More war stuff. This one was hard to write, which is why it took so long. And it definitely proves that this thing is done, since I struggled to get ideas. Was fun while it lasted, though, and thanks a lot to all reviewers.
46. What If? – Simple Plan – Simple Plan
I remember going back
To the place we used to lay
But I keep losing track
And now the days they all turn black
And our dreams all start to fade
She had a memory, of laying right here in the grass, talking. Jokes and laughter. Kisses and sighs. Because it hurt her, the remembering, Ginny squeezed her eyes shut and willed it away. No point remembering now, that time before, when she'd had, just for a short time, something she'd never thought she would. She'd had Harry. She looked out, now, across the lake, the cold stinging her fingers. Should've brought gloves, she thought absently, and curled her fingers into her palm in a futile effort to warm them. How odd it was, how childish and stupid and girlie it was, to be sat around feeling low because her boyfriend (who was no longer technically her boyfriend) wasn't around. Because she missed him. To feel low because, once upon a time, they'd laid in this very spot and talked of hope and dreams. The dreams, the hope, had faded now, for her. Harry wasn't here, and Hogwarts was suffering. Her brother (but she couldn't think of Ron, because she was so, so scared for him) and her friend (probably one of the only real friends she'd ever had) were off with him, practically chasing death.
She still had, of course, the constant fear and worry and strain. She carried it around with her, always, and was used to its presence. But here, in the place they used to lay, her focus was on Harry. They needed him. Here, at Hogwarts. Or out, in the rest of the country. They needed him to do something. And though she knew he was, in fact, doing something, it was hard to keep faith in him when everything was getting worse, and no one seemed to know what he was doing; and whatever it was, it didn't appear to be helping at all. It was hard to believe in him when things seemed to be getting darker, darker, all the time. Hogwarts was no longer Hogwarts; it was some twisted, sick version of their school.
There were whispers, whispers that angered her and, just a little, worried her, that Harry had abandoned them. Fled abroad, seeking safety. Left them to fight, to die. She didn't believe them. Exactly. But she doubted him, and she couldn't bring herself to feel guilty for it, not when she hadn't heard a word from him in all these months.
"He can't get in touch with us." Luna's voice, quiet and almost musical, didn't make Ginny jump. She'd heard the footsteps – it was just asking for trouble to sit around, alone, exposed, and not listen – recognised them. So she only shrugged.
"I know. It's too dangerous."
"You're annoyed with him anyway." Luna said, sitting beside her. "For not getting in touch. For not finding a way to let you know he's alive, and fighting."
"Yes." There was no need for lies with Luna, nor for shame. She wouldn't judge. Luna was possibly the only person Ginny could count on to listen, to try to understand, and not judge at all. Even now, she wasn't critical. So Ginny could say what was on her mind, and know Luna wouldn't condemn her for thinking it. "Maybe he's not fighting. Maybe he's gone. He could be anywhere, safe, hiding."
"You know he wouldn't. Ron and Hermione wouldn't."
"Why not? We're all depending on him, on them. If he's caught, he's dead. Why shouldn't he run? I would, in that position."
"No you wouldn't." Luna smiled, faintly amused. "You wouldn't run, and you wouldn't hide. You'd face them all, fight."
Ginny couldn't help the smile. "Yeah, I would. And mostly likely die doing it. But the whole world isn't depending on me to live and do something."
"You can't lose faith in them." Luna told her. "You have to believe they're doing what they have to, and what they're doing will help us win."
"It's just hard." Ginny murmured. "To believe in them, to keep fighting here, when things are getting worse. When no one's heard anything from Harry and the others. He trained us to fight. Me, you, Neville, all the others. He trained us to fight, and now he's not fighting. It's hard to keep believing in him when he's not fighting."
"He is. He's doing what he has to, to fight."
"We don't know what that it." Ginny said, and was horrified to hear her voice crack. "We don't know how long it'll take, how much more we're going to be hurt in the meantime. We don't know if – if Ron and Hermione will survive it, if he will. I believed we'd win, Luna. All along, I believed. But I don't know if I can anymore. I don't know if I've got it in me to keep fighting like this."
"You do." Luna said, and her voice was firm. "And you will. You're just having a bad moment, and you'll get over it."
