And finally… the last chapter!
Chapter Twenty-Nine: Goodbye
When Ginny went down to the common room the next morning she found Harry sitting by himself in front of the fire.
“Harry,” she managed to say, and he looked up at her.
He stood up and she walked into his arms. Neither said a word, they just held on to each other for a long moment. They broke apart when they heard the portrait hole open. A few students came in, apparently from breakfast. How people could eat after everything that had happened was a wonder to Ginny.
“Ron and Hermione went to the hospital wing to check on Bill,” Harry told Ginny.
“I’m on my way there too,” she told him. “Are you coming?”
“Sure,” he said.
She held his hand and they made their way together to the hospital wing. All the while Ginny kept a vigilant eye on Harry. She had seen him after Sirius’ death the previous year. He had avoided human contact as much as possible, choosing to be alone with his pain. She feared he could react the same way to Dumbledore’s death. She had not been able to be there for him when Sirius died; she knew very well it was not her place. But things were different now. And she had every intention of helping him through this.
All lessons were suspended, all examinations postponed. Some students were hurried away from Hogwarts by their parents over the next couple of days; others had refused point-blank to leave the school until after the funeral.
By the afternoon before the funeral the castle was full of special guests, and Ministry officials, including the Minister of Magic himself. Harry was diligently avoiding contact with any of them, and Ginny knew it was because he was in no rush to having to account for Dumbledore’s last excursion from Hogwarts.
Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny were spending all of their time together. The beautiful weather seemed to mock them. It was hard to believe Dumbledore was really dead. Ginny kept thinking that they should had had this time together at the very end of a normal year, her examinations finished, the pressure of homework lifted. Everything should be perfect. But nothing was.
Although Harry seemed almost normal, Ginny knew better. He had been broody and distant, and Ginny could tell that Dumbledore’s death was not the only thing on his mind. He was trying to decide his next course of action. Ginny had the dreadful realization that whatever that course would be, it would take him away from her. The mere thought of it tore little pieces from her heart.
Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny visited the hospital wing twice a day: Neville had been discharged, but Bill remained under Madam Pomfrey’s care. His scars were as bad as ever; in truth, he now bore a distinct resemblance to Mad-Eye Moody, though thankfully with both eyes and legs, but in personality he seemed just the same as ever -which, to Ginny, was a great relief. Fleur was always at his side at all times, and this was something that even Ginny was starting to get used to.
“I suppose I’m just going to have to accept that he really is going to marry her,” she sighed later that evening, as she, Harry, Ron and Hermione sat beside the open window of the Gryffindor common room, looking out over the twilit grounds.
“She’s not that bad,” said Harry and Ginny looked at him with raised eyebrows. He added hastily, “Ugly, though.” His tone more than anything surprised a giggle out of Ginny.
“Well, I suppose if Mum can stand it, I can.”
A while later Ginny got to her feet.
“I’m going to go to bed,” she said yawning. “I haven’t been sleeping that well since … well … I could do with some sleep.”
She kissed Harry (Ron looked away pointedly), waved at the other two and departed for the girls’ dormitories. Ginny got into bed thinking about the following morning, when Dumbledore’s body would be laid to rest. Harry would need her, and she needed to be strong for him.
The next morning, the mood in the Great Hall was subdued. Everybody was wearing their dress robes and no one seemed very hungry. Professor McGonagall had left the throne-like chair in the middle of the staff table empty. Hagrid’s chair was deserted too, but Snape’s place had been unceremoniously filled by Rufus Scrimgeour.
Among Scrimgeour’s entourage Ginny spotted the red hair and horn-rimmed glasses of Percy. At the sight of him, Ginny felt a bubbling, venomous fury that threatened to overwhelm her. How could he sit there and eat breakfast and side with the Minister? Didn’t he know how much he was hurting their parents? She was positive he hadn’t bothered to check on Bill. That alone infuriated her even more.
Professor McGonagall rose to her feet and the mournful hum in the Hall died away at once. Harry didn’t seem to notice. He looked like he was lost in thought. Ginny nudged him on the ribs and brought him back to reality.
“It is nearly time,” she said. “Please follow your Heads of House out into the grounds. Gryffindors, after me.”
They filed out from behind their benches, and headed towards the lake. The Gryffindors followed Professor McGonagall in silence to the place where hundreds of chairs had been set out in rows. An aisle ran down the centre of them: there was a marble table standing at the front, all chairs facing it. It was the most beautiful summer’s day.
An extraordinary assortment of people had already settled into half of the chairs: shabby and smart, old and young, including members of the Order of the Phoenix. Ginny also saw her family: Her parents, Bill supported by Fleur, and Fred and George, who were wearing jackets of black dragonskin.
Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny filed into seats at the end of a row beside the lake. Ginny couldn’t help smiling when she saw Neville being helped into a seat by Luna. Now and forever she would always count both within her best friends.
She was distracted by what sounded like a song, and saw in the lake a chorus of merpeople singing in a strange language. Even though she couldn’t understand the words, the music spoke very clearly of loss and of despair.
“In there,” whispered Ginny in Harry’s ear, since he hadn’t realized where the sound was coming from. Then she nudged him again. The funeral was starting.
When Hagrid walked forward carrying Dumbledore’s body, Ginny couldn’t stop her tears; they were falling thick and fast into her lap. Hermione was crying too. Harry and Ron’s faces were white as paper. There was a moment during the ceremony when Harry’s tears fell too. He looked away from Ginny and the others and stared out over the lake, towards the Forest. But Ginny saw them and they broke her heart.
Suddenly several people screamed. Bright, white flames had erupted around Dumbledore’s body and the table upon which it lay: higher and higher they rose, obscuring the body. White smoke spiraled into the air and made strange shapes. And when it was all over they could see a white marble tomb, encasing Dumbledore’s body and the table on which he had rested.
A moment later, Dumbledore’s funeral was over.
Ron’s face was screwed up as though the sunlight was blinding him. Hermione’s face was glazed with tears, but Ginny was no longer crying. Harry then turned to her with a determined look on his eyes. And Ginny knew.
“Ginny, listen …” he said very quietly, as the buzz of conversation grew louder around them and people began to get to their feet. “I can’t be involved with you any more. We’ve got to stop seeing each other. We can’t be together.”
It was happening…
She knew him very well. In fact, she knew him so well that she had been half-expecting this. And as much as it hurt –and as much as he was being dumb and blind- she couldn’t blame him. She wouldn’t blame him for being Harry.
Instead, she said, with an oddly twisted smile, “It’s for some stupid, noble reason, isn’t it?”
“It’s been like … like something out of someone else’s life, these last few weeks with you,” said Harry. “But I can’t … we can’t … I’ve got things to do alone now.”
She did not cry –she wanted to, but she didn’t- she simply looked at him.
“Voldemort uses people his enemies are close to. He’s already used you as bait once, and that was just because you’re my best friend’s sister. Think how much danger you’ll be in if we keep this up. He’ll know, he’ll find out. He’ll try and get to me through you.”
“What if I don’t care?” said Ginny fiercely.
“I care,” said Harry. “How do you think I’d feel if this was your funeral… and it was my fault…”
She looked away from him, over the lake. She thought she would be ready for this, but she had only been kidding herself. The pain was unbearable.
“I never really gave up on you,” she said in a surprisingly steady voice. “Not really. I always hoped… Hermione told me to get on with life, maybe go out with some other people, relax a bit around you, because I never used to be able to talk if you were in the room, remember? And she thought you might take a bit more notice if I was a bit more… myself.”
“Smart girl, that Hermione,” said Harry, trying to smile. “I just wish I’d asked you sooner. We could’ve had ages… months… years maybe…”
“But you’ve been too busy saving the wizarding world,” said Ginny, half-laughing and without a trace of resentment. Again, that was who he was. “Well … I can’t say I’m surprised. I knew this would happen in the end. I knew you wouldn’t be happy unless you were hunting Voldemort.” She swallowed… She was going to say it now. “Maybe that’s why I like you so much.”
It was the first time she said it to his face and she could tell the confession shook him. With a miserable gesture, Harry got up, turned his back on Ginny and walked away around the lake.
Two big fat tears ran down her cheeks as she saw him walk away, with a scream of pain and frustration trapped somewhere inside her chest. She wanted to chase after him; to tell him that she would not let him treat her like a defenseless eleven-year-old; that he needn’t go through this alone. She wanted to yell at him; to slap some sense into him; to tell him that he couldn’t expect her to sit home and knit, waiting for his return, dying a bit every day, worrying that any moment she would be told he was dead.
But there was no point in going after him. Ginny knew he wouldn’t let her get close right now. He needed time and she would give it to him. One thing was for sure, though, she told herself as she saw him talking with the Minister of Magic, this was not the end. She now knew she would never love another boy –no, he was not a boy anymore. She would never love another man. She would find a way to stand beside him, because while he was busy saving the world, she would be there to watch over him.
“You are not going to get rid of me this easily, Harry Potter,” she muttered, slapping the tears away with fierce determination.
She wheeled around and headed toward the castle to get her trunk. She couldn’t wait to get out of here. Hogwarts didn’t feel like home anymore.