Okay, so I started this in October last year and it's taken me this long to finish the damn thing. It was always supposed to be angsty because of the inspiration behind it but I think I kind ofa went a bit further down the angst route than is normal for me. Still, it was fun!
The aforementioned inspiration was the song 'Open at the Close' by Oliver Boyd and the Remembralls which I absolutely adore, however, I disagree with one of the lyrics 'Ginny, please don't you cry, know I'll always love you'… well, yeah, read on!
Thanks must go to shygryf and star54kar for the midway encouragement and to emmacmf and realmer06 for the beta work. Thank you ladies! :)
Let me know what you think!
For Whatever Comes Next
She supposed she should be grateful that she had gone numb, that she couldn't feel any of the pain that she knew must be waiting for her when she started to feel again. But she also supposed that the fact that she couldn't even imagine ever feeling anything again meant that something had broken inside her. She was supposed to be sad, happy, devastated, jubilant, terrified, something, anything… but she felt… nothing.
She didn't even feel tired. She hadn't even gone to bed. She had watched as Harry, Ron and Hermione had all traipsed up to the boys' dormitory. Hermione had hugged her beforehand, trying to get her to go to bed and get some sleep, but she had merely nodded when she knew she should and when Hermione had turned and followed Ron upstairs Ginny had looked fleetingly at Harry. She had noted that he seemed to have no idea what to do, whether to talk to her, say words they both needed saying or leave it until the morning. He took the easy way out and followed Ron and Hermione upstairs. If she'd had the capability to feel it, she would have been surprised.
But she hadn't felt anything for hours.
It had started when they were in the Great Hall. Her mother had refused to let her out of her sight and at some point her head had slumped against her mum's shoulder and she had felt an arm around her waist, supporting her and comforting her. She heard Luna exclaim something and knew people had responded to it but she didn't move. She saw out of her peripheral vision that Ron and Hermione were leaving the hall, apparently for no reason, but still she kept staring into space not looking at anything or anyone and just willing herself to keep it together.
Maybe that pressure on herself to not break down had inadvertently damaged her brain. Maybe her brain knew that the only way to stop her emotions spilling out of her was to switch off completely.
Minutes or maybe hours later, when Harry, Ron and Hermione returned from wherever they had been, her mum had told her to follow them to the common room and get some sleep even though it was eight o'clock in the morning. She had no idea how it was that time already, surely she hadn't just been sitting for four hours.
It was only now that she realised her Mum had told her to go and get some sleep from behind her and not next to her. She did not remember when she had moved. She tried to make herself think about how she had ended up leaning forward on the table with her head in her arms. She had no idea how Luna had ended up sitting in front of her, studying her with a kind look in her eyes.
'It'll go,' she said with a smile when she focused on her friend.
She frowned not really knowing how to talk properly anymore.
'When you're ready to let go, it'll disappear.'
Even if she wanted to question Luna longer she couldn't; she had risen from her chair and left the Hall before any questions formed in her mind.
So now she sat and stared out of the window. She thought she could feel something in her stomach, maybe it was hunger, maybe it wasn't, maybe she had lost the ability to recognise anything at all.
The sun was high in the sky and the people working in the grounds cast small shadows on the ground. She could see the holes in the grass from spells and giants and Acromantula and she could see dark stains on the bright green grass, the colours the biggest contrast she had ever seen. It was as if the grounds and nature around them were trying to fix things, replace the sadness with bright colours and sunlight but not quite succeeding. It was quiet, too quiet, but then again it had been too quiet since the first of September. All the vibrant life Hogwarts had seen previously had disappeared and had been replaced with tension and fear. No longer was there laughter in the corridors, shouts from tricks being played in the grounds, just silence and worry pouring from every stone in the castle.
Other shouts started up in the weeks that followed, those of despair and torture. Some had come from her for refusing to become what theywere. She remembered her defiance like it was a long dead version of herself, so much had happened since then. They had lost friends and family; she would never see one of her brothers again and yet now she couldn't bring herself to react to that thought. She had cried, hours ago she had knelt next to his body and felt the tears fall from her eyes onto his hand. She had been held as she trembled by Hermione and then news of more tragedy came, other people cut down by the evil and wicked, dying for a cause they believed in.
And then the whole world had shifted and the foundation of her faith and hope disappeared. Because she had believed in him, believed that he was the one who could defeat the evil, be the shining beacon of hope and light and end everything they had endured. He had been carried from the forest and their apparent saviour was lying dead in the arms of his first friend.
