A/N: Previously submitted to FanFictionNet on July 2011, submitted at the suggestion of annvar.
'Thank you, Neville.' Ginny attempted to smile at him as Neville lifted the injured girl into his arms and took her inside the castle. But that simple gesture, curving her lips and moving the muscles of her face to form a smile, it hurt her.
Moments before, when she stood in the grounds trying to comfort that little girl, Ginny had felt something. That something had made her feel more afraid than anything in the past hours, more than having to battle for her life, more than seeing all those people lying dead, even Fred... lying lifeless, too. Ginny couldn't have said what it was, exactly. It was just a feeling, given by the softest breeze that made the hairs of her arms stand on end. As if there was no hope.
Overwhelmed, she dropped on the ground, her back against the outside wall, and hidden in the shadows, she hugged her knees and cried silently. Was this ever going to end? What would happen when the hour given by Voldemort ended? Would the battle resume and they would inevitably die? Was there a plan? Did they have any chance at all?
Ginny suddenly felt like a frightened little child whose only wish was to go back home to her mum and dad and the scandalously large number of brothers who teased her. Bravery had fled from her when she discovered that whether Voldemort died or not, she would never have a complete family again. Not without Fred.
Two sets of steps sounded on the stone stairs of the entrance. Lifting up her eyes, Ginny saw her brother, Ron, and Hermione. They walked down the stairs and came to a halt somewhere near a blown off piece of wall. Ginny tried to make herself smaller so they would not see her, but they were looking at the forest.
'I don't know, Ron,' Hermione said. 'It is typical Harry not to ask for help and try to get himself killed, but do you really think... I mean, how could he...?'
She obviously couldn't finish her sentence. Ginny heard a sob.
'We don't know if he's there. Maybe he's still upstairs looking at whatever Snape wanted him to see. God, that was terrible...'
'But it's been too long! What will we do next if he doesn't show up? Fighting will be useless unless we kill Nagini!' Hermione whispered.
'That could be a plan... Kill the snake while we're fighting? Otherwise, I dunno how we're going to get it.'
Why they would want to kill Voldemort's snake, other than because it was disgusting, was a mystery to Ginny. And what had happened with Snape? Ginny wanted to leave the shadows and ask them if there was a plan, what did the snake had to do with anything, and where was Harry, but before she could make up her mind, Ron and Hermione, who had their backs to her, turned to face each other and it suddenly felt like a more private moment than before.
'What will happen if we don't kill it, and we...?' Hermione asked, looking at Ron, who shook his head slightly. Ginny racked her brains for an answer. Had Nagini been mentioned before as a crucial part to Voldemort's defeat? She knew the question was pointless; the pair of them and Harry knew things that they hadn't shared with anybody, and perhaps the secret of finishing off Voldemort was amongst them... otherwise they probably wouldn't have appeared at Hogwarts that night. Whatever it was, Ginny swore that if anything happened—and she tried to shoo away what anything meant—she would do it. She would kill the snake.
'I'm scared,' Hermione whispered.
'Me too,' was Ron's reply.
'You know, I always considered the possibility of dying ever since we said we'd come with Harry to find the Horcruxes,' Hermione said softly. 'Obviously. And with the things we've been through, it's not a statement to underestimate, is it? But at the end of the day, I thought that we were going to make it—'
'Don't think about that now,' Ron said, taking a step closer to her. 'You're not going to die. You're going to keep studying and be the Head of some big Ministry department. You're going to keep fighting for people and creatures' rights...'
Hermione chuckled nervously. Ginny couldn't help but remember when she and Ron were younger, the youngest Weasleys, and something had happened to her. Ron would try to cheer her up saying all the good things that would happen later: 'Don't cry, Gin. Mum will fix it and then you'll have a scar. A scar like Charlie's when he fell off his broom at Hogwarts! You said you liked it, remember?' 'Hey Gin, I brought you some pudding. Don't mention it to Mum, though, she'll kill me... But she won't be mad at you for too long, she never is.' 'Come on, Ginny, you have one last year to enjoy yourself before going to school!'
'And you're going to find your parents, and then one day you'll have a family of your own,' Ron kept saying, 'with two really smart children...' Hermione laughed again. '... and a big house in a village, somewhere Crookshanks can chase away the gnomes.'
'And... what about you?' Hermione asked, sounding shy. 'Will you be there?'
Her question made Ginny realize that she was not supposed to be there. She wanted to escape inside and leave them alone for this was a private moment. Ginny was an intruder, and she wanted to at least cover her ears and close her eyes to give them the privacy they deserved to say anything that they wanted to say. But at the same time she felt as if she couldn't do that. She wanted to witness what her ears and her eyes wouldn't believe anyway, because, more than anything, she wanted to believe in something again.
'Am I?' Ron asked, after a long pause.
At the same time, both of them covered the space in between and kissed, so impulsively and passionately that Ginny was surprised not to hear the sound of their colliding heads followed by wails of pain when Ron bent over and Hermione stood on her tiptoes.
It seemed almost surreal to see two people kissing when everything around was falling apart, especially when those two people were none other than Ginny's brother and one of her best friends, his best friend. Ginny knew fully well what Hermione felt for Ron and had guessed long ago what Ron felt for Hermione, too. She wondered if this was their first kiss, or if not, when it had happened, and where, and who had made the first move. She had so many questions; questions that, as many others, would have to wait... or be left unanswered.
To see them now, it was almost painful, thinking that they could have had ages… months… years, maybe…
Ginny tried not to make any sound as the tears streamed down her cheeks.
Before her, Ron was hugging Hermione and burying his face in her hair, against her neck. After what seemed an eternity, they broke apart. 'Let's go inside to see if Harry's back,' Ron said, taking Hermione's hand.
Ginny watched them walk back to the castle. In the light coming from the Entrance Hall, she saw that Ron had been crying, too.
There was little hope, she knew it. Voldemort and his Death Eaters could easily outnumber the fighters who remained at Hogwarts if they refused to hand Harry in. And if he offered himself... well, then they would keep fighting, even if only because it was better to die than to live in a world ruled by Voldemort.
In that moment, though, it did not matter. Because there were two people who had each other, who would love each other until the end, and there was nothing—nothing, Ginny thought as she stood up and, sighing, she prepared to enter to the castle with a firm step—that love could not conquer.