Disclaimer: I don't own the Harry Potter world... If I owned Remus Lupin, I would definitely be doing something more interesting than writing some fanfiction. ;)
I waited patiently for Dumbledore to begin because I could tell that he had something to say but was building up to getting the words out. He brought a hand up to rub some of the frowning lines out of his forehead reminding me strongly of my father these last few years.
"Ginevra," he began with a tone suggesting him knowing I was not going to enjoy what he was going to say, "I understand that the relationship between yourself and Professor Lupin has perhaps become―
"Inappropriate?" I interrupted, knowing already where the conversation was going. It was hard not to fantasize about being with a man who was over twice your age and most importantly one of your teachers without being able to find justification for why none of that mattered. Dumbledore's expression had not changed as he waited for me to continue. "The wizarding world has been fighting the war against Voldemort for nearly thirty years.This has not only been a war against the evil in one man's heart, or even many men; this has been a war against terror, hate, discrimination and separation." Dumbledore gave me such a penetrating, contemplative stare that at that moment I understood we were truly equals. "What was the point of fighting, or where is the proof that the war has been won if in the end," I took a steadying breath before continuing, "if in the end good still doesn't triumph and something so unpredictable and uncontrollable as love is still regulated by guidelines?"
I could make out the deepening of lines on his forehead. Despite his intentions, I was getting through to him. He opened his mouth but I didn't want to lose this chance. "I am not a fool; I do not expect the world to suddenly become an easy place." I explained, wanting him to accept the fact that I did not expect my life to turn out like a fairytale for children. "I am not a child, though my age seems to count strongly against me. I couldn't be one after everything that has happened." How could I be? "Remus has already lived more than two of my lives. He has suffered through loss and punishment for circumstances that were never in his control and at the end of it all, somehow him and I have found each other at the same place in our lives. Found ourselves needing each other as much as we are needed." I struggled to keep a straight face, even if it meant ignoring the tears that fell. I'd never admitted to anyone how badly I needed Remus, not even to him. It was a hard thing to get out and I had to get Dumbledore to understand that there wouldn't have been any point in my coming back to life if it was going to be one without him again.
Dumbledore regarded me with kind but weary eyes as I wiped the salty drops off of my cheeks. "Have you ever been in love, Professor?" I asked quietly, deciding to go in a new direction.
I swore I heard the softest of sighs and for a moment I believed he wouldn't answer. "A long time ago, Ginevra, before even your parents were alive."
"Did you know what it felt like to have the world pressing against you?" I asked, unsure if he would catch just what I meant. He stared at me through his half-moon spectacles, contemplating for the longest time how he should answer.
"I did," he breathed out with a great weight. I could see his eyes flickering with memories long since passed and emotions that could still be brought suddenly to the surface. I knew then and there that I was coming out on top.
"What would you say to that self now, if given the chance? Would you tell him to accept fate and the impression of others as you would me, or would you tell him to fight?"
He considered my words with great care and was on the verge of answering before our quiet conversation was interrupted.
"Albus!" cried Tonks as she ran towards us. Her hands, front and face were covered in a glossy sheen of fresh blood that clearly wasn't hers. "I'm so sorry, I k-know you're busy but p-please," she begged, having great difficulty controlling the hysteria that was fighting to break loose. I'd never seen the normally bright and bubbly woman look so distraught. "Michael's leg isn't healing, the wound won't close! He's b-bleeding out and we've tried everything!" I knew at once who Michael was and felt my stomach churn as I recalled seeing the stump of his severed leg. "I didn't want to bother you but we can't... I-I-I―" she broke into sobs before she could finish.
Albus stood, placing a comforting hand on her arm. "Show me where he is, Nymphadora," her voice cracked so that her thanks came out without a sound. She turned and hurried to an adjoining room where I'd heard screams of pain minutes earlier.
Before following, Dumbledore turned back to me and said "Ginevra, please stay here and we can finish our conversation." With that he was gone and I was left alone. I closed my eyes and gave a silent prayer to Tonks and the Michael I had never met but who was clearly close to her heart.
I opened them again to look around the room, trying to find any familiar faces, either among the injured or healers, but I did not find any. I wondered where George was and how he was doing.