She had reacted, felt something break within her, because not only was he the person who she thought could bring light back to their world, he was the person who brought light to her world. When she dared herself to believe that life would be restored to how it was supposed to be she thought of him and her and their life together. She remembered being happy for a few seconds before misery and dread snuffed out the flames of optimism and that same misery and dread had flooded her when she had seen his lifeless body. She had screamed, struggled against Neville who had held her back. The shouting stopped, she could feel the charm around her throat stopping her from vocalising her pain and his words filled her mind with images of Harry running away, saving himself…
The charm had broken and with it the vision of his lies. Neville's arms around her let go and she watched her friend run forward and be tortured.
The next thing she remembered was the flash of a blade and then a battle she knew she could not win. She had thrown her curses and hexes and they had been dodged and sent back at her with a higher strength. And then her mother had ended the life of her would-be killer. Just like that.
She hadn't heard the footsteps of Hermione as she walked over to her. She didn't know how long had passed since she had last seen her, she guessed a while as the shadows of the workers in the ground had elongated and shifted to the side.
'You need to get some sleep,' Hermione said to her. She didn't jump at the words, just continued to stare.
'Gin I… I know it hurts but it will get better. I'm not going to stand here and tell you it'll all be gone in a month, or two or three, but eventually something will change and one day it will start to hurt less.'
Ginny turned her head to her friend. 'For it to stop hurting, it has to start. I'm broken, Hermione. I can't feel anything. I'm not hurting, I'm not happy, I'm not grieving, I'm just here… trying to think of things that I know I should react to, but I'm not.'
Her voice had remained monotone throughout the first words she had said in hours. She didn't raise her voice, just said those words as if she had learnt them for an exam.
She watched as Hermione brought her hand to her face. 'Promise me, when it starts to hurt, you'll come and find me, or Ron. Please, Gin. Promise me that.'
Gin stared and felt sorry for her friend. She would be waiting a long time for that to happen. To placate her she nodded her head. Hermione leant forward and kissed her on the forehead.
'He did it because he loves you.'
Ginny blinked and turned her head sharply to look at Hermione, but she turned away as she stood and walked back to the stairs and up to the dormitories.
'But if you love someone, you say goodbye,'
That was what haunted her amongst other things. If he had managed to achieve what he set out to do then her last interaction with him would have been… insignificant.
She supposed insignificant was better than angry, which, if they hadn't needed the Room of Requirement for something then it would have been. She had felt almost betrayed as he sided with her parents and shook his head to her pleading looks. That betrayal was hard to take. Oh, she knew there would be some noble reason behind it: he would have wanted her safe and well. While the rest of her family and friends were putting their lives on the line for the greater good, she was to sit and wait patiently until one side was victorious.
She had no idea how she had ended up in her bed in the sixth year girls' dormitory, but that was apparently where she was. She had opened her eyes and stared at the hangings above her. She saw something in her peripheral vision and turned her head to look at Hermione.
Hermione raised her head and smiled at her.
'How are you feeling?'
Ginny managed something that could be called a shrug. Hermione nodded.
'Do you… do you remember how you got up here? Hermione asked quietly.
Ginny thought. All she remembered was staring out into the grounds and then waking up here.
'No,' she replied simply.
'Oh… right.' Hermione shifted in her seat and looked uncomfortable.
'Should I?' she asked rolling onto her side. To her shock she could feel something in the pit of her stomach. It was an uncomfortable feeling. She tried to ignore it.
Hermione looked at her carefully, Ginny though she looked as though she was wondering whether it was best to tell Ginny her information.
'You fell asleep against the window. You started screaming while you were dreaming. I wasn't asleep and I heard your voice carry up the stairs. I came down and you were crying and sobbing and starting to try and fight whatever was tormenting you. There was no one else around and I managed to stop you falling off the windowsill and hurting yourself but you were still fighting. Ron followed me downstairs; I must have woken him up, he told me you used to sleepwalk and not to wake you. Eventually you stopped and Ron carried you up here. We don't know how he did; the charm must have broken at some point during… anyway. You've been peaceful ever since. How you didn't wake yourself up I don't know.'
Ginny nodded as if Hermione had just informed her of an interesting fact for school.
'Do you remember what you were dreaming about?'
Ginny shook her head. 'No. I remember being downstairs and then waking up here.'
'You don't remember anything since you fell asleep?' Hermione asked, her voice rising in volume slightly as she finished.
Ginny shrugged. She watched as Hermione rested back into the comfy chair she had either conjured or found somewhere. She looked at Ginny and Ginny met her gaze daring her to comment on her behaviour which she knew was not normal. At this minute in time she didn't care if she wasn't behaving as she should all she could concentrate on was the tight knot of… somethingthat was growing inside her stomach. She saw Hermione's mouth twitch a couple of times.
'What?' she asked. Hermione sighed and looked at somewhere other than Ginny. 'You want to say something. Say it, it won't bother me, apparently I am numb to anything at the minute.'
Hermione frowned. 'What do you mean?'
