Harry paused, standing as stiff as a board as Ginny turned her head around sharply, her wand clutched tightly in his hand. Had it been any other time, he'd have been impressed by her awareness and reflexes, and felt no amount of pride when he thought about how some of his DA lessons had paid off.
Right now, all he could think about was how hard a time his ex-girlfriend had during the war that she would be so on edge.
He backed away slowly, safe under the cover of the Invisibility Cloak. It was his shield from the world, and throwing it off him would mean revealing himself to the world in all his vulnerability and terror.
"Harry," his heart leapt into his throat as she looked right at him. "Come out, I know you're there."
She had gotten to her feet and was advancing on him with an uncanny precision. For a long moment, he was transfixed by her heady flowery scent, mixed with the smell of blood and ashes, before he shook himself and backed away as quietly as he could.
"Harry," she said again, and he tried to ignore the way his stomach flipped at hearing her say his name. He couldn't believe he was being so utterly sappy now of all times, when he had just learnt that he had to hand himself over to Voldemort to save his friends.
No, he couldn't allow himself to be distracted now; not here at the end of all things. He turned and began to walk away as fast as he could –
"Don't go." He came to a halt at the sheer emotion in her voice; for the second time since they had dated, he wondered if she had uncharacteristically succumbed to tears. "Please, don't go."
Her voice cut through his heart like a shard of ice. She was coming closer and closer, but he found that he couldn't bring himself to move. His legs refused to move even though his brain was screaming at him to move away, to run before Ginny could reach him –
He found himself in a tight spot, unsure of how he was feeling. On one hand, he was terrified; he wished that he'd run into anybody else on his way to the forest – Ron, Hermione, Hagrid, McGonagall, Neville, anybody would have been better than her.
But as her footsteps became sharper, he was glad that he could see her one last time before he gave his life for them.
His breath caught in his throat as he got a good look at her; her hair was lose, framing her face like a waterfall of fire. Dust and dirt smudged her pale face, her clothes were tattered and smoking, but her eyes, her eyes were still the same soft shade of brown, burning with the fire that only she had.
Poetry at the gallows, he thought for a moment, before she finally reached him. She raised her hand and he closed his eyes, feeling her fingers grab the cloak and pull it off him.
The fluid material fell off his shoulders and to the ground, but he paid it no mind.
"Hey," her voice was soft, but he could hear the smile in it. Like he had so many times in the past year, he imagined her with the small, quirky smile on her lips; only this time it would be muted – but there, nonetheless.
"Hey," he croaked, his throat suddenly very dry. He felt her arms slip around his middle, and suddenly his nose was full off the smell of flowers as he felt her lay her head on his chest. His arms rose up of their own accord and pulled her in.
He opened his eyes and looked down at her, drinking in the feeling of her slight frame against his.
"I missed you," she said, raising her head and looking into his eyes.
"I missed you too," he whispered. He wished he had the time to sit down and talk to her, to tell her everything, to tell her how a year away from her had made him realize everything he'd denied to himself –
"How'd you know I was there?" he asked her, to try and delay the inevitable talk that was coming.
She chuckled weakly. "Marauders Map version two," she said, "Fre – the twins were working on it for the last couple of months; I was using it to scour for survivors."
Her voice was completely steady, but he knew her better. "I'm so sorry," he said, his heart twisting as he thought of Fred, and Remus, and Tonks..."I'm so sorry, Ginny!" He was horrified to hear his voice choke, but he needed to make her understand how much he regretted their deaths, and how acutely aware he was of the fact that it was entirely his fault –
"Stop it," he was cut off, surprised by the anger in her voice. "Don't you dare apologize, Harry, not after everything you've done for us –"
"If only I was a bit faster, if I'd –" his rambling was cut off as she deliberately stood on tiptoes and placed her lips against his. He reciprocated, drinking in her and the old feelings that she ignited within him. She was once more his rock, protecting him from the world outside, from Voldemort –
"No," he said, pulling away and ignoring the way his heart twisted. "No, Ginny, we can't."
"Why not?" she was as stubborn as ever, glaring up at him with the fierceness that he found so endearing. "We might die any second now, Harry."
He gulped, her words reminding him of his ultimate mission. Suddenly, he was far more terrified than he'd ever been; terrified of the thought that this was the last time they would be together. For a wild second, he thought about leaving it all behind and running away with her and Ron and Hermione.
The idea left just as soon as he arrived; he knew that Voldemort would never rest as long as he was alive. This was it, now or never.
But a small part of his mind protested, screaming against the injustice of it all. He wished he could stay here in her arms forever, safe from the world and Voldemort. He wished he could tell her everything that was whirling in his mind right now, to confess to her that he l –
No. He panicked, driving that word out of his head. He wasn't ready to admit that, not even now. He knew he...cared about Ron and Hermione, and the Weasleys and Hagrid and his friend, but Ginny held a completely different power over him. He thought back to that special afternoon they'd spent together ensconced in one corner of the Hogwarts grounds, about how he would stare for hours on end at her dot on the map and imagine crazy scenarios about their reunion and even their future beyond it.
His first ten years at the Dursley's had left their mark on him, he realized. He was afraid to admit it, after all of Dumbledore's assurances of how it was his greatest power.
The shuffling of her feet pulled her out of his thoughts, she'd moved back into his arms and was holding him close.
"You're going to Voldemort." It wasn't a question. Her voice was low, but it carried the strong conviction that he'd come to associate with her. "You're going to turn yourself in."
He wanted to tell her that it was the only way to end it all, that he had no choice. But it turned out to be too much for her, and all he ended up saying was a simple "Yes."
