Disclaimer: Harry isn't mine. Just kidding! I really am JKR, and gullible's been removed from the dictionary. Really.

Come on, people. Use your brains; you have 'em for a reason. Me no JKR.

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Ginny shifted in her bed, counting the seconds slowly ticking by. Through the drapes on the dorm window she could see the faint outline of a silvery crescent moon, slicing through the dark of the night.

Midnight. The witching hour.

Smiling bitterly, she slid out of her canopied bed and padded softly to the door, pausing briefly to glance back at the room. Five beds, four still holding occupants. There were four girls, including Ginny, in their sixth year at Hogwarts. There had been five of them last year. Five of them, before Maggie...

It was a timeless moment that passed in the room then, as Ginny gazed around. It felt almost…safe, unchanging. It was just a regular night at school, where the screams of the injured and dying were but an unfounded nightmare. Then one of the girls sighed softly in her sleep and turned a bit, whispering something under her breath.

Ginny tensed, her eyes glinting with unshed tears. God, she couldn't do this, couldn't go on like this. No matter how she fought, no matter how she struggled, He still held her firmly in His grasp, pulling her down into herself. Changing her.

Choking back a sobbing gasp, she whirled and left the room, shutting the door behind her with a soft click. She mentally counted the stairs as she descended into the common room, all thirteen steps- thirteen, the witching number.

Fitting, all things considered.

A small fire flickered weakly in the fireplace, the flames dancing even as they died. The room was bathed in darkness, shadows hovering like a palpable force about her. It was cold, the fire unable to spread its warmth.

Ginny ignored the chill, all of her attention instead going to the figure curled into itself in the armchair furthest from the hearth. Though it was too dim to make out the figure's features, she knew immediately who it was. He was always there at midnight, just like Ginny. It was an unspoken arrangement, a silent meeting in the dead of night when the rest of the world wavered like the fire and only the two of them were real. It was truth and comfort in the shadows.

Harry nodded to her as she sat in the chair next to him, pulling her nightgown tighter around her in a vain effort to ward off the cold. Sensing her discomfort, the young man smiled slightly and tossed her a blanket he'd stashed beneath his chair. He always brought her a blanket, even during the warmest nights. Smiling back, she wrapped the blanket about her, huddling into its fuzzy warmth.

They would sit here together, silent, until the fire died. Ginny would listen to Harry's soft breathing and to her own heartbeat, letting the sounds twine about her, lull her into a dreamy trance of peace and tranquility. They would watch the dying fire, watch the glowing coals eventually lose their light, watch the last sparks vanish with the encroaching dawn, and when all the light was gone and the cold finally began to permeate her blanket, Ginny would hand the covering back to Harry and they would both go back to their respective dorms to await the new day. They never spoke and rarely looked at each other. They just watched the fire and listened to the quiet of the night.

Sometimes, though, Ginny would find herself studying Harry in the diminishing light. He was taller than her by almost a head, just a few inches shorter than Ron, though he was slimmer and leaner than her brother. His wild black hair fell to his chin now, a black halo about his pale face. His eyes were still large and breathtakingly beautiful, dark emeralds shining almost eerily in the flickering firelight. His face was harder than it had been, set and cold and remote. Everything about him was forbidding and unyielding. He had the air of a griffin ready to spring.

These days, even Hermione and Ron stepped warily about Harry, uncertainty coloring their reactions to him. He'd grown up and left them behind, and the two were no longer sure of their places with him.

Which was why the other students treated Ginny herself with such admiration and respect. They knew that Ginny was closer to Harry than anyone else in the world, and so their awe of him somewhat transferred to her as well.

The flames were growing smaller now, though they struggled valiantly against the inevitable. Do not go gently...

Suddenly Harry sighed heavily, startling Ginny. Concerned, she immediately shifted her attention from the fighting fire to her…well, her friend, for lack of a better term. Sometimes she thought it might be more, that what she felt might be returned...

She wondered, now, why Harry had sighed, why he'd broken their comfortable routine. Then she saw the tenseness of his jaw, the glint of his eyes in the firelight, and understood.

Of course…how could she have forgotten? It was Sirius' birthday.

She still wasn't quite sure how Harry had found that out, and she hadn't bothered asking. Sirius was still too sensitive a topic, and Ginny had no desire to risk the tentative understanding she and Harry had come to.

Breaking tradition, Ginny leaned slightly in her armchair until she was close enough to Harry that she could lay her hand on his thigh. "He was a good man," she said softly, staring directly into Harry's eyes.

"Yes," Harry replied softly, his face taut with distress, "He was."

They spoke no more that night, but Ginny kept her hand on Harry's leg. What comfort she could give, she would.

Dawn came slowly, and unlike most nights, both of them had remained wide awake through the dark hours.

"You'll see him again," Ginny said as the sky lightened to a rich purple-blue and the last of the fire's embers flickered out. "He's waiting for you, along with your parents. They'll be there when it's time."

Harry looked at her, then, with an intensity that made her shiver. "And you?"

Ginny frowned. "And me, what?" she asked, finally withdrawing her hand from his leg. Her heart sped up when she noticed disappointment flash across Harry's face.

"Will you be here?" he asked quietly. "When Voldemort's gone, will you be here, waiting?"

Ginny stared at him, wondering if he was asking what she thought he was asking. And yes- she could see it in the green of his eyes, the furrow of his brow, that he was asking her to be something more than a friend.

"No," she said, suddenly filled with a rush of power and control. "No, I won't be waiting."

Harry flinched back, his face closing off and his eyes going hard and cold. He started to stand, but Ginny was too quick, and replaced her hand on his knee before he could rise. She met his gaze head-on, willing him to understand.

"I won't be waiting," she repeated softly. "I'll be at your side, right there with you, until the end."

Purple-blue was fringed with gold, and Harry's smile was beautiful as he covered her hand with his own.

And his touch banished all her fears, banished the hold Tom still had on her, banished every specter ever to shadow her mind.

Midnight didn't seem quite so frightening anymore.

"Until the end."