongue. He cries as he buries himself in her, rutting so thoroughly that they've gouged the wall. She leaves red welts on his back from where her nails dig in, trying to keep him away, hold on, hold him closer.
Afterward, he rolls to the side and promptly falls asleep. Ginny wraps her freckled legs about him and sighs as she lays a cheek against his chest, feeling the warmth of him seep into the darkness of her. Everything is quiet until Harry begins seizing, thrashing, arms flailing outward. His legs go straight as a board before he curls in on himself. Harry whimpers for a couple of minutes. By this time, Ginny's standing next to the bed, unsure how to help him. She's running fingers through her hair, breathing shallowly and calling his name, as if that can call him back from wherever he's gone.
"Harry, please. Wake up. Harry!" She kneels on the bed, shaking him. Ginny reaches over him to grab her wand. "Fuck. Please let this work. Rennervate!"
The stillness returns. She holds her breath as his body stops moving. Enraptured, she watches as waves of muscles tense, then release. Tense—then release. Ginny's auburn hair flares around her, falling across Harry's chest as she leans over him. She listens, trying to hold her own breath so she can listen for his. A sharp wheezing comes out of him. His chest bumps into her nose and a startled squeak comes out of her as she falls backward.
"Fuck, Ginny. That bloody hurts." He rubs his chest, feeling the residual tingles of the spell as it works through him. Nerves fire rapidly in response to external commands. His heart beats steadily, if not a bit too loud. The sound echoes in his mouth. He rolls it around on his tongue before he turns back to his girlfriend. "Why the hell did you do that?"
"You wouldn't wake up."
He stares blankly at her. "Did you try shaking me? Calling my name? Anything before firing a spell at me?"
Her eyes go wide. "Harry, I've been trying to wake you up for nearly an hour. I shook you, slapped you, I screamed at you. Nothing I did worked, and—and—I panicked all right?" She's shaking, biting at her nails and chewing the skin away from the nail beds. It is a nervous habit she's yet to conquer and Harry knows it bothers her. He grabs her hands and holds them in his own. There is a slight flinch at the movement, but he ignores it.
"Gin, this is why you shouldn't be next to me at night. You're bound to get hurt. I've broken furniture. I've fallen off the bed. I've ended up with a broken finger," he pauses, smirking. "Or two." Ginny pulls back, slapping his exposed shoulder and not caring that he grunts as she does.
"Fuck you, Harry Potter. You're not sleeping alone. I'm tired of this. If we're together, I refuse to sleep in another room. We shag, but we can't fall asleep next to each other? That's ridiculous." Her voice is steadily rising in octaves, becoming shriller as it does so. "You'll just have to take a calming draught or dreamless sleep or something before bed. That's all." She nods, pleased with herself. It's a declaration, not a question, and Harry is reminded so much of Molly Weasley that he keeps his mouth shut. There is no arguing with the Weasley matriarch. He is left to wonder how much of the mother is now in the daughter.