Ginny only nodded, considered and rejected crying. It might release some of the strain, the pressure, she felt, but it would make her feel worse after. Crying always did.
"Come inside, now, Ginny." Luna said gently. "It's cold."
She let herself be pulled to her feet, let Luna lead her inside. Her frozen fingers tingled in response to the heat of the castle, and Ginny curled them, again, into her palm. She'd keep fighting. They all would. What else was there to do?
But there's no turning back
'Cause the world keeps turning
47. Franklin – Paramore – All We Know Is Falling
And when we get home, I know we won't be home at all
This place we live, it is not where we belong
And I miss who we were, in the town that we could call our own
Going back to get away, after everything has changed
It was stupid that she felt guilty. Ron had all but shoved her out of the house, after all, assuring her that he'd be OK, reminding her that she'd had so much time away from her parents, from her home. She knew Ginny had given him a little push to make him realise that, but she also knew he'd been genuine. Just as she'd know why there was pain in Mrs Weasley's eyes when she'd said Hermione's parents would want to spend time with her. And they did, of course they did. And she wanted to spend time with them. The day she'd brought them home, there'd been tears and hugs and immense relief. She'd hated having to leave them, knowing their emotions were in turmoil, knowing they'd spend the whole night thinking of all the times their daughter could've died, because she'd told them, honestly, everything that had happened, unwilling to lie to them. And she'd wanted, just for one night, to be in her old bed, in her old room, at home, feeling safe, knowing her parents were in the next room.
Instead, she'd gone back to the Burrow, because Ron would need her to talk to him – about anything, everything, to distract him - and Harry would need her to reassure him, and Ginny would need comfort in the middle of the night when she woke from a nightmare, and Mrs Weasley would need her to set the breakfast table in the morning, because Hermione was the only one who realised how much it hurt her to not set out a place for Fred, and Mr Weasley might need her to explain some muggle appliance that occupied his mind so he didn't dwell on recent events. The Burrow was crowded with people, people she cared about, and so she'd make sure she was there when they needed her.
But she'd been grateful to escape today, from the demands. Not that any of them put those demands on her – she put them on herself, and was aware of it. She also knew she was helping, and so felt guilty for abandoning them. But when she apparated in front of her house, she looked at it and felt only relief. She opened the front door to the familiar sounds and scents of home; and burst into tears.
She was home. God, God she was in the one place she'd missed more than any other in the last year, she was immersed in familiar, the comforting. She was home, but it was no longer hers. She no longer belonged here, with her parents, in the neat little room, with her childhood things. She wasn't the child she'd been; would never be that again. Everything had changed.
She knew where she'd find her parents. Her mother would be in the kitchen, the little TV set on for company, rearranging the cupboards. She never went very long without rearranging everything, a habit which used to drive Hermione mad. Her father would be in the living room, leafing through the paper. They'd be thrilled to see her, of course. But they'd never look at her quite the same way again. She wasn't their little girl anymore, their special little girl, as they'd termed her after discovering she was magic. She was battle-scarred, a war hero, with haunted eyes that they didn't quite know how to handle. She was suffering nightmares, a sporadic appetite, and the strain of trying to support those around her, while quietly dealing with what she'd been through herself.
So her parents would be concerned, and wary. Proud and distressed. So, so thankful she was home, and aware that she wouldn't stay.
She went up the stairs. If someone had heard her enter, they'd know it was her, and they'd leave her be. It was still her home, even though it wasn't. So, the tears mostly stopped now, she went into her old room, sat on her old bed. A proper bed. Not the camp bed she had in Ginny's room, or the one she'd had in the tent for all those months. Looked at her wardrobe. A real wardrobe, with clothes hung neatly in it, rather than packed into a bag, the way they were in Ginny's room, they way they'd been in a tent. The little TV that she'd hadn't watched in so long. The books that she'd had to live without. The teddies and toys that she had on display, that had meant so much to her in her childhood that she'd hadn't been able to bring herself to throw away.
She didn't belong here. It would never be home again, she thought. Too much had happened, away from this, that she couldn't call it hers anymore. So she'd spend her time at the Burrow, for as long as she was needed. She'd make sure her relationship with her parents was repaired. And, eventually, she'd make her own home, somewhere that was hers. She'd have her parents, the Weasleys, her boys. And a home, where she truly belonged.
