Watching him walk away was one of the most difficult things she had ever endured… Watching him walk away and not doing anything to stop him.
Some desperate part of her had hoped and prayed that he'd turn around and kiss her, tell her that it was just a joke… But that thought was quickly stifled as Harry disappeared into the mob of students surrounding her.
Slowly, Ginny turned and walked back up to the castle. Her mind screamed for her to stop walking, to turn back around, as if walking away underlined the whole thing, making it final, absolute.
Her legs, though, seemed to have a brain of their own. They kept moving. Back through the entrance hall, back up the marble staircase, through the deserted corridors, into the nearly empty common room, and up to her dormitory.
Thankful that none of the other fifth year Gryffindor girls were present to bombard her with questions (because there was no doubt that the entire school now knew about the separation), Ginny collapsed onto her bed.
She rolled over onto her side, catching sight of the photograph of the two of them – Harry and Ginny – that had been taken by Colin Creevy merely weeks before.
Harry had been sitting down, reading a letter, when Ginny had come over, circling her arms around his neck. In the photo, Harry was grinning up at her as she laughed and leaned down so that he could kiss her.
Ginny stared at the picture for another moment, and then slowly reached over and placed it facedown in the drawer of her bedside table.
It was then, quietly and without warning, the tears came. She made no move to wipe them away, simply letting them slide down her cheeks. She swallowed hard against the lump in her throat, but that only seemed to make it worse.
A sob escaped her, and that was all it took for her to break down completely. It wasn't fair, she thought, to have him inform her that she couldn't be with him any longer. There had been no warning, no sign, not even one little hint. Just this morning he had been telling her that he was lucky to have her.
With a hearty sniff, Ginny tried to distract herself from all thoughts about Harry. But doing this, she soon discovered, was like trying to ignore an elephant in a room. It just wasn't possible.
She wondered why this was so difficult for her. She'd had many boyfriends, been dumped more than once. But this was different… No matter how hard she tried, all thoughts led her back to Harry.
Holding back fresh tears, Ginny tried a new tactic. Thinking about the weeks she'd been with Harry, she allowed herself to remember some of the most memorable events, in the hopes that living in the past, at least for a little while, would distract her from reality and the cold, hard truth.
When he kissed her, the world stopped moving and shrank down to the two of them. She'd waited so long for this moment, and now that it was finally here, she felt the sudden urge to pinch herself, just to make sure it wasn't a dream.
He pulled away and was smiling down at her, motioning for them to leave the crowd of Gryffindors staring slack jawed at them. She followed. At that moment, she would have followed him anywhere.
Together, they walked down to the grounds. In a comfortable silence, they started around the lake. From the corner of her eye, Ginny could see Harry sneaking occasional glances at her. Suddenly shy, she bit her lip, a faint blush creeping up her cheeks.
Halfway around the lake, Harry stopped. Turning to her, he took her hands and opened his mouth to speak.
"I think you…" he stopped and swallowed, then tried again. "For a while now, I…" Again, the abrupt stop. Ginny hid a smile as she watched him struggle with finding the right words to say. "You and I-"
Ginny couldn't help it. She let out a small giggle, then tilted her head up to his, kissing him.
After a moment or two, she stepped back and whispered,
"I know. I know."
She couldn't fully grasp the concept that she'd never be with Harry again – she didn't want to believe it. But the fact remained as plain as day: There would be no more kisses, no more sharing of secrets and stories, no more Harry as she'd come to know him. She couldn't bear the thought of seeing Harry nearly every day, but not being able to say or do anything that might open up old wounds.
It really was over.
This was it.
And she hadn't even tried to stop it, hadn't gone against his logic, let alone that no proper good-bye had been given.
Numbly, she reached into her drawer and again took out the photo. Tracing her fingers around and around the square silver frame, she felt drained and exhausted.
Settling back on the bed, she clutched the photo to her and let memories take control.
"Okay… how old is a unicorn when it turns white?"
Ginny furrowed her brow, stumped.
"Twelve," she guessed wildly.
"Wrong. Seven," Harry corrected her gently.
"Twelve. Seven. Same difference," she said unconcernedly.
"It is not!" Harry laughed. "That's five years!"
"I know. Oh well."
Harry grinned across the table at her.
"I should've had /i you i help me study last year for my O.W.L.s, he said with a shake of his head. "Hermione was a mental case."
"Well that's Hermione for you," Ginny replied fondly.
He flipped through a stack of Ginny's notes as she watched him.
The tip of his tongue poked out like it always did when he was concentrating, something Ginny had found to be quite charming
There was a tiny crease between his eyebrows, a signal that he was deep in thought.
Suddenly, his head jerked up and his eyes narrowed. When he saw that Ginny was watching him, however, the tension visibly left him and he smiled. She saw with delight that though his face had grown slightly pink, he was still maintaining eye contact with her.
