Author's Note:

Hello! This is my second story (the first was Missed Opportunities). I really hope you like it. Please Read & Review - tell me what you think, because every bit of help I can get is vastly appreciated. Also, thank you to all those that reviewed my previous story! I'm so grateful! Hope you enjoy this one!

- Elizabeth

Disclaimer: I own Harry Potter only in my happiest and most illogical dreams. :)

Down the rain poured, gaining speed and force with every second. It pounded uproariously against the worn stone of Hogwarts Castle, in an unceasing, violent rhythm, so that teachers had to raise their voices to be heard. All outdoors classes had been canceled as a result, for to venture outdoors was totally foolhardy. Though it was only September, the temperature was nastily low, and the rain fell with almost bruising force. The grounds had been reduced to little more than a river of mud masked with grass, while the iron-gray lake was overflowing rapidly. The outdoors were the very last place anybody would be.

And that was exactly why Harry Potter went there.

The second he had stepped from the warmth and shelter of the castle he was drenched. Raindrops drummed on every inch of him; his Hogwarts robes were soaked through; his sneakers slid on the pulverized, sodden ground. Yet Harry was indifferent to the iciness and wet seeping through him, or the fact that if he remained there much longer he would most definitely catch cold. For the tempest around him was nothing compared to the pain inside him. It was there, a great, black, gnawing mass of it, eating at his insides, and it had resided there quite firmly since the summertime. More accurately, since the time when Sirius had died. Since the time he had known his fate - that he had to be murderer or murdered, slayer or victim, that there was no other way. . . .

It was his fault. Sirius's death, the fact that Sirius's name had never been cleared, the fact that Sirius had never been given the chance to live a good life, a happy life, a free life. . . . Entirely, completely his fault. And why did he have to be the Boy Who Lived? Why did he have to be the only wizard in existence able to defeat Lord Voldemort? It wasn't fair. He wasn't ready; there was no way he could accomplish such a task. And the entire survival of the Wizarding world depended on him. . . .

Sometimes he was able to function normally, as if there wasn't a massive ball of ache constantly within him; as if he wasn't quite aware that he was the only one with a prayer of killing Voldemort; or as if he didn't have the profound guilt of his godfather's death heaped on his shoulders. But other times, like today, it was unbearable. Whatever feeble hope he might have amounted over the months was dead, buried, and rotting.

Drunkenly, tears and raindrops dripping, indistinguishable from one another, down his face, he trudged forward. He trudged until he could trudge no more; the weight of the thrashing rain and the weight of his own miseries caused him to collapse onto the mud. He was soiling his robes badly, but he didn't care. There he sat, still save for his shivering, silent save for his quiet cries, bemoaning everything that had happened, and everything that would happen. . . .

Suddenly movement caught his eye; something large and pink and lurid was coming into view, approaching him from the castle. He stared disbelievingly, squinting through his dribbling, fogged up glasses. Finally, as it grew closer, he recognized it as an umbrella - Hagrid's umbrella. But the figure beneath it was much, much too small to be Hagrid - whoever was holding it was short and petite, shorter even than him. . . .

Then he saw the long shock of vividly scarlet hair beneath the pink of the umbrella, and knew that it was Ginny. His stomach leapt uncomfortably with a mixture of worry for her - he certainly didn't want her to get sick in this weather - and annoyance that he was being bothered. Even if it was Ginny, whose company he liked very much. But on days like these, days of depression, he wanted only to be alone. Alone with his miseries.

Harry turned his back on the girl again, intending to ignore her. The rain slapped against his face and the wind plucked at his clothing as she sat gracefully beside him in the streaming mud. Wordlessly she held the umbrella over him, and then released it; though it was being supported by no means Harry could see, the umbrella remained over them, suspended in midair and rotating slowly. As it was a possession of Hagrid's, and therefore massive, it covered them both quite well.

"I borrowed it from Hagrid," Ginny said conversationally (and unnecessarily), raising her voice to be heard over the crash of rain and occasional groan of thunder. "He enchanted it to stay up, although I'm not sure how long it'll last; he's not the best with magic."

Harry said nothing. He didn't even look at her. He simply dripped and stared sightlessly ahead.

Sighing, Ginny said, "Why are you out here, Harry?"

Silence.

Ginny waited patiently for several seconds, her legs curled under her, her hands in her lap. As opposed to Harry, she was fairly dry, having been shielded from the worst of the storm by the pink umbrella. "Does it have something to do with . . . Sirius?"

Harry half-gasped, half-hiccupped at the sound of the name.

Ginny placed a hand on his shoulder in sympathy, but when she spoke her voice was strong and firm. "Harry, you can't be like this. You have to move on. You have to live your life. Otherwise Sirius's sacrifice was in vain."

And finally, Harry spoke, voice choked and hardened with anger. "What - what would you know about that?!"

