Winter's Pale

Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or any of the characters in this story, I am just borrowing them for the entertainment of myself and (hopefully) of others. No copyright infringement is intended. But you already know what this disclaimer says, so why are you reading it? Hehe...

A/N: Yay! My first fan fiction EVER! How exciting. Please R/R. Enjoy!

Ginny sat curled up in an armchair and gazed into the fireplace of the deserted Gryffindor Common Room. Everyone was outside, enjoying the last days of Summer's warmth before Winter finally set in.

She shivered at the gust of wind that blew into the room as the Portrait Hole door swung open. Ginny looked over her shoulder, and through a curtain of crimson curls she saw a tall, skinny, bespectacled sixth-year climb through the hole into the room. She watched pensively as he swept the room with his eyes, finally resting them on her face.

"Hey, Harry."

"Ginny... Hi."

Ginny slowly breathed in and drank in Harry's stare as his eyes washed over her. Not for the first time she marvelled at their colour; pure, emerald green. She inwardly gasped as she felt shivers climb up her spine. Harry gestured at the table placed in front of Ginny that was piled high with her schoolbooks, quills and parchment.

"Homework?"

"Yeah," Ginny mumbled, "Care of Magical Creatures essay."

"Need any help?" asked Harry.

"Nah, it's pretty easy, I'm just procrastinating," Ginny said with a sigh.

Harry chuckled. "Okay," he said. As she watched the boy walk past her, she bit her lip in frustration. Do it now, she urged herself. Just ask him now. She took a breath.

"Harry?"

"Mmm-hmm?"

"Well..." Ginny started, "I was – I just wanted to ask you, are you okay?"

"What do you mean?"

"Its just that you seem so... detached lately. Like you don't want to be around any of us. You're always making excuses to go to bed or go to the library. Like you're scared of everyone or something. I just wanted to know if you were okay." She finished lamely.

Harry looked slightly taken back at this outburst and Ginny winced as she thought of what that must have sounded like to him.

"It's not like I'm accusing you of anything and don't get offended I just... wanted to know that you were okay. That's all."

Harry looked down at his feet and unnecessarily pushed his glasses up onto his face with his hand. Ginny smiled slightly to herself, she loved this habit of his.

"Ginny," he said, a little to hardly, "I'm fine. I wish everyone would just stop worrying about me. I'm fine," He repeated to himself again.

"Are you sure, Harry?"

"Yes," He said angrily and made to go up to the boy's dormitory.

"I'm here, Harry." Ginny watched as he paused on the stairs. "I'm here," she repeated quietly and looked away as he continued up the stairs, his head bowed towards his feet.

Ginny sighed as tears prickled into her eyes. She brushed them angrily away, annoyed at herself for becoming so emotional over him. "I will not give into this," she muttered to herself as she pulled her essay towards her. "I will not."

It was a month later that Ginny sat against an old Ash tree, with her scarf wrapped tightly around her neck and her knees pulled towards her chest, encircled in her long arms. Her auburn curls danced around her, escaping the confines of her chignon and running away with the wind. She sat in the Hogwart's grounds; gazing across the lake towards the Forbidden Forest, set dramatically against the greying October sky. Ginny watched as the wind picked up hundreds of orange and yellow Birch tree leaves that swirled around her in a halo of riotous colour. Ginny settled in against the tree and gently closed her eyes as she became swallowed up inside a sea of memories. Her hand found a place on her bad ankle and she mindlessly kneaded it, a habit picked up ever since she had broken it the previous year. It had only been six months ago that she, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville and Luna had entered the Department of Mysteries with the aim to save Harry's godfather Sirius Black from the clutches of the Dark Lord.

To Ginny, it seemed like that was a decade ago; so much had happened since. The Magical World had finally believed what Dumbledore had been telling it for a year; that Lord Voldemort had returned to his old body and power. The days after their lucky escape from Voldemort's Death Eaters was still a haze to Ginny. Somehow they had lost Sirius, and Ginny knew that Harry's pain would never really go. He had now lost his mother, his father and the closest thing he had ever had to a parent to Voldemort. Ginny couldn't imagine what it must feel like, to have no real family. Growing up with six brothers, she had gotten used to having family around her all the time, and the mere thought of losing one of them made Ginny feel sick to the stomach and brought tears instantly to her eyes. The Summer holidays had been her worst yet, for it was then that Voldemort truly came into his power. The first Muggle killing in 15 years had occurred; a Muggle woman had been tortured and murdered in Colyton, a small town on the South coast of England and panic was rapidly spreading throughout the Wizarding world. Percy had finally apologised and moved back into the Burrow but tension was still high, as he had refused, point-blank to quit his job at the Ministry.

