Disclaimer: HP isn't mine.
Harry's gone, along with Ron and Hermione, and they've left Ginny behind in hell. Her mum's tongue is sharper than ever and her dad's hands shake sometimes, when he gets that distant look in his eyes that means he's watching nightmares parade through his mind.
Bill and Fleur are gone, and so's Charlie, and Percy didn't even come for the wedding. The twins've stopped visiting because whenever they do they end up in a screaming match with Mum, and there's enough discord in the world already.
She feels so useless, pacing the length of her room as she tries to remember every word in the most recent letter from Ron and Hermione – but not from Harry, never from Harry, because he thinks it's dangerous, because he thinks she's too weak or dumb to take care of herself.
Sometimes she suspects she's a fool for loving him.
And it is love. It's stupid and it's reckless and it's killing her, and sometimes when she looks in her mirror she doesn't recognize herself anymore. The Ginny she used to be didn't have flat muddy eyes or lips inclined to frowning. Her hair hadn't been limp and lifeless, and her skin never reached such a state of pallor.
Love, she thinks, is almost like a sugar high. At first you're giddy and on top of the world, but then you crash and it's like you'll never smile again.
She wonders if Harry ever thinks of her, and she knows he does – but not, she guesses, like she thinks of him. He'll spare moments of contemplation for the girl he left behind, and perhaps he'll feel regret, wistfulness, sorrow, but he'll have a world to save and friends at his side who mean more to him than she ever could, and his heart won't be ripping slowly in two with each passing day.
Perhaps she'd feel better, too, if she had something to do. She's a Gryffindor; she's made for action, not for waiting. But she's too young, too fragile, too…
With an explosive sigh of frustration, Ginny stops pacing and collapses onto her bed, glowering at the ceiling. She knows it's dumb even as she says it, but a petulant, "It's not fair," escapes her.
She scowls and almost mutters, "Damn Harry Potter, anyway," but doesn't because he's got enough people cursing him as it is.
Black Manor is as gloomy as ever, worsened by the lingering ghosts of Sirius' presence, like tear tracks on skin when the eyes have dried. He hated the house, but he's in every corner, every cobweb, every shadow.
Some people are born shining, and Sirius made the place lighter, somehow, just by being there. And now that he's not, she feels his absence like a thousand needles piercing her.
"I hate it here," she says quietly, glaring at the door separating her from the Order meeting and wondering how on earth her mum could be so blind as to think her innocent and helpless. Her innocence was torn from her when she was eleven, and since then she's made sure she'll never be helpless again.
The door opens, then, and Lupin slips out. He looks tired and ragged and angry, and when she catches his eye it's almost like looking in her mirror – only she sees herself in this reflection.
"Ginny," he says, and part of her still thinks it's odd to be on visiting with a former teacher. But what in her life isn't odd?
"Professor Lupin," she replies, because she's never been quite comfortable calling him by his first name. It doesn't seem respectful, and something about Lupin, careworn and kind as he is, demands respect. Maybe it's his air of weary experience, like he's survived everything life can throw at him.
"Harry's put us in quite a bind," Lupin says with a sigh. "I just wish we knew what he was doing…"
"Saving the world," Ginny says bitterly, then flushes at the queer look her former teacher shoots her.
"Sometimes I think we have it worst," the werewolf says, and she shoots him a confused look. He half-smiles and explains, "Those of us in love with the heroes."
For a wild moment she wonders if Lupin is in love with Harry, but then all the pieces fall suddenly into place and she wonders if this is how Hermione normally feels, like all the world's a puzzle and if you just sort it out the right way, there's nothing you can't know or do.
"Sirius," she says, her mouth strangely dry.
Lupin's shoulders hunch. "Sirius," he agrees quietly.
"We were…together," Lupin says delicately, and Ginny shudders because he lost his hero, and what if she loses hers?
"Does Tonks know?" she asks hoarsely, and he nods.
"She…she was kind to me," he says. "She comforted me. I never intended to let comfort become something else, but…"
"It's different, though, isn't it?" Ginny demands. "The way you loved him, and the way you love her…it has to be different. Sirius-"
"Sirius was born screaming defiance and died laughing," Lupin says dryly. "Loving him was like burning alive. Tonks…Tonks is steadier, sturdier. It's different."
"Loving Harry is like falling," she says, swallowing tears. "You can only fly so high before he outpaces you, and he's always going further, faster, and then there's no one left to catch you. But he always does, somehow – catch me, I mean. And it scares me, because someday he won't. He doesn't love me, not like I love him."
Because to him, loving her is like something out of another person's life – wonderful and unreal. But to Ginny…loving him is all she has, and it's scary and so stupid and there's nothing more real in the world.
"It is harder for us," Lupin murmurs, offering her a half-smile full of understanding and knowledge. "They shine so brightly and they don't realize we need their light, and when it's gone…"
"I don't want to love him," she says tiredly, wrapping her arms around her waist. "I don't want to miss him, either."
Lupin smiled wryly. "I've found that life most often doesn't care what we want," he replies, not unsympathetically.
"Does it ever hurt less?" she asks, and she hates how lost she sounds, how pathetic.
But Lupin's nothing if not kind, and she knows he's being honest when he says, "I found love again. I don't see any reason why you couldn't, if Harry moves on."
Moves on, she repeats to herself. Moves on – not 'dies', because it's unacceptable. His death means the death of them all, she suspects, not because he's their only hope but because the wizarding world believes he is.
"I don't want to lose him," she whispers.
His eyes are warm and understanding. "Letting him go is the only way of keeping him. And I think you knew that, or you'd have argued more about staying behind."
"I miss him," she says, then presses her lips together tightly to stop them from trembling.
She misses him, and the uncertainty – whether he misses her, whether he really cares for her, whether she'll ever see him again outside of her dreams – it hurts worse than anything.
"I miss him, and there was nothing to let go of. He's never been mine, not really. I don't think a hero can belong to just one person."
Lupin just nods, because really, what is there to say?
"I miss him," she repeats, and takes a deep breath. "I just wish I knew if he misses me."
"He's an idiot if he doesn't."
Lupin looks startled, as if he hadn't expected to say such a thing. But suddenly Ginny feels better – not because she's been fully reassured, as Harry can be a bit of an idiot – but because there's someone here who understands what it's like to be in love with a hero.
"It's like being a moth," she says, and Lupin knows instantly what she's talking about. "But I don't intend to burn."
"You're stronger than I was," he observes, a bit wistfully. "I think you'll be fine."
And Lupin, Ginny knows with a surge of confidence, wouldn't lie.
Harry was born shining, but there's no reason she can't start to shine herself.