She would never forget what it had been like to watch him fall; or rather, to watch them fall together, dark and light, evil and good, black and white against a blood-red background of chaos. Though she had known for months before the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort that Harry’s chances of survival were slim, she had somehow failed to prepare herself for the actual moment of his demise, for the actual moment when the world would stop turning and all that was good in her life would come to an abrupt and complete end.
"It is the balance of life," she heard a wizened old wizard telling a friend in the Leaky Cauldron just weeks after the battle. "Pure evil cannot be allowed to survive unchecked, but by the same token, neither can pure good." The old man and his companion shook their heads sadly at the inevitability of it all, took reflective sips from their glasses, and then changed the topic to a discussion about the rising prices of potions supplies in Great Britain.
She wanted to slap the old man, to hex him into a thousand tiny pieces or, at the very least, to treat him to a rant that would have made any one of Molly Weasley's children proud. The only thing that stopped her was the sad realization that, like most of the Wizarding world, this man had not been there. He had not had to see what she had seen. He had never known Harry James Potter as anything but a hero who had reached almost mythic proportions but who had never actually been understood by those who had charged him with the awesome responsibility of saving their world from destruction.
Death Eaters and Order members alike stopped their duels to gaze in awe at the translucent web of light which had burst into being from the connected wands of Harry Potter and Tom Riddle, and Ginny knew the instant it had happened that what she was seeing was the same as what Harry had described about the battle in the Little Hangleton graveyard at the end of the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Her heart thrilled with fear for Harry even as she had deftly avoided a curse flying towards her from a masked Death Eater's wand and reentered the battle along with everyone else. Both sides knew that though the outcome of the war depended solely on what happened inside that inexplicable web of light, their individual lives depended upon not letting their guards down even for an instant.
She barely felt the large gash on her arm as she was grazed by a splitting jinx, and though she three counter-curses and jinxes with the considerable skills she had honed in her three years as a member of Dumbledore's Army, her heart and her rage had no longer been centered on her masked opponent. She somehow knew that the same was true about whomever hid behind the deathly white mask. Everyone's focus, even as they dueled, was on that web of light, wondering what would happen and who would emerge victorious.
Just as Ginny finally managed to disarm and bind her badly-injured opponent, the web of light shattered with a boom reminiscent that made everyone cringe in horror. Once again, the battle had stopped in its tracks as everyone turned to gaze at their leaders in open-mouthed awe.
Harry Potter and Tom Riddle, both blood-soaked and bruised, had been forced to their knees on the frozen ground of the Hogwarts courtyard, their heads unmoving in what appeared to be bowed tribute to powers beyond the ken of their observers. Neither of them moved as something more astonishing than even the web of golden light began to rise from their wands, which had seemingly been rendered completely still in positions of battle, pointed straight at one another.
Ginny barely felt the light pressure of Ron's and Hermione's shoulders as they approached her, never taking their glances away from Harry but needing all the same to be with one another for the end of the saga in which they had taken a part since they had begun school over eight years before. The three had stood for what seemed like an age, shoulder to shoulder, their wands pointed at the ground, waiting, more fearful than they had ever been, for fate to take its course.
Slowly and insidiously, the thick form of a serpent rose from Tom Riddle's wand in a haze of dark green smoke, circling lazily around the two as Harry's wand vibrated roughly in response. Just as Ginny became certain that the snake would consume Harry, thick red smoke began issuing from his wand, taking the unmistakable form of a large phoenix. The phoenix engaged the snake, tracking its movements slowly around the kneeling figures representing both the greatest hope and the greatest fear of the Wizarding world.
As though they were responding to some kind of unspoken signal, Ron, Ginny and Hermione raised their wands as one, pointing them straight into the space between Harry and Voldemort. Once they had taken the dueling position, however, none of them knew what to do. They knew somehow that any curse sent at Riddle would be devastating for Harry as well. For better or for worse, the two had been linked, the light and the dark, and though their wands remained at the ready, Harry's three closest friends knew at that moment that they could do nothing more for him.
