The young man looked up at a sound behind him and smiled to see his
girlfriend descending the stairs. It was the first time he'd seen her in days.
Parvati paused as she noticed a familiar figure sitting by the fire place, worn and injured. Still, no matter how many times she had seen him before, how many hours and days they had spent together, there was something distinctly different, completely new about him. And whatever it was, it took her breath away. "Harry?" she asked timidly, strangely frightened.
As she took careful steps forward, Parvati saw more dim light cast on the young hero's face, a small smile radiating from it. And as she recognized his features (slightly tainted by injury . . . a new scar on his cheek that hadn't existed before . . . his ankle was hurt) . . . his strong but lean frame, his shaggy, messy hair, his glowing green eyes and soft skin, the famous scar, her steps toward him quickened, until she was practically running across the room. "Oh, God," she breathed.
Harry stood, his face lighting up at the sight of his girlfriend, whom he hadn't seen since the fateful Quidditch match. He winced slightly as his weight shifted to his injured ankle, but he didn't seem to notice; his eyes were too busy travelling over Parvati's slight frame. He took a step forward as she ran to meet him and they embraced, so hard that the breath was almost knocked out of Harry. He pressed kisses into the top of her head as they hugged.
"Are you all right?" he asked, when they finally broke apart. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to be gone for so long -- I only just got back, and Madam Pomfrey insisted on putting this thing on my ankle -- I didn't think you'd be up!" In answer to the unspoken question in Parvati's eyes, Harry quickly began to explain. "I've been in London, at the Ministry, and meeting with Dumbledore, and Fudge, and the Order -- they wouldn't let me go -- I had to tell them everything, describe the whole thing -- " He cut himself off, gazing at Parvati again. "But are you okay??"
Tears began to well up in Parvati's eyes as she stared up at Harry, and her chin trembled as she willed herself not to cry. "I'm fine," she managed to get out. "I . . . during the battle I came inside and worked in the Hospital Wing and Great Hall the entire time . . . I was okay--"
Her voice broke and a few tears escaped her eyes. She squeezed them
shut and leaned forward into Harry's embrace again, burying her face in his chest.
Harry felt tears sting the corners of his eyes. He'd been so caught up in the aftermath of the battle that the reality of what might have happened had not truly hit him until this moment. "I'm so glad," he whispered, holding Parvati even tighter. "I'm so glad you're all right. You have no idea."
"Me?" she said incredulously, letting out a harsh but relieved laugh as she pulled away and dried her eyes with the corner of her sleeve. "I was so frightened for you . . . I mean, I knew you were ready . . . you're brilliant, I just mean . . . well, it was hard not to be scared." Parvati paused and held up the letter she was about to send. "As though we can somehow all return to normalcy, in the aftermath of death and destruction, I have to go send a bloody letter to my damn school." She sniffed, still crying, but smiling now, and sat down.
Harry grinned. "I'd really like returning to normalcy, actually," he said, slouching into the armchair next to Parvati. He reached for her hand and squeezed it. "It's hard to believe that will be possible. I've had enough talking about You-Know-Who to last me a lifetime. Everyone wants to know what happened, it's all I've talked about for days." The letter in Parvati's hand caught his eye, and he stopped abruptly. "Letter to your school? What kind of letter?"
She handed it to him. "The Academy of Healing and Mediwizardry in Cambridge. I was accepted and offered a spot . . . so I go to live there this summer, take classes every Monday through Wednesday, although the full schedule doesn't pick up until September." She looked down at it. "I figured I might as well send it . . . I was having second thoughts though. I mean, they offer me my own flat free of charge, so what else could I say?" she laughed nervously and looked at it.
Harry beamed. "The Academy of Healing? That's wonderful! Why on earth didn't you tell me?" At the look on Parvati's face he grinned sheepishly. "Right. Er -- I understand why. I suppose I was a bit -- preoccupied? We all were." He grew serious for a moment. "When do you have to leave for Cambridge? Do you get a summer holiday at all?"
"Yes," Parvati said. "I have to move in right after school so I have somewhere to live . . . but I don't start my first classes until later in the summer." There was a brief pause before Parvati dropped her face into her hands. "Oh, goodness, moving in . . . I forgot to get ready for that. I'm not ready for it . . . ."
"Don't worry. I think you can handle it." Harry gave her a wry smile. "I'll help you though, if you need it. It'll be fun. Your own place!" He sighed. "I suppose I'll have to figure out my living arrangements as well. I haven't really thought ahead too much, but I've got to move to London I suppose."
"You'd help me?" she said, twisting in the chair so that she was sitting cross legged, facing him. "Really? And does the Auror training school provide housing or do you need to find it yourself?"
"I need to find it myself, I'm afraid. I guess they assume that if you've got what it takes to be an Auror, you've also got what it takes to find your own flat in London," Harry said. "And of course I'd help," he added, reaching out to trace her cheek with a finger affectionately. "Am I your boyfriend or not?"
Parvati laughed. "Of course you are," she whispered, and she stretched up to kiss his lips gently.
Harry grinned and leaned in to kiss Parvati back. He couldn't believe he was alive to do it, but he was, and somehow, life was returning to normal. Though it would probably take him quite a while to get used to this sense of newfound freedom.