'I've told you this already; Hermione, I'm just… numb. I remember feeling… torn apartearlier, but since then I just... nothing… my brother is lying dead downstairs and I'm not even feeling anything thinking about it or saying those words.'
Hermione took a deep breath and brought her knees up to her chest. She wrapped her arms around her legs and rested her chin on her knees.
'When er… when we were… far away from here both mentally and physically, there was a time… couple of months when Ron wasn't with us. We got… separated and I felt something break inside me when I realised he was lost. I couldn't stop hurting or crying or thinking about him and I didn't care that there was this impossible mission we had to complete, I just wanted to curl up and let everything take over me and just… maybe I wanted it all to end, maybe I thought I should just disapparate and leave the monumental task to Harry. Part of me was screaming that it was his mess to sort, I could just leave and it would be over.'
The knot pulled tighter in Ginny's stomach at the mention of Harry's name. She ignored it.
'Why didn't you?'
'Because I couldn't push past the darkness and all the thoughts that were crashing over me to actually do anything. I just sat and cried. I managed to eat, Harry made sure of that.' On hearing his name again her stomach squirmed once more. 'And when I was all cried out I just read because that was what I did. Hermione Granger reads; it's a well-known fact and it's the only fact I could focus on. The rest of my life was just a jumble of questions without answers and I had nothing else to focus on. So I read.'
'Where you had too much emotion, I have none.'
'You will have. It'll overwhelm you and you won't know what to do, but when it does, you'll realise you're not broken, just grieving. We all have our own ways of doing it and none of them are wrong… just different.'
She stood up and stroked Ginny's fringe out of her eyes.
'I said this earlier but I'll say it again, when you want to shut off and let it all overwhelm you, shout. Loudly. Make sure either me, Ron or Harry are around to hear you, okay?'
Yet again her stomach squirmed. Her reply caught in her throat so she nodded instead.
'Promise me, Gin,' she stated simply.
'I promise,' Ginny whispered in reply.
Hermione turned and left the room. Ginny's eyes followed her and she stared at the door until she had to blink.
She closed her eyes, not really knowing if she was tired, or what would happen if she fell asleep.
When she awoke some time later, she was screaming. She sat up in her bed and sobbed through the pain that was consuming her. She was hot and struggled against the quilt. She heard heavy footsteps and the door opening.
She recognised the voice but didn't think about who it was. Hands were on hers, trying to control her thrashing but she fought against them. She felt her hand make contact with something and she heard another shout. The grip on her arms disappeared and she heard more footsteps, all the while she kept on sobbing and trying to move away from the pain inside her. She knew that if she could just move awaythen it would all be better.
More footsteps, another voice she recognised shouting her name and then stronger hands and arms around her, picking her up and moving her off the bed. They stood her up and held her tightly. She tried to fight again but it was no use. Her arms were pinned between whoever was holding her and instantly, it was as if the fight just drained from her.
Her sobs still wracked through her and still she stood, supported by whoever was holding her, she had yet to work out who that was.
As her breathing slowed she felt herself being moved onto the bed she had just escaped from. Something in her brain told her to protest or try and stop them taking her back there but she found she didn't have the strength to resist.
Whoever had been holding her sat themselves on one side of her, keeping tight hold of her hands and someone else – lighter, she guessed, by the dip in the mattress – sat on her other side. The hands were smaller on her arms but their grip just as firm.
The pain that consumed her started to burn in the back of her throat and she tried, once more, to move away from it. She pulled against their grip and coughed as bile filled her throat. She threw herself forwards and coughed the vile stuff on to the floor. Quickly the hands holding her arms moved and pulled her hair away from her face and pushed a waste bin in front of her. She grabbed it with both hands and wretched hard, ridding her body of what little contents her stomach held.
She wretched once more hoping that it would purge the all consuming pain from her body but it didn't work; it only made her stomach ache and the back of her throat sting.
She sat up and for a few seconds her sobs were less. She didn't flinch when a wand was pointed in her face. Before she realised she should react to a wand being pointed directly at her a stream of cool air was being directed at her face and her mouth and nose were clean from what she had just forced out of herself. The cleaning charm subsided but the cool air was constant. For a second or two it distracted her but then tears burned her eyes and a noise that sounded like it was coming from a wounded animal assaulted her ears. The realisation that it was coming from her made her catch her breath and she started sobbing.
She felt herself being gathered into someone's arms and she wrapped her arms around them and grabbed fistfuls of material and hair. She didn't know who she was clinging on to but she knew the voice echoing around her.
'I'll go'n get Mum,' she heard Ron say before another sob escaped her.
By process of elimination she worked out that it was Hermione who was holding her and Ron who had been on her other side.