"What?" he asked. "You were staring at me."
"Yes… you're adorable when you're concentrating, you know," she responded matter-of-factly.
"So then I'm not adorable when I'm not concentrating?" he placed a hand over his heart in mock pain. "Ginny Weasley, I am hurt."
The next thing she knew, she was on the ground, twisting and writhing with giggles as Harry tickled her mercilessly.
She shrieked, partly from laughter and partly from the giddiness she felt at his touch. Several people in the common room glanced over at them, causing her to laugh even harder…
He was impossible. He was treating her like a child, and she hated him for it. She wasn't a child. Far from it. She'd handled much more than had been expected of her, proved that she was an adult.
But it all came down to the same thing. Voldemort.
She knew that he had made this decision for her own safety. He had done it because he cared. He didn't want her to be in danger, so he'd pushed her away, believing that she'd be safe.
What he failed to recognize, though, was that as far as he pushed her away, as much as he'd like her to be protected, she wasn't. As a Weasley, she already had a black mark against her, at least in Voldemort's eyes. It really wasn't a secret that Harry considered the Weasley's as his family, and that they'd accepted him as their own.
And then there was the added fact that she knew about the Horcruxes. It had taken him a while, but Harry had finally told Ginny everything.
Harry Potter's girlfriend or not, she was still in danger.
And Harry Potter's girlfriend or not, Ginny decided, blinking back tears, she was going to be there. No matter how much he or Ron or Hermione protested, she would be there. That was final.
It was only natural… since she was one of the few who knew Harry's secret, his private burden, she would help in any way she could. And even though she knew it would be hell pretending that nothing was wrong, she would do it, because she cared.
From across the room, she spotted his untidy jet black hair and made her way over to him.
"Hey you," she said, dropping her bag on the floor and giving him a swift peck on the cheek.
"Hi," he replied, not looking up at her, but instead continuing his work on an essay.
"Are you okay?" she asked, concerned at his behavior.
"Yes. I'm fine," Harry said, more to the parchment than to Ginny.
A few minutes of silence passed, in which Ginny scrutinized Harry, trying to understand why he was upset.
"What happened?" she asked finally.
"Harry James Potter." At this, he looked up. "I know that look. Something is bothering you. Now, if you would please tell me what it is, I might spare you the bat bogey hex."
"Look, Gin, I want you to be safe. Telling you what's on my mind right now will only put you in danger. I can't let that happen."
Instantly, Ginny sat up straight and glared at him.
"Don't you tell me what's safe and what isn't!" she snapped. "You hypocrite… you've single handedly pulled off more dangerous stunts than I bet even the Marauders could have pulled off!"
"Yeah…but I'm…" Harry trailed off, not meeting her eyes.
Ginny gave a harsh laugh.
"You're what, Harry? Stronger? Smarter? More experienced? As I recall, I was right there with you last year at the Ministry!"
Harry's face closed, and Ginny bit her lip, instantly ashamed. She knew she'd gone too far.
"Alright. You want to know what's bothering me?" he said in a flat, emotionless voice. "I'm the chosen one, Ginny. I have to kill him. Voldemort. But before I can even think of doing that, do you know what I have to do?
"I have to find the pieces of his soul. His Horcruxes. They're hidden. And I have to find them. And then I have to destroy them. And then? Then I have to kill him."
His hands were clenched and his face taut as she stared at him in horror.
"Harry…" she took his hands in her own. "Harry… I didn't know… I'm so sorry…"
He shook his head with a small smile, indicating his forgiveness.
"Are you terribly frightened?" she asked.
He paused, considering this.
"I'm worried…" he said haltingly, "about what will happen if I fail."
She could see the fear, the hopelessness on his face. He was scared. And this, more than anything, terrified her. Because something that Harry Potter was afraid of wasn't to be taken lightly.
Setting her jaw, she looked him in the eye.
"I'll be with you the whole way."
It was time to go home. Ginny boarded the Hogwarts Express, taking Hermione's invitation that she could sit with the trio if she wanted.
Staring out of the window the entire way home, she simply watched the flashing scenery go by, concentrating on nothing but the blur of colors.
At platform nine and three quarters, they were met by her parents. Her mum hugged each of them tightly, and Ginny noticed that the hug she received was much tighter than usual, and the look her mother gave her was one of sympathy.
Disgusted, she turned away quickly, not wanting anyone's pity.
In her haste, she bumped into Harry.
He caught her before she could fall, and she mumbled a quiet "Thank you." He merely nodded curtly in reply.
It was then that their eyes met for the first time since the break up. For a full ten seconds, they stared at each other.
Just before he was going to look away, she smiled at him. A slow, tremulous smile. Not because she was happy, but because she wanted him to know that she was still there, waiting for him.
She wouldn't try and get Harry back…no. She'd fight for him, lie for him, make sacrifices for him. And throughout it all, she'd be waiting for him.