Ginny bristled slightly, the infamous Weasley temper arising. "I know a great deal more about it than you, obviously! Harry, when bad things happen, you can't let them overwhelm you - you have to face them, you have to make them back down. You can't be all miserable for the rest of your life."

"I - I won't be miserable the rest of my life!" said Harry indignantly.

"Oh, just today will do?" returned Ginny sarcastically.

"Are you saying I'm stupid?" he growled at her.

"Oh of course not, why would I ever call anyone who is sitting out in this hellish weather, in the streaming mud and the torrential, hammering rain, probably catching his death, stupid? That would just be redundant!"

Harry sputtered. "You - I -"

But Ginny held up a hand to stem his stammers. "It's all right, Harry; with all that you've been through, I suppose you have a right to be stupid now and again - at least you're not like my brother, who's stupid twenty-four seven and doesn't even have any right to be. I mean, he's not snogging Hermione yet, is he?"

And then Harry did the very last thing he had expected to do: he laughed. It was hoarse and croaky from his tears, but a laugh all the same.

Ginny went on, seriously this time, "But, Harry, you can't blame yourself for Sirius's death. You know how good Voldemort is at tricking people - I should know," she added, with a small, wry smile.

Harry's head snapped up, flecking water droplets on her. "You just said Voldemort," he said in awe.

"I know I did. Incredible, isn't it?"

Harry smiled tremblingly.

"But the point is, Harry," Ginny resumed, "if you want to blame anyone, blame Voldemort. But not yourself, Harry. Never yourself. You've done nothing to be ashamed of."

Harry was quiet, listening to the roaring patter of raindrops against the pink umbrella, hovering overhead, sheltering them from the fearsome weather. Lightning temporarily ripped open the sky, a bellow of thunder following a second afterward. At last he said, "Thanks, Ginny." But only half the hurt had been taken away - for there was one other problem, one that she knew nothing about: the prophecy.

And Ginny, as always perceptive, seemed to realize that too. "There's something else, isn't there?"

Unable to meet her concerned gaze, Harry squirmed and remained silent.

"Harry, you know you can tell me anything . . ."

"Can I?" said Harry, with a mirthless laugh. "I can't tell anyone, Gin, not you or Ron or Hermione. I'm not burdening them with it."

"I want to know, Harry." Her voice was firm and clear.

"You don't want to hear this."

"I do," she said, and she put her hand on his. He looked up at her, startled, and he saw the determination and fire smoldering within her chocolate-colored eyes.

And it was then he decided to tell her.

Speaking the words was infinitely difficult at first, and he found his voice often obstructed by a lump in his throat. But once he had begun, he didn't stop, and Ginny didn't once interrupt. By the time he had finished telling her the prophecy fifteen minutes later, he felt as though something ponderous had been relieved from his shoulders. Some of the tension in his stomach dissipated. Finally, cringing, he looked at her face, wondering how she would take this upsetting news.

Her expression threw him. She wasn't horrified or wide-eyed; her hands weren't clapped over her mouth or on her cheeks. She wasn't gibbering like Ron would be doing, or gasping and being melodramatic, or questioning the reliance of the Penseive or of Professor Trelawney, as Hermione might react. Her face seemed slightly paler than usual, but her eyes were just as fierce and bright, her expression calm.

She said one thing only, and that was: "I believe you'll do it, Harry."

And with those words, those six simple words, the rest of the weight in his belly vanished, like a candle flame in wind. "You - you really think so?"

This time Ginny took his hand, and squeezed it reassuringly. "I know so."

Harry couldn't find the words in which to express his gratitude, his joy that someone believed in him so strongly. He wasn't sure she was right, wasn't really sure if he could beat the most powerful Dark wizard of the age. But now he had something he hadn't truly had before: hope, pure, strong, unwavering hope. Ginny's hope. And that was enough for him.

"I - I don't know how to thank you . . ." he began awkwardly.

But Ginny did. Smiling, she leaned forward, pressing her lips to his.

The kiss hadn't even ended before there was a rather perturbing shuddering sound from overhead - the next second the enchantment on the pink umbrella broke - it fell earthward with a crash, and Ginny and Harry were overcome with an onslaught of rain.

The dry and warmth Harry had acquired over the past half hour or so was destroyed in less than a second - cold wetness plastered him, as those fat, freezing drops struck each and every inch of skin and clothing.

They both leapt to their feet, yelping with surprise and discomfort, as the now useless pink umbrella rolled off to the side. Harry had expected Ginny to be most displeased that she was unprotected from the elements - but, once again, she surprised him. She simply tilted her head back and laughed. Harry couldn't help it - he laughed too.

"Oh who doesn't love a nice shower?" said Ginny, once more shouting over the blare of rain and thunder. "Or monsoon, however you want to look at it. Now c'mon, let's get back in before we dissolve!"

Laughing, he grabbed her hand, and, together, they sprinted across the sopping grounds and into the castle.