It had seemed like hours passed as they stood motionless, watching the dark green and dark red circle one another and their masters, sometimes commingling, sometimes completely separate. It seemed like hours, but it ended in an instant.
Simultaneously, as though some silent accord had been reached, the red specter of the phoenix and the smoky green snake had dived at their human opponents' bowed heads, disappearing with another rush of indescribable sound as they met their marks. The skeletal form of Tom Riddle dissolved almost instantly into a small pile of black ash, the remnants of a body that should never have been, but Harry Potter remained kneeling, seemingly unchanged, in the moments after the destruction of his nemeses.
Ginny had felt a wild thrill of happiness course through her entire being, knowing with all of her heart that Harry had done what he was destined to do, knowing with every fiber of her being that the life she had promised him before the battle was about to begin. She was blissfully ignorant of Hermione's gasping sobs and Ron's silent tears as she stared at the man she had loved for most of her life, still kneeling in physical form in front of the pile of ashes that had once been the most feared wizard of all time.
She lowered her wand and was about to run to him when his body crumpled, as slow as time itself, to the ground. At that moment, Ginny realized what Ron and Hermione had known as soon as the battle had ended: Harry Potter, her lover and her soul mate, the newfound savior of the Wizarding world, had passed through the Veil and was lost to them forever.
* * *
When I think back on these times, and the dreams we left behind
I'll be glad 'cause I was blessed to get to have you in my life.
When I look back on these days, I'll look and see your face
You were right there for me…
Ginny would never clearly remember the pandemonium that had ensued upon the deaths of Tom Riddle and Harry Potter. She would never remember anything besides collapsing to her knees in a position identical to Harry's before he had fallen, her wand clattering to the hard, bare stone of the courtyard. The small sound of its contact sounded like a death knell to her ringing ears.
She had not noticed as the Death Eaters had broken into confusion and chaos, turning upon one another in the absence of their leader, some of them acting as though they had been under an Imperius Curse which had lifted as soon as Tom Riddle had died. She had not been watching as Ron and Hermione had dissolved into one another's arms, each one sobbing as hard as the other, trying in vain to find comfort amidst the turmoil of the physical scene and of their own devastated hearts.
She had not watched or tried to intervene as her father had entered into a battle with Lucius Malfoy, who had become determined to become the next Dark Lord as soon as Voldemort had fallen, and she had not even seen her twin brothers kill him before carrying an unconscious Arthur out of harm's way.
She had not seen or noticed any of it for she only had eyes for Harry's lifeless body, his green eyes seeming to stare straight into her soul, for he had sought her as he had fallen. Even as his life force had been extinguished, he had looked for her, and as his body had crumpled to the ground he had landed grotesquely on his side, his head pointed in her direction and his mouth slightly open, as though he had wanted to tell her something before he died.
When the battle had finally ended and the remaining Death Eaters had been captured, killed, or had run away, she had barely been conscious of her mother's arms surrounding her, pulling her to her feet with firm tenderness, urging her to come with the family to the hospital wing, where her father and her brother Charlie had been taken.
She would never remember the long walk with her mother and her brothers through the Entrance Hall of Hogwarts and up the stairs to the hospital wing, for after they had taken Harry's body from her she had been consumed with memories of their short periods of happiness between crises and battles. She had known even then that her life would never be the same and her heart would never be whole, for Harry had brought out the best in her and had been the rock onto which she had clung during the most difficult times in her life.
"…needs a good bit of rest…"
The grief-stricken but concerned words of her mother and Madam Pomfrey, the Hogwarts matron, had echoed around her, meaningless as she struggled to absorb everything that had happened, still halfway believing that Harry would be placed on one of the beds at any moment, damaged but able to recover under Madam Pomfrey's care.
Weeks had passed before Ginny had begun to notice her surroundings again, and it was on her first venture outside of the protective walls of the Burrow that she had overheard the conversation between the two old wizards in the pub on her way to complete an errand for her mother. The celebrations of the British witches and wizards had only just begun to die down, and her mother had believed that getting out of the house would be good for her only daughter.