It crossed her mind that she didn't dothis. Ginny Weasley didn't behave like this. Ginny Weasley felt tears burn her eyes and wiped them away quickly before they fell. Ginny Weasley clenched her jaw and swallowed hard against pain and frustration and anger, then she would fly or punch her pillow to get rid of it all. But maybe… maybe she was feeling too much for her brain to cope with. Maybe earlier something truly had broken inside her – she had gone from numb to excruciating pain, surely it wasn't supposed to be like this? Maybe something broke when she saw him…
'Breathe, Gin, try and calm down for me, yeah?'
She felt Hermione's hands stroking her hair and on her back. She tried to do as she asked, she really did but her breaths were short as her sobs made her spasm out of her control.
'Come on, Gin, calm down.'
Frustration bubbled inside her; did Hermione think she wasn't trying to stop? Unfortunately she couldn't vent her frustration with words, and all she could manage was a strangled cough.
A minute later there were footsteps and then a cry she knew well.
'Oh, my baby girl.'
Hermione's grip around her lessened and then her mother's hands were manoeuvring her into a position she had been in many times. She couldn't remember the last time she had been draped across her mother's lap and cuddling into her, but a tiny part of her relaxed at the familiarity of it. She clung onto her mum's clothes and buried her face into her shoulder. After a minute she heard her mum humming something, another minute later she realised what the tune was.
It was like she had drank a calming draught and she could feel her sobs becoming less frequent and less violent.
'I'll go,' she heard Hermione whisper from behind her.
'Stay,' her mum said with only the briefest of breaks in the tune.
She didn't remember falling sleep and she didn't remember being moved back into her bed.
The first thing she saw was Hermione sitting in a comfy chair next to her bed, her nose in a book she recognised. Before she realised what she was doing, she smiled.
Hermione noticed she was awake and put the book on the floor.
'Hi,' she said quietly. 'How… how are you feeling?'
Ginny's brow furrowed as she contemplated the question. The pain was still there, sitting in her stomach, but it was a dull ache, and she knew it would be there for a long time to come. She took a deep breath and it caught a couple of times in her throat - she wasn't surprised that earlier events had left a side effect. But her head felt… clear. It was like she knew who she was again, knew how to deal with… stuff…
She expected images of bodies and destruction to fill her brain and overwhelm her once more, but they didn't.
She sat up and crossed her legs under the quilt.
'Um… not… bad.'
Hermione's look of concern softened and she managed a half smile.
'Do you remember-?'
'Yes, I remember and I-… who did I-?' She looked at Hermione and saw that her nose was slightly pinker than normal and there were still a couple of drips of blood on her collar. 'Oh… I'm sorry, Hermione, I didn't mean-'
'Don't apologise, there's no need. My shirt will clean and my nose was fixed in a second.'
Ginny winced knowing all too well the pain that came with a broken nose. 'Still, I'm sorry.'
Hermione nodded. 'Do you want a drink? Something to eat? You haven't eaten in a day so…'
She smiled at the amount of time she had been… not herself. 'Suppose I better have a drink, but I can get it.'
Before she had finished speaking Hermione had picked up a large jug of Pumpkin Juice off the floor and was pouring a glass for Ginny. She handed it to her with a smile.
'The House Elves are surpassing themselves, there's not a room left in the castle without a constant supply of food and drink.'
Ginny drank the liquid and while the chill caught her by surprise it was soothing on her throat. She hadn't realised it was sore until then and she was thankful of the relief.
'How long have I been asleep this time? Did I need that?' She nodded towards the bottle of Dreamless Sleep potion stood on the small bedside table.
Hermione looked at it and shook her head. 'No, you fell asleep on your own and didn't wake up even when we had to disentangle you from Molly. You've been asleep for about six hours or so. It's just past ten.'
Ginny nodded and stared at the glass in her hand. 'You haven't been up here on your own all this time, have you?'
Hermione shook her head. 'No, we took it in turns, Molly, Ron, me… and Harry.'
The dull ache in her stomach pounded harder at his name and her breath hitched.
She could feel Hermione's eyes on her but she ignored them and took another gulp of her juice. She took too much and it hurt as it went down her throat.
'You should talk to him. You haven't since-'
'I can't. Not yet. I just…'
'But Ginny, you've got so much to-'
'I can't, Hermione. I know I have, but I just… just give me tonight on my own, yeah? I just…'
'It's because of what he did, isn't it?' Hermione asked.
Ginny ignored the question, distracted by the tears threatening to spill from her eyes.
'Yes!' she replied curtly, 'it is! I know what he did and I know why he did it and I know I need to talk to him, but just give me more time, please.'
Hermione seemed to swallow her response and eventually nodded her head. 'I'm going to go and say goodnight to Ron, then I'll be back and come to bed. Do you want me to get anyone? Your mum? Your dad?'
'Where are they?'