My body was stiff and begging to be stretched, as was my impatience at not being able to find anything out about my parents, my siblings, my friends or Remus. So when I stood, it was only with a small amount of guilt that I plotted my path out of the room.
I originally had every intention of listening to my Headmaster's request, but sometimes intentions don't always pan out the way you intended them to. I stood shakily on my still weak leg, pausing to reassure myself that Dumbledore was completely occupied for long enough to limp my sorry butt out of the makeshift infirmary without being seen. It was fortunate in an unfortunate way that many people were rushing around in as rough or worse shape than I was because nobody gave me a second glance as I exited.
I passed a floor length mirror with cracks running every which way through its reflective surface. My shattered image was a disaster, and not because of the mirror's misfortunes, but my own. My hair had fallen out of Narcissa's elaborate pins and hung limply about my shoulders. The makeup she'd painstakingly applied was smeared about my eyes from my tears and sweat. I had a great streak of blood running down the side of my face; though on closer inspection I saw that the wound it must have originated from had been healed. I wiped at my eyes with thumbs, attempting to at least not look like a bloodied tramp. It was the best I could do at the time being. My dress was sort of completely destroyed. Both of the sleeves had been torn some time during my life-or-death dodging. The open tear from the poisoned knife revealed the bottom of my bra, my ribs and most of my abdomen while Dumbledore's bandage hid the actual wound. The hit to my thigh had torn out a half of the skirt; whatever was left held on by a few crucial threads and was dragging behind me. I ripped it off so that it wouldn't catch on anything else, otherwise it would trail behind me collecting blood and filth. I'd really had enough of both. The midnight blue was sporting some dark patches of my nearly dried blood and I let out a sigh. And it had been such a gorgeous dress, the girl in me couldn't help being a little sad.
Before I turned away to continue my search for anyone familiar, I saw a very welcomed flash of hair charging towards me in the mirror. I flipped around just in time to be crushed in my brother's monstrous arms.
"Ron!" I cried as he picked me up off the ground and spun me for a moment. We were laughing, and crying, just happy to see each other again. Just happy to be alive. Finally he put me down, a little worse for wear and extremely dizzy. I gave him the once over, happy to see he wasn't too bloody or beat up, a little singed maybe, but all in one piece. I turned to see a beaming Harry and to my great surprise, a panic-stricken Hermione.
"Hermione?" I asked, having expected this confrontation since, well, since I'd been kidnapped.
"Ginny, I'm so sorry," she whispered. I could see her lips trembling as she held back her sobs. "It's all my fault, if I hadn't... if, if S-S-Stephen―
She was so choked up at just speaking his name that I knew I had to stop her before she lost it completely. I grabbed her by the arms and gave her a little shake to bring her back into focus.
"Hermione, what could you honestly have done? I trusted him just as much as you did. He was sweet, caring and charming. The boy who betrayed me betrayed you as well. He was a boy neither of us had ever met, and now he's gone and we're still here." I had to keep my voice firm so as not to become a blubbering mess like Hermione, because I was so close to doing it. I pulled her into a tight embrace so that we could comfort each other. "I will only forgive you if you will forgive me, because if you are in any way guilty, then I am equally so," she pulled back and gave me a watery smile and Ron tactfully took this moment to wrap his arms around her and we separated. I noticed for the first time that Hermione's dress, though in a tattered state similar to mine, was very familiar. She was the one standing beside me in the crowd! I felt giddy with all this knowledge, realizing how resigned to my fate I had been only hours earlier. The whole time I was surrounded by my friends and family.
Ron pulled her to him so that she could wipe her tears on his shirt. I gave him a mental thumbs up with my smile and beamed even brighter when he returned a mature expression without hint of a blush. I realized that I wasn't the only one who'd had to grow over the past few days.
I turned to Harry and was once again crushed by a strong pair of arms. I was so relieved to see him up and healthy, remembering the look of desperation in every inch of his worn out body. "You did it, Harry! You did it!" I exclaimed into his chest, practically hopping with pride.
"Couldn't have done it without you, you absolutely, out of your mind, mental witch! You're lucky my heart attack didn't finish me off after you went down!" Even thought he was flipping serious, we both burst out laughing, at the sheer joy of being able to.
