Disclaimer: All characters and etc. belong to J. K. Rowling.
Notes: This is set just after Half-Blood Prince but before Deathly Hallows. Enjoy!
The gnome went soaring off into the distance, farther than she had ever thrown it before. Ginny closed her eyes, listening to the satisfying crack that followed. Maybe the impact had killed it. Probably not. Regardless, it was unlikely the pest would return.
Opening her eyes, she turned to find the next gnome only to see that they were all retreating into the hedge, not even bothering to utter one of the vulgar words the twins had taught them. Ginny filled in the silence for them.
Why, she wondered, why?
All summer, she had been asking herself that question. Oh, she knew why. He was so noble, so pure-hearted, that he couldn't risk going out with her, not even secretly. He couldn't even bother writing to her. It might attract You-Know-Who. And, as the daughter of one of the most blood traitor families of all time as well as sister to the best friend of- she couldn't even think the name- You-Know-Who certainly wouldn't be targeting her if he left her alone, right?
Stupid, she thought, pounding her fist into the fence post, not even feeling the pain. Stupid, stupid, stupid!
Why did she care? He was just another guy, another boyfriend come and gone. She had had so many. Why did this one matter?
Because, she thought bitterly, he was the only one who truly cared back.
Try as she might, Ginny couldn't imagine that he didn't like her- more than like her even. No, he had broken up because he cared for her. That was why it hurt so much. Because even though they both longed for each other, Harry was only doing this to protect her.
Ginny swore again, kicking the dirt. She had said the name, damn it! And with the name came so many emotions she'd much rather avoid, most pointedly the soft feel of his lips on her own that first time, and the warmth of his arms, the warmth of his heart… no, stupid, no!
She didn't want to remember. She wanted to hate him, to be able to curse his name. But, no matter how hard she tried, she knew that she would never be able to.
Ginny felt so lonely, marooned on an island of silent grief. In front of others, she hid behind the mask of her smile. She wasn't sure if she was fooling them or not. Her mum, maybe. Ron, probably not. He knew her- and Harry- too well to believe that she'd give up so easily. But, he hadn't had much time to confront her about it. They were all so busy preparing for the wedding and planning for the Order of the Phoenix. Not that she was a part of that either.
She, and only she, was always left out. She was the youngest, she was the only girl, rendering her helpless in her family's and friends' eyes. Mum had only sent her out here to keep her from eavesdropping on Bill and Lupin, who were obviously planning some ingenious way to kill You-Know-Who, which, by the way, wouldn't work. Ginny wasn't sure how she knew, but she did. Only Harry could defeat You-Know-Who. There was something he knew that the rest of them didn't, some weapon he had that would enable him to victory. And he would win, right?
He'd better, Ginny thought angrily, or I'll kill him for dying before we even had a chance to be together.
Harry simply had to win, or none of it would be worth it. Besides You… Ginny took a deep breath. Voldemort. Harry had taught her how to say the name, hadn't he? It was only a name, not a curse. Saying the Dark Lord's name wouldn't summon him to her side, or she'd be dead by now. It was simply a fear factor.
And there was all too much fear. Many people suspected things weren't quite right- even Muggles. So long as Voldemort roamed free, there'd always be fear.
There's nothing to fear but fear itself, Ginny thought. Harry believed it. So could she.
And if she thought his name one more time, Ginny swore she would go insane! He was making her a parrot in his beliefs. Maybe she did believe them. Maybe it was for him she did. But that didn't mean she had to internally proclaim every second of the day!
The gnomes were dealt with, but Ginny was anything but ready to go inside. Mum was always warning her how dangerous it was to stray far, but it wasn't as if Voldemort would be just outside the boundaries or anything. He had better ways to waste time than murder teenage girls tired of being cooped up like animals.
Watch him find me, Ginny thought, recalling her luck the past few months. After she had drunk Felix Felicis potion, her luck had all gone downhill. Well, she continued, at least Harry would have the satisfaction of being proved right.
At first, Ginny strolled upon the familiar terrace, kicking dust up from the road or a small stone occasionally. The dust lingered long after she had passed by; it also succeeded in raising water in her eyes. As if she hadn't done enough crying already. Typically, she stubbed her toe on the stone, though she didn't feel the sharp throb through the bruised shield of pain that surrounded her heart.
