Author's Note: This fic's a bit more angst-filled than I usually write, and it's my first fic where H/G are actually together as opposed to getting together. Hopefully I did it justice. Oh, and before someone points out to me I should've written the breakup scene too, I'm planning to do that in a separate fic. That being said, please review! I put that on every story I write and you'd be amazed how small the number of reviews is compared to the number of reads.
Disclaimer: Nope. Not JK Rowling. Don't own Harry Potter. Wish I did, though.
"What do you think we'd be doing right now? If it hadn't happened?"
Harry looked up from the book he held in front of him—he hadn't been reading it, Ginny knew, because his eyes had been glassy and unmoving as they stared down at the columns of text. Curled catlike on the sofa, with her head in his lap, she had watched him wordlessly as he pretended to read for the past half-hour. She took the opportunity to appraise him as he finally tore his gaze from the book and instead focused it on her.
His green eyes were tired and vaguely haunted; dark circles sagged beneath them. He tried to smile and appear relaxed whenever he faced her, for her own sake, she supposed, so she wouldn't worry over him. Yet despite his attempts, she could always see straight through his façade. For the most part, however, she pretended not to notice how miserable he really was. For his sake.
"What would we be doing right now?" Harry repeated. There was no need to address the bit about "If it hadn't happened," because they both knew perfectly well what Ginny was referring to. Lately the sole thing on anybody's mind, as well as the main topic of conversation around the castle, was the devastating matter of Dumbledore's death.
Still, he gave her the ghost of a wicked grin. "Oh, I can think of a few things," he said, his voice quietly teasing.
Ginny smiled up at him sadly. Voldemort—and Snape—had ruined what little time she and Harry had left together before they were forced to separate, her back to the Burrow, him to the Dursleys'. It wasn't difficult to imagine what life would be like now if that disastrous night had never occurred. With Ginny's examinations finished and no homework to curtail their time together, they would be absorbed in making every second count. Picnics by the lake, late-night forays with the Invisibility Cloak, games of chess and Exploding Snap by the common room fire . . . It was true, yes, that she, Harry, Ron, and Hermione were spending almost every waking moment in each other's company anyway, but it wasn't the same. Much of it was spent discussing Snape or the Order's next move or Dumbledore's funeral, and other thoroughly depressing subjects. Needless to say, none of them were in the mood to have fun. Such a thing seemed wrong, somehow. There was no room for fun in between all of the grieving.
"What are you thinking about?" Ginny went on, as Harry's eyes drifted back to the book.
"Nothing," he replied, a little too quickly. "Just reading. . . ."
Her smile widened as she shifted onto her back, so that she could look straight up into his face. "Oh, well, that makes sense, given that you haven't turned a page in, what's it been now—twenty minutes? Either you're an incredibly slow reader, or you have something on your mind."
Sighing heavily, Harry tossed his book into the armchair across from him. "You caught me. Are you happy now?"
"No, just smug. What is it, Harry? Please, you know you can tell me . . ." She covered his hand with one of hers.
With another sigh, Harry raked his free hand through his hair. "I dunno . . ."
He did know, he just didn't want to tell her. Squashing her initial impulse to drag it out of him (by employing the use of her wand, if necessary), Ginny instead turned her head to scan the common room at large. It hurt, those few occasions when he couldn't confide something in her. Normally she would've hounded him to get it off his chest and tell her. Now, however, she sensed that there was no benefit in that. She wasn't going to make his life more difficult than it already was right now.
In a minute she could feel gentle fingers combing through her long red hair, a pastime which Harry enjoyed. There was something grateful in his touch this time, as though he were silently thanking her for not pressing the issue. Ginny responded by reaching back and briefly catching his hand to kiss it, before she released it and he resumed his grooming of her.
She knew when to push him and when it was best for both of them if he was not bothered. Lately, the latter situations had become more common. It was presumable that most of his thought nowadays concerned matters of Voldemort, and no doubt those mysterious meetings he had had intermittently with Dumbledore throughout the year. There was a secret underlying it all, an immense and portentous one, which Ron and Hermione probably knew. She wished with all her heart that Harry would let her in on it, but he would have his reasons for not doing so, and—especially as he was distraught over the loss of his headmaster and mentor—she did not pester him. As much as she wanted to, she didn't.