We pulled away, still smiling. He raised a hand to lift some of my hair away from my forehead and exclaimed, "well where's your scar, huh? I was excited to finally be able to call someone else Scarhead!"I gave him a light hit to the arm. It was a good question though, how many other people in the world could claim surviving the Avada Kedavra curse? I suppose since I hadn't actually rebounded it like Harry had I didn't have any physical damage... I mean, to all intents and purposes it had worked. Tom's soul was ripped out of its body and he died. I guess there are different rules when you've got extra souls in you.
"Where are mum and dad and everyone else?" I asked, turning to Ron. I felt an overwhelming desire to see my entire family together.
"Dad's at the ministry right now with Bill, Charlie and Percy. Fudge is going out of his mind, doing whatever he thinks he can to keep his position. He's claiming that the raid on the Malfoy's home was long in the workings and completely initialized by him and 'his' Auror Office, Scrimgeour is absolutely furious and making sure to talk to the papers before Fudge can get them. They're also having a fun time keeping all the arrested Death Eater's in line and finding rooms to hold them until they're questioned and tried," he explained and out of all of that I only caught maybe the first sentence.
"Percy?" I cried, unable to believe it. The rift between him and my parents was an open wound in our family's heart and it wasn't one that would heal with time.
"When he heard that you'd been taken, he came over to the Order immediately, Gin. We were all so torn apart after losing you, the twins didn't even take the mickey out of him. Mum's been a right mess though, she's with George now. Since she can't mother you at the moment, she's taking it all out on him," he gave me a knowing smile and I felt a pain in my chest at how much grief my family must have endured these last few days.
"Dumbledore told me about his ear," I explained and we all shared a disturbed look.
"To be honest, I think Fred's the most upset," I imagined how my brother must have taken it, such a close call for his other half. "He says it won't be as fun anymore now that we can tell them apart." I let out a snort of laughter. Typical.
"Ginny," Ron began, suddenly losing his light and happy tone. "Ginny, what happened? I mean, we were so sure you'd...uh, we'd lost you...Dumbledore said something about Tom Riddle's soul, but he wasn't exactly clear and he told us all to leave you with him after you woke..." he trailed off. All eyes were glued to me. This is going to take some time...
"Ron," I said with an exhausted smile, "you have no idea. But you will, soon enough. It's definitely going to take some time to explain it all and I think I'm going to want to do it with all of you around so that I only have to go through it once."He reached over and gave my shoulder an affectionate squeeze and I knew he understood. Until then, I thought.
"Alright, sis. We're on our way to find Dumbledore, he asked the three of us to come see him once things started to quiet down, are you going to come with us?"
"I've just been with him actually," and I'm currently sneaking away from him, "You three go, I'm going to look for mum and the twins," I explained and we each exchanged one last hug, Hermione held on a second longer, much calmed but still apologetic. When Harry and I let go, Ron and Hermione were a few paces away.
"Ginny, promise me you're never going to scare me like that again. I don't know what all of us would do if we lost you," he added quietly.
"I promise you, Harry Potter: never again," we shared a smile between the two of us. I paused for a moment before asking the question that had been digging at my mind. "Harry, you haven't by any chance seen Professor Lupin, have you?" I wanted to sound nonchalant, but as Harry gave me a knowing smile I couldn't help blush. Harry didn't question me, like the amazing boy that he was, he simply answered.
"Last I saw, he was with Snape. Around the corner," he explained, pointing behind him to the right, "in a room on the left. It's not exactly a pretty sight, they've been bringing those on our side who didn't make it," he finished grimly and I nodded my head in understanding.
I pulled away and made to walk in the direction he'd pointed, but before I left I turned back. "Harry?"
He was ready for it, "Don't tell Ron?" I ran back to him and planted a chaste kiss on his cheek as he burst out laughing. I looked over but Ron and Hermione were busy holding onto each other for comfort. They looked over as I walked away and we all waved goodbye for the time being.
I turned the corner and my good spirits were ebbing away. I did not want to enter this room and see those that had lost their lives tonight, but I forced myself to as it would be an insult to their memory not to pay my respects.