Resolved, she stood, made her way back down the stairs. It was a goal, she mused. An important one. And knowing that she would, eventually, get there, would have to give her the strength to get through the now, no matter how hard it was.
She went into the living room, greeted her father, talked to him a little, falling into the old rhythm, then went into the kitchen, spent an hour helping her mother move things to their new place, knowing that in another month, they'd be moved again. And wondered when she'd feel properly alive again.
Could you remind me of a time when we were so alive?
Do you remember that? Do you remember that?
48. Now That We're Done – Metro Station -Metro Station
Now that we're done, I'm so sorry
Why did I lie, I'm so sorry
I know I hurt you, I know I hurt you
Now that we're done, I'm so sorry
"Ginny?" Michael shifted awkwardly, from one foot to the other, as she turned to look at him.
"Hi. You, um, you did good today." She scooped up a pile of books from the floor, began stacking them on shelves. Unnecessary, really. No one cared whether or not the Room of Requirement was tidy. But she had to do something.
"Thanks. Um, you're pretty good at this teaching stuff. A little impatient, but you know your stuff."
"Michael, what is it?"
"Whatever it is you're working your way up to saying. What it is?"
"Still read me like a book, huh?" He said. When she only shot him a look, he shrugged. "I just wanted to see how you're holding up. With Harry and Hermione and your brother out there -"
"My brother's at home, he's got -"
"Ginny. I know he's with Harry. The spattergroit thing's genius, though. But he's your brother, and...well, I bet it's hard."
"It is. It's war, it's supposed to be hard." She said, then shook her head. "Sorry. I'm tired."
"You look it." He told her. "I mean..."
"I know. I'm fine, Michael. All things considering. How're you?"
"Oh, I feel like hell." He said breezily, then sobered. "I know I hurt you, Ginny."
"We hurt each other." She said. "I'm not going to blame you for any of that."
"I'm still sorry. I'm sorry I hurt you, sorry you hurt me, sorry we let things end so badly." Sorry I lied, pretended I wasn't jealous, and pushed you away over nothing, he added silently
"It was ages ago. It doesn't matter now. There's more important things going on in the world." Much, much worse than having your heart bruised by the first boy who'd kissed you, the first boy who'd really cared for you, the first boy you'd really cared for. That old pain was so simple, the small, that she thought fleetingly she'd rather be back there, back in that moment where that was the only thing that had hurt her.
"I know. But, we, ah, we were friends, weren't we? Before, during?"
"Yes. At, at the time...you were the best friend I'd ever had." She shrugged, a little embarrassed, but he smiled, looked flattered.
"I just, I just wanted to say, Ginny, that...things are hard right now, and I...I'm here. I'm here if you need me." He shrugged again.
"Thank you." She murmured. "Same goes, Michael. I'm here for you, if you need me."
He nodded. "You think we're gonna win this thing?"
"Yes. We will. I really believe we will." She had to believe it, otherwise she had nothing to fight for, nothing to live for.
There was a spark in her eyes, the same spark that had attracted him to her in the first place. He smiled a little at the memories, and then wondered how she could believe so firmly, when all his own hope seemed to be dying, bit by bit.
And you believed, in so much hope
But I'm the one, that let you go
49. House of Wolves – My Chemical Romance – The Black Parade
You better run like the devil
'Cause they're never gonna leave you alone
You better hide up in the alley
'Cause they're never gonna find you a home
Dean had seen homeless people before. He'd seen them, pitied them, feared them a little. But never, never had he thought that one day, he'd join them. Not on the streets, begging, starving. But he was homeless, now.
Was it worse to know that he had a home, one that would welcome him back in an instant, and be unable to go back there? He missed it, so, so much, but he knew that if he went back, they could all be dead. So he had to stay away, hiding wherever he could, using the little money he'd had, and stealing when he had to. And he hated it. Every minute of it. He missed his family, his friends, missed home and Hogwarts. Missed feeling safe and being able to relax. Missed sleeping, properly, in a bed, instead of camping out and being ready to move at any sign of threat.
