She had to get away from the body of her brother, and from George who was holding Fred’s head in his lap, pressing his forehead to Fred’s, his unending tears bathing Fred’s bloody face. He would not move away, nor would Percy, kneeling at Fred’s feet, also hunched over but with his arms extended as though trying to ward off the wall of stone that had collapsed on them, crushing the life out of his brother. Her parents simply sat, next to the body, holding each other, Molly sobbing uncontrollably, Arthur staring into space with tears streaming down his face.
Ginny had felt paralysis creeping into her heart, joining the grief there, and that was when she knew she had to get away: she could not let herself succumb to that paralysis.
She had not seen Harry for hours, ever since he and Ron and Hermione had disappeared into the Room of Requirement on their mysterious mission. She had followed Tonks downstairs to the Great Hall where she fell in with Luna and Dean, fighting up and down the corridors until the disembodied voice of Voldemort had filled the halls with its seductive message of false peace and its lies about Harry, and had called a truce.
She and her companions had gone back to the Great Hall a few minutes before Percy staggered in carrying the body. Ginny had screamed and thrown herself at Percy, beating her fists against him in a rage, trying to will away the death that stared from eyes that had always been laughing but now saw nothing. Bill pulled her away and she flailed at him but he held her close until her screams had become sobs. That was when she had felt herself falling into the pit of defeat, but when Ron and Hermione returned without Harry, she pulled herself up from the floor where she had collapsed next to Fred, and told herself what she had been telling herself all year: she had to be ready for Harry; the time would come when he would need her and she had to be ready. She walked out of the Great Hall, wiping her face and taking deep gulps of air.
Now she was moving across the lawn into the darkness. Bodies were strewn everywhere, many of them students, and she stopped at each one to see if she could do anything. Most were dead, and she began to weep again as she recognized faces and saw their wounds. She tried wiping away the blood from their faces with her sleeves, until they became soaked and could not absorb any more, so she just wiped as much blood off as she could with her hands, and cleaned them on the grass.
One or two were still alive, but she was afraid to move them; she didn’t trust herself to use a Levitating charm, and she could not have physically lifted them. She called to some other students who were also out on the lawn looking for friends or relatives, and told them to hurry back to the Great Hall and get help. They did what she asked; maybe her role in Dumbledore’s Army and her reputation as Harry’s girlfriend lent her a bit of authority.
She left the body of a sixth–year Hufflepuff boy, Joseph Pierce, who was in her Herbology classes and a friend of Neville’s, and walked on. She was now about two hundred yards from the castle and it was very dark, but she did not dare light her wand. There were not many bodies here, but she heard moans off to her left, and hurried towards them.
She found a crumpled form, its limbs twisted gruesomely, lying near the path to Hagrid’s cabin. She knelt next to the body, but it was so dark this far from the castle that she could see almost nothing. She moved to be between the body and the outer walls of the grounds, and lit her wand but kept it as dim as she could.
She cried out and turned away when she saw the girl’s bloody, mutilated face. Her stomach churned; she had to fight down the impulse to vomit that rose in her craw, and forced herself to look. There were bloody gashes on the girl’s cheeks and forehead, and her nose seemed to have been torn away. She was gasping through her mouth with a rasping sound. Ginny thought of Fenrir Greyback, but it also looked, because of the positions of her bent limbs, as if someone had deliberately broken both of her arms and legs.
The girl’s eyes were open and they looked up at Ginny, unfocused and glassy. Ginny steeled herself and tried to wipe the blood from her face—what was left of it—and bent low over the girl. With some of the blood gone—although it kept oozing from her nose and the gashes—Ginny recognized Elizabeth Derby, a fifth–year Ravenclaw. Elizabeth’s hair was long and blond. Ginny knew that she was very popular, and was considered one of the more beautiful girls at school; there were even rumors that she had veela ancestors. Ginny was also quite certain that she was only fifteen, and so she must have sneaked back into the Great Hall during the evacuation of the underage students. She had decided to stay and fight, and she had ended up like this.
Ginny caressed her forehead and leaned down closer to her disfigured face. She did not know if Elizabeth could hear her, but she began to speak.
“It’s going to be all right,” she said. “We’ll get you back inside. You’ll be all right.”
Elizabeth turned her eyes to Ginny, and they seemed to focus. The girl’s arm, which Ginny thought had been twisted into an impossible position, somehow moved and her hand reached up and grabbed Ginny’s. “I don’t want to go back there. I want to go home. Mummy. Where is Mummy?”
