"Ginny, listen. I can't be involved with you anymore. We've got to stop seeing each other. We can't be together."
He said it because he knew it had to be said. It was as clear to him as anything ever had been. Her being with him put her in danger, yes, but there was even more to it than that. Harry had finally understood what providence had been trying to tell him his entire life. He wasn't meant to have something as wonderful as Ginny.
"It's for some stupid, noble reason, isn't it?" She wore a small, knowing smile when she said it, and Harry wished he could've told her yes. He wished he were the hero she saw when she looked at him like that. He wished he could kiss her again.
"It's been like…like something out of someone else's life, these last few weeks with you. But I can't…we can't…I've got things to do alone now." Now and for the rest of his life. It would be a difficult existence, but Harry was at peace with it. Dumbledore was gone, lying in the marble sarcophagus, and now it was Harry's responsibility alone to stop Voldemort. That's how it was supposed to have been all along. No Dumbledore, no Sirius, no parents to guide and help him.
Better to give her back than have her taken.
"Voldemort uses people his enemies are close to," Harry explained, watching how her hair played in the light breeze, like dancing sunlight. She was so beautiful. "He's already used you as bait once, and that was just because you're my best friend's sister. Think how much danger you'll be in if we keep this up. He'll know. He'll find out. He'll try and get to me through you."
"What if I don't care?" And there was his Ginny, all stubborn and fiery and gorgeous. Harry couldn't help but smile. He would miss her terribly.
"I care." He resisted tucking that lock of errant hair behind her ear. "How do you think I'd feel if this was your funeral, and it was my fault?"
She didn't want to hear it, but he knew that she had. She was accepting what he said far easier than he'd anticipated. She understood what he was trying to tell her. Ginny was great that way; she always understood him.
"I never really gave up on you," she said with a far away voice. She was looking over the lake, seeing years past. She reminded him of how she used to stammer in his presence, how shy she was, and how Hermione had advised her to let Harry see the real Ginny. The girl behind the hero-worship, the young witch beneath the crush. Hermione had known that the real Ginny would be a girl he couldn't resist.
"Smart girl, that Hermione." Too smart, and she knew him far too well. "I just wish I'd asked you sooner. We could've had ages…months…years maybe." The thought of dating Ginny for years, of kissing her and touching her - of being touched by her - it made his throat go dry.
"But you've been too busy saving the Wizarding world," Ginny said with a sad laugh. "Well, I can't say I'm surprised. I knew this would happen in the end. I knew you wouldn't be happy unless you were hunting Voldemort. Maybe that's why I like you so much."
So, she did understand. Ginny was the best. God, he wanted to kiss her. He wanted to grab her and kiss her and crush her to him. He wanted to shake her and make her fight him, convince him that he was wrong and that he needed her. He was thankful that she didn't. He never could leave her if she did. And he needed to leave. It was time.