Ginny snorted, wondering why anyone would want to work at the Ministry, with that blundering old fool still the Minister of Magic. For while Fudge had admitted that Lord Voldemort was indeed back and that he had been wrong in disbelieving it, he was still being foolish in the way that he was going about handling the situation. He had not fully removed the Dementors from Azkaban and blatantly refused to discuss peace with the giants.

As her eyes found Hagrid's cabin Ginny's thoughts turned to Harry. She had decided at the beginning of her fourth year that she was going to try and stop her feelings for the Boy Who Lived, just shut them off, and she had found it actually worked for a while. She spent the year dating various other boys at the school; much to her brother's horror, but this year had again found herself hopelessly in love with Harry. For now she knew it was love. She knew that before, it had been a silly schoolgirl crush but now, after growing up so much and so quickly, she had begun to understand how deep her feelings were for him.

She wistfully leant her head back on the tree and as her eyes turned towards the shore of lake opposite to her she caught a glimpse of untidy jet-black hair in the distance. All at once her stomach collapsed and she slowly stood, a hand resting against the tree for support. From this height she could now see Harry, sitting beside a Great Oak, his head in his hands. She considered leaving him and making her way back to the castle, but as she saw him lift his head and wipe a hand under his glasses she knew she could never do that.

She made her way over to him, taking care to stay covered behind the trees lest he see her and disappear. As she neared him she began to hear soft sobbing and her heart broke in two, Harry crying was something she never imagined she would see or hear. She flinched as she heard a dry crack under her foot and Harry quickly looked up at the sound of the stick breaking.

"Harry," Ginny mumbled softly. She felt tears crawl down her cheek as she slowly lifted her hand and placed it on Harry's head. She felt Harry shudder underneath it, his shoulders racked with the effort of keeping in his tears, and for a moment she was sure he was about to brush her off but instead he buried his face in his hands once more and began to sob uncontrollably.

"Oh, Harry." Ginny quickly sat down and put her arms around him, drawing him close. His head found her shoulder and she folded her legs beneath her as she braced his weight against her chest. One of her hands found his hair and she entwined a lock of hair in her fingers, as she made soft, soothing noises against his ear as the love of her life broke down in her arms.

Ginny didn't know how long she sat their cradling Harry. Even looking back years later she could not discern the time that had passed as he cried against her. But gradually, he calmed down and awkwardly sat back from her, yet still with a tight grip on her hand. Ginny knew that even if she had wanted to speak, she never would've found the words so she just sat there, next to the most beautiful person she would ever meet. She just sat in silence, because that was all that he needed and that was all she could give.

Ginny was still slightly in shock as she made her way up to the Gryffindor Common Room later that day.

"Antipodean Opaleye."

The Portrait Door swung open and she climbed in to find the room almost empty. Ron, Hermione and Neville sat close to the fire on a sofa going over some Potions homework while a few first years sat twittering away in the far corner of the room.

Hermione smiled at Ginny when she saw her near the door and beckoned her over.

"Hey, Ginny," she said brightly.

"Hey guys. I think I might go up to my bed. Have a lie down. I'm not feeling too well."

"Oh," said Hermione, sounding worried, "Are you sure you okay, do you want me to take you to the hospital wing?"

"No, not at all. It's just a headache. I'll see you guys at dinner."

As Ginny turned towards the dorm stairs she heard Neville mumble something about also taking a nap and slowly started climbing them towards her bed. She flopped onto her soft mattress and closed her eyes, replaying the afternoon in her head over and over again. Harry breaking down, Harry crying against her, Harry grasping her hand so tightly. She had felt so moved that he would do this in front of her. But it doesn't matter now, she thought, as she drifted into a cosy sleep. Now that he's cried and got it out of his system, he'll be different, she told herself. Different.