She wandered into a nearby forest absent-mindedly. It wasn't until she looked up from the path that she realized she had penetrated it so deeply. She had a strong urge to curse for what seemed the millionth time that day but refrained herself. No, she wasn't lost- she had a pretty good sense of direction. It was simply, Ginny realized as she looked up at the setting sun, late. Undoubtedly Mum would be worried about her. Ginny would probably be grounded the minute Mum caught sight of her. Great incentive to return home.
Sighing, she turned away. Her eyes floated to the ground once more. Staring, she studied her shadow. Long. Fearless. Black. Dark with a wounded soul.
The wind howled around her. Ginny tore her eyes away to glance once more at the sky. Grey clouds were closing in. Had been, she noted, for a while. She hadn't noticed the change in temperature as the breeze turned cool, hadn't felt the silver raindrops hitting her bare arms.
It wasn't supposed to storm during summer. But, then again, maybe that was her life. One big storm. The clouds had been gathering for a long time, and she had sensed their presence, but never dared to face them. And now it was breaking.
Or maybe she was just paranoid.
Ginny started to take a step but paused. Not knowing why, she slowly turned her head around, looking behind her. It was foolish; of course there was no one but her. Yes, maybe she was getting paranoid in her old age…
"Looking for someone?" a voice rang out.
Startled, Ginny whirled around, hand on her wand. Standing in front of her was a woman, maybe in her mid-twenties. Her skin, pale, shimmered slightly, though it was probably just the rain. Raven hair hung down from her shoulders, and she wasn't smiling. All in all, she was rather plain, plain and defenseless. Still, Ginny didn't loosen her grip on her wand.
"What's it to you?" Ginny replied brusquely.
The woman nodded her head to her side. "Not much, like to say. Suppose I shouldn't say that, should I?"
Ginny raised her eyebrows. Uneasily, she said, "I'm not sure I understand you…"
The woman shrugged. "Enough talk. Come, follow."
She gestured deeper into the woods.
"I really don't think…" Ginny began.
"Didn't say thinking was required," the woman interrupted loudly. "Now, hurry! Before the storm breaks!"
She started away once more. Ginny watched her scurry away. All logic- in the voice of Mum, of course- told her to run away. Still, she hesitated.
The woman, seemingly sensing her reluctance, turned to face her once more. "Please! Must come! Secrets to be told, prophecies to be fulfilled, wrongs to be righted, amends to be made!"
Ginny was skeptical. "I don't know you."
"Nor need you."
"Mum always told me not to talk to strangers," Ginny said pointedly.
"Mum's not always right. Worries too much. Can't see past the present. But there's more, so much more…"
Here, Ginny was thoroughly confused. She was certain the woman was a witch. She was also certain the witch wasn't quite in her right mind.
A crash of lightning rang through the forest, followed by a bellow of thunder. The sky erupted, pouring the sheets of tears it had withheld for so long.
"No," the woman murmured. "Not time yet." Looking back at Ginny, she pointed to a small enclave about fifty meters yonder. "Hide from the storm?" she suggested.
Ginny shrugged. She certainly didn't trust the woman, but she could handle her company while she waited for the storm to pass. It was better than marching home through this mess. Besides, she wasn't all too eager to be grounded for life. Without a word, Ginny followed the woman, who smiled like a child. Gesturing once more, she scampered ahead, Ginny at foot. Ginny didn't rush to the shelter; she was already as wet as she was going to be anyway.
As she stepped into the crevice, she found that it went much deeper than it appeared. Perhaps it was magic, or maybe it was simply formed that way. The woman hurried to the middle of the cave, where a boulder served as an uneven table that held some sort of tea kettle. Clearly, the woman had been living in here.
"Better?" the woman asked, sitting cross-legged in front of the table. Ginny nodded, feeling it was the right response. "Should be. Not being watched anymore."
"Watched?" Ginny questioned, sitting opposite the woman at the makeshift table. "What do you mean, watched?" With a small gasp, she asked worriedly, "Do you mean by…"
"Hush!" the woman shouted, waving her hands wildly in the air. "Cannot speak his name! Cannot speak his name, or he will come, and all will end!"
It was clear the woman knew who Ginny meant. "It's just a name," Ginny mumbled with a shrug.