In my dreams I'll always see you soar above the sky
In my heart there will always be a place for you for all my life.
I'll keep a part of you with me, and everywhere I am there you'll be.
And everywhere I am, there you'll be…
Ginny moved like a somnambulist through the cheerful crowds in Diagon Alley, buying overpriced potion supplies and cooking ingredients but stopping short when she was confronted with a display of the Firebolt Potter-Series, the newest professional broom on the market.
The day was carefree and clear, one of the few days in which the seventh year students of Hogwarts had been released from their studies. N.E.W.T examinations had just been completed and the term would not end for another week. It had taken no effort for Harry to convince Ginny to take their brooms for a spin over the Quidditch pitch.
Giggling in glee as Harry's Firebolt left her Cleansweep in the dust, Ginny halted in midair to watch him fly, marveling at the beauty of his face as he concentrated on keeping his broom in control through steep dives and complicated loops.
That year had been hard on him, on all of them. They had all missed a year of their schooling as they had accompanied Harry on the many and dangerous missions he had undertaken to find the missing Horcruxes. Once they had done that, however, they had found no way to counter her mother's insistence that they all return to school even though they had not yet found or engaged Tom Riddle who was mortal once more.
As they had studied, they had been constantly on the alert, for Hogwarts had long since ceased to be safe for Harry or for anyone close to him. Their greatest fear had been that Voldemort would manage to make more Horcruxes before they found him, and even Hermione's constant reassurance that Riddle did not know that his Horcruxes had been destroyed had done little to quell their feelings of unease.
The freedom evident on Harry's face and in his gestures as he flew was precious to her, and she was so lost in her thoughts that she was startled when he suddenly came out of a steep dive and pulled his Firebolt right alongside her.
"Why did you stop?" he asked, concern evident on his face. It was at that very moment that Ginny had realized she had tears falling unhampered down her cheeks. She smiled at the look of boyish bewilderment that had come into his features when he saw her tears; Harry never knew how to deal with a crying girl.
"I love watching you fly," she replied simply, wiping her tears away and smiling bravely at him. "You just seem so…I don't know…happy, I guess."
"It's not the flying that makes me happy, Ginny," he told her seriously, looking almost astounded that he had, for once, come up with something good to say in a situation such as this.
For the first time in her memory, Ginny was the one who was rendered speechless, but it didn't matter because Harry's lips on hers made any kind of sensible vocalization completely unnecessary.
"It's the fastest model on the market, named for Harry Potter, of course," a young witch said excitedly to her friend as Ginny shook herself out of the memory. Both of them were clad in brightly-colored robes and pointed hats, and Ginny could tell that they were young, probably only first- or second-years at Hogwarts. "Merlin, I wish I could have one of these, but Dad'll never spend the gold…" Her young voice trailed off wistfully.
"I heard that Harry Potter was right good at Quidditch," the girl's friend replied matter-of-factly.
"He was one of the best players in Hogwarts history," Ginny surprised herself by saying through the fog of memories clouding her mind.
Both girls turned curiously to her. "Did you know him?" one of them asked, prepared to bask in the reflected celebrity of someone who had known the legendary hero, however remotely. Neither of them could have guessed that they were talking to the woman who would have been Harry Potter's wife had he survived. Even if she had told them, they would not have believed her.
"Yes, I did," Ginny said, and her eyes filled with unshed tears as they were still wont to do whenever Harry's name was mentioned. She had yet to actually cry for him, though; somehow, the tears never made it past her eyes. Before the girls could ask any more questions, she gripped her packages firmly and strode up the alley, her navy blue robes billowing behind her as she hurried away from the awe-struck stares of the children. Even through the haze of her unshed tears, she knew exactly where she was going as she headed back to the Apparation point just behind the Leaky Cauldron.
You showed me how it feels to feel the sky within my reach,
And I always will remember all the strength you gave to me.
Your love made me make it through…oh, I owe much to you!