It was almost an hour later that Ginny woke up from her nap. After quickly washing her face she made her way down to the Common Room, but stopped immediately at the sight that greeted her.

Ron and Hermione, the only two left in the Common Room, were still sitting in front of the fire. Or rather, Hermione was sitting and Ron was on his knees in front of her. Ginny watched breathlessly as Hermione cupped Ron's face in her hands, tears streaming unabashedly down her cheeks, and mumbled something quietly in his ear before kissing him softly on the mouth. Ron moved his arms around her waist as he kissed back and Ginny saw Hermione shiver as he touched her. A slight smile found its way to her mouth as she turned back towards back towards the stairs. She bit back a shriek after coming face to face with a silent Harry behind her. His gaze was intent upon the couple by the fire, a smirk playing on his lips. Ginny held a finger to her mouth, urging him to be quiet and ushered him up the stairs. After giving him a small squeeze on his arm, she disappeared into her room.

Ginny looked up at the enchanted ceiling as she entered the Great Hall for breakfast on a bitterly cold Winter's day. The clouds were screaming across the sky and thunder could be heard cracking outside the castle. Ginny approached the Gryffindor table and sat next to Harry who quickly made space for her to sit.

"Mornin'."

"Morning Harry," Ginny replied. "I can't believe it's almost Christmas."

"Hhmmm," Harry mused. "This year sure is going by quick."

Ginny looked up from her cereal as Hermione and Ron approached, hand in hand. Ginny still felt weird seeing the two together. Ever since Ginny has seen the two kiss in the Common Room they had gradually started holding hands and cuddling in public after admitting to Harry and Ginny their feelings for each other.

"Good Morning," said Hermione cheerfully, before sitting down opposite Harry and Ginny.

"Morning Ron, Hermi-" Harry was cut off by the sudden arrival of the post owls. A large, tawny owl flew down in front of Hermione and she quickly untied a copy of the Daily Prophet from its leg. The owl took off as she began to fold it open and a strange noise escaped from her mouth when she saw the front cover.

Ginny looked up at Hermione, who was quickly going pale. "What's wrong Hermione?"

In answer, Hermione turned the paper around and handed it over to Ginny, who in turn gasped as she read the headline out loud:

"HE-WHO-MUST-NOT-BE-NAMED STRIKES WIZARD FAMILY.

Wizard, Frederick Olde was not expecting what he found on his way to his brother's house in Sussex yesterday evening. Going over for a family visit, Olde Apparated in front of his brother's house to find the Dark Mark floating above the house.

Knowing what to expect inside, Olde overcame his fear and ventured in to find his brother Doug, sister-in-law Katrina and nieces Jennifer and Henrietta lying dead on the floor.

It is thought that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named or Death Eaters murdered the family yesterday at approximately 5pm. It is not known if there was a motive behind the Dark Lord's actions, but the Ministry is already investigating the crime.

"This is a terrible tragedy," said Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge last night when questioned, "but unfortunately, with the Dark Lord alive, what else can we expect?"

(Story continued on pages 5 and 6.)"

Ginny felt tears sting in her eyes.

"How could they... Oh god."

Ginny looked around the Great Hall and saw other students with the Daily Prophet in their hands, as shocked as she herself was. Ginny put her hand to her mouth and then quickly wiped her tears away. At dropping her hand to her side, she suddenly felt the warmth of another hand in hers. She looked down to see Harry holding onto her hand, and following the arm up to his face she was confronted with his startling green eyes contemplating her softly.

"Are you okay?" He asked quietly.

Ginny nodded slowly and for a second thought she saw something flit past Harry's eyes, and then understood what was behind them. Fear.

The bell rang. Ginny jumped at the sound and brought her hand out of Harry's grasp.

"Better go to class."

"Are you sure your okay?" Harry asked again.

"Yeah. I'll – I'll see you later okay?"

Ginny hurried off to class, clutching her hand that had just been in his and terrified at what she had seen in his eyes. Shrugging it off, she climbed the stairs up to Charm, trying to leave her worry behind.