Trying to distract herself from such annoyances, Ginny returned to eyeing the common room, taking note of who was there and who was missing, having been recently picked up by one parent or the other. Ron and Hermione were, most unusually, occupying a corner alone. They sat in individual armchairs, yet they had scooted the pieces of furniture so closely together that their elbows were touching. Hermione was talking quietly to Ron, her expression pale and grave. Ron nodded, then went off on one of his rants, gesticulating forcefully as he spoke. Whatever his words were they must have been humorous, for the taut lines around Hermione's mouth loosened as Ron surprised a laugh out of her. Ron grinned, looking most happy to have had such an effect. Then he sobered once more as Hermione continued.
"I think it's over, don't you?" Ginny murmured to Harry.
Abruptly, his fingers stopped their journey through her hair. "What?"
She motioned to Ron and Hermione. "The days of fighting, all the bickering. More or less, anyway. I'm sure they'll have their rows, and Ron'll never be able to totally resist talking back to Hermione, but it seems like they've grown past a lot of that, doesn't it?"
Looking wrong-footed, as if he'd never thought about things in quite that light, Harry glanced at his two friends, ensconced in their far corner and whispering together.
"Yeah," he said, awed. "I think you're right. They—they haven't argued once since . . ."
"Yes," said Ginny, again quite aware of what he meant, even though he hadn't said it. "We're all growing up," she added, sounding a little amused, a little sad.
Harry scowled. "Voldemort's making us. You can't stay a child for long with a maniac around . . ."
"Which explains why living with Percy for so long matured us very fast," Ginny said, and Harry actually smiled.
They lapsed into a peaceable silence. Harry went back to stroking her hair. Ginny turned her attention from Hermione and Ron and onto a window near the fireplace. The sky outside it was gray, uninviting, and hostile. Exactly like the prospect of the future.
"Looks like rain," she remarked calmly.
There was a pause, and then—
"The funeral's tomorrow," he muttered, and for some reason he took her shoulder and squeezed it tightly, almost possessively.
She grabbed his hand and squeezed it right back. "I know."
"But . . . it can't rain. At the funeral . . ."
Harry's voice shook very slightly. Some might have found that an odd comment, but Ginny understood. Harry wanted Dumbledore's final sendoff to be perfect, unspoiled. He wanted clear blue skies and a warm breeze under a shining summer sun. Not rain, thunder, and drear. Nothing could go wrong at the funeral, because too much had been going wrong lately. Everything in the world was wrong, but the funeral, Albus Dumbledore's last farewell, had to be faultless.
"It won't rain tomorrow, Harry," said Ginny, in a tone of complete confidence.
Harry frowned down at her. "Why do you say that?"
She tightened her grip on his hand. "Because it won't. I know it won't. Nothing is going to ruin Dumbledore's funeral."
He forced a weak smile. "What, are you channeling Professor Trelawney now?"
"Well, now you mention it, I do have a sudden craving for cooking sherry."
Harry laughed. "Want to go outside?" he asked, out of nowhere.
"What? Why?" She glanced outside again. A storm was imminent.
Harry shrugged. "Get away for a while, do something different."
The idea of getting soaked wasn't appealing, but Ginny couldn't refuse. He did need to get away from all the staring and pointing he was the recipient of, not to mention the constant, choking reminder of Dumbledore's demise, as it was endlessly being discussed around them.
She sat up and stretched. "Okay, but if I get struck by lightning, I'm blaming you."
"Fair enough." He stood and made for the portrait hole.
"Oy! Where're you going?" Ron demanded, sitting up straighter in his chair.
"Out on the grounds," Ginny supplied, following after Harry.
With a gesture toward the stormy window, Ron opened his mouth to protest—but Hermione touched his shoulder in a placating way, and, after a moment's hesitation, he merely nodded at Harry and resumed his conversation with Hermione.
Harry and Ginny made their way through the nearly empty halls, hand-in-hand. Gloom seemed to have seeped throughout the entire castle, and the premature darkness caused by the rain clouds didn't help. They passed portraits who were either sniffling into their frames or gathering in small groups, holding their own private service in memory of the Headmaster. Peeves swooped once overhead; they raised their wands in preparation to ward him off, but, uncharacteristically, he neither threw anything nor acknowledged them at all.
