"Only the dead have seen the end of war."(- Plato)
She finds him when the bodies are not yet cold on the ground.
He's sitting on a rock amidst the burning rubble that once was a Charms classroom, his back to her and his head in his hands. She pauses, then, because for such a dreadful moment the scene is terribly beautiful. (Beautiful in that haunting sort of way where it lurks beneath your eyelids and you're not quite sure why.)
"Harry," she says, and she's not entirely sure why but she's whispering, "Harry."
Before, she'd probably have tacked a banal question on the end – "are you okay?" – but she doesn't because her brother is dead and Voldemort is vanquished and she was nearly killed by Bellatrix Lestrange and her brother is dead.
"Harry," she repeats, and he finally turns to look at her. The fires are flickering in his glasses, reflected from a hundred different angles, and for a moment she can't see his eyes at all. But then he tilts his head and his eyes appear beneath the lenses, bloodshot and hunted and filled with tears.
"I'm sorry," he heaves out, "I'm so sorry."
She doesn't know whether he's apologising for Fred or for Remus and Tonks or for making her think he was dead or for leaving her in the first place or just for everything, every tiny little thing that's ever hurt her.
It's Harry, so it's probably the latter.
"Me too," she says, and she kneels next to him and wraps her arms tightly around his neck, his shoulder digging into her chest, her face pressed into the side of his head, "I'm sorry too."
They stay like that for a little while, still and silent at the centre of the carnage, the howls echoing from the castle where the dead are lying surrounded by their families more twisted than any that rise from the Forbidden Forest.
Suddenly Harry's shoulders are shaking and Ginny clutches him tighter as he begins to cry, pulling her around so he can wrap his arms around her, his head in the hollow where her neck meets her shoulder and his tears soaking into her skin. In that moment, as her own tears leak out (-"Oh, Fred, oh my God, Fred, no, not Fred"-), she thinks that winning wars and all that other stuff that goes down in history – she thinks that it's not worth it, because war is war and it stays with you forever, burning behind your eyes and preying on the edges of your consciousness until the whole of you is consumed by it and there's no way out until you die.
"It's okay," she murmurs into Harry's shoulder, hands clutching at the back of his singed t-shirt, "It's okay, it's all okay now."
She thinks back to Fred's still, cold body lying next to Remus and Tonks and she knows that perhaps that's the biggest lie she's ever told.
His breath is hot against her neck as he shudders, trying to stem the tears, and Ginny hates him and loves him in the same instant for always trying to be so brave when, really, it's okay to be vulnerable every now and again and he's certainly earned the right this time. She turns her head and presses a kiss into his hair and as his arms clutch tighter she wants nothing more than to be able to help him forget the way this feels.
But she feels it too, feels the crushing blackness, feels the sorrow at losing the starry-eyed child she used be and she knows that there's no way to forget, not right now. Maybe later, when they have children of their own – she thinks she'd like three - and the world seems perpetually sunny and they're lost always in the world that their children will know, with no evil and nothing more than school bullies to worry about – maybe then they'll be able to spend whole hours forgetting.
So she squeezes her eyes shut so hard fireworks bloom behind her closed eyelids and she kneels there in silence with Harry, feeling the enormity of the moment and the sorrow all around and trying to stem that little part of her that is selfishly thrilling to still be alive.
"I love you," she mutters into his skin, lips caressing his neck as she puts it out there in the world. It's about time she did, after all, and she's really a little embarrassed that it's taken her this long to mean it so deeply.
"I know," he murmurs back, and his fists clench in the back of her shirt, "Me too. But – God, Ginny, I can't stop seeing them. So still. Like… like they were never really alive at all."
"I know," she tells him, muscles locked in an attempt to stop the pain flooding the whole way through her and holding a dance in the hollows of her veins, "I know."
"I'm sorry," he says again, and for some reason that's what sets her off and she's sobbing now, like she promised she wouldn't, swore not to to ensure that she didn't make anyone else's grief worse, and she's gulping and hiccoughing and trying to regain control of herself as she tugs desperately at him.
"Fred," she gasps, needing him to understand, "Fred –"
She can't put into words the other things that she's feeling – the fact that in her mind Fred's face keeps swimming into Tonks' and Tonks' into Remus' and Remus' into Colin's and Colin's into Sirius' and Sirius' into Bellatrix Lestrange's and all of them, all the dead, good and evil, they're melding and spinning and whirling until she's being crushed beneath the weight of them all.
When finally she can breathe again she pulls back a tear-stained face and she traces the sharp angles of Harry's face, so much thinner than she remembers, and it takes a lifetime before she can meet his eyes again.
Eventually she summons up the courage, and finds him looking at her steadily, the stars in his eyes as dim as hers.
"We're going to be okay," he says with all the conviction he can muster (which is a lot, she has to admit), and with his bloodstained thumbs he wipes the tears from her cheeks, "We're going to be okay."
And that's probably the nicest lie she's ever been told.
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