ready for a trip. They had already changed out of their formal dress
robes into trousers and T-shirts, making Ginny – in her frivolous set of gold
bridesmaid robes – feel ridiculously overdressed.
were confirmed then: they were really going, leaving to do whatever important
task Harry had set his mind to, and leaving her behind. Even the area
around them -- smelling of honeysuckle and lavender, lush and green after an
onslaught of summer storms -- seemed conducive to a long trip. It held
the promise of hope and adventure, but it wasn’t for her. The three of
them stood directly underneath the willow, a five minute walk from the
Burrow. The dappled sunlight streaming through the canopy of leaves over
their heads lit wild, geometric patterns on the packs all had slung over their
shoulders. From what Ginny could see, standing in the evening light with
her heels sinking into the ground beneath her, they were tense and engaged in a
heated discussion. Hermione made rapid, angry gestures in the direction
of the wedding celebration still in full swing behind Ginny, while Harry
emphatically shook his head.
With the hum of
humid August heat buzzing in her ears, Ginny took a step closer, finally bringing
herself within earshot.
least some explanation!” Hermione said shrilly. “It’s not fair, Harry,
you know it’s not. She’ll—”
past Harry’s shoulder and stopped speaking abruptly. Her eyes widened
when they met Ginny’s, and Ginny was almost positive she saw a fleeting
half-smile of satisfaction on her best friend’s face. In what looked an
almost reflexive move, Harry and Ron both whipped around to find what Hermione
was looking at.
immediately sought out Harry’s startled eyes.
even going to say goodbye?” she asked with considerably more force than she’d
only slightly, and though he kept his eyes steady on hers, he wasn’t guilty of
trying to sneak away. He only looked upset at being caught.
Hermione slip her hand into Ron’s (she nearly smiled at the startled look upon
his face) and take a few discreet steps towards the thick, brown-speckled trunk
of the old tree, leaving a solitary Harry standing before Ginny. His body
was tense, poised for flight as if with unused energy, and for a moment Ginny
was certain he was going to step closer to her. Instead, he let his
rucksack slip to the ground, landing with a heavy thud as it kicked up a small
cloud of dust.
“What are you
doing here?” Harry asked hoarsely. It was the closest Ginny had been to
him in his three-day stay at the Burrow, aside from the perfunctory waltz he
had politely asked for, during which he had proceeded to avoid her searching
eyes and keep merely the lightest touch upon her waist. The rest of the
time, he and Ron and Hermione had been cloistered in Ron’s sweltering room,
sometimes even missing meals, and giving no indication as to what they planned
on doing when Hogwarts opened its doors for their last year. Just as
she’d noted during their dance, his eyes were circled with patches so dark that
it made her wonder whether he hadn’t been involved in a fistfight. His
shoulders were slightly stooped, his face hollow, and his hair stuck up in a
manner that reminded Ginny of a careless child.
She took a step
nearer, her hands reflexively reaching for him. She caught herself at the
last moment, instead needlessly brushing her hair off her face. Harry
eyed her warily, as if she were an angry serpent poised to strike.
felt her chin lift slightly. “I wanted to see what you lot were doing,” she told him, pointedly
looking at his abandoned pack.
matter, Ginny, just go back up the wedding.”
dropped open. Her eyes stung and flitted away from his face.
She could guess the reasons for his harsh tone of voice, but it did little to
take away the sting of his words. She blinked rapidly and her gaze
distractedly followed a blackbird as it performed a complicated loop de loop on
the wind. Irresistibly reminded of Harry, she squared her shoulders and
met his eyes.
after him, aren’t you?”
froze for an instant before he gave a terse nod.
“Let me come,”
Ginny said wildly, surprising herself.
said plainly, firmly. “You’re not coming.”
knowing what his answer would be, Ginny wilted. She glanced sideways to
see Ron and Hermione quietly watching the conversation. “You’re letting
Ron and Hermione go,” she pointed out.
glanced in his friends’ direction. For a moment, his eyes took on a
misty, far-away look. “Ron and Hermione know what they’re getting into,” he
said as he brought his gaze back to Ginny, his jaw set. “They know what they’re
“And I don’t,
is that it?”
matter if you do or not. You’re not going.”
her mouth; her eyes narrowed and she felt her body roll with anger.
