Summary: Written in response to the Winter Snows Challenge One: Redemption on Mugglenet Fan Fiction's site.

It's New Year's Eve. A young man wanders the streets of a town, blaming himself for the loss of a loved one, and a young woman sits before her fire, pondering the effects of the war. What happens when one mentally calls for the other, without even knowing it? A life-altering conversation is held amongst the two, its result mending a rupture between the One and the world—his world, the world he loved.

The war ended less than a year ago, and it has been five years since the end of Book Seven.

Never

A One-Shot by suckr4romance

It's my fault. He kicked the new-fallen snow alongside the main street of Ottery St. Catchpole, in anger at the world—in anger at himself.

New Year's Eve was supposed to be a joyous occasion, not one to be used to reflect on the sorrows of the past year. The pain was still fresh, and it hurt like hell. How in the world was he to celebrate the holiday with the one family he felt he had let down most of all? And should he even he considered himself a disappointment to them? He had saved so many, protected so many, yet the one person who protected him paid the ultimate price. She had done it all for love, just as he had. It was ruefully ironic.

But it simply wasn't fair. Why should she die, and he live, for them never to reunite again? One thing was for sure: he wasn't going back anytime soon. Ron would try to force him, and Hermione would try to coax him, but it would all be in vain. He could not bear to be in the presence of the Weasley family right now; he would not be swayed.

No, he would wander the streets aimlessly as long as it took—as long as he saw fit. Only time would decide when it was suitable for him to return, no matter how lonely he felt.

But there was one who might know his pain best. She had helped him before, when he was blaming himself for the death of his godfather. Though he never would forgive himself, talking to her would ease his heartache, however slightly—it always did.

It's all Voldemort's fault. She sat before a crackling fire in her living room, wrapped in a warm fleece blanket, and clutching a mug of steamy cocoa. Sleep would not dare overcome her.

New Year's had been her father's favorite holiday, though she never understood why. She supposed it was exciting—starting anew, and all—but thinking of her father's warm face again only brought on a fresh wave of tears.

Yes, it had been five years, but he was her dad, for God's sake! She would never heal; loss of a loved one cannot go away that easily. One is stuck between the wanting to forget, and the wanting to cling onto the memory of the person. She never wanted to forget her father. He taught her everything she knew, and left her more than she could ever hope for. He gave her a legacy—his job as editor of The Quibbler was now hers. This gift was a small consolation, but she was content. For it was not she who had suffered the worst of it.

No, the One did. He had put himself right in the face of death, in the name of love for the world, but he lived on, despite Ginny's ultimate sacrifice for him.

Suddenly, the woman's ears perked up. Him. He was just outside, having roamed the town, and he knew where he was going. He needed her solace, the comfort of a friend long-forgotten.

She rose from her spot on the floor, extinguishing the fire with her wand. With a dash to her coat closet, she pulled out the first thing she could find—an old, beat up ski jacket bearing the words 'Crumple-Horned Snorkack Hunting Team'—and pulled it on, slamming the door of her snow-ridden house behind her.

He was right where she knew he would be: hovering over the latch of her run-down picket fence's gate, debating whether or not he should disturb her from her solitude. She came out of the house, and he looked up into her orbs of translucent, pale blue. He opened the gate for her as she advanced down her walkway. She only gave him a reassuring look that said everything was all right.

"Hello, Harry," she greeted him pensively. "I had a feeling you were coming." She stepped onto the sidewalk, shutting the gate slowly.

Harry knew not to question her powers of telepathy. "Luna, I…" He was at a blatant loss for words.

"You don't have to say anything to me," Luna told him.

"But I want to," Harry said.

"Okay," she agreed, after a minute of considering him. "We'll go for a walk."

And so they did. Out of the whole village, they were the only ones on the streets—everyone else had chosen to celebrate the holiday within the warmth of a home, sheltered from the frost-bitten night.

"I never really believed it would happen," he began. "I convinced myself she couldn't die—I was in denial. I should have known, Luna—I should have known!" Harry ceased in his speech, overcome with emotion.

"Shhh…" Luna said, wrapping him in a comforting embrace and leading him to a nearby bench.

"But it's my fault!" Harry cried. "If I hadn't turned my back on him for one second, Ginny would still be alive…"

"No," Luna disagreed, shaking her head of straggly blonde, "it wasn't you, Harry. It was Voldemort who killed her. If you're at fault with anything, it's letting him get to you. Sure, he's more than a memory, but he's gone. You should be glad, not in mourning!"

