A/N: One of the most powerful moments of the 7th book for me was the brief reaction we saw from Ron, Hermione, and Ginny when Harry's body is brought to the castle. I've always been fascinated by what must have been going through their heads during those minutes.
I hope you enjoy and please, feel free to leave a review!
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light
- Dylan Thomas
Do Not Go Gentle
It can't end like this.
Ron has never thought they would fail. Even when he'd left in a fit of anger he'd been so sure Harry and Hermione would finish things. In those last few days at Shell Cottage, before they broke into Gringotts, Ron had even allowed himself a daydream or two of what life would be like after it was all over.
Harry isn't supposed to die. No matter what he survives. Always. He was Harry and he could not, would not be killed.
When he wasn't in the Great Hall Ron and Hermione were worried. When Neville told them he'd seen Harry out on the grounds they were panicked. Ron was furious – that git and his bloody hero complex – but he thought there'd be a chance to tell him off.
But no. The figure in Hagrid's arms is unmistakeably Harry. His best mate is dead and they are all done for.
H's screaming, he knows he is, but whether his mouth is forming words or not he doesn't know. Blindly Ron gropes for Hermione's hand as a Silencing Charm quiets them. Harry is dead. Harry. Is. Dead.
"He beat you!" Ron screams suddenly able to talk again. And it's true, Harry has beaten him just not in a way Voldemort will ever be able to understand. Ron, along with the surrounding crowd, keeps screaming until another, stronger, Silencing Charm hits.
Neville strides forward as Voldemort tells lie after lie about how Harry had died (no one who had ever met him would believe Harry had made a run for it) and Ron wants to close his eyes. But Neville deserves for his bravery to be witnessed, especially if this is his last act. Defiant until the end, every single one of them.
Something changes as Neville mouths off to Voldemort. Suddenly Ron's grief gives way and he is furious. Harry spent his entire life a marked man. His life seemed to jump from tragedy to tragedy and Harry just kept going when all he ever wanted was a place he could feel at home. He'd taken on the weight of the world without letting it crack him and he had barely been an adult. He died to save these people, plenty of whom he didn't even know.
The least Ron can do is keep fighting in Harry's name. "Dumbledore's Army!" He shouts echoing Neville, and other students, Hermione and Ginny included, add their own insults and challenges. Neville has spurred them all into action.
Ron feels his stomach tighten as the Sorting Hat flies into Voldemort's hands. Neville is going to pay dearly for his rebellion, but in the end won't they all? Surrender is not an option – Ron will fight to the death and regret nothing.
He sets Neville on fire.
Chaos breaks the horror-induced silence they had all been caught in. Voldemort's spells fail yet again and Neville rips the hat off. Something glitters inside of the hat and a second later Nagini is dead.
Everyone is moving and fighting and screaming. Ron spares a second – just one much needed second – to kiss Ginny on the forehead and tell her, maybe for the last time, that he loves her. Then he grabs Hermione and they run to the castle, taking down every Death Eaters they see. The house elves stream out the front doors and Ron hopes to Merlin they won't be slaughtered.
At some point he loses Hermione's hand. He rushes over to help Neville with Greyback who's face is still covered in Lavender's blood. "Reducto!" He shouts and they're give a second to breathe as Fenir goes down. Ropes fly out of Neville's wand trapping the man. They nod grimly to one another and turn to look for a new foe.
They both freeze in horror as they watch Luna, Ginny, and Hermione, duel Bellatrix. All three of them are giving it their all but still Bellatrix evades them.
A Killing Curse barely misses Ginny hitting a Sixth Year Hufflepuff instead. Ron is moving before he realizes what's going on. Losing Fred is bad enough, and losing Harry unbearable, he is not losing anymore siblings tonight. Especially not Ginny.
His mother flies past him and he watches as she begins to duel. Ron pulls Hermione and Ginny, both looking as awestruck as he feels, towards him. McGonagall, Slughorn, and Kingsley, are still managing to keep Voldemort at bay but how long that could last...
Ginny's mouth drops open as Bellatrix hits the ground, dead. His mother has just killed someone.
Voldemort's scream of fury catches his attention. Ron is racing to protect mum from whatever Voldemort is planning to do to her when a Shield Charm appears out of no where.
Suddenly, Harry is standing in the middle of the Great Hall and Ron almost drops with relief. He's alive – for now at least. Behind him Hermione lets out a faint "Harry" and Ginny gives a muffled cry.
They both appear next to him and they all grip hands as Harry tells the surrounding crowd not to help. Ron and Hermione always knew they'd come to the day where they couldn't help Harry anymore. It is agony though and from the way Hermione's fingers clench around his hand he knows he isn't alone.
