Prologue: A Wasted Dream

Ginny allowed her book to slip to the ground; usually she loved Persuasion, but today Anne's struggles to regain her captain didn't fill her with emotion or hope. They grated

The sky was overcast and there was a slight chill in the air, though not enough to force her back into the house. Her legs crossed under her, Ginny leaned back against a tree trunk and stared into space. Today had not been a good day. Fleur was overwrought; and the bridesmaids' dresses had been a disappointment, and she had made Ginny stand for nearly an hour while she altered the dress, swearing copiously in French. Hermione had been 'too busy' to distract her during this ordeal.

Everyone was 'too busy' it seemed, and such matters as a dress were far too trivial, and eventually, Ginny ran outside, where at least she would have some peace. The wedding was in three days. And here she was, sitting outside, railing at a happy ending, while the twins brewed up a new batch of fireworks, and her Mum studied cake recipes and Death Eaters blew up peoples' homes.

She shook her head, and picked at the grass. A plane zoomed overhead, probably on its way to the nearby Air Force base, and masked the sound of three voices coming towards her. Ginny jumped when she heard them; every time she'd entered a room since they arrived they abruptly stopped talking, and it surprised her that they hadn't done so now.

She leant back, closing her eyes and enjoying the sound of their voices; she had an inkling she wouldn't be hearing them much longer. One of those voices recalled the heartbreak Ginny thought she'd buried so deep it was beyond tears; turned out, it wasn't. She dashed one tear away desperately and told herself not to be so silly. So what if Harry was around? So what if he'd barely looked at her, or spoken to her, or touched her, and she felt as invisible as she did when she was twelve? What did any of that matter when so many terrible things were happening?

Their conversation came to a sudden halt, and Ginny opened her eyes to see Ron staring down at her accusingly. She wasn't eavesdropping – only listening, and thinking back, she couldn't actually remember any words they've said. Hermione put her hand on Ron's arm, and something passed between them, and a moment later Harry sat beside her.

He flung himself to the ground with all the grace of a hippo, and Ginny turned her book over, so he couldn't see the title, though she knew it was unlikely Harry was familiar with Jane Austen. She tried not to stare at her hands, so much easier than looking at him; as the silence stretched, Ginny reflected that it had been more than a month since Dumbledore's funeral. They'd been apart longer than they were ever together.

She really shouldn't be so silly, she reminded herself.

She looked up smiling brightly, but it died on her lips. Harry's lips were curved, in what she supposed some would call a smile, but she could see the lines of tension in his neck, and the oddly deadened look in his eyes. Harry only had that expression when he looked at her. She longed to touch his arm or his hand, or curl up and let him stroke her hair, or anything that would make him look more alive. Only she wasn't allowed.

Ginny winced, and then Harry said, "All right?"

She nodded, her throat suddenly tight. She looked at her hands as he continued. "I heard a lot of noise in there."

"It's the dress," she said. "I look like one of the Magical Brethren in it." Normally this comment would draw a laugh or a grin or something from Harry, but he only sighed and looked out toward the pond. Ginny wanted to shake him, or hit him, or do something that would make him react like a normal person because the Harry she loves laughs.

They sat in silence for a long moment, and Ginny was suddenly reminded of the moment he broke up with her.

Harry was staring at her, his eyes pinning her to her seat. Ginny knew what was coming, and for an instant she considered getting up, running back to the Tower and hiding in her room, but this conversation had to happen. She'd known it was coming and she'd be damned if she wouldn't take it like a Weasley. She thought his voice cracked as he spoke, every word a dagger in her ear. Allowing her nails to dig into one palm she said, "It's for some stupid, noble reason, isn't it?"

Harry seemed afraid to touch her, reaching a hand up to her chin but changing his mind half way there, and yet Ginny had never heard him use this tone of voice before. She'd spent years imagining just that tone of voice, and almost as many pretending she didn't care if he never used it; she was all too well aware of the irony that, as he dumped her, Harry was fulfilling her wish.

If Harry thought the greatest danger was of Voldemort hurting her, he was a fool. If he thought he wouldn't wound her at least as deeply he was a fool… She had to tell him. "What if I don't care?"

Harry shook his head, and moved even closer, as though bent on impressing this on her. "I care," he said, his voice definitely cracking over the next words, "How do you think I'd feel if this was your funeral... and it was my fault..."

Ginny looked away from him, out over the lake. She felt slightly numb, as though she'd been given a Pain Relieving Draught, and someone was prodding the affected area. She had to say something.

Perhaps though, it would have been prudent not to expose herself completely, not to admit to all the foolishness and stupidity of her younger self when Harry was letting her go. Ginny wondered if she had gone a little mad, saying these things to a boy in the process of breaking up with her.