Her arms tightened almost painfully around him. "No," she whispered, and he realized that her hands were shaking. "No, Harry, you can't –"
The situation had reversed; he was the one who was comforting her now. He'd forgotten about how simple it was with her, give-and-take and that was all that there was to it –
"I have to, Gin," she said, using her nickname. "It's the only way."
"We can fight!" she snapped, before she took a deep breath. When she spoke again, her voice was tight, controlled and full of that burning conviction. "We'll fight together to the end, Harry!"
"No," he repeated, she was being irrational. "Ginny, you don't understand –"
"Then make me!" she yelled, unable to keep control of her temper. "Tell me why you're running to Voldemort after we fought with blood and tears against him!"
Harry felt his own temper rise without warning, coupled with disbelief at how insensitive she was being. "I have to do it!" he said through gritted teeth.
"You don't have to do anything!" she said, "Especially run! You don't have to throw away our efforts and simply submit to Voldemort," his temper rose, he'd forgotten how caustic she could be when she was aggravated. "You don't have to dishonour Fred and Remus and Tonks' sacrifice –"
"SHUT UP!" Harry roared, his temper snapping completely. "Don't you dare say that – don't you –" He was gripping at threads, trying to hide the fact that she'd penetrated all his layers and hit him right where he was most vulnerable.
"Oh, so you don't like it when someone's finally laying it out for you, Potter," she spat, making him wonder how the situation could have been turned on its head so fast. "You didn't think I'd always be so accepting and forgiving about everything, did you?"
"Well, it would be too much to ask from you –" Harry ducked sharply as her first spell went shooting past his head.
"You bastard!" she screamed, "Hiding behind your sense of duty when all you really are is afraid! You never had to do anything, Harry! You didn't have to end it with me either –"
"That's completely off the point!" Harry roared, his own wand out and ready for action. "It was to keep you safe!"
He didn't know why he was shouting, why he was so angry or why he was taking it out on her. All he knew that it finally felt good to cut loose and embrace the old anger again, and from the glint in his eyes he knew that she felt the same way.
She laughed humourlessly. "To keep me safe?" she screamed, "because that worked so well, right? I felt so safe when the Death Eaters tortured me, when Crabbe hit me with a Cruciatus," he flinched, but shock turned to anger as she continued. "Are you running away again to keep me safe, Harry? Do you really think handing yourself over to Voldemort will make it better for me?"
"I have to do it, Ginny!" he yelled, cursing himself inwardly for sounding like a broken record.
"NO YOU DON'T!" she screamed back, "I am not letting you go again!"
"I HAVE TO DIE!" Harry yelled back, without even realizing what he'd said. Complete silence descended on the corridor as Ginny took his words in, her breath hitching in horror.
"What?" she whispered, her eyes wide. All the anger had been drained out of her, and she was now looking at him like she'd never seen him before.
"I have to die before Voldemort can be killed, Ginny," Harry whispered, "I can't explain it now, but..." he trailed off, tapping his scar.
It felt strangely good to say it out loud; to confess it to somebody.
Ginny sank to her knees before him, and he almost winced at how defeated she looked. "No," she said, shaking her head. With a jolt of horror, she realized that her voice was quavering, and that tiny streams of water were making their way down her face. "No," she repeated, as if saying it again would make what he'd just said false. "No, it can't be true. Tell me it isn't true!"
She looked up at him, and he felt his stomach drop out at the sheer emotion in her shining eyes. "Please tell me it isn't true."
His silence was all the answer she needed. For the first time, Ginny began sobbing in earnest in front of him, and he was taken back to the sobbing girl he'd rescued in the Chamber of Secrets. He'd always been put off by crying girls, but with Ginny it was almost natural for him as he moved to comfort her.
He knelt down next to her and pulled her into him, aware that time was running out faster than ever. He simply sat there in silence and rubbed her back as she cried in his arms, trying to ignore the slightest of moisture in his eyes.
He couldn't believe that it was little Ginny Weasley of all people who finally broke through his layers of armour and managed to reach him.
Her kiss caught him by surprise; he was taken aback by her unbridled passion. She attacked him, clutching his head and pulling him down. The kiss was all clacking teeth and colliding lips, it was almost like she was desperate not to let him go.
He wanted to pull away, he really did, but her sheer passion made it impossible for him to move away.
"I won't," she said in between kisses, "let you go." She made a small snarling noise as she fairly pounced on him again, "Not this time. Not again."
She was fire and brimstone, passion and strength. She was Ginny. Pulling away from her was the hardest thing he'd ever done –
"No, Harry," she was almost incoherent at this point, and he could feel his heart shatter at the pain she was putting him through. "Don't leave me here, Tom's out there –" she was rambling now, going into hysterics.
Harry came to a decision.
It was the cruellest thing he would ever do, and he knew it as he raised Draco's wand and murmured a spell. His heart slumped along with her frame as the mild Stunner hit her, and he knew that he had just betrayed the one person who cared about him more than anyone else.
Reaching behind him, Harry gathered the Invisibility Cloak as he knelt and memorized every inch of her face. He had never felt more disgusted with himself, but he knew that it was necessary. He was no longer afraid now, because he knew that he had to sacrifice himself for his friends.
And as he carefully laid her down in an alcove and sent off a flare with a bang, he reached down and whispered what had been in his heart all long.
And Harry Potter, hero of the Wizarding World, walked into the Death's embrace as his equal; confident that he held a power far, far greater than Death could ever comprehend.
Author's note: I just don't know how I feel about this. I just don't.