“We have to
leave now, so no one will notice,” Harry said before she could argue.
“Even if you could come, you’d never be ready in time.”
her wand out from the hidden, magicked pocket Molly
had sewn into her dress robes; ever since the fight in the Department of
Mysteries her fourth year, she had taken to having it on her at all times, even
sleeping with it under her pillow. “I don’t need to be packed,” she
said. “I have my wand. I’ll be fine.”
to hesitate for a moment. “You’re not allowed to do magic out of school
anyway, Ginny. Your wand won’t help you.”
doesn’t care about the underage restriction on magic any more, Harry.
They have far more important things to worry about.”
loudly. “Look, it doesn’t matter. If you do underage magic, they’ll know,
and they’ll be able to find us. I can’t have anyone—”
“These are all
rubbish excuses, Harry, excuses that are easy to get around.” Her voice
shook. “At least be honest and tell me you just don’t want me around.”
“I don’t want
you around for this. I don’t want you around to fight him.”
just as much right to want to fight him as you do, Harry,” she said
coldly. “Or did you conveniently forget my first year again?”
and Ginny meanly felt a small jolt of satisfaction.
“No, I didn’t
forget,” Harry whispered furiously, finally taking a step closer so that she
had to tilt her head to meet his eyes, “but it’s only another reason you
shouldn’t come. He could use you, Ginny; he will use you.” A
haunted look came into his eyes. “Please, please just stay. For me. I need to know that you’re safe.”
She wanted to
argue, but it was positively impossible to outright deny him anything. Even as
she tried her final effort, inwardly, she knew she had lost. “It’s not as
if Hogwarts is particularly safe, Harry. Not after….”
than where we’re going,” he interrupted quickly.
“At least tell
me where you’re going, then.”
not,” said Ron from his spot by the tree. His hand was still safely
clasped in Hermione’s. “It’s too dangerous.”
him and looked at Harry. “Please, Harry.” If he could beg, then so
could she. “What if people need to contact you? What if something
happens and we have no idea where you are? I promise I won’t
follow. I promise I won’t just run off and tell, but I….” She fell
silent and swallowed, allowing Harry to study her. Often, when he looked
at her like this, when he stared directly into her eyes as if searching for
something, she felt they were capable of communicating without words.
nodded. “We’re going to Godric’s Hollow first,”
he said quickly. “After that, I honestly don’t know. That’s all I
can tell you, okay?”
“We have to go
She watched him
bend and scoop up his knapsack. He stood before her for a moment and she
held her breath, wondering if he would kiss her goodbye or tell her he’d miss
her. Ginny watched his throat work as he swallowed so harshly she could
hear it. She knew her cheeks were bright red. He stared as if
trying to memorize the exact shade of her hair, her eyes, her blush, so long
and fierce was his gaze. She was sure, so sure, he would kiss her… and
then he turned and walked over to join Ron and Hermione.
Feeling as if
she were trying to breathe underwater, Ginny barely felt the others embrace her,
barely heard them say farewell. She kept her eyes wide, trained on Harry,
determined not to cry or let her heart break until they were out of sight.
With loud pops,
both Ron and Hermione disappeared from underneath the tree. Harry stayed
where he was, his wand held tightly. His eyes bored into hers. For
a brief moment, Ginny wondered if he had changed his mind. “Ginny,” he
finally said. “I need you to turn around.”
I can’t….” He swallowed again, looking positively desperate.
nodded. “Okay, Harry. Goodbye.” Without waiting for his
reply, she pivoted away from him, her heels again sinking into the ground so
that she was facing the bird gracefully soaring on the wind. Just behind
it was the newly setting sun. The blinding array of reds and golds seemed so far beyond her reach; it made her feel
terribly lonely. She thought she heard Harry whisper something before the
telltale pop of his leaving filled her ears. When Ginny finally turned
back around, she found herself alone with the tree.
Half an hour later,
she was still by herself.
