Day VIII. Ginny/Percy.

Ginny doesn't want to do this. She wants to turn back to the living room and Harry's warm hands and soft touches. But she knows better than to put this off now. Her dad knows it too, his eyes questioning as she hesitates at the kitchen door. If she doesn't do it now – well, waiting is not an option. She can't let herself talk herself out of this again.

(The risk is then that, eventually, he won't forgive her.)

So, her sleep-deprived head pounding with every step, she ascends the stairs, all the while feeling her father's encouraging eyes at the back of her head.

Deep breath. She knocks.

"Come in." She notes with relief that his voice is unusually steady. Not like his old self, of course, but not like it has been the last couple of days either (not that she has spoken to him herself, not even once, but she hasn't been able to turn off her ears to his misery no matter how much she's attempted to).

She stands in the doorway, not breathing. He looks up at her and his mouth falls open. Then, nothing happens. Percy just gapes wider, as if she's a dragon or something equally unexpected and potentially life-threatening that has turned up on his doorstep.

When she realizes that he's not about to come to his senses any time soon, she takes a tentative step into the room. "C-can I come in?" she asks, even if he did say she could before – but that was before he knew it was his horrible little dragon-sister who's been ignoring him for more than a week.

"S-sure. Of course." He still looks too shocked for her liking. What did he expect? That she'd never come around? Surely he can't have thought that. Can he?

(Her heart twinges as she takes in the image of her big brother's state; his glasses are smudged, his hair unwashed, his face too childishly vulnerable – in a way she can't remember ever witnessing it, because then she was probably not even born. He's supposed to be always clean and neat, preaching to her that she ought to spend her time doing something less dirt-including than mudfights with Ron. He's supposed to be all superior and bossy, and she's supposed to pretend that she hates it, but really appreciate more than she can say that he at least noticed that something was wrong and tried to help, even if just by forcing Pepperup Potion down her throat, while no one else bothered at all. He's not supposed to look like this.)

"Er… you want to sit down?" She hates how he can't even look at her. She hates that he's offering her to sit down, as if she's a guest he needs to be polite to. She's not a guest. She's his sister. (He's supposed to boss her around, not ask her if she wants to sit down!)

She nods slowly, taking a seat in his desk chair.

"Wh-what's up?" he questions (an attempt at normalcy, perhaps?), and she closes her eyes briefly. Rip off the band-aid! Quickly!

Percy can't look at her. He shoots furtive glances at his sister, noting her unusually pale skin, dark eyes, and that she is biting her lip (just like she always does when she is uncomfortable and nervous). But he can't look at her, as if she's shining too brightly for his eyes to bear. But it's not his eyes that can't bear to look at her fully, and he knows that.

He's her big brother. He was supposed to protect her from the world. Always. But he failed. Already in her first year, he failed. He let her down. He didn't know when he should have known, and she didn't tell him. And, after that, she's been through a war. She's seen it all; death. Experienced more struggles for life than he can possibly imagine without retching.

She's not even seventeen. And he wasn't there, to protect her, to take care of her. In the unlikely event that she would have wanted his comfort, he wasn't there. None of them were there with he through the last year. Not even Ron. (Percy had always counted on Ron to be there for her, as, he is sure, had she.)

And he couldn't save their brother. He's failed her, and all of them. That's why she won't talk to him. He doesn't blame her the slightest.

"I – I'm sorry," she whispers unexpectedly, and he must have heard wrong, because her voice hasn't sounded like that since she was six and crying softly into his chest because he was leaving for Hogwarts. (She'd been sulking all day, but at 3 AM, she came jumping onto his bed, wrapping her arms around him, whispering that she was sorry and that he couldn't go and that she promised never to be mad at him again if he just stayed with her.)

"Gin-," he begins, shaking his head, but his voice breaks.

She closes her eyes again – to steel herself?

"Perce, listen. I – I know I've been – this week, to you… But I don't – you can't think that – that I don't…"

She's got his attention now, he's watching her, hardly daring to believe that she might be saying what he thinks she's saying. It's not easy for her to get any words out, her face is colouring by the effort and frustration, and that's what makes him think she might actually be – forgiving him? (Admitting she's been wrong has never been a strong suit of Ginny's. Or his, for that matter.)

"I want to apologize for ignoring you," she continues after a beat, rapidly, determinedly. "I – I don't hate you. You can't think that."

"O-okay," he replies, taken aback at her sudden forcefulness.

"You – you're my brother. I – I hate what you did, and if you would've asked me a month ago, I would've said I hated you. But I didn't. I – I don't. You're my brother," she finishes quietly, eyes fixed on the carpet.

"I would've hated me too. I did. I – I do," he corrects himself, voice trembling.

She's quiet for a moment, gaze still down. He hears her take a breath before turning to look at him. The pain in her eyes makes his chest constrict, and he's the one who has to turn away.

Trying and failing to keep his gulping breaths under control, he curses himself for his unusual lack of composure. He's the big brother here, and this is obviously hard on her, but she's still here and giving him a lot more than he deserves – and he can't even give her the comfort of being the older brother who does not break down in front of his younger siblings.

Then a small hand finds its way onto his, and he loses his battle with control. There's a voice close to his ear that doesn't sound like Ginny at all. It's whispering "don't" and then it can't form anymore words, but the small, warm hand is still wrapped in his. And suddenly, he doesn't have to be the older brother who comforts her, but she doesn't need to be the one who comforts him either, because the shaking is neither him nor her, they're one, a pair with four canals of tears. And, suddenly, they're the Weasleys again and she's his little sister and God, he's missed her.

A/N: Told you it would be up soon. Well, too me these two were very linked together, so I had to write this too, and I figured I might as well post it now. Let me know what you think, okay?