There were about fifteen unfortunate souls who had not made it to see the end of Voldemort's reign. Most looked as if they were simply asleep, their faces and clothes had been washed and their wounds covered. I saw a pair of House Elves busy cleaning the stained floor around the bodies and wondered if they'd been asked or were they doing it of their own accord? I wonder if the Malfoy's had asked them?
"Professor Snape?" I said quietly once I spotted the man. He turned slowly away from the disturbing sight of bodies lined up on the floor and gave me a looking over.
"Miss Weasley," he greeted, nodding his head in further acknowledgment before turning back to the unsettling sight before us. I took a few uneven steps towards his side and we stood in momentary silence. I was so full of conflicting emotions of joy and loss that my body responded by becoming numb. The blank faces of Alastor Moody, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Hestia Jones and more whom I hadn't known or couldn't recognize, lay still on the floor in front of us. The blood in my veins was like ice. I had to look away from those faces I knew so well but looked so unfamiliar without their usual animation. All I wanted to do was silence the persisting thought in my head telling me that if I had done more, they might all have had a better chance to survive. I'd seen Kingsley just minutes before the end... I turned to Snape who I was surprised to find turned and looking back at me.
"As simple as it would be to shoulder the guilt of every fallen ally, it would consume you. They chose to fight until their very last breath, the same as you." I was too shaken to reply so I twitched my head as a sign that I accepted that he was right. Once again I was unperturbed by my mind being read because I caught an unusual expression in his eyes and realize that I had never before seen Severus Snape look... lost. What is he going to now that the war is over? I took a step towards him and did something I would have never thought I'd had the nerve to do: I hugged him.
"Thank you," I added, feeling his entire body go stiff in my arms. This was potentially my sixth or seventh one of the night and somehow I couldn't imagine when the last time he'd ever been given a hug. I wanted him to know I appreciated the sacrifices he must have made in being a spy for the Order. I didn't pull away immediately and he began to relax and eased his arms to my back, softly patting it in an awkward manner which I found very sincere and a bit sad, as if he'd never learned how to return an embrace. When I finally did pull back I swore there was a new glean to his eyes and a never-before-seen pink tinge to his unnaturally pale cheeks.
I opened my mouth to say something, though I didn't know what. "I―
"He's in the farthest room down the hall," he confided with the subtlest of smirks after regaining his stoic composure. No point in asking who he meant, his expression was enough. He had no misconception for why'd I'd entered this room in the first place. I beamed at him while he gave me a sceptical, one eyebrow raised, look. Before I turned to hurry out of the room, I decided to give him one more quick hug just because I knew it would fluster him and I would probably never in my life get the chance to do so again. I literally scurried out of the room before he could berate me.
I turned left to go down the long hallway, finding a ominous trail of blood leading where I wanted to be. It was as if something, or many things had been dragged across the marble floor. My stomach lurched as I continued down and found that the trail turned into the room I'd been directed to. I wasn't exactly pleased about that. Voices were coming from within and I jumped a foot in the air when a voice sounded out from behind me, "Excuse me, miss," I turned to see a young man of about twenty five dragging an inert, very dead body by the arm pits. I wordlessly moved aside while he shuffled passed me and I watched after him until the dead man's shoes disappeared into the room. I hadn't recognized either of them, but the now faded and disfigured mark on the dead one's left forearm gave me some warning as to what I would expect when I got in the room.
Like where I'd found Snape, the majority of the population inside were no longer living. Unlike where I'd found Snape, the room was a disorganized, gory mess. Bodies were left wherever there was space. None had been cleaned of blood or had their eyes closed. There were no mourners. This was where the fallen Death Eaters were being placed. I wondered briefly where the live ones were.
I had to keep my head raised for fear of catching one of the corpses staring at me with accusation from beyond the grave. I recognized many of the living who were mulling about, either identifying or reporting on each of the bodies. There were a great number of Ministry officials around who were not Order members or even Aurors who'd been in the final battle, though I wasn't surprised. Rufus Scrimgeour was standing in the farthest corner talking animatedly to a short, balding man who was taking down everything he said in a flurry of quill scratches. I remembered what my brother had said about Scrimgeour getting to the paper first. I recognized Scrimgeour's face and mane of strawberry-blond hair from the Daily Prophet, and knew that he was the head of the Auror Office, which is exactly why he was exceptionally furious with Fudges new proclamations. Dad reckoned that he was in line to become the next Minister for Magic if ever Fudge was made to step down. In light of certain events, I wondered if that was in the process of happening.