Unable to keep
still but unwilling to go back to the celebration, Ginny had finally allowed
herself the satisfaction of giving in to the confusing jumble of emotions
creating a maelstrom within her. The faint strains of melodic and happy
music danced down to her from the wedding, carried on the wind, but it only
succeeded in making the achy, empty hole in her chest more pronounced.
Restlessly, she kicked off her shoes and bent to pick a smooth pebble from the
At the sound of
muffled footsteps moving along the damp grass, she quickly swiped her hand
across her cheeks and looked to see Tonks walking
slowly over to her.
“Wotcher, Ginny,” the young Auror
said when she drew closer. Her cheeks held the healthy glow of several
sunlit hours. “Your mum was getting worried about you,” Tonks answered Ginny’s unvoiced question. “Actually,
she was worried about Ron and Hermione and Harry as well. I saw you head
this way and thought maybe you were all taking a break from the party.”
“No, just me,”
Ginny informed her, unable to keep the bitter strain out of her voice.
“And I’m fine.” She paused, finally meeting Tonks’
eyes. “The others…they’ve left. To fight Voldemort.”
She waited for
the shock to form on Tonks’ face, but it never did;
she merely nodded, saying, “And they’ve left you behind.”
Left me behind.
said, giving a quiet, resentful laugh, “can’t have little Ginny getting hurt,
can we?” She blew a strand of hair out of her face and threw the pebble
she’d been holding. She watched it soar in a perfect arc through the air
before it landed silently.
stretched her arms above her head and gave an exaggerated yawn. Her bubblegum
pink hair was back in place; her cheeks flushed; her eyes were bright.
Ginny’s mind flashed back to Professor Lupin and the
young Auror holding hands and laughing happily only a
few hours before. The image made her stomach turn with jealousy. Just
then, she didn’t want Tonks’ company, let alone the
pitying look that was sure to be on her face.
go inform the others the golden trio is gone?” she asked, cringing slightly at
her unpleasant tone.
“Nah,” Tonks said comfortably. She settled herself down, her
back against the tree, and hugged her legs to her chest. “I reckon the
damage is done now. Waiting ten minutes won’t matter. Besides, from
what I’m told about Hermione, if the three of them don’t want to be found, they
For a brief
moment, Ginny considered telling Tonks where the
group was headed. Her promise to Harry held her tongue.
felt Tonks studying her. Uncomfortable with the
shrewd look on the other woman’s face, Ginny bent to pick up another
stone. She rubbed the smooth surface between her hands. “Well, I’ll
be fine, if that’s what you’re worried about. I just need a few minutes
nodded, still watching her. “Mmm-hmm.
Well, it’s going to be dark soon, so it’s probably best if you’re not
alone.” She sighed audibly. “Besides, it’s getting a little wild up
there.” She gestured with her head towards the Burrow. “Your
brothers spiked every punch bowl, and Hagrid and Slughorn are doing a Muggle dance
– the turkey dance or something. I could use a break from it
myself. You don’t mind if I keep you company for a few minutes, do you?”
not,” Ginny said, immediately feeling guilty for her unfair anger towards Tonks. She moved to sit beside her, folding her legs
beneath herself. The rough bark from the old tree pressed into her back. She
let the stone fall to her lap and studied the fiery ball of the sun as it made
its descent into the horizon. Her bird appeared to have moved on.
Both of them sat quietly, and Tonks unexpectedly slid
her hand on top of Ginny’s. It felt familiar, as if it were Ginny’s own –
short nails and calloused fingers – and the gesture was immediately calming.
“There was a
tree like this in back of my parents' house,” Tonks
announced suddenly, breaking the comfortable silence between them. “I
used to climb it all the time, when I needed to get away from my mum harping on
me to clean to my room, or when I wanted to think.” She smiled,
undoubtedly caught up in memories. “It was my own private Eden.” Pausing for a
moment, she turned her body to fully face Ginny, studying her eyes for a moment
and looking undecided about something. “I probably could have used it
last year, when all I wanted was to be alone.” She tilted her head, as if
trying to read Ginny’s thoughts. “I think I understand what you’re going
through,” she said quietly.