The storm was still raging outside as Ginny left the Great Hall after dinner on her way up to the Gryffindor Common Room. As she neared the portrait of the Fat Lady she decided she didn't want to go inside just yet. She could already imagine the tension that would fill the room. All day teachers and students alike had been jumpy; everyone was beginning to panic, worried for their families and friends outside of the castle. She started meandering down the hall with a vague idea of visiting the library when she turned a corner and was suddenly knocked off of her feet.

"Ginny!"

Ginny looked up to see a pair of sparkling green eyes looking down on her.

"You okay?" Asked Harry, offering her a hand.

"Yeah" said Ginny as she took Harry's hand and allowed him to pull her to her feet. "What are you doing down here?"

"Just going for a walk I guess, what about you?" He replied.

"Yeah, same." Ginny's eyes swept over Harry. He was extremely pale, and dark rings were set deep under his eyes, giving the impression that he hadn't slept in a long time. "Well, I guess you wanna be alone..." She started.

"No," said Harry quickly, cutting her off "You can come, if you want to that is..."

"Okay," said Ginny, and they began to walk in silence along the corridors of Hogwarts towards the North section of the castle.

Ginny chanced a glance at Harry. His brow was furrowed and his eyes narrowed. She watched as he raised a hand to massage the bridge of his nose. He looked worried. He looked scared. Ginny thought of taking his hand but quickly changed her mind as Harry inwardly sighed.

"Harry... Are you alright?"

"What? Oh. Yeah. Fine. Er... Do you wanna sit down?" He said, nodding towards a staircase that led to the North Tower.

"Sure," Ginny frowned as she sat next to Harry on the staircase. "Are you sure you're alright... I mean, you don't have to but if you need to talk..."

Harry shot a quick, worried glance at Ginny.

"You don't have to tell me anything, Harry. I know how hard these things are," Ginny muttered. "Trust me... I know how hard it can be."

"No, I need to tell someone. I can't keep holding it all in. You were right."

Ginny nodded for him to continue.

"You remember, in the Department of Mysteries, that prophecy thing that Malfoy kept talking about?"

"Yeah," Ginny mused, "Neville said it got smashed."

"Well it did, but that was just a record of it. Dumbledore heard the real thing. I heard it in his Pensieve." Harry propped his elbows on his knees, resting his head in hands that were slowly kneading his temples.

"Oh, well what does it say?" Ginny asked.

Harry breathed deeply, looking off into space. "'The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies... and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not... and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives... the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies...' "

Ginny gasped. "But Harry, that means that you – "

"Have to kill him." Harry interrupted. "Somehow I have to kill him or he'll kill me and then he'll be immortal."

"Have you told Ron and Hermione this?" Ginny asked, although she already knew the answer.

"No." He said simply. "Can you imagine the looks on the faces? What they would say. I can't do it. I just can't"

Ginny didn't know what to say. She sat there, her arms wrapped around her and just contemplated that the love of her life, this man that had saved her life from the Dark Lord, who she would do anything for, this beautiful person was destined, fated, to destroy. To kill. She tried to imagine what that would feel like, but she couldn't. She just sat in numb shock, staring straight ahead of her until Harry snapped her out of her reverie. "Ginny, we better go back, it's almost 9 o'clock." He said quietly.

Ginny thought that he looked upset, as if he had anticipated her reaction to be bad and thought that it indeed was. As if he thought that she would abandon him, or be scared of him. Ginny walked with him to Gryffindor Tower, but before entering the Common Room turned to Harry outside the Portrait hole. She looked up at Harry. She looked into his deep, sorrowful green eyes and raised her trembling fingers to his face, and after pushing aside his fringe of jet-black hair she gently ran her fingers over his scar. Ginny felt him shudder underneath her and felt his warm breath caress her neck. Moving her hand down to his cheek, she stood on tiptoe and softly kissed him in the top-left corner of his mouth. Without saying a word she stepped over the Portrait Hole and quietly walked to the girls dormitory. She didn't look back.

A month later, Ginny sat in the library next to Hermione, pouring over a Potions essay that Professor Snape had set that afternoon.

"Detail the importance of Asiatic Anti-Venoms in the Wizarding community." She muttered quietly to herself. "God I hate Snape, the old hag."