'They're in the staff quarters, decided to get a couple of hours sleep but they told me to wake them if you wanted them.'
Ginny shook her head. 'Don't disturb them, they need their sleep, too. I'll just, finish this and wait for you to come back. Is anyone else sleeping in here tonight?'
'No, just you and me,' she turned and looked concerned. 'Unless you want to sleep somewhere else of course, or have someone else here. I'm sure if I asked-'
'No! It's fine, really. I'm fine here.'
Hermione nodded and walked towards the door. 'I'll be back soon.' Ginny nodded and smiled as she left the room. She slumped back onto her bed and sighed deeply.
Slowly she let herself think about Harry. At first just picturing how she had seen him in the Room of Requirement. His hair was long, his face unshaven and he looked terrible, but his eyes had told her for a split second that he was happy to see her.
And then she remembered the argument with her family, and how, when she needed him and expected him to stand up for her he had simply looked away.
She was shocked to feel the same anger she had then build up inside her, for a second eclipsing the dull ache that she was used to.
In hindsight it was obvious what he was going to do, he broke up with her to protect her after all, but still, Neville must have told them what had been going on throughout the year and how she had fought and fought and was still standing despite her punishments. Was that not proof enough that she was a strong fighter and that he could trust her to fight alongside him?
She heard the door open and managed to drag herself from her thoughts and watch as Hermione smiled and quickly went to the bathroom. A minute later she came out and climbed into one of the beds opposite Ginny.
'Do you want to talk or…' Hermione asked. Ginny met her gaze and shook her head.
'I'm fine, I think sleeping's the best thing for now.'
Hermione smiled sadly and picked up her wand. 'Do you mind if I put the lights out or do you want some candles still lit?'
Ginny shook her head. 'No, it's fine, put them out.'
With a silent swish of a wand – Ginny noticed it wasn't Hermione's own - she was plunged into darkness.
'Oh,' Hermione said quietly. The tip of the wand illuminated. 'Just wanted to say, if you wake up and need anything, just wake me up, okay?'
'Hermione, it's fine, really.'
'Ginny, just promise me that if you need anything, you'll wake me.'
It was a demand and Ginny knew Hermione wouldn't let it go until she agreed. She nodded her head. 'Okay, I will. Promise.'
Hermione nodded and the wand tip extinguished.
She stayed lying on her back, arms outstretched and gripping the sides of the mattress. She didn't know why she was lying like that, she never went to sleep on her back, always on her right side with her left leg bent up and her hands clasped in front of her. She would often wake up on her left side or her back but going to sleep in any other position but on her right side felt wrong.
But tonight she resolutely stayed on her back staring at the ceiling. She hadn't drawn the curtains around the four-poster and had no intention to.
She let her mind wander back to Harry once more but this time she thought about how it must feel to face a wand that was seconds away from killing you. Not that it was the wand with the intention of killing Harry but the person holding it.
She imagined standing in front of someone whose one desire was to kill her. She thought about what she'd heard – that Harry had simply walked into the forest and stood there waiting for that green light to snuff out his life – and she couldn't help, in her imagined situation, reaching for her wand and trying to defend herself. It was one thing being able to walk into a battle that you knew you might not win, but standing there knowing there was only one result was something entirely different.
She admired him for his strength and his courage but she hated him because he left them to deal with everything else that had happened that night… morning…
But more than that, she hated him for leaving her.
She knew it was selfish but she didn't care. How dare he throw their future away? Him walking to his death was never the way it was supposed to finish, he was just supposed to do whatever Dumbledore had asked him to do and then kill him. Then he'd be hers and she would be his.
She didn't care that it was childish, she didn't care that there was, apparently, no other thing for him to do, and she didn't care that he had died so that she could live.
She just cared that the last thing she had said to him was insignificant and irrelevant and had he actually died – she still had no idea what had or hadn't happened – she would never had heard him say 'I love you' and she would never had said it to him.
She opened her eyes and took a few seconds to remember where she was. After recognising the seventh year girls' dormitory she sat up and saw Hermione was still sleeping soundly.
She thought about going back to sleep but her back was aching and she wasn't remotely tired. Her back was aching because she had been lying down for too long and she guessed she had slept more in the last day than she had in the last week. She sat up and walked quietly towards the door. The sky was lightening and she glanced at Hermione as she passed her. There was a frown on her friend's face and her right hand was twitching slightly, the wand Ginny didn't recognise lay an inch from her hand.
She stepped closer to the bed and carefully slipped the wand back into Hermione's grip. Instantly her hand gripped around the handle and her frown lessened slightly. It occurred to Ginny that Hermione probably would have wanted to sleep somewhere else, maybe in the same room as Ron, maybe at the Burrow, maybe wherever they'd been staying recently, but she hadn't because Ginny needed watching over.