It felt as if a
she’d been doused with cold water. Ginny pulled her hand out of Tonks’ warm, soft grasp and studied the horizon
don’t,” she said harshly.
sighed. Out of the corner of her eye, Ginny saw her hug her legs closer
to her chest. “Last year,” Tonks
whispered. “Last year was probably the worst of my life.”
her head around at Tonks’ strangled whisper.
She studied her profile. “Do you want to know why?” Tonks
asked without looking fully at Ginny.
“We all assumed
it was because of Sirius.” Her eyes grew wide, and she spluttered, “Not
that we were talking about you.”
But Tonks merely kept her eyes trained ahead of her.
“Well, of course, Sirius’ death was hard; he was…well…he was family,
and so alone and miserable during that year at Headquarters. To be
honest, I didn’t know him all that well, though, and my grief was probably more
over Remus’ and Harry’s pain more than
“Remus…” Ginny remembered, thinking back on that day in the
infirmary. It felt a lifetime ago, and with everything that had happened
since, Ginny had forgotten entirely about Tonks’
dramatic outcry of love.
Remus. He got it into his head that I would be much better off without
him. That he was unsafe, that he was somehow unworthy of me. I
tried at first to tell him how utterly ridiculous he was being, and I thought
I’d eventually wear him down. Finally, though, I just gave up… not even
really on him. I gave up the hope that we would ever be together.”
herself and rested the side of her head against the tree, the bark scratchy and
oddly comforting against her cheek. She slipped her hand back into Tonks’.
“When I finally
let go of the hope,” Tonks continued, throwing a warm
smile in Ginny’s direction, and giving her hand a quick squeeze, “it was… I
was… I felt as if I was coming apart at the seams; when I was alone I wanted to
be around people, but of course when I was with them, I wanted to be alone.
I was angry with Remus for abandoning me when I was
grieving, which was actually rather ironic, because I was grieving for
him. And though I was convinced he wanted to be with me, and I was
consequently worried about him being lonely, a part of me was terrified
that what he told me – about wanting to keep me safe – was all a lie, an easy
way to get around having to tell me I wasn’t good enough for him.
I felt guilty because there was a war to be fought, children to protect, people
dying, and I was so terribly worried about Remus, and
feeling alone and sorry for myself, that I didn’t think I had anything left to
give anybody else.”
finally looked Ginny’s way, her eyes calm and warm. “Is that it?”
her eyesight growing fuzzy. “I just feel so alone,” she confessed, unable
to stop speaking once she’d started. “I’m to go back to Hogwarts next
week, and the thought of facing all of those rooms and those memories without
him there, without them there, terrifies me. And then I think,
well, aren’t I being selfish, because they’re going off to chase down Voldemort and I’m terrified of empty rooms, but… but I’d
feel safer facing down a dark wizard with them than I would alone in the dark,
and maybe a part of me is angry that Harry can’t stop to notice that.”
She sighed. “Or that he’s incapable of noticing because he has
bigger things to worry about than his silly girlfriend and her mad
paranoia.” Ginny laughed wetly. “Except I’m not
his girlfriend anymore.”
She glanced at Tonks. “Do you – I mean, did you know he and I were
warmly. “I was at Hogwarts for most of the year, even if you
couldn’t see me. I knew you were together. And I saw how happy it
flitted away for a moment; she sighed, caught up in memories of sun-drenched
air and breathless laughter, of hands and dizzying kisses. She felt her
cheeks warm and looked back at Tonks to see a knowing
smile gracing her heart-shaped face.
changed between you and Professor Lupin?”
smiled. “What changed was that I acted like a complete fool in front
everyone and he probably didn’t want that sort of mad drama again.”
quietly. “So I should follow Harry and make sure my whole family comes,
and then make a scene? Somehow I don’t think that would work.”
probably right,” Tonks agreed. She frowned
slightly. “The truth is I’m not entirely certain what changed. When
Sirius died, it seemed that Remus gave up
hope, and it was… later he told me he felt that punishing himself was the only
thing he knew to do to make it better. He felt as if by hurting, he was
doing the right thing.