But Harry was smiling, and Ginny's composure slipped, just a little. She struggled to smile, stretched for a laugh; anything to keep back the deep well of sorrow she knew was somewhere beneath the surface, even if she couldn't feel it at right this moment. She told him just why she liked him, feeling her own heart pump, bare to his gaze, as she said the words. Harry's hand touched her cheek ever so briefly, and when Ginny looked up, he was walking away.

It was too quiet between them, and Ginny was about to tell him one of her many hilarious stories about Auntie Muriel, when he touched her hand gently, and said, "Ginny…"

Harry swallowed and managed to look at her again. "Look… I don't know… We're going soon; it could be any time after the wedding, and we thought…"

Ginny knew what he was saying – she always did – and for a moment she felt as though the anger would drown her. "You're not going to say goodbye," she said flatly.

He seemed surprised for half a moment, but then shook his head in acceptance. "I thought it would easier."

"So you're just going to vanish in the middle of the night or something? Not a word – not a note, nothing?" Ginny paused, taking a breath, and trying not to sound upset. "You're right, it would be easier Harry. For you."

She didn't know why he had to hurt her like this. Ginny thought he cared about her – she was almost certain that was what he'd meant, and yet… She pushed off the ground suddenly, determined to put as much space as possible between them, so she could find a quiet space to cry over Harry Potter one more time.

Unfortunately, Harry was stronger, and taller and naturally quite a bit faster than she was, and caught up with her in a matter of seconds. Grasping her wrist he turned her around to face him, and Ginny swore to herself that she wouldn't cry. She would not cry in front of him; she had her pride, and she would not let Harry know that he could make her cry.

"Look," he said, "I'm sorry. I didn't think it'd be so hard."

There weren't any tears on her face, but her voice was full of them. "Why are you doing this?"

Harry looked amazed and she cut off his response, baffled that he could be so foolish as to even think such a thing. "I get it," she began. "You have things to do, I understand that. But if you think I'm just going to… wait around to hear if you're alive or dead, then you've got another thing coming Harry."

He stood back, and Ginny saw that look in his eyes again, and she went on, hoping to spur him to anger, or tears, or something. "And you're not going to write to me, are you? Any of you. And if I'm really lucky I'll find out from the Daily Prophet what you're doing."

At least Harry had the courage to nod; it was the only thing that kept her from storming off. Ginny always knew that he, Ron and Hermione had a 'special relationship' but this left her breathless.

Finally she managed to say in a wondering tone of voice, "I can't believe this – it's actually cruel Harry."

She had to stop to swallow a sob, "…but, fine. You do what you have to… And come back."

Ginny almost put a hand to his face, but she let it fall when she saw his expression. Harry didn't want her to touch him.

And then she walked away, amazed at her final words. How she could be so willing to put up with this was beyond her. She should hex him or kick him, or teach him in some lasting and painful way that Ginny Weasley was not to be taken for granted.

But even if she did, it wouldn't stop him from breaking her heart – and that was what it felt like. No matter how much she attempted to convince herself otherwise – that it was Hermione's betrayal of their friendship, or Ron's decision to exclude her yet again that was killing her – it was the rejection implicit in Harry's actions that made her curl up in her sheets at night and cry and pray. Ron and Hermione only made her angry; Harry made her weep.

Harry was calling her, but Ginny only stopped when she saw her father coming towards her. His face was sombre, and she stared at him, mentally running through a list of names.

"Ginny, love," he said, "you should come inside."

"What is it, Dad?" He looked at Harry, and Ginny felt something tighten in her stomach.

"Perhaps I should tell you on your own?"

Ginny licked her lips, and says, "No, it's all right. What's happened?" She locked her hands together to hide their trembling. Harry had come to stand just behind her, she felt his warmth.

"Ginny; there was an attack, in Manchester."

Her voice sounded distant as she said, "Oh God!"

"Your friend, Louise, she was injured."

"How badly? How badly Dad?"

Her father put a hand out as Ginny realised he wanted to hug her, but she couldn't understand, didn't want to face this. "How badly?"

He shook his head, and Ginny saw tears in his eyes. "She won't wake up Ginny."

Harry slipped an arm around her waist, and though his warmth was like an anchor, Ginny felt bound to say, "I'm not going to faint."

They convinced her to go inside, and she sat at the kitchen table while her Mum wept, and wrote a letter to Louise's mother, a Muggle. Eventually she couldn't stand Harry watching her, and all the noise was too much, and Ginny slowly walked up to her bedroom. Hermione was there, and she stared at Ginny as though expecting an explosion.

Ginny shrugged, and stared at a photo from her fourth year; she was holding the Quidditch Cup, and Louise had been slightly sloshed from Butterbeer. Louise, who wouldn't wake up.

Suddenly a great burst of tears spilt out of her, and Hermione's arms were wrapped around her, and Ginny was crying so hard she couldn't breathe. Hermione spoke soothing words, and stroked her hair, and hours later, Ginny lay in her bed, all worn out and thin feeling; and as she heard their voices from Ron's room she thought that this was what war meant.