She sighed and carried on walking through the dormitory and out the door. She didn't have a destination in mind, just the need to walk. She padded down the stairs and stopped dead when her foot touched the floor.
Because Harry was staring straight at her.
Her breath hitched in her throat and she couldn't move.
'Hi,' he said, barely above a whisper.
Still she stared and didn't move.
'Um… are you okay?'
She realised she was holding her breath and needed to breathe again. She inhaled quickly and found words tumbling out of her mouth
'Why aren't you asleep?' she asked.
Harry shuffled in the chair and glanced at the floor before looking back at her.
'Couldn't,' he replied. He shrugged and looked away from her. 'Was thinking about… everything. Couldn't stop thinking about everything we did, everything I did, everything he did and I just… felt trapped up there. Seamus joked that it was like we were going to bed after a tough day at school and… I know he was just trying to find normality in the chaos but I felt wrong… staying up there when…'
He glanced at her and tried to keep her gaze but after a few seconds he had to look away.
'Sorry,' he added, 'you don't want to hear my problems.'
Anger reared inside her. She didn't know whether he was being noble and not wanting to put his troubles onto her own, whether he knew she hadn't wanted to see him yet or whether he just didn't want to speak to her. Whichever way it irritated her.
'Why wouldn't I?' she asked, her irritation coming through in her tone.
He looked at her and her statement had obviously caught him off guard.
'Um… I didn't mean… you've just got your own stuff to deal with… I didn't – don't want to add to it.'
She was expecting the dull throb that was still sitting in her stomach to overwhelm her with pain or force her to cry and sob and break down. Again.
But it didn't, maybe it was fuelling her anger and frustration at Harry. She didn't question it. Just him.
He beat her to it. 'So are you okay now, then? I mean… I know you can't possibly be okay but, you were upset earlier…'
'Upset? Yeah, you could say that I suppose. I wasn't though… couldn't feel anything for a while but now there's just this ache. Probably a combination of watching a good friend be set on fire, being told I had to stay behind and not know if my family was safe or not, seeing my brother lying dead on the floor and then I suppose watching Hagrid carrying you out of the forest might have added to it all. But you know what, Harry? What I've been through lots of other people have been through, too, so I can't complain about any of that. But, weirdly, that's not what tore me apart earlier.'
She had no idea how her voice was as strong as it was, how these sentences and words were coming out of her in such a coherent fashion and how she was ignoring the pain in her stomach that was growing, but she carried on. She didn't know how long this would last.
'Do you know what the only thought that consumed me as I looked at you in Hagrid's arms was?'
Harry glanced at her, now knowing if she expected a response off him. He shook his head.
'I couldn't think about my brother lying in the Great Hall dead, I couldn't think about the future and what you being dead meant for us. All I could think about was the fact that you hadn't said good-' she smirked at her body's betrayal of her. She only had one more word to say but her emotion had pushed through, She took a deep breath and cleared her throat. 'Goodbye.'
He stood up and started pacing backwards and forwards, pulling at his hair and the neck of his jumper.
'I couldn't! How could I have looked you, any of you in the eye and said goodbye before walking to my death? What would I have said? How could I have told you that? I couldn't make you hurt that way, Gin! You'd just lost Fred and I wasn't going to add to that.'
'So you thought I wouldn't notice that you'd died ever? You thought that-'
'I couldn't think about anything but what I had to do!'
His shouts silenced her but she took a breath to counter his argument. He didn't give her chance to use it. He strode over to her and stood no more than a couple of paces from her.
'How could I have looked into your eyes, told you to be strong and to carry on fighting and then walk away to my death? I would have wanted to stay staring into your eyes, Gin. I couldn't have walked away and that would have been unacceptable. More people would have died, youcould have died and it would have been because I wasn't strong enough. You do that to me Gin, you stop me from thinking clearly because I-.'
She could practically see the words sticking in his throat, pressing against his Adam's apple, fighting for both a way out and to never be said.
He had run out of fight and physically wilted before her eyes. Her arm twitched as she automatically went to comfort him, but she couldn't do that yet, couldn't let him in yet. He needed to understand first.
'Scared of admitting how you feel or that I won't say it back?'
She called herself a bitch but decided that the battle with her conscience could wait.
'I don't need to say the words, Gin, you know how I feel, Iknow how I feel, how I've felt since I left you in August, even if you don't feel the same… you don't need me to say the words to know that.'
'Do you-.' Yet again her voice caught in her throat and her frustration at herself and her emotion built up. 'Do you honestly not know how I feel?' she asked, her voice quieter than it had been for the past few minutes.
Harry shrugged. 'Lots happened this year; I wouldn't have been surprised, or begrudged you finding someone else. You deserve happiness, Gin.'