You were right there for me…
Cold February wind whipped her unbound hair as she stooped to put her packages down, freeing her arms as she moved slowly towards her destination. She knew few if any others would be at this place in this weather, and not even thinking about the safety or security of the packages she had left on the ground at the gates. In light of her destination, the ingredients in the small pouches and vials were unimportant, completely inconsequential.
Her pace slowed even further as she gazed for the first time at the white marble tombstone marking the place where Harry's body had been buried. She had gone to the funeral, of course, though she couldn't remember it through the dark blanket of grief that had been surrounding her for the past weeks, but the marker had not yet been placed on the grave at that time.
Harry James Potter
July 31, 1980 - January 1, 2000
Beloved Friend and Hero
She advanced as one in a dream and reached out to touch the cold carvings in the marble, the words and the protective runes that had been inscribed around the edges, magically ensuring that this body would never be disturbed or tainted in any way.
Beloved friend, she thought dully. Harry had been so much more than that, but how could one describe a man who had had no blood family remaining (other than the Dursleys, who were secretly glad that he had died), who had never had a wife or a child, who had never had a chance to truly live? The words seemed so empty. She traced them with trembling fingertips as though the mere action of it would bring her closer to him.
"Ginny, don't cry," he said after confiding in her his suspicions that he himself was Voldemort's final Horcrux. "Please don't cry."
"I can't help it," she sobbed, covering her face with her hands as though that would magically erase Harry's discomfort at her distress. "I'm so scared, Harry; I'm so worried."
"I know, baby," he had said, calling her that for the first time but far from the last. She had never asked him why he had chosen that particular epithet for her, but as she sat on the ground at their special spot by the lake, she had thought it fit, for wasn't she always the baby? The baby of the family, the youngest of Harry's friends, the most inexperienced…as she sobbed, ashamed of herself for her weakness but unable to stop, she felt as though nothing in the world could ever be right again. She knew even then that there was no world for her without Harry.
He awkwardly drew her into his arms and allowed her to sob on his shoulder for a good ten minutes before he pulled away, holding her by the shoulders.
"Please stop crying, Ginny," he said imploringly and earnestly, reaching out to wipe the heavy stream of tears from her blotched cheeks. "In a way, I've always known that this was the way it had to be, that this was the way it would have to end, and it's worth it, Ginny. It's worth it, and so much more."
"How can you say that?" she asked him with a great sniffle, doing her best to stifle her sobs. "How can anything be worth your life?"
"It's worth it because sometimes the good of the many has to come before the needs of the one," he said, gazing away from her for the first time to shield the fear in his own eyes. "After he's gone, the world will be that much safer, Ginny. It's got to stop, one way or another."
"But why are you the one who has to do it?"
"I don't know why I'm the one who has to do it," Harry told her. "But I do know why it has to be done and what we're fighting for."
"What, then?" she asked him, choking back a fresh wave of sobs.
"What keeps me fighting is knowing that once this thing is over and done, we get to have our own futures. We get to get married, have families. And it's not just for us, Ginny. It is for everyone else out there in the world, both Wizarding and Muggle, who is doing the same thing we are right now, just being together and loving one another. That's why it's worth any price we might have to pay for it, even our own lives. That's what he fears the most, Ginny, because it's what he's never had." He had stopped to kiss her tenderly before continuing, "I never had it either, before I met you. That's how I know, Ginny. This has to be protected, it has to be cherished. It's our only weapon against the darkness."
"But without you…" she protested feebly, knowing that there was no real argument against what he had said.
"Hermione thinks it might not have to come to that," he reminded her gently, stroking her damp cheek. "She's working on a way to destroy the Horcrux without…" he trailed off, not knowing how to give sound to the possibility that he might not survive. In truth, he was just as afraid as Ginny was, but he, at least, had known that it was a price he was willing to pay, and a price that his friends also had to be willing to pay, if it came down to that.
"If anyone can do it, Hermione can," Ginny said, smiling tremulously at him in an attempt to be as brave as he always was.
"Right," he said, sounding much more confident than he actually felt. "Everything is going to be okay, Ginny. I promise you that."
