Put Away Your Childish Things

Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, or any of his world- that is the rightful property of JK Rowling (although she may have leased it to Warner Brothers). I'm only borrowing Ginny for a bit.

Summary- It is the night of the Yule Ball and Ginny is running late- but there is still one thing she wants to do before joining her partner for the dance.

Ginny stood alone in the dark, trying not to shiver. The moonlight glistened on the dark water, like a sheen of oil on a puddle, masking the depths beneath. Ginny breathed in deeply, trying to absorb it all into memory, the darkness, the spreading water, the rippling grass… for this was a moment that would never occur again. This night, this silent hour by the lake shore was to witness the last ritual of her childhood, to finish something forever. She wanted to feel it all one last time, the pain, the giddy pleasure, the weary dragging hope…. Closing her eyes and picturing his face. But it wouldn't come. All she could feel was the cold

A sudden flare of a light, a wand lit tip beamed across from the other side of the lake. Black figures were emerging from the Durmstrang ship, huddling together briefly before starting off across the grounds. It was getting late. Neville would be waiting for her. She ought to hurry. Sometimes, Ginny knew, the only way to get through a goodbye without crying was to rush it. Speed and worry blotted out sorrow. But she had wanted this one to be different.

Slowly, carefully she removed the locket from around her neck. It was a molded plastic heart shape, attached to a slightly mildewed looking silver chain. She had brought the heart in a muggle shop when she was little- principally because it was pink, a colour rarely seen in a household of seven males- and kept simply because the romance of owning a locket appealed to her, even if it was such a babyish one. Inside, Ginny knew without looking was a single curl of dark hair, secured with string. It had been the day before she found T- she found that diary, the day before that trip to Diagon Alley. Her mother had insisted on cutting the boys hair in the hope (futile in Ginny's opinion) that they would start the term looking respectable. Unlike Ron, who grumbled the whole time, and the twins who twisted and turned in their chairs so much Mrs Weasley had said it was a miracle their ears weren't sliced off, Harry hadn't seemed to mind having his head, attacked by Mrs Weasley's scissors - although he had assured her earnestly that it would do little good. He was right as well, to the Weasley's amusement within a few moments of cutting Harry's hair was as thick and chaotic as ever. It had been a job to steal a piece of his hair without the boys noticing, but she years of experience had enabled her to lure them into the kitchen with rumours of hot chocolate.

Ginny's fingers caressed the worn edges of the locket lightly. Where was he now? She had walked past him as she left, saying goodbye to Ron by the portrait hole, both looking stiff and self conscious in their dress robes. He hadn't even noticed her pass. Ginny fingered the thin velvet of her robe. It was second hand, of course, but the girls had said it looked nice on her. Lovely, Laura had said. But Harry hadn't even glanced sideways at her in it. Of course, she hadn't expected him to. But hope and expectation were very different things. It was gone now though. That last ember of hope crushed beneath the dancer's feet. She ought, Ginny thought with a flash of irritation- to have been crushed it long ago. She knew he liked that Ravenclaw girl, knew probably before he did. She ought to have known he'd never think of asking her to the Ball. But it had taken the look on his face when Ron suggested he take her that really made her really realize it. It was worse than disgust. It was indifference. He couldn't care less that she was going with Neville. Why would he? In that one moment Ginny felt her hopes unravel, vanishing like ink swallowed by a waiting page.

Ginny's fingers tightened around the locket. Once it had been her only shield against such thoughts, her blind hope neutralizing the poisoned memories her first year had left her with. More than once she had woken in the dark of the night clutching at it as the only weapon against the fear that gripped her. But the slippery plastic gave her no comfort now. All it held were the memories of many idle daydreams. Hopes which had proved as false as the friend she had trusted in so long ago. He had saved her from To- from Voldemort, had given her her life back, clean and whole…….. almost. It wasn't Harry's fault that Ginny Weasley, couldn't bring herself to let go of a childish dream.

Can I really have loved him so hard, for so long, for nothing?

The night brought her no answer, but then, she didn't need to be told it was time to let go. I shall have to be my own protector now, she thought sadly, raising the chain up to eye level, seeing the smooth surface gleam softly in the moonlight. Three times she swung it. Around, around, around- and then released it. The locket whirled out across the dark water, and Ginny heard a faint slap of sound as it hit the water.

Only a lump of plastic, she thought, a few strands of wet hair. It was foolish of her to have kept it so long. Fred and George would have been horrified if they'd known. The Ball seemed to have started. Ginny could hear faint strains of music and the warm hum of voices drifting across the lawn. She really couldn't keep her partner waiting any longer.

And so it was that with one last, not bitter glance, Ginny Weasley turned and began to run back up the sloping lawn, ready to join the party.