Hermione looked up at her from over her book and grinned. "You sound just like your brother."

"Why, what did she say?" Ron said as he came and joined the table, followed closely by Harry.

"Oh, just bad-mouthing Snape, you know, the usual."

Ron smiled cheekily at Hermione, planting a kiss on her cheek as he sat down opposite her. Harry and Ron both pulled homework out of the bags and quickly settled down to do it.

Almost an hour had passed in silence when suddenly Harry hollered out in pain and clutched a hand to his forehead.

"AARGHHH!" He yelled, screwing up his eyes in agony. Hermione looked worriedly at Ginny. "Are you okay, Harry, what's the matter?" She said quickly, gazing around at the remaining students in the library, who were now all looking curiously over at their table.

"Voldemort" Harry gasped, still clutching at his forehead. "He's happy. Green light. Laughter. Someone's screaming, a woman." After saying this Harry himself screamed out in pain. "It's gone," he said, looking at them with wide eyes. "The pain. It's gone. I think he killed her."

Ginny could see unshed tears resting in Harry's eyes. She found his hand under the table and held onto it, but Harry soon pulled it out of her grasp.

Hermione had her hand over her mouth. "Should we tell Dumbledore?"

"I dunno. I'm sure he'll find out pretty soon anyway."

The rest of the evening passed in relative silence, with Hermione, Ron and Ginny shooting worried glances at Harry every once in a while. Eventually, the students working in the Library left and Madam Pince shooed them out as well.

On entering Gryffindor Tower they found Ginny's mother, Professor McGonagall and Professor Dumbledore waiting for them in the otherwise empty Common Room. Ginny studied her mother and saw that her eyes were rimmed with red and her hands were shaking as she desperately clutched a handkerchief in them. Professor Dumbledore's voice was low and serious as he said " Miss Granger, might we have a word with you in my office?"

Ginny saw Hermione freeze. Her face paled and Ron immediately walked over to her and instantly reached out to grab her hand. Ginny felt a terrible sinking feeling in her stomach. At last Hermione spoke "What is it?" Her voice faltered.

"Please, I would prefer if we went to my office," said Professor Dumbledore quietly.

"No, tell me here. Please." Hermione's free hand shook as she lifted it to brush a piece of hair behind her ear. It was this movement that stirred Ginny out of her trance. She quickly moved up to Hermione and put her arm around her waist, clinging onto her robes.

Dumbledore nodded. "Miss Granger – I'm so sorry to have to tell you – " His voiced wavered uncertainly, as if he was searching for the right words but knew he would never find them. "Your parents – "

A barely audible wail of grief escaped Hermione's mouth. Her legs grew weak and Ron caught her before she fell, helping her into a lounge chair. He wrapped his arms around her and began to silently rock her back and forth.

"No, no, no, no, they can't be." She seemed to not want to say the word. As if saying it would confirm it, make it all true.

"Dead." Dumbledore muttered. "I'm so sorry"

Hermione cried out, a low, guttural sound that made the hair on the back of Ginny's neck stand on end. Ginny wondered if she would ever hear such a terrible sound than the sound that escaped Hermione at that moment. She felt tears streaming down her face and could see that everyone in the room had reacted the same.

"Who?" Hermione asked, looking up at Dumbledore desperately.

"Voldemort ordered it. We have reason to believe that Lucius Malfoy was in charge of the operation. I'm so sorry." Dumbledore finished quietly.

"Why? Why them?" Hermione cried harshly. "Why not come after me? My parents never hurt anyone. They were killed because of me! Because of what I am! That's the only reason!" Hermione broke down in tears. She began to cry in earnest as Harry pulled her into an embrace. Ron soon followed and was joined by Ginny. Hermione clung to them desperately, crying quietly, crying until the tears wouldn't come anymore.

Ginny felt numb as she placed a bouquet of iris's on the Granger's grave. She turned to see Hermione, standing against Ron, grasping his hands tightly. Tears were silently streaming down her face but not a noise had escaped her. She had barely talked the last few days, as if she was in some sort of trance.

Ginny looked over Ron's shoulder to see Harry in conversation with Professor Lupin. She watched as he beckoned for Harry to follow him and set across the graveyard in a sombre amble. Curious, Ginny followed.