I had to move out of the way once more for the same man to exit the room. Perhaps he's off to fetch more bodies, I couldn't help myself from thinking as I tried to control the shuddering of my own body. There was a break in the crowd in front of me and I caught a glimpse of a still figure standing with his back to me across the room. My heart fluttered as I recognized the longish sandy brown hair and the self-conscious stance of the man I loved and sought.
I pushed through the opening of people, careful not to step on any of the dead, especially not with my unclad feet. When I got near him, I paused, despite every fibre of my being wanting to latch onto him and never let go. My eyes focused down to where I sensed his were as well. At his feet lay the body of Antonin Dolohov, the man Remus had killed. I wasn't sure if I should be interrupting his thoughts as it was my because of me he'd had to take a life. I stood silently behind him, wanting nothing more than to comfort him and be held in his arms; to be together.
As if sensing my presence, he turned around and we froze in a temporary tableau as his eyes caught mine.
"How did you―
"I could feel you behind me," he explained, giving me a tired, faint, but genuinely happy smile. I broke and took two great steps forward, burying my face in his chest as he wrapped both arms tightly around me, resting his chin on top of my head. I breathed in deeply, letting the shock of war slip into the background as I concentrated on nothing but the feel of me against his body.
"I'm sorry you had to kill him," I admitted, though not sorry he was dead.
"I didn't have to kill him," he replied and for a moment I was confused. "When I saw you there on the ground, saw that he was about to take you away from me again, I wanted to kill him. I'm am never going to regret saving your life, Ginevra Weasley. If you go, I go," somewhere in the back of my mind I heard myself saying the same thing to Tom.
"Remus," I whispered, feeling him listening, "what are we going to do now?" My conversation with Dumbledore came back to me.
He pulled back just enough so that he could look me in the eye. "We'll figure it out," he replied with a confident smile that finally reached up into his eyes. "We've got time," and then he leaned in, capturing my lips with his own. Everything else melted away. As I stood there in the arms of Remus Lupin, the only man I'd ever loved, I had nothing else to care about because it really dawned on me that he was right.
We had time.
Author's note: Holy bananas, that's it! That's the end. I'm not doing an epilogue, but sometime in the future I might consider a sequel or a prequel with Remus as the central character. I really hope that the ending wasn't anticlimactic in any way, it sort of gives you an idea of what's going to happen in the future. There was a lot of hugging in this chapter, I didn't know how to avoid that hahaha, of course everyone is going to want to hug! I really liked the idea of Ginny's sneak hug... I still giggle imagining Severus' expression as she runs away! I've always felt that he would have a soft spot for her because she would remind him of Lily. So, basically I just want to thank ALL of you who have been with me from the very start, this is definitely dedicated to you all. If it weren't for those people, this probably wouldn't have ever gotten to the end... none of my other stories have! But I have to thank Ginny and Remus too for just being such enjoyable characters, I just couldn't get enough of making their story, I wanted them to be together just as much as you did! I will be starting another Ginny/Remus story in the very near future, I think Fanfiction needs more of them! Anyways, I'm ranting now just because I'm so sad to be done this story (even though I'm going to start from chapter one and make it more full-bodied and just flesh out all the characters, I sort of did that, but I'm going to do it for SERIOUS now that it's done haha). I love you all, and would just absolutely be tickled pink if you could send some loving my way and review my wonderful baby, Against the Grain.
P.S. Just so I don't leave you hanging. Fudge is going to get canned, Michael is going to live, Ginny is going to get private tutoring from Dumbledore in recognition of all the hell she had to put up with (she will graduate the same year as Ron) and her and Remus will be together then. Um, OH YEAH! The Malfoy's are going to live happily ever after, Draco and Ginny are going to become friends much to Narcissa's delight. Lucius is going to spend a year in Azkaban but will get out on good behaviour because he's going to become an essential part in destroying the remains of Voldemort's influence. Bellatrix is going to rot in Azkaban with her husband and brother-in-law. Erm, that's about it for the immediate future. Can't give it all away in case I DO wrote a sequel haha. Hugs and kisses. xo.