Harry's explaining something about blood protection, and his mother, and the forest but Ron hears none of it. He is waiting for the slightest sign that Harry needs him.
Now there's something about Snape and Harry's mum that Ron's pretty sure he doesn't want to know about. Every muscle in his body is tensed and waiting. He knows that Harry's trying to distract Voldemort but that makes it no easier to watch.
As they raise their wands, Ginny let's go of his hand so Ron can grab his own, knowing this is it and he needs to be ready to move.
And then he's – gone. Voldemort is dead and it's almost too much to comprehend,
Then Hermione pulls him towards Harry. They get to him first. All three of them are crying and yelling and so thankful to have this moment. "If you ever do this to us again, I'll kill you myself!" Ron promises. He doesn't think Harry hears him but that's alright. Ron's got a lifetime left to tell Harry off for putting them through that kind of hell.
Ginny appears, ramming into Harry who opens his arms even wider to pull her closer to them all. Ron hugs Ginny tightly and thanks Merlin that she's okay.
He knows it isn't really over.
Harry has won and Voldemort is dead but really, this is just the beginning. There are still Death Eaters on the loose, their government's in shambles, and Hogwarts is going to need serious repairs. Fred is still dead. Fred, Lupin, Tonks, even Colin Creevy, they are all gone and nothing can change that.
Still. They're alive. The three of them are all still alive and they deserve to have these few precious moments, Harry most of all.
Later, when he is sitting in the Great Hall with Hermione, Ron realizes he hasn't seen Harry for nearly an hour. He is half off his bench, panicked, when it occurs to him that Harry is safe. Hermione gives him a look full of understanding. "It's odd," she says quietly, squeezing his hand. "I keep forgetting no one's trying to kill him anymore. He's – safe." She finishes looking almost confused.
"Harry, safe." Ron mutters to himself. It will take him a while to get used to that, "It's brilliant." He says, as much to himself as Hermione.
And it is. His best mate can finally dream of a future. Harry will grow old with them and get the happiness he so deserves. And right now that's more than enough for Ron.
It is every nightmare she has had in the last two years come true. She's screaming, they're all screaming, and Hermione wishes this was just another bad dream. But her nightmares couldn't dream up this kind of pain.
Hermione is shaking her head as if she can wish this out of existence. When the Silencing Charm hits, Ron's hand on her's in the only thing keeping her on her feet right now and she clings to him desperately.
The spell breaks – too many people? she wonders absently – and Ron immediately starts screaming at the madman standing before them. Hermione's brain locks onto one thought, "finish it for Harry". Harry will not have died in vain, not as long as she's still alive.
Neville breaks away from the group and Hermione gasps. She does not want to watch her friend die but he is a Gryffindor and there would be no stopping him. There's no stopping any of them.
Hermione is trying to figure out how to kill the snake when the second Silencing Charm breaks. "No surrender!" She screams, adding her voice to the calls all around her that Neville's bravery has elicited.
She's so deep in thought, so desperate for a plan, that she does not immediately notice Neville is signing his own death certificate. Ron squeezes her hand extra tight and Hermione looks up to see Neville pull off a flaming hat – did that bastard set the Sorting Hat on fire – and grab the sword of Gryffindor out of it.
Nagini's head hits the ground and there's no time to be thankful. Ron says something to Ginny, grabs Hermione's hand once more, and they're back in the battle. They take down every Death Eater they see. Months ago Hermione had promised herself she would do everything in her power to avoid killing people. When those Death Eaters wake up though, they may very well wish she had.
Somewhere between the Entrance Hall and the Great Hall Ron's hand slips out of hers. She turns to look for him, they have to figure out a way to end this, and comes face to face with Bellatrix. She almost throws up on the spot.
"Well, if it isn't my little friend!" Bellatrix starts in that maddening baby voice she takes on to mock people. "Don't you know it's rude to leave in the middle of a party?" Don't think about it. She orders herself harshly, she cannot afford to fall apart now. "Then again, what would a filthy mudblood like you know about manners?"
Hermione's only response is to aim a curse at her wand arm hoping to break it.
"Oh, sensitive, aren't we?" Bellatrix easily dodges her curse and sends one back of her own.
Hermione ducks to avoid it and when she stands back up Ginny and Luna have appeared. No one says anything, they just attack.
They're giving it everything they've got but soon Hermione is thinking she's living her last few moments. Ron will figure something out, she knows he will, but she hates the idea of leaving him alone. She is so thankful she kissed him when she had the chance.