Ginny wiped more blood from her forehead to keep it from running into her eyes. “It’s all right. We’ll get you back inside. You’ll be okay.”
“But I want to go home. I don’t want to fight anymore.” Tears began running down her face, mingling with the congealing blood from her nose.
“I know,” Ginny said, her voice breaking. “It’s going to be all right.”
Ginny looked up; she thought she had heard footsteps, but no one was near. She peered into the night and then she did hear steps, but they were moving away. She held her wand up, but there was nothing.
Elizabeth’s grip suddenly tightened and Ginny bent down again. The girl was now staring up at the sky, her eyes filled with terror. Her rattling breath came in choking gasps. She turned her head to Ginny and her hand went limp. Ginny let it drop and slumped on the ground next to the lifeless body. She did not try to stop her racking sobs.
She didn’t know how long she sat there weeping, but she knew that it was getting close to the time of Voldemort’s deadline, when the attack would resume. She doused her wand and stood; she had to get back to the castle. She had to be with her family, and she wanted to see Harry, even if she could not speak to him. She had no illusions about how this was going to end; all she had to do was look down at the broken, mutilated form at her feet.
She heaved a sigh that caught the last sob in her throat, and started to walk towards the castle. On the third step the darkness around her suddenly vanished and a blinding vision filled her head. She was in her Quidditch robes in a crowded common room, and she was running towards the portrait hole, but all she could see there were two emerald green points of light. She flung herself at them and kissed Harry’s lips, wrapping her arms tightly about him, and now it was not a vision but she was kissing him and her entire body was anchored to his. He started to move backwards, away from her, but she held onto him even more desperately, refusing to let him go.
The vision vanished as suddenly as it had appeared, and she was alone on the lawn in the darkness.
Ginny stood rooted to the ground, unable to move or even think. The sky spun above her, and she swayed dizzily with her heart pounding. She could feel the wetness of the kiss on her lips, but putting her hand to her mouth she tasted blood and spat it out. The euphoria vanished. Here she was, and there was the body of Elizabeth Derby, and she had no explanation for what had just happened.
She began walking again, but stopped when she heard distant bangs, and turned to peer through the darkness at the Forbidden Forest. Spells and sparks were rising above the trees. A spell would rise into the air, and a few seconds later she heard the bang that accompanied it. She also thought she heard far off shouts and cheers. They must be coming, she thought.
She turned and started walking again, then began to run and didn’t stop until she reached the steps to the castle, where a few people stood, gazing towards the Forest. She passed through them and went into the Great Hall, looking for her family.
Her mother was on the platform at the back of the Hall with the rest of the Order; Kingsley Shacklebolt was in the center of the group, and leaned towards Molly and said something to her as Ginny entered the room. Molly turned and jumped down from the platform and came running to her, weaving through the knots of people standing and sitting on the floor.
She stopped in front of Ginny. Her eyes were red and puffy, and strands of hair kept falling in her face. She took Ginny’s hands in hers and stared at them, horror–stricken. “Where were you? What happened?”
“It’s not my blood,” Ginny said in a strangled voice. She looked at her mother. “Clean them, Mum, please, please!”
Molly Scourgified the blood, and Ginny dropped her hands. “They’re coming. I was outside looking for people on the lawn. The Death Eaters are sending up signals.”
“Yes, it’s almost time,” Molly said distractedly. “And no one knows where Harry is.”
Ginny looked quickly away; she did not want her mother to see how frightened she had suddenly become. Now she knew whose footsteps she had heard in the darkness. But there was the vision, she thought in desperation. Had it been a farewell? She stumbled blindly to the door and back into the entrance hall.
A small crowd was there, and in a moment Ron and Hermione joined her. “Have you seen Harry?” Ron asked, glancing around. Ginny looked at them wordlessly, but turned; she did not want to speak of her vision, not before she knew what had happened to Harry.
The voice of Voldemort rang out again. When it began speaking of the death of Harry Potter, Ginny listened for an instant, but began to shake her head violently; she put her hands over her ears and looked down, squeezing her eyes shut. She would not believe it, she would not believe that Harry was dead, no, not with the claim coming from the mouth of the master deceiver, not with the feel of Harry’s lips on hers still so real. She would have to see it with her own eyes before she would believe it.
Voldemort’s voice stopped, and for a few minutes there was silence. Ginny glared at Ron and Hermione, daring them to believe what Voldemort had said, but they would not look at her.
Someone standing on the steps outside shouted, “They’re here!” People poured out of the Great Hall, moving towards the doors. Ron pushed them open, and Ginny stepped through with him and Hermione. When she came out onto the steps she saw Death Eaters spreading out before the castle in a long, menacing line.