'Happiness? Harry… you were what kept me going this past year. I knew that wherever you were you were fighting for us and that's what made me defiant and that's what helped me through it all. Youdid. And that's why you not saying goodbye hurts so much… because after everything that had happened I would have told you that I love you and I would have told you to be strong for us. You wouldn't have told me what you were about to do, but you would have carried on and I would have known that the last thing I said to you was that I loved you. Instead I had to look at you, apparently dead and had to wrack my brains and try and find the last words I uttered to you. Do you know what I think they might be? I think I might have told you I was getting a drink at the wedding and asked if you wanted one.
'That was it, my last words to the man I love. That's what hurt, Harry, not that you'd been heroic and beautifully selfless for all of us –I would have accepted that eventually – but I could not cope with our last looks being of frustration and anger. It's selfish, I know, but all I wanted was an ending I could look back on without it tearing me apart.'
He looked at her and he swallowed hard. Tears quickly filled his eyes and then fell. He looked like he was going to be sick and he covered his mouth with his hand. He jammed his eyes shut and a strangled noise came from him. Her eyes widened as he took a step back. His leg went from underneath him and he crashed to the ground.
'Harry!' she whispered as he started to sob. She could barely remember how she had been earlier but she imagined it had been something like this. She could feel her anger start to fade at the sight of him but it was strong enough to keep her standing and watching, but then another strangled sob jerked her into action. She fell to her knees next to him and after a second's hesitation she pulled him to her.
It took her breath away when his arms wrapped around her and clung to her like she had never known. He shook in her arms and she could tell he was trying to control his sobs. It was then that the paper-thin resistance to her emotion crumbled and tears fell from her eyes. She could feel herself being pulled into that abyss that she had fallen into too many times over the last day, but she thought only of Harry and his too tight grip around her. She let his sobs anchor herself in the here and now and made him her focus.
She uttered words of comfort and ran her fingers through his hair in the way she remembered he liked.
'It's done, Harry, it's over. The burden's no longer yours.'
He swallowed against his sobs but as he tried to open his mouth again to finish his sentence another wave overtook him.
'Hey, come on, Harry, calm down.'
She smiled as she recognised the words that had been said to her earlier and knew that they had had little effect on her, but something told her that Harry was in a better state than she had been.
'Come on, Harry, calm down.'
She noticed that he was trying to take longer breaths and retain some control over his trembling muscles and after a few minutes his sobs had stopped.
'I'm… s-so sorry,' he whispered into her shoulder.
'I know,' she said, her own tears threatening to fall once more. 'So am I.'
She had no idea how long they had been huddled together on the common room floor but hurried footsteps down the stairs behind her made her turn her head. She closed her eyes and waited for the eruption of noise that would disturb them and demand they talk to someone or move somewhere more comfortable. She didn't want to move, she just wanted to stay there.
But the interruption never came. She thought she heard the footsteps go back upstairs but then a few seconds later they appeared again. A few more seconds and a rolled up bundle landed softly next to her on the floor. She could feel eyes on her and she glanced at the hastily scribbled note lying on top.
There's two phials of Dreamless Sleep potion inside, your jumper and a blanket. It's 4:30, sun will rise soon, you've probably got about an hour before you're disturbed. Find us if you need us. H x
She turned her head as best she could towards the stairs without disturbing Harry. She nodded slightly and mouthed 'thank you'. Hermione's footsteps disappeared as she ascended the tower, leaving the two of them alone with each other.
She started humming the song her mother had calmed her with and eventually, Harry's breathing returned to normal.
She glanced out the window and noticed the sun peeping over the horizon. She knew she was too awake to go back to sleep but she wanted Harry to get back into his bed before people found them where they were. The last thing he needed was people fussing.
'Harry, come on, we're going upstairs.'
'Hmm,' he said in response.
She chuckled and for a split second the ache inside her let go a tiny bit, but as her smile faded it returned to normal. She nodded and realised this was how it would be for the foreseeable future and put her mind to the task in hand.
'Come on you lazy bugger, before my legs go numb.'
Harry lifted his head and squinted at her through very lopsided glasses. She smiled at him and he managed something of a smile in return.
She got to her knees and picked up the bundle from Hermione and tucked it under her arm. She stood and held out her hand to him. After a second of staring at it, he took it.
She led him up the stairs and quietly pushed on the door. Muffled snores met her ears and she quickly pulled Harry into the room. She let go of his hand and steered him towards the vacant four-poster. Wordlessly he pulled the covers back and sat down.
'Um… do you want-?'
'I'm not tired, but I'm not going anywhere,' she said, her voice stronger than it had been in hours. 'Do you want some Dreamless Sleep potion? You don't have to take a lot but you're exhausted, even if it's just for a couple of hours.'
'Will you…' he was obviously thinking twice about his half formed question. 'Will you stay with me? While I sleep?'