"More than a name," the woman disagreed. "A curse. A harbinger."
"The name's not cursed," Ginny argued. "Just because he did some awful things doesn't mean the world will end if someone utters his name. He's just a man."
The woman shook her head. "Unworthy of man title."
"I hope you're not implying that You-Know-Who is a woman," Ginny replied with a hint of sarcasm.
"No joke. Ripped soul, no humanity… not a man."
Ginny shrugged. "At least he can die."
The woman sighed, looking down at the table at Ginny's untouched tea. "Drink."
With a slight eye-roll, Ginny reached for the cup and sipped. It wasn't bad, though it had an odd taste. At least it was warm.
"He cannot die but from one," the woman prattled, shaking slightly. Ginny wasn't sure if it was from the sharp wind or from fear.
"Harry," Ginny nodded. She set down her teacup. Harry…
Without warning, she knocked the cup to the ground with an angry swipe of her hand. The woman stared at her with alarmed eyes.
"I don't want to talk about him," Ginny mumbled. "Sorry."
The woman shook her head. "Must."
"Must?" Ginny questioned. "Why must I talk about him? There's nothing to tell anyway."
Again, the woman shook her head. "Everything." She stared directly into Ginny's eyes. Ginny felt the urge to look away but found the woman's eyes alluring.
"Boy who lived. Always admired him, even before he saved your life. Wanted to tell him, but didn't. Always pretended you didn't care."
"Stop," Ginny ordered, but the command came out as a weak whisper. For some reason, words were lost to her.
"Then, he saw the light. Shared the light. Didn't last long. Soon, darkness returned. He was gone. Will always be gone…"
"Stop it!" Ginny cried, tearing her eyes away. "I said I didn't want to talk about him! And how do you know?" She dared sneak a glance back at the woman, who was smiling weakly.
"Saw it," she answered. "He is gone, but he stays in your heart, tearing it apart."
"He didn't mean to hurt me," Ginny argued, wiping her eyes. Why did she sound so sullen? "He was only trying… only trying to protect me."
"Ah, but he didn't," the woman continued. "He clouded your life. Thinks his destiny too vital to be hindered by a girl."
"But… but, it is, isn't it?"
"Not if he fails," the woman said. "Not if it's all for nothing."
Ginny's thoughts exactly. Still, her heart pound in fury, and her instant reaction was to be angry- or was her mind telling her that the woman was right?
"It's not for nothing," Ginny stammered. "He'll win, and then he'll come back."
Slowly, the woman shook her head. "Neither can live while the other survives."
The words rebounded through Ginny's mind, seeming vaguely familiar, eerily true. Why had she heard that before?
"He left you for nothing," the woman said. "Tore your soul to try and mend another's. But now, the souls both lay on his hands."
"What are you talking about?" Ginny asked. At the same time, her mind churned, her thoughts unable to stray from Harry. And, like so often, the thoughts were of fury.
He had left her. Left her to go on a quest that was bound to fail. Wasn't that what the woman was saying?
The woman managed a smile. "You understand," she said softly.
"No," Ginny murmured. No, she didn't understand. Didn't know why a rage that had lasted a summer was gathering its full strength, ready to burst through her.
"You will," the woman replied slowly. "You will." She reached forward to grasp Ginny's hands. Ginny didn't resist. She didn't even feel the woman's skin on hers.
"Harry Potter has left this woman," she declared. "Left her to rot in the age of darkness that is to come because of him!" The woman let her gaze loose on Ginny once more. "Feel the rage. Feel it burn inside. Succumb to the urge of vengeance!"
It was impossible to look away. The woman's gaze enthralled Ginny, captured her, until it was all that matter; indeed, it was all that existed.
"Now, what have you to say?" the woman's voice hissed from somewhere beyond. "What is your wish?"
"Harry… he didn't…"
"Your wish!" the voice boomed.
The damn, strained to the top of its limits, finally burst in a splendid explosion. The feelings Ginny had concealed came soaring out, singing in freedom.
"I wish he was gone forever!" she heard her voice cry. "I wish he never existed at all!"
The already howling wind picked up, raging in spirals around the two women, roaring at a deafening amplitude. And, somewhere among this roar, Ginny heard a voice boom, "Done."
The story, however, continues! Please, review!