A Killing Curse misses Ginny by inches and Hermione is ready to attack Bellatrix with her bare hands. She opens her mouth to cast a particularly painful curse when she is shoved out of the way.
Mrs. Weasley flies past looking murderous.
Someone tugs her on arm. Hermione starts, pointing her wand as she turns, but it's only Ron. She's so happy to see him alive and unhurt she could cry. He's got Ginny's hand in his and pulls them back as they watch the women duel.
She turns to Ron and Ginny to say something – anything to stop them from looking so frightened by their own mother – when a flash of movement catches her eye. The only duel still going is with Voldemort and Hermione turns, fearing the worst.
"Harry." He's alive. Oh, God, he's alive and Hermione doesn't know if she wants to hug him or punch him.
It doesn't matter. She can do neither. Not now, maybe not ever.
As Harry tells them all, clearly and carefully, that they cannot aid him, tears spill down her face. She has been forced to lose Harry once tonight, she's not sure she can survive it again. Though, if she's honest with herself, Hermione knows she will have only minutes left if Harry fails.
She grips Ron's hand so tightly it must hurt but she can't bring herself to loosen her grip. Ron and Ginny are both so pale their freckles look painted on.
Hermione listens intently to every word to keep herself from interfering or going to pieces. Objectively it's fascinating. If this wasn't Harry, her Harry – the boy who has become a brother to her, Hermione would be committing every word to memory. As it is, she'll be asking for more details if they all survive this.
Everything he's saying, Snape loving his mother, the blood protection, even the Hallows, it all makes perfect sense, but Hermione can't help but wonder how he suddenly learned all of this. Then, Harry dares Voldemort to feel remorse, his voice strangely heavy, and she knows this is it. She grips her wand and Ron's hand more tightly. Her heart is bursting with love and fear.
As soon as Voldemort's body hits the ground Hermione is moving. She stashes her wand away pulling Ron along with her. As they get to Harry she let's his hand go throwing both arms around her best friend. A split second later Ron wraps his arms around both of them.
Ginny flies to them as Hermione stops hugging Harry long enough to punch him in the arm. When he looks over he's crying and smiling at the same time and she can't help but smile through her own tears. "I love you!" She shouts in his ear.
"I love you, too." Harry tells her kissing the top of her head as what feels like the entire school surrounds them. Ron pulls her closer and she isn't surprised to see tears on his face.
In the back of her mind she's aware of the dead, and the clean up, and the heart ache that has yet to sink in.
But for now both of her boys are alive and free and safe. Hermione allows herself these moments of celebration because she so desperately needs them. They all do.
The idea that Harry no longer needs their protection, at least not in the same way, is a hard one to wrap her head around. Only minutes after she lets Harry go Hermione loses sight of him. She's scanning the Great Hall with frantic eyes when Kingsley shifts bringing Harry back into view. He catches her eye and grins as she breathes a sigh of relief.
She finds Ron a little off from his family and sits down, gently lacing their fingers. What he really needs right now, Hermione knows, is just to sit. So she does not talk. Instead she lays her on his shoulder and her free hand on his knee and watches as families and friends drift by, reunited.
Later, when Harry asks them to follow him, they do so without hesitation as they have so many times before. When they are free of the Great Hall, Harry reappears stuffing the invisibility cloak into his bag. He beings to explain what happened and Hermione cannot help but grip his hand in hers.
The War has ended as she always hoped it would, the three of them together.
Too. Much. Ginny is 16-years-old and Tom Riddle has stolen too much away from her in her short life. "Harry!" She screams hopelessly. "HARRY!" She screams furiously. Hagrid is holding Harry's body so tenderly it is painful to watch.
For six years Ginny has felt Tom Riddle's ghost fingers picking their way through her brain. She has struggled, and she has coped, and she has survived. Tom Riddle has not beaten her.
But now, the boy she loves, because love survives even death, lies motionless on the school's lawn. Now, a rage that Ginny never knew she possessed is bubbling inside of her. She is sick of Tom Riddle taking things from her. She she is not going to lose now. Not ever.
The Silencing Charm fails and she is bursting with pride as Neville strides forward. "For the fallen!" She screams with all her might as Professor McGonagall, behind her, says "For Harry" like it's a prayer.
They're going to die. Neville, Ron, Hermione, her family, the teachers, and of course Ginny herself, they are all going to die. Ginny does not care. She has been encouraging and staging a rebellion all year. She has scars and bruises that she is not ashamed of as a result. She will carry rebellion with her until her final breath if need be. She will die with defiance etched in every inch of her.
Neville pulls the hat off and Ginny is so confused and relieved all at once. He chops the snakes head off and it's as if they were all waiting for that cue. Ginny is about to take off when Ron grabs her. If he thinks she will sit on the sidelines now he is insane.