He sort of thought he was going to die. He hadn't, when he'd first set out. He'd figured he'd be on the run for a few weeks, maybe a couple of months. Then it'd all be over, and he could go home. Now, it was Christmas, it was cold and he was lonely and scared and sort of thinking he was going to die, because this whole war was dragging on longer than he'd thought, and things seemed to be getting worse, and if the Death Eaters didn't get him soon, the frigging cold just might.
Lost in self-pity (and he hated feeling self-pity, but he couldn't quite stop) Dean set up camp, in a carefully hidden spot. Then heard a noise.
It was a crack, like a twig underfoot. And then a rustle. And while he stood, completely still, completely silent, not even breathing while he strained to listen, he desperately tried to convince himself it was an animal. Becuase, God, he was tired, and sick of running, and he didn't know where to go next. He'd wanted to just camp here, get a few hours sleep, and forget everything.
Then he heard the murmur of voices, and his heart began to beat so fast that, between that and the sudden roaring in his ears, he could hear nothing. But he hurriedly packed up his things, trying to stay quiet and move fast. When he heard the voices again – louder, closer – he made a panicked sort of whimper, grabbed his things, and apparated, the only thought in his mind was Run.
And I said ashes to ashes
We all fall down
50. This Isn't Hollywood – Go: Audio – Made Up Stories
Every now and then
I'm haunted by the same things
What I could've done
And how I could'vet changed things
He still wondered. Even after all these years, he couldn't help but wonder. If he'd been there, would things have been different? If he'd been stood beside Fred, could he possibly have seen it coming and pushed him out of the way? Or if they'd chosen oppositely, so he'd been in that corridor instead, would he have been killed instead of his twin?
It haunted him, still, the idea that he could have done something, changed something. Some minor thing that could've edited the outcome. Didn't people say that one little event would lead to a bigger one? So maybe, just maybe, some other decision or action would have stopped Fred's life from ending that night.
And if it had, if by some miracle they'd both survived, would Fred be right beside him, now, possibly with his own children, and his own wife waiting at home? Would they be sharing sentences, thoughts, jokes, as they had done before?
He'd learned to live without all of that. And now, with all the time, he was used to just being one. To being George, rather than Fred and George. To complete a full sentence, rather than leaving it hanging for someone else to finish. But still, still he knew that the old rhythm had never left him. That if he were to meet his brother again, he could slip back into it, back into being a twin.
There was comfort in that.
George pushed at his hair – it was too long again, and he'd have to find time to hack at it soon – and watched his children race around the park. His son, though named for his twin, bore little resemblance, his skin the colour of milky coffee, his hair dark. But the eyes were George's, and if you looked close enough, there were faint evidence of freckles. There was comfort in that, too. His son was his own person, had his own features. But was tied, nonetheless, to George, and so to Fred.
Would Fred's son have looked at all like that? Would his daughter have looked anything like George's own Roxy, with her big dark eyes, and her serious mouth? George's nose was planted in the centre of her face, and sometimes those eyes lit with familiar humour, the mouth lost all seriousness, curling into his own smile. George's features, Fred's features.
He stood, forcing himself to stop thinking of it. To think of how amazing it was to see parts of himself in these children, his children, perfect in his eyes. And to think of the twist of pain it occasionally brought to remember that those characteristics were Fred's characteristics.
If all had been right, there would have been an energetic little boy running beside his own, with Fred's eyes and laugh and freckles, and a daughter with his Roxy with Fred's nose and smile.
It hadn't worked out like that, and George had long since come to terms with that. He knew that his mood was a product of the date; April 29th, with only a few days left before the anniversary of his brother's death.
"Fred, Rox, c'mon. Time to go." George called, and answered the familiar protests automatically, before Roxy tucked her hand in his, and Fred gave a dramatic sigh before joining them. They were his world. They'd steadied him when he'd thought he'd never be completely steady again. They gave him light in his darkest days. And they gave him a reason to be glad, so, so glad, that he'd survived. If his only reason for walking out of Hogwarts that day with his heart still beating was so that his children came to be, he could live with it. And he didn't, mostly, even feel guilty for it anymore. This was his life, and one he would never turn away from, no matter how much he'd lost.
Don't turn away