Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling owns all things Harry Potter.

A/N: This will be a Ginny/Draco story eventually, but it will take a couple of chapters for Draco to make an appearance. Ginny has a lot to deal with before she can even start to think about Draco.


Coming Home

Prologue

The Boy Who Lived had died, and it seemed the whole wizarding world had come out for his funeral.

Despite the heat of the summer sun, Ginny Potter shivered and pulled her cloak around herself more tightly. The last few days had been a nightmare for her. Her heart had been ripped out with Harry's death, and there were painful reminders of him everywhere she looked. Hogwarts, the Burrow, even Diagon Alley, all evoked memories of times they spent together. Even her friends' and family's efforts to comfort her only made his absence more immediate.

Ginny's grief was painful enough in itself, but she also had to deal with it while in the spotlight. The wizarding world had an inordinate fascination with their lost hero and his life. This included an outpouring of pity for his widow, a beautiful girl not yet 18 years old who was universally seen as a tragic figure. Streams of black cloaked figures filled the cemetery, jostling for position to catch a glimpse of the coffin or one of the people who had been the closest to Harry. As she stood by the graveside, Ginny felt that every eye was on her.

To most of the scores of witches and wizards in attendance, Harry had been a storybook hero–someone to tell your children about. It was the idea of him they loved. Ginny understood this, as she had been the same way once. She had had a silly schoolgirl crush on him for years. Only after she had given up her fairytale dreams could she see Harry for what he was, in all his awkward, adolescent glory. She learned, then, to love him in his imperfection. But the crowds gathered here today didn't know about his temper, slow to catch but intense once it began to burn. Or how he would avoid the people he loved when something was bothering him. Or how he blamed himself for every death in the war. They didn't know how he pulled on his left ear when he was deep in thought. Or how he never turned down an offer of a game of wizard's chess, even though he never won. Or the way his smile could light up a room. They only knew him as the picture-perfect boy who had twice defeated He-Who-Still-Must-Not-Be-Named-At-Least-Not-In-Public. And they all craved to be part of his life. Or, at least, his death.

As the ritual began, Ginny nestled closer to her brother George, who put a comforting arm around her shoulders. But she couldn't concentrate on the vicar's words. Instead she found herself thinking back on her relationship with Harry. She supposed that he wouldn't mind her straying attention–he never could concentrate well on formalities, either.

Harry had always thought of Ginny as Ron's little sister–the one who had an embarrassing crush on him. She eventually gave up on the crush, and accepted the fact that she would never be anything else to him. Then, the summer after her fourth year, things began to change. After the battle in the Department of Mysteries, Harry suffered in silence over Sirius' death. He blamed himself and refused to talk about it. But Ginny was just as stubborn. She refused to let him get away with it and somehow she began to convince Harry that it wasn't his fault. She suspected she made him realize that his situation was something like hers in her first year. She, too, had been manipulated into doing things that hurt others. If he blamed himself for what happened to Sirius, he would have to blame her for opening the Chamber of Secrets, and he was much too gallant to do that. The two slowly developed a friendship based on their common experiences with Voldemort, and before long she considered him to be one of her best friends. And even if he didn't feel the same way about her (he had Ron and Hermione, after all), she was in a category by herself. There were things he could say to Ginny that he couldn't say to anyone else.

By the end of her fifth year, Ginny had begun to fall in love with him, rather than the fairy tale. And Harry had stopped thinking of Ginny as someone who needed saving, and started to see her strength, beauty, and decidedly wicked sense of humor. The Weasleys, especially Ron, were overjoyed when they began to date. Ginny suspected that they hoped to have Harry as an official member of the Weasley family. And it wasn't long before she hoped so, too.

In her sixth year, Harry received a series of letters threatening his closest friends. He tried to push Ginny away in a misguided attempt to protect her. She recognized what he was doing and wouldn't allow it, of course. In the end, it only ended up bringing them closer. That spring, the Death Eaters attacked Hogwarts. By casting a spell into which he focused all the love he felt for his family, friends, and Ginny, Harry was finally able to defeat Voldemort.

The sheer effort took its toll on Harry, however. He was left weak and nearly drained of magic. After months of treatments, he was worse off than he had been at the end of the war. Madam Pomfrey had never seen anything like it, nor had the specialists she brought in from St. Mungo's. They reluctantly concluded that he probably didn't have much longer to live.

The day after this prognosis was delivered, Harry asked Ginny to marry him. The wedding took place almost immediately as they decided there was no time to waste. They didn't have a honeymoon; Harry wasn't well enough to travel. But they spent every moment together that they could.

When Ginny's seventh year at Hogwarts began, Harry stayed at the school in order to be near both Ginny and Madam Pomfrey. He tutored some of the younger students in Defense Against the Dark Arts, and helped Madam Hooch teach flying lessons when he felt up to it. The school year passed peacefully, and Ginny and Harry were as happy as they could be, considering that Harry's strength was waning by the week.

One day in late June, Harry called Ginny to him to say goodbye. She wept, and smoothed his hair back, and told him the secret she had been keeping. He smiled his blinding smile at the news, then looked at her with his most intense gaze. "Ginny," he said, "whatever happens, be happy." Then he closed his eyes and slipped into unconsciousness. He never woke again.

Now, as she stood at his grave, she wondered if she could ever be happy again. Everything around her seemed to bring her back to him.

George nudged her then, and she realized that the vicar was waiting for her to throw the first handful of dirt upon the coffin. She did so, and took comfort in the ancient words as the rest of her family and the Order of the Phoenix followed suit. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust... Rest eternal grant to him, O Lord...

When Harry's body had been committed to the earth, and his soul to heaven, Ginny endured endless words of sympathy from the other mourners. Fred and George flanked her through it all, a comforting presence at each side. They always seemed to know exactly what she needed. Finally, there was only one person left, and she stepped away from her brothers to speak to him privately.

Remus Lupin had been a mentor to her for years. In her second year at Hogwarts, she had struggled to come to terms with what had happened with Tom Riddle. She felt as if she could never trust anyone again, and as if she would never be cleansed of her guilt. As her Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Remus had seen her struggle, and he helped her see that the opening of the Chamber was not her fault–stronger witches and wizards had come under Voldemort's spell before and likely would again. He had also helped her see that she was a strong and talented witch, and that her experiences had only made her stronger. After he left Hogwarts, they still stayed close. She would owl him when she was unsure or confused about something, and he never failed to respond with encouragement and advice. Now he stood before her and looked at her with his knowing grey eyes.

"I know what it is to lose your best friend. Ginny, if there is anything I can do for you, I will do it." His gaze intensified. "Anything. And I can keep a secret, even from your family, if you need me to."

She looked up at him and saw understanding in his face. He knew what she needed, and he was willing to help her, even if doing so would put her at odds with most of his friends. She took a deep breath before asking it of him.

"I need to leave. To get away from everything that reminds me of him. Will you help me with that?"