Somehow, in the dappled light that had passed through the leaves of the tall trees shadowing them, she believed him. She always believed him, for he had always been there for her, ever since he had saved her life in her first year of school.
"You are my strength, Ginny," he whispered some minutes later, pulling away from their embrace. "You've given me the happiest moments of my life, and you can do anything, do you hear me?" His voice became fierce as he looked at her. "You can do anything, Ginny, and I want you to have the world after this is over. I will give that to you, if I can."
"Oh, Harry," she whispered as though he were there in the graveyard with her instead of far out of her reach. "You have given me the world…you gave it to all of us…but it is so damn empty without you in it." Dropping to her knees just as she had the day of the battle, her shoulders began to shake with her sobs, her first real tears since his death.
'Cause I always saw in you my light, my strength
And I want to thank you now for all the ways
You were right there for me…
You were right there for me,
She didn't know how long she remained like that, sobbing over the frozen ground covering Harry's grave, her hand clutching desperately to his tombstone as though it was all she had left of him. She jumped to her feet when she felt a soft hand on her shoulder and turned sharply to see the somber forms of Ron and Hermione looking sadly at her from beneath the hoods of their thick winter cloaks.
"We thought you might have come here," Ron said in an unusually gentle voice. "Mum sent us out to check when you didn't come back." He reached for her tentatively, for he had never been as demonstrative as some of the other members of the Weasley clan.
Hermione also reached out to her, and the three of them stood, Ron's and Hermione's arms around the sobbing Ginny, for a long while.
"Ginny, listen to me," Ron said with great difficulty when her tumultuous sobs had finally diminished into a soft weeping. "Harry would hate to see you like this, he wouldn't want…" Her brother's voice broke and trailed off as he spoke of the best friend he had ever had.
"Harry loved you, Ginny," Hermione said gently, squeezing her hand in a sisterly sort of fashion.
"But why…" Ginny whispered.
"Because he had to," Ron answered her hoarsely.
"You gave him the best love he had ever known, Ginny," Hermione said tenderly. "You gave him the happiest moments of his entire life, and that should be something you carry with you for the rest of yours. You taught him about love."
"He already knew from you," Ginny sniffled, but in spite of everything, she was beginning to feel, if not better, at least less broken.
"We taught each other about friendship," Ron said seriously, as though this was something he had carefully considered for a very long time. "But there was something we could never give him, Gin; there was a missing piece. That's what you gave him."
"You made his life worth his death, Ginny," Hermione said, swiping at her eyes with the back of a chapped hand, and both Ron and Ginny gaped at her in astonishment. "You're the only person who ever gave him anything resembling normalcy, the only person who showed him what life was supposed to be like. He knew what he was saving when he went, Ginny, and I think he would have thanked you if…" she sniffled, tears running freely now, "…if he could have."
"You owe him your life, Gin," Ron said, startling both of them with this profound statement. He added hastily, "I don't mean that like it sounds…I mean…well…" he fumbled for the words to express what he was feeling, and looked helplessly at Hermione.
"He died so we could live, Ginny," Hermione said, and Ron nodded gratefully at her. "He didn't die so we could exist day-to-day, missing him and wishing the world was different. He died so we could finally live, and that's what we owe him."
Ginny nodded silently, understanding what her friend and her brother were trying to say. For a while, they stood as they had on the day of the battle, shoulder to shoulder, staring again at the white stone that marked their friend's resting place.
"Thank you, Harry," Ginny finally whispered, bending to kiss the cold marble. Turning away from that gravestone was the hardest thing she had ever done in her young life, but she knew now that she had to do it, that it was the only thing she could give him in return for all he had given her.
In my dreams I'll always see you soar above the sky.
In my heart there will always be a place for you, for all my life.
I'll keep a part of you with me, and everywhere I am, there you'll be.
There you'll be.
* * *
From somewhere way beyond the reach of those still remaining, Harry Potter smiled softly in satisfaction. He knew now that his death had not been in vain, and as he continued with the next stage in his soul's journey, he was content.