Suddenly Professor McGonagall screamed. Ginny jumped, as startled by who it had come from as much as by the piercing sound. But she pushed forward and came to the front of the crowd on the steps at the same moment as Ron and Hermione.
Before her stood Voldemort, a great snake wrapped around his shoulders. Next to him, with a waterfall of tears pouring down his face, stood Hagrid cradling the limp form of Harry Potter in his arms.
The world tilted under Ginny’s feet, and she, Ron, and Hermione all screamed. Voldemort glanced at them, his red eyes momentarily gleaming, but Ginny clapped her hand to her mouth. Her mind was reeling, but she would still not believe it, she would not accept what her eyes saw. She flashed back to the vision, and her lips suddenly moistened again, and Ginny knew, beyond any doubt, with her entire being, that Harry was alive.
People around her began shouting curses, screaming at the Death Eaters, until a loud bang and a flash of light from Voldemort’s wand silenced them. He spoke to Hagrid and gestured, pointing to the ground at his feet, and Hagrid gently placed Harry’s body there. Harry lay still, he did not move, and Ginny could feel Ron trembling next to her and hear Hermione crying on his other side. But Ginny did not cry. Tears were not needed for Harry. She would save them for those who needed them, for Fred, and for Elizabeth.
Voldemort spoke in mocking tones to the throng on the steps, but Ginny no longer cared about his words. She did not take her eyes from Harry. There was movement around her, people shifting, taking out their wands, muttering. Someone near her shouted, and she saw out of her peripheral vision that Neville was charging forward, only to be stopped a few yards from Voldemort, his wand blown away. Ginny’s eyes stayed fixed on Harry.
Then, for an instant, the two emerald green points of light that she had seen in the vision appeared again, but this was not a vision, and a shock like a magical spell jolted her body. Ron reached to hold her, thinking that she needed support, but she stood rock steady. For the tiniest moment, the two points of light had appeared where Harry’s eyes were.
Ginny knew that no one else had seen that blink of green; everyone was looking at Neville and Voldemort. Neville was shouting at Voldemort, who responded with contemptuous sneers. He waved his wand, and Neville stood straight and rigid, unable to move.
Ginny still had not taken her eyes from Harry, and she saw the green points again, but this time his eyes stayed open. Voldemort waved his wand, and those around Ginny looked up as something soared out of the castle into Voldemort’s hand. Another jolt coursed through Ginny when she recognized the Sorting Hat, and the hope which had already been rising inside her, now flared into certainty: she remembered five years back to the Chamber of Secrets, and knew that Voldemort himself was about to deliver the tool of his own destruction into the hand of his enemy.
Voldemort walked forward and placed the Sorting Hat on Neville’s head, and Ginny, still staring at Harry, leaned towards Ron and whispered, “Watch Harry.”
Ron turned to her, total incomprehension on his face. But as Ginny began to say more, the world exploded around them. The Sorting Hat burst into flames, there were distant shouts and the sound of thundering hooves from the edge of the grounds, a rush of wings from the sky above, and the booms of a giant’s footsteps to her right.
Voldemort looked around, and a moment of alarm passed over his face. It was instantly replaced with rage, and he looked back at Neville, but too late. Ginny had seen Harry jump up and throw his Cloak over himself, and she saw the Shield charm come up between Neville and Voldemort. Silver and red flashed, and a giant snake head flew into the air.
Chaos erupted. Ginny shot a Stunning spell at Voldemort but it missed and struck a Death Eater standing behind him. Voldemort whirled, looking for the source of the spell. People shouted and screamed. Ginny tried to get closer to where Harry had been, but there was now a mob of defenders and Death Eaters in front. A deep booming voice from behind shouted, “Fight them! Fight them!” and spells and jinxes filled the air.
Ginny was pushed back through the entrance hall and into the Great Hall along with the rest of the castle’s defenders. She stood for a moment, uncertain, as Death Eaters too were forced into the room. But Hermione grabbed her. “Stick together!” she shouted over the roar of voices and the explosions of spells. Luna was with her, and Hermione pointed her wand at a tall female Death Eater only a few yards away. But as Hermione’s spell shot towards her, she whirled with a maniacal screech, parried it, and sent what seemed like dozens of hexes back at them. Ginny recognized Bellatrix Lestrange, and a fury that she had never felt rose in her. This was the witch who had killed the only family that had been left to Harry.