She nodded. He smiled apologetically before climbing under the covers. She unrolled her bundle carefully and picked up one of the phials. The cork stopper had a small number four on it and she smiled at Hermione's organisation.
She handed him the phial and while he looked wary of it he unstoppered it and downed it in one.
'Sleep well,' she whispered as his eyes closed. She pulled the quilt up to his waist and turned to pull the curtains around the bed. She saw Ron staring at her, tears in his eyes. He sniffed and managed to smile.
'Are you both… all right?'
She smiled and took a step closer to Ron's bed. 'We're all right. Not okay, but no one is.'
Ron hastily wiped the tears from his eyes before they fell. 'He's dead, Gin. Fred's dead.'
Tears threatened to fall from her eyes as she nodded. As much as the ache inside her pounded at his words she took comfort in the fact that she was feeling that pain.
She looked at him as he nodded. She picked up Harry's wand off his bedside table and, despite all the pain, thought of freedom and new beginnings. She didn't know if it would work but she whispered Expecto Patronum. To her surprise and delight the horse cantered across the room and fled silently through the door. She replaced Harry's wand on the table and caught Ron frowning at her.
'Give it a minute,' she replied to his look.
It was a lot less than a minute before Hermione appeared through the door. Ron threw the covers off himself and gathered her in a hug before she could ask what the matter was. Ginny smiled at Hermione who she could just see over the top of Ron's shoulder. Hermione managed a nod in understanding before burying her face in Ron's shoulder.
Ginny closed Harry's curtains and curled up on at the foot of his bed. She closed her eyes and tried to will herself to feel something like tiredness but her body wouldn't submit to her wishes.
So she let herself think about… everything. Fred… what her family would be like now… rebuilding… what she would do when everyone woke up… how she could help… how George would cope… talking to Harry, Ron and Hermione about what they'd done… what she'd been through at school…
Her thoughts took her through the early morning and when Harry stirred she was the first thing he saw when he opened his eyes.
She was sitting on the steps to the entrance to the castle. Rubble was being moved into piles, larger boulders and bricks to one area, shattered pieces and dust to another.
She had been to see Fred's body that morning, when everyone had awoken and hugs had been exchanged over and over again. Not many words were spoken but looks and half smiles said what was necessary and more. She had gone in with Ron and Hermione; Harry couldn't quite face it yet. She understood, as did her parents.
She knew that Fred was gone and his body was merely a symbol of him now, but still she let the tears fall as she looked over his hair, his freckles, the scars on his fingers from the experiments that didn't quite go as planned. As she mourned the fact that he would never tease her again, never be the over-protective brother that questioned her choice in boyfriend and never wink at her before winding Ron up, she also mourned the Ginny Weasley who no longer existed.
They had all changed and when, as she looked at Fred one last time and the crushing realisation that everythinghad changed threatened to take her breath away and make her fall to her knees, she felt a hand clasp hers and an arm around her shoulder. She swallowed hard and squeezed Hermione's hand and leant into Ron.
They were all hurting and they would all help each other. They would have good days and bad days but they would have them together.
As she gazed over the grounds and breathed in the warm air, someone sat down next to her.
She couldn't help but smile at Luna whose bruises and cuts stood out against her pale skin and blonde hair.
'I'm sorry I wasn't there when it left. I hear it can be quite painful.'
Ginny frowned not knowing what Luna was talking about. But as Luna looked at her expectantly, a memory came through to her as if emerging from the mist.
'When you're ready to let go, it'll disappear.'
'What was it?' Ginny asked.
'Just darkness. It hovers over people who don't know how to cope, but once they can, it goes.'
She had to admit she had expected something a little less believable from her friend. She nodded and smiled.
'Like I said, I'm sorry I wasn't there when it went, you will have needed someone.'
Ginny nodded again. 'I had someone… people. They helped.'
Luna smiled and stood. 'There's lunch if you want it. Probably best to eat if you want to help later on.'
Ginny watched as she walked back into the castle.
'I canhelp,' she said aloud.
For whatever reason that thought helped her and gave her the strength to walk into the Great Hall and see the mass of faces that had stayed behind to help, to heal or simply because they had nowhere else to go. Some would look at her with sad faces; others would offer her words of sympathy. It might make her cry, it might hurt but she had to move forwards.
As she walked through the entrance hall Ron, Hermione and Harry arrived. Automatically her hand reached towards Harry and she was relieved to see him mirror the action. Hermione gave her a quick hug but still she kept tight hold of Harry.
'Ready?' Ron asked.
Ginny frowned. 'Ready for what?' she answered.
Ron looked through the doors a little warily.
'For whatever comes next.'
She took a deep breath and looked from Ron to Hermione and finally to Harry. He squeezed her hand and she nodded.
'For whatever comes next.'