Soon they came to their destination. Ginny say Lupin point towards a set of graves before wiping a shaky hand under his eyes and purposefully walking away. Ginny quietly approached the graves, so as not to disturb Harry. Standing beside him she read, engraved in the cement stone, "Here rests James and Lily Potter. 'Life is eternal; and love is immortal; and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.'" Beside this was another head stone. Ginny read with trepidation the words engraved in it. "Here lies Sirius Black, loving friend and devoted godfather. Only in death are we truly free."

"It's all my fault."

Ginny was startled. "What's your fault, Harry?"

"Everything. Everyone. My parents. Hermione's parents. Cedric. Sirius. The Olde family. That Muggle in Colyton. Anyone who died because of Him died because of me. It's my fault." He finished simply.

"Harry – " Ginny began.

"No, I know what your going to say, that it's not, but it is. If I hadn't of been friends with Hermione, her parents would still be alive. They would. If I was never born and that prophecy never made then my parents would still be alive. So would Sirius. So would Cedric." Harry's voice broke.

"Yes, but think how many people you've saved for destroying Voldemort. For defeating him. If it weren't for you, hundreds would be dead," Ginny cried. "I'd be dead," she added quietly.

"No. It's my fault. All my fault."

Ginny made to wipe away the tears that were streaming down his face.

"No." He said harshly, knocking away her hand. He looked at her, anger and pain and sorrow written across his face. "No," he repeated. Ginny put both her hands up to touch his face but he pushed her back.

"No. I can't." He said, before turning around and walking towards the others. Ginny stood for a while, watching his back as she heard a huge thunderclap above her. She walked towards the car that had taken them to the graveyard as the rain started to beat down upon the earth. She scrambled into the car, soaked to the bone and wept silently with the rain. She cried for Hermione. Cried for Harry. Cried for her heart and cried for her love.

An hour later, Ginny shook off her raincoat as she entered the familiar house at number 12 Grimmauld Place. Being there made her sad, but it was closer than the Burrow so everyone had been staying there for the Granger's funeral. She slowly made her way up to her room, pausing to wash her face in the bathroom and dry her hair with a flick of her wand.

After closing the blinds in her room she turned her bedside light on and stopped, an expression of confusion upon her face, as she saw a neatly folded piece of parchment resting on her pillow. She curiously opened it up and instantly recognised the untidy scrawl as Harry's. Her fingers trembling, she opened it up fully and tears sprung from her eyes as she read it over.

"Ginny,

It doesn't matter what I say right here, it probably won't make any sense anyway and I probably won't send it but what I want to tell you is that I love you. I need to say that as much as I think you need to here it, but as much as want to take you in my arms and hold you, I can't. We can't. At least not now. Maybe not ever. I've never bothered to look that far ahead.

It's just too dangerous. You saw what happened to Hermione's parents and as much as you don't want to believe it, you know that it was because she's my best friend. You know that if she were anybody else, it would never have happened. I can't let myself love you, I can't let you love me, knowing what would happen if He ever found out. How could I live with myself if you died? I never want anything to happen to you and I know that the only way is for me to never let anything happen between us. I love you so much. Maybe now that you know you will be able to understand. Maybe I shouldn't have told you. I don't really know.

All I know is that if I could be what everyone wants me to be I would try to be it. And I know that if I could be what you want me to be then I would want to be it. But I can't. I'm so sorry but I can't.

Harry"

Ginny let the tears crawl silently down her face. She lay her head on her pillow and clutched the letter to her chest as she softly cried herself to sleep. Outside, it rained.

Fin

A/N: Well? Did you like? Ooohh, I hope so! The quote from the Potter's grave is by R. W. Raymond, I had fun searching for a good one, hehe, even though the topic is a tad morbid. Anyway, please review, but keep it to constructive criticism if possible. No flames! Anyway, I hope you all liked, I have a few ideas for a sequel but with so many plot bunnies hopping around in my head I'll only write one if people liked Winter's Pale and want some more. Bu I hope you enjoyed it, and please review it, if not to boost my ego then to better my writing skills. Hehe. Thankyou!