But no. He kisses her forehead gently and then squeezes her arm. "I love you." Ron says and Ginny blinks away tears.
"I love you, too. Don't you dare get hurt." And then they are gone and Ginny cannot think of her brother if she wants to stay alive.
Susan Bones is sitting at the top of the stairs to the castle. She's trying to staunch the blood dripping from her leg and avoid being trampled all at once. Ginny drops a Death Eater who pokes his head around the corner and kneels beside her. "Do you still have your wand?" Susan nods pulling it from a robe pocket. "Good." Ginny smiles and rips a strip of Susan's robe off to make a bandage. "Let's get you out of here."
After she has left Susan hidden in an alcove, wand in hand, Ginny rushes to the Great Hall. It seems like most of the fights are ending. Then she sees Hermione dodge something Bellatrix sends at her and she is on her way. She grabs Luna as she moves and by the time Hermione stands back up they've joined her.
It is horrifying how fast Bellatrix can move to dodge their curses and fire back her own. One of Ginny's scorches her hair and they lock eyes. She is dead. The Killing Curse passes just over her shoulder but there is no time to feel relief. Ginny doesn't stop moving until her mum is sweeping by.
Ginny is too surprised to hear what they're yelling and she is grateful when Ron pulls her to him. Watching mum duel is both awe inspiring and horrible. When one of her curses manages to get by Bellatrix Ginny cannot help but gasp watching her fall.
Her mind presents her with a thousand memories of mum braiding her hair and making dinner, of the kind face she always sought after bad dreams. That is her mother. How can her mother have killed someone, even one as vile as Bellatrix?
It doesn't matter. She doesn't have time to think about it and so she won't. The only duel still continuing is with Voldemort. He screams, turning to mum with a raised wand, and Ginny says "Stupefy!" a second too late.
It doesn't matter though, a Shield Charm appears and no one seems to know who cast it. A half a second later they get their answer as Harry appears in the middle of the Great Hall.
She can't help it. She makes a muffled sort of yelping sound. He's alive! The words just keep running through her head on repeat as Harry tells the crowd he must fight alone. They cannot help him. Ginny moves forward to grab Ron's hand. She knows this is torture, especially for these two. They would do anything to save Harry and now, helpless, they can only watch. It's a familiar feeling for her.
Ginny squeezes Ron's hand even more tightly before releasing it so he can grab his wand. Ginny tries to imagine the man standing in front of her as Tom Riddle. She doesn't want to, but so close to Voldemort her brain is going into overdrive trying to protect itself.
This is the man who stole her childhood, who fed her lies and made her his victim. This is the man who had her kill chickens and attack friends. This is the man who took nearly and year of her life and then tried to take the rest.
This is the man who changed her entire life.
And this is him dead on the floor.
She's a beat behind Ron and Hermione, taking just a second to look at the corpse on the floor. He is dead, really dead, and a massive weight is lighted off of her chest. Finally, six years later, it is over.
Then the crowd at her back surges and Ginny is running. By the time Harry has an arm wrapped around her, including her in a hug that grows until everyone becomes a solid living mass at the center of the Great Hall, her composure is gone. She cries into Harry's shirt knowing that only he can come close to knowing what this means to her.
Eventually people fall back into their own knots of friends and family. Ginny, exhausted with both joy and grief, sits with her mum. She lays her head on her mum's shoulder like she is a small girl again and ties not to cry.
Out of the corner of her eye she sees Ron and Hermione freeze for a second and then stand up. Ginny knows Harry must be under his cloak and that is fine with her. They have all the time in the world now and she wants this time to appreciate what Voldemort's death means for her.
The next day, as she sits in the sun under the beach tree that has been so many things to so many people, Harry finds her. Neither of them says a word. Instead she tugs his hand pulling him down to the grass. They kiss, slow and soft, because there is no reason to hurry.
After a few minutes Ginny crawls into his lap suddenly terrified that she is dreaming him. Harry buries his head into her shoulder and Ginny wraps her arms and legs around him and the world is strangely quiet.
They're both crying in a soft, relieved sort of way. He's gone and the new found freedom of being fully themselves carries with it an overwhelming sort of beauty.
"It doesn't seem real." Harry tells her. "I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. The catch."
Ginny holds him tighter. A lifetime of caution cannot be unlearned overnight. She knows it will take both of them months to get used to the idea that the War is truly over. But that's not what either of them needs to hear right now.
Instead Ginny whispers into his ear, still wrapped around him, "It's over, Harry. We're free."
And they are the perfect words because they are the perfect truth.