Chapter Thirty-Four

Ginny joined Hermione at the breakfast table. Her hair was greasy and there were deep shadows under her eyes. Hermione pushed some bacon onto her plate and said, "Did you get any sleep?"

Ginny shrugged. "I got some."

Hermione looked at her sternly. "How much is some?"

"Not enough," said Ginny, "but that isn't exactly a surprise, is it?"

"No," Hermione said, "I suppose it isn't."

They fell silent and Hermione took a sip of her tea. There were far too few people in the great hall. Parvati and Padma were already gone.

Ginny buttered her toast as Hermione said, "Is it nightmares, or…"

Ginny nodded grimly. "Nightmares," she said, "And just staying awake all night, worrying – thinking about…what Harry's going to do."

Hermione put her cup down sharply and said. "Has he said anything to you?"

"No," Ginny said. "He hasn't said a word. I just have a feeling."

"Feeling about what?" Hermione asked, thinking that Ginny was fairly likely to be right.

"I…" Ginny paused, and then said, "Look, I don't want to say anything. I could be wrong. I don't think I am, I don't think so, but…just in case."

"Do you have to be so cloak and dagger about it?" Hermione said irritably.

Ginny looked as though she rather wanted to laugh, but all she said was, "The second I know, so will you." She looked up at the teachers' table. "I can't believe he's gone."

"I know," Hermione said.

"I mean, I literally can't believe it," Ginny said. "I keep thinking he's going to walk through those doors." They were silent again. The truth of Dumbledore's murder was so huge, so incomprehensible that it was simply impossible to say anything meaningful about it. Hermione watched Michael Corner comfort a weeping Cho Chang, and considered, for a moment, whether it would be wrong of her to just go back to bed – maybe build a pillow fort.

Ginny hugged herself and said, "Well there's some good news. The OWLs have been cancelled."

"They've been what!"

Ginny grinned and said, "Yeah, I thought you would appreciate that. McGonagall said the Ministry is too busy and…well she said a lot. You'd think after all this time it'd be a relief, but…but it just makes everything feel even stranger."

Hermione sighed, and Ron joined them, ruffling Ginny's hair as he sat down. He inhaled a sausage and said, "Harry's not up yet."

"Did he sleep all right?" Ginny asked.

"He was all right," Ron said. "Just tired I think."

"He'll miss breakfast," Hermione said, thinking of how peaky Harry looked when he didn't eat.

"I've got it," said Ginny hurriedly, pushing some toast into a napkin. "I want to tell my exams are off anyway. I'll see you soon."

She stood and gave Ron a quick hug from behind before trotting off down the hall. Ron shook his head, but he was smiling as he reached across the table to take Hermione's hand. "How are you doing?" he asked.

Dumbledore's funeral was on a glorious day. It made Hermione feel nauseous. Everything, every horrible thing that had happened that night came flooding back – if it hadn't been for Ron she might have fallen apart completely.

But he held her. Her world narrowed to a strong pair of arms in faded dress robes and his voice in her ear. She barely noticed Harry walking away, and it wasn't until Percy joined them that she fully woke up to what was happening around her.

Ginny was sitting very still, her lips pressed together and her hands clasped stiffly in her lap. Percy surveyed her and Ron for one long moment and said, "It's very tragic…"

His voice trailed off, and Ron stood up sharply. He was just as tall as Percy now, and the two boys – men, Hermione corrected herself – stared at each other. She saw Ron clench his fist reflexively, and rose to put a hand on his arm. The last thing he needed was to get into a fight.

It was Ginny who broke it up by saying very distinctly, "You should talk to Mum and Dad."

Percy's skin flushed unpleasantly, but he walked away, Ron staring at him the whole time. Ginny stood up slowly and touched his elbow. "He's gone now," she said. "And you should go after Harry."

"We should?" Ron said, startled at her phrasing.

Ginny nodded. "I think…I don't want him to be alone."

She was still holding herself rigid, and with a sinking feeling Hermione said, "What happened?"

Ginny looked away. "Harry just –" she paused and swallowed something, perhaps a sob. "We just broke things off." Her voice cracked horribly on the last word, and Hermione what had happened. Ginny had had nothing to do with it – it had been all Harry. Ginny seemed to shrink, growing even smaller as Ron stared at her.

Hermione touched her shoulder, and Ginny flinched. "Are you all right?" Hermione said.

Ginny shook her head reflexively. "I knew this was coming," she said. Her face was very white. "I don't know how I did, but I knew he was going to…"

"What happened?" Hermione said, more urgently. "What did he say?"

Ginny bit into her lip savagely. "It doesn't matter," she said. "It's not like it was a surprise, it's not like I didn't know…" Her face creased up for a moment, as though she were in terrible pain.

Wanting desperately to take that look off her face, Hermione said, "I don't understand – talk to me!"

"I can't!" Ginny said, her voice squeaking slightly and tears running down her cheeks. "I mean, I'm all right Hermione, or I will be, but…but I just…I need to be alone right now."

Ron looked helpless as Ginny turned on her hell and started to walk back to the castle. Hermione raced after her. "Come on Ginny," she said. "It'll be all right."

Ginny swallowed and said, "I know what you're doing, I do, and don't think I don't appreciate…but…but I just need to have my cry." She squared her shoulders and said, "I'll be all right in an hour or two. But you should go after Harry – he needs you."

Hermione nodded, making brief eye contact with Jules and Louise – Ginny shouldn't have to be alone if she didn't want to be. "Okay. Okay. But look," she said, putting her hands on Ginny's shoulders and looking into her eyes. "You can talk to me if you need to, or if you want to, okay. And you will?"

"Yeah," Ginny said, "I will. I promise."

Hermione stared at her, saw the tears that were longing to be shed in her eyes, and said the last thing she could think of – "I love you."

Ginny hugged her, smiling a tight little smile. "I know you do," she said.