“But the thing
is, Ginny,” Tonks continued, “sometimes doing the
right thing and the easy thing is the same
thing, and people assume the right decision always has to be the one that hurts
us, when – if they’d just listen to their hearts – they’d see how wrong they
are. Remus had to figure this out on his
own. Harry’ll come around.”
snorted. She felt tears prickle her eyes and she turned her head to watch
the sun slip behind the horizon.
is,” she said after a minute, keeping her eyes trained ahead in the darkness,
“Professor Lupin loves you, and he’s here with you,
and he’s not some seventeen-year-old boy running off to meet his fate.” She
looked back at Tonks. “He sees you as an equal,
not some little school girl in love with a fairytale.”
Tonks gave a
half-smile. “There was a time not too long ago when Remus’
worries were in fact that I was a silly little girl incapable of grasping the
cold, hard facts of war, and he was worried that I was taken up with the
grandeur of being with a werewolf.” Tonks tutted. “What nonsense. I’m
an Auror; I’m fighting next to him, and the real
truth of the matter is that he was blinded by his own insecurities.
worried about Harry loving you, Ginny…” Ginny brought her startled gaze
up to Tonks’. “Don’t be. I’ve seen the
way he looks at you. I saw it this past year at Hogwarts, and I saw it
all through the wedding when he thought he was being terribly sly and studying
you when he thought no was watching. As for him thinking you’re unequal –
prove to him that you’re not.”
“How am I supposed to do that? If I followed them to God—” She clamped her mouth shut, ignoring the shrewd look Tonks gave her. “If I followed them,” Ginny repeated
in a rush. “— not that I even have any idea where they’re
going – they’d just send me home.”
and gave her shoulders an exaggerated shrug. “I dunno,
Ginny, that’s something you’ll have to figure out. Maybe there’s
something at school you could do…”
“What on earth
could I do cooped up at Hogwarts? I don’t even think we’re going to be
allowed into Hogsmeade this year.”
“No,” agreed Tonks. “Hogsmeade isn’t
“It’s not as if
Hogwarts is all that safe anymore, anyway. I just wish Harry’d realize that.”
than most, understands that nowhere is entirely safe now. I’m not
defending his choice to distance himself from you. Denying love is never
a good thing, but I am sure he only has your best interests at heart – and
probably his own. You have to trust him to make the right decision when
the time comes.” Tonks paused. “And you have to
trust yourself as well.”
“How can I
trust myself when I feel so… so desperate and confused and… terrified?”
Ginny glanced up at the vast sky, millions of stars blinking back at her.
For a moment, she wondered what would happen if they fell out the sky; she
didn’t think the world would be any more confusing. “The world is falling
apart, and I’m just some helpless girl watching it crumble into dust.”
“No,” Tonks said sharply. “You’re not helpless. When
the world around you is falling apart, Ginny, that’s when it’s imperative that
you trust yourself.” She looked at Ginny, her eyes two bright spots lit
up by the rising moon[MSOffice3]. “If the world is unsafe, do
something about it. Make yourself safe.”
“How am I
supposed to—” She stopped. Her mind
suddenly flashed to a not-so-secret room filled with students all eager to
learn how to defend themselves.
She felt a sudden
rush of excitement and smiled to herself. She looked up to see Tonks smiling in return.
“And I’ll tell
you a secret,” Tonks mock whispered. “If you
need any help with anything, I’m sure your new Defense professor will be more
than willing to help.” She winked. Ginny opened her mouth, but Tonks interrupted: “Are you ready to go back up there?” she
asked, looking past Ginny into the black evening. “It’s dark. We
shouldn’t be outside the wards.”
in the direction of the Burrow. Music and laughter still floated towards
her. Though she wasn’t terribly eager to break up the merriment by
informing the party of Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s disappearance, she knew
putting it off would not make it any easier. Maybe once her mum had
calmed down a bit, she could sneak off to her room to owl Neville and
She nodded and
allowed Tonks to help her up. Under the mellow
white light of the crescent moon, the two moved hand in hand towards the
laughter. Ginny shut her eyes. A picture of Harry flared behind
them, as clear as if he were standing in front of her; he was laughing, telling
her everything would work out in the end.
far away, Ginny thought she heard the sound of a blackbird.
thanks to Hailiebu, Allie and Gwynne for the beta.