Harry looked down disgustedly. "You wouldn't understand," he sneered, instantly regretting it.

Luna leant back against the bench in disbelief, hurt beyond all mortal pain.

"You have no right," she said slowly, "to assume I wouldn't understand the loss you're felling. What doesn't make sense is that you, Harry, of all people know that. You know better than anyone!" She was angrier than Harry had ever seen her.

"You came to see me for a reason," she continued. "You wanted my help, did you not? I don't believe your intent was to have an argument with me." When he only studied his feet in shame, she sighed.

"Look," Luna bargained. "I'll be rational with you. All you have to do is return the favor."

Harry sighed as well. "All right."

Neither spoke for awhile, both watching the snow fall over Ottery St. Catchpole.

"I just wish things were different."

He startled her, but she didn't show it. "Different how?" Luna asked. A bystander might have predicted Harry would scoff at Luna's question, but he would have proved them wrong.

"Different like…well, like Ginny had lived to celebrate my victory, or…"

"Or you having died along with her?" Luna finished for him. "Harry, you should never think like that. If it hadn't been for you, the world would have ended a long time ago."

"If it hadn't been for me, Ginny could be back at the Burrow with her family this very moment."

"Stop!" Luna stood up, her eyes ablaze.

"What?" Harry was perplexed by Luna's outburst.

"Stop blaming yourself! Ginny loved you, Harry—loved you! She loved you so much, she gave her life so that you might live. So that you might kill Voldemort. So that you might save the world from becoming a barren wasteland!

"Ginny's death is no more your fault than Sirius' was. It was all in the name of love, what they did—what they stood for. They and Dumbledore never meant for you to mourn them unceasingly; they would all want you to be happy, and for you to live for today!"

"It's not that easy, Luna," Harry warned her.

"Who said it had to be?"

"No one," Harry answered. "But I'm not whole anymore."

"Were you ever?" Luna rightfully wanted to know.

"No, but that doesn't change anything. This is me, now."

Luna gave him a forlorn expression. "Then I guess I lost two friends that day Ginny died."

"Oh, Luna…" Harry said as Luna's eyes filled with unshed tears.

He held an arm out for Luna, but she ignored it, burying her face in her gloved hands. Harry decided it best to give Luna some time, so he remained silent as she stood facing the direction opposite him. She was studying one of the homes along the road.

"Do you know whose house that is?"

It was Harry's turn to be startled.

"No." The house was decorated in the spirit of holiday cheer, and it seemed that its occupants were holding a festive gathering for the New Year's occasion.

"It's the Diggory's," she informed him. "If you'll recall, they lost someone dear to them in the war…before it had begun, in fact."

"I know," said Harry quietly.

"How is it then, that you cannot bring yourself to rejoice as they have?" An uncomfortable question, this one was—one Harry did not wish to answer.

Yet Luna's impassable gaze beat down on him as he thought it out, and he knew he would have to tell her the truth.

"It hasn't been long enough," he said. "I can't simply forget her."

"No one's asked you to forget Ginny," Luna assured him. "Mr. and Mrs. Diggory haven't forgotten Cedric, I guarantee you that."

When Harry only stared determinedly to the side, Luna brought a hand to his face. He finally turned to her.

"Harry, you've given the world the opportunity to start over—begin the New Year with a clean slate. You deserve the same. I want you to come back, not to exile yourself in your agony.

"Come back, Harry. I'll be waiting for you."

Luna pivoted to leave, but Harry grasped her wrist. Tears were now brimming his own bespectacled eyes.

"You do want me back?" He looked hopeful.

"We all do," she said sincerely. Harry released his grip, and she turned away again.

Luna was halfway down the street when Harry realized something.

"Luna!"

She looked back at him. "What is it?"

"I didn't say thank you," he called.

"And you'll never have to," she told him softly, her voice carrying over to him. She smiled. "I have faith in you, Harry Potter."

Very soon, she was gone with the wind. Luna Lovegood helped Harry. She, on behalf of the entire world, gave him the one thing he needed above all else: redemption. She brought him back to the world, and asked for nothing in return. Harry vowed to himself that he would never forget Ginny Weasley and never, under any circumstances, forget what Luna had done for him that New Year's night.

FIN


A/N: Tell me what you think!