Nineteen Years

Disclaimer: I do NOT own Harry Potter or any of its characters. That honor lies with JK Rowling.

A/N: Okay, so this is the first Harry Potter fan fiction I've written in about 5 years... so I apologize if it sucks and is very OOC!

A quick word about how my story will be set up: The chapters will vary a lot in length, POV, and emotion. Expect a little bit of everything: Romance, humor, angst, drama, and corny, feel-good stuff! The amount of time between each chapter will vary, but they are all told in chronological order and (for the most part) each will mark some sort of milestone in one or more characters' lives. (UPDATE: I've decided to put a date on each chapter, so you'll know when in the timeline the events take place).

MAY 6th, 1998. Four days since the Battle of Hogwarts.

Harry yawned deeply as he sat up in bed, rubbing his half-closed eyes. The bright orange walls of his best friend's bedroom came into focus as Harry returned his scratched glasses to his face. Though he had reminded them repeatedly that he had a house of his own, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had insisted that Harry stay with them at the Burrow, and he was immensely grateful for their generosity. In truth, the thought of staying alone in the dreary confines of Number 12 Grimmauld Place was far from appealing.

Harry's eyes scanned the room, lingering momentarily over his friend's softly snoring figure, and finally rested on the neatly folded clothes which rested on Ron's dresser. Mrs. Weasley had laid their dress robes out the night before. Reluctantly, Harry swung his legs over the edge of the tiny bed and stood slowly, feeling as though he hadn't slept at all. The last four days had left him exhausted both emotionally and physically; Harry had not had a moment's peace since leaving Hogwarts. Now, he would be forced to face the hardest part of all – the funerals of his friends who had lost their lives fighting for him.

A painful, twisting sensation invaded Harry's stomach as he began pulling the heavy robes over his head. The crushing guilt had not ceased and, in fact, seemed to magnify with each passing moment. It was unbearable to think of little Teddy Lupin, the tiny godson he'd never even met, parentless, alone, and not even a year old. It was even worse to look into the eyes of the Weasleys and see the pain they tried so hard to hide. They had taken Harry in, loved him like one of their own, and all he'd given in return was hardship and pain. Harry let himself fall back onto the bed and closed his eyes, fighting back his tears. "It's all because of me…" he whispered to himself.

"You're wrong, you know." Harry jumped up as the soft voice reached his ears.

Ginny stood in the doorway, still in her pajamas and shaking her head. How long had she been standing there? She opened her mouth, looking as though she wanted to say more, but then glanced down at her sleeping brother and thought better of it. With a quick gesture for Harry to follow, she disappeared from the doorway. He stood and followed after her, though not with much enthusiasm.

After scurrying silently down the hall, they came to a halt before a door Harry had only entered once before, nearly a year ago. But to him it felt more like a lifetime. He gave Ginny a questioning look. "Hermione's already down with Mum having breakfast," She explained as though she could read Harry's thoughts. He followed her into the tiny bedroom and took a seat beside her at the end of the bed, unsure of what was coming. Harry tried very hard not to remember what had happened the last time he had entered Ginny's bedroom. Still, he felt the blood rush to his cheeks and looked down, embarrassed.

Finally, she began. "Harry," she said softly but sternly. "This has to stop."

Harry lifted his eyes from the floor at stared at her, puzzled. "What are you talking --?"

She held up a small white hand and he stopped speaking. "Please, let me finish." Ginny smiled at him gently before returning to her stern tone. "You can't carry on like this any longer, Harry… We've seen you moping about these past few days and we're starting to worry." She paused and her eyes softened. "Don't think I don't know how you're feeling, because I do… I really do. Lots of people were hurt by the basilisk my first year at Hogwarts… and for the longest time, I blamed myself. But then I real—"

"But this is nothing like that, don't you see?!" Harry's cry cut her off. "People died because of me, Ginny… We can't just give them some mandrake root and make it all better – They're gone!" He held his face in his hands, breathing heavily and trying to erase the pain. After a few moments, he felt a light, soothing touch on his shoulder.

With a deep breath, Ginny began to speak yet again. "They knew what was at risk when they decided to fight… Lupin, Tonks, Fred…" her voice faltered slightly on her brother's name. "All of them…They loved you, Harry, and they knew that you were our last hope to save the wizarding world… they would have done anything to make sure it happened! You were prepared to sacrifice yourself to save us, weren't you? Can't you understand that they were prepared to make that sacrifice too?" She paused. "Who are you to come in and take all the credit for what they did?" She tried her best at a smile, but failed.

Without speaking, Harry finally turned to face her, his unshed tears sparkling in his eyes. He saw that hers had already begun to fall as he embraced her tightly. For a moment he thought about what she had said, about the sacrifice of his friends who had given their lives. A small part of him could not shake the feeling that he was responsible for their deaths, that if it were not for him, they would still be alive. And yet in the back of his mind, Ginny's words broke through it all, a voice of reason.

If it were not for those who had stood by him all those years, he would be dead, and Voldemort would still live. The entire wizarding world would be under his control and hundreds, maybe thousands more would be murdered, imprisoned, or even worse. Harry shuddered to think of all that Voldemort had been capable of. And yet somehow, against all odds, they had stopped him. The final battle was won by the courage, bravery, and sacrifice of not only Harry, but all of those who had fought beside him. His friends had not died because of him, but for him… him and the rest of the wizarding world. They had lived as heroes, died as heroes, and would be forever remembered as heroes, just as they would have wanted.

Ginny's words had comforted him, healed him…because he had known all along that they were true. He just needed to hear them from someone else. It was as though a huge weight had been lifted from him. The pain was still there, of course… perhaps it always would be. But this was a different pain, a pain of mourning… not of guilt.

Ginny pulled away from him, wiping her eyes, but smiling slightly. The look in Harry's eyes told her he had finally understood. "Better?" she asked softly.

"Loads." Harry replied, a smile finding its way onto his lips. He sighed softly, marveling at how a few minutes with Ginny had strengthened him so. "You're amazing, Ginny," He breathed. "I could kiss you!"

Her smile widened and a familiar glint returned to her eyes. "Then why don't you?" She whispered.

Harry shifted closer to her, returning the smile. "Good question," he replied…and then his lips were on hers.

The weeks and months ahead would not be easy, but Harry knew one thing that would keep him going - The threat of Voldemort no longer hung over their heads; he and Ginny could finally be together again.