By the time they stepped outdoors, a light rain had started. The few students who had been lolling out on the grounds were running inside, bags or books over their heads to keep them dry. As though oblivious to the rain, Harry plodded across the grass, making straight for the beech tree on the nearest side of the lake. They settled themselves against its trunk; the tree's sprawling branches sheltered them from the worst of the storm. Not saying anything, Harry contemplated the steel-colored surface of the lake, which was constantly being dimpled by rain.
"I can't believe he's gone." Ginny's voice was soft. "Can you?"
"No. Not really. It hasn't really sunk in. Maybe it will tomorrow . . ." He paused, then went on, "There's nothing now. Nothing standing between Voldemort and me, I mean."
"No," Ginny agreed. "Nothing." She tried not to let her inner fear show.
"Ginny . . ." He swallowed hard. "I never told you . . . but—you should know. You know the prophecy in the Department of Mysteries last year? The one that shattered?"
"The one that said you had to kill Voldemort or be killed?"
Harry faltered, amazed. "You know—?"
"I'd guessed that's what it was about, but then I weaseled it out of Hermione after you told her. Maybe this sounds stupid, but it didn't come as a shock to me. It seems like I've always known . . . since my first year, maybe, when you defeated Tom."
"Oh," said Harry, feeling a rush of relief that he didn't have to drop such a weighty load on her. "I think that's one of the worst parts, though. Dumbledore always acted as a buffer between Voldemort and me, he was always there to save my skin, and now . . . I'm alone."
She gasped, indignant. "You're not alone, Harry! You have Ron and Hermione, you have my whole family, you have"—her voice dropped suddenly—"me. And we'll always be here to support you."
Harry wrapped one arm around her and crushed her to his chest, but his voice was rough with emotion. "Don't say that. No one can stand in front of me anymore and try to protect me. I know what I have to do."
"Harry, what do you expect us to do, lay back and watch as you—"
"Ginny!" said Harry, very loudly, wiping raindrops off his glasses. "Do you know what keeps going through my head? Do you? The thought that tomorrow could've been your funeral, that I could've let you die for me too!"
"If Voldemort killed me, I would come back and haunt him until he couldn't take it anymore and surrendered himself to you just to get it over with quickly."
Harry looked at her, his mouth in a tight, thin line, his eyes furious. "Don't ever say that."
Ginny swallowed hard. Here, apparently, was one thing she couldn't joke lightheartedly about. "All right, I'm sorry," she said meekly. "I was just trying to make you feel better. I'm not going to die, Harry—"
"Not if I have anything to say about it," he mumbled fiercely.
Not for the first time since Dumbledore's death, Ginny felt worry pinch her stomach. She wanted to be optimistic, but there was a nasty voice in her mind telling her this couldn't last much longer. . . .
"You'll defeat him, you know," she said suddenly, in the same tone of voice she'd used to assure him the weather wouldn't be dreary tomorrow.
He stared at her. "What?"
"You'll defeat him. Voldemort."
"How can you—" He shook his head. "Ginny, you don't know that, if I—"
"I do know that!" she snapped. "You don't need to be a crackpot Divination teacher to just know how things are going to be!"
"But I could . . ." Harry broke off. They both knew he'd been about to say "die."
There was a brief flash of light. Thunder growled overhead. The rain intensified. Now the tree's branches weren't enough to shelter them. Within a couple of minutes, they were both drenched.
"Don't be scared, Harry," Ginny said, water streaming down her earnest face. "I know you'll be okay."
Harry swallowed the hot lump in his throat. He knew Ginny was a lot more concerned than she was admitting, and that she had a lot less certainty about the future than she claimed, but just the fact that she was saying these things, reassuring him and showing faith in him, meant more than he could describe.
"You're my best source of comfort, you know that?" Harry said, smiling at her.
Her only response was to kiss him.
"Do you really think it'll be sunny tomorrow?" he asked after a while, watching sheets of rain sweep across the lake.
Ginny smiled and rested her head on his shoulder. "I'm sure of it."