The three girls had their hands full. “Spread out!” screamed Hermione, and in the instant that Ginny was momentarily distracted, a sheet of green flame passed just in front of her, barely missing her face; she could feel its heat and jumped back. She heard another scream, and thought that someone had been hit, but a hand threw her aside and her mother stood in front of her, shouting curses at Bellatrix and firing spells so fast that Ginny could not follow them.
She had never seen her mother like this, a madwoman with murder in her eyes. She seemed to have grown taller, and her hair was a flaming red mane. Bellatrix began taunting, and Ginny saw her mother’s face become colder as her wand became a blur. Bellatrix let out a shriek of insane laughter. Ginny heard her mother snarl like an animal, and her next spell hit the Death Eater square in the chest. Bellatrix dropped to the floor, dead.
A shriek of rage and a loud bang came from the other end of the Great Hall. Ginny saw three bodies fly through the air and crash to the floor. The shriek had come from Voldemort, who was in the center of a large circle of people. Ginny looked around and saw no Death Eaters standing, but to her amazement there were dozens of house–elves around the room, some with bloody knives and cleavers in their hands; she could also see centaurs waving their bows, shouting and stamping their hooves.
A Shield Charm appeared in front of Voldemort, and Harry was standing there, and the room erupted in cries of “Harry!” and “He’s alive!” Hermione grabbed Ginny’s arm, an expression of total joy spreading across her face. Ginny just looked at her. “I knew he wasn’t gone,” she whispered. “I always knew.”
The room went totally silent, and Ginny turned to see what was happening.
Harry and Voldemort were circling each other, wands raised. Ginny pushed to the front of the circle they were prowling, watching their dance, a dance of death. She watched Harry as he circled. When he was in front of her, his back only a few feet away, she lifted her wand a few inches, closed her eyes, and willed her love, her total love, into his body. When Voldemort was in front of her she stared at the back of his hairless head and emptied her mind of everything; she did not want to give him a hint of her presence or what she was feeling for Harry.
The dance continued, and Ginny sensed the climax approaching; she saw it in Harry’s eyes as he circled across from her, and she saw his wand come up a fraction of an inch. As he approached her again, she listened to what he was saying.
“It’s your last chance, it’s all you’ve got left,” Harry said. “I’ve seen what you’ll be otherwise.” He was directly in front of her now, and she sent a wave of emotion towards him. He hesitated for a fraction of a second. “Be a man . . . try . . . Try for some remorse.” Ginny saw uncertainty in Voldemort’s eyes, but it was instantly gone, and he and Harry continued to circle.
Ginny only watched Harry. They were talking about wands, when suddenly the ceiling overhead burst into light as the sun rose, and a massive explosion filled the Great Hall when red and green flames met in the center of the circle, and Tom Riddle lay dead at her feet.
She stared at the body for a moment, then looked across at Harry. Their eyes met, but Hermione was charging across to Harry and jumping on him and screaming as Ron was hugging them both, and Ginny found herself next to Harry with her arms around him for the first time since last summer, and they were surrounded by a mass of screaming people and house–elves and centaurs and Hagrid.
When Ginny finally relinquished her place next to Harry, he glanced at her again and she knew what his eyes were saying: today was for the rest of the world, but tomorrow would be hers. But as she started to pull her hand from his, the cheering, jostling crowd pushed them momentarily together again, and his palm pressed into her thigh. He left it there for a longer moment than he had to and Ginny felt a flush of heat rise into every part of her body, radiating from the place where his hand was touching. They were separated by the mob, and Ginny moved slowly away.
When the cheers and the celebrations had died away, and the tables had reappeared and people began to sit, Ginny found herself back with her family. She didn’t try to look for Harry, content this day to leave him for others. She rested her head on her mum’s shoulder and looked towards the side of the Great Hall where the bodies of fallen friends and family lay. Her eyes began to fill with tears. George and Percy were with Fred again, and Ginny knew that as today wore on and when she awoke tomorrow his death would not seem real. She did not know what the world would be like without Fred.
She saw Ron and Hermione walking towards the door, separated by a space of about two feet, and Ginny knew that Harry was between them under his Cloak. She watched them leave, and heaved a sigh and took her mum’s hand. Molly squeezed it and put her arm around Ginny and pulled her to her bosom, weeping.
Ginny put her arms around her mother. Her heart had filled with pain again, but it was also now buoyed by a glorious feeling of hope and anticipation. Harry would be sleeping in his room in Gryffindor Tower, and Ginny would be sleeping in hers, only a few yards away, under the same roof. Today and tomorrow and for a long time there would be days of grief, but starting tomorrow would also be an endless time of rediscovered happiness. She knew that all would be well.