The curses were raining over Hermione like bombs. To Ron, they sounded like the rumbling roar of a Quidditch crowd in his ears, when all the time he had to keep listening out for the whoosh of the Quaffle. Or, in this case, the sound of the Killing Curse coming his way.
To Ginny, the curses sounded like the gasps of expiring souls. Among them, she could hear the mocking laughter of Tom Riddle. But she wasn't listening. She was searching for Harry.
No one knew what the curses sounded like to Harry, least of all Harry himself. Because he was lost in the middle of it all, and the noises had all faded out. All he could now hear was the rasping breath of his opponent. Voldemort. In fact, the strained sound of breathing was comforting. It told Harry that Voldemort was shaken at least. He was feeling adrenalin, or fear, or apprehension, or anticipation, something which meant that his breath was not quite controlled and which added a small quiver to his sibilant voice.
"Bow to death, Harry," was rising in Harry's ears. Now it was his mother's screams, his father's voice. Bellatrix's triumphant cackle as Sirius arched through the veil.
He pushed them back and made himself see.
He saw Hagrid barging his way towards him, the curses bouncing off him, with Professor McGonagall in his wake. He saw Professor Lupin, his mild face a mask, duelling with Bellatrix Lestrange. He saw Tonks raise herself from the ground and shoot a curse at Lucius Malfoy, who had Arthur Weasley at wand-point.
He saw Neville kicking away Rabastan Lestrange's wand. He saw Luna, for once looking awake, stagger to the floor. He saw Ernie Macmillan race to where Susan Bones was crying at her aunt's side and drag her out of danger.
Harry saw Hermione's hair flying as she was flung to the side by a panting Ron, who sprang to his feet and took her hand as they dodged Dolohov's curses. He saw Hermione's mouth move as she shot a curse back; he noticed Ron's flicker of pride as it hit the target, and then Ron's bright hair was out of sight.
He saw Ginny, her face pale beneath the dirt, catch Draco Malfoy with a well-aimed curse. He saw her eyes move, searching, scanning, everywhere looking, even as she took out Goyle.
He took a deep breath, and finished it all.
The ending wasn't how he'd imagined it would be. Dumbledore had been right; it was love that was the truest weapon. And with the surge of feeling his friends had given him, Harry was able to challenge Voldemort with something he couldn't fight against, because he didn't believe in it.
As the barely-human body in front of him sank and crumbled, while the light from Harry's spell enveloped the green-tinged smoke until the sky rained ashes, the thought dimly flickered through Harry's mind that it couldn't be much of a life if you didn't believe in love.
All of Harry felt so tired and heavy. His muscles relaxed; his eyes rolled. He fell to his knees.
And someone caught him.
Ginny knew when Voldemort died. She'd wondered whether her experience in her first year had given her some kind of link with him. She had no external scar like Harry, but she'd often felt the rising pressure in her chest, compressing her lungs, when he was near. As if he were manipulating her body. As though he were breathing through her.
She felt the release when he died, and she knew that Harry must have done it, that Harry must have destroyed him. She didn't know whether or not it had destroyed Harry in the process. Her searching, already distracting, became her one occupation. She automatically ducked the green light she saw heading for her from the corner of her eye. She barely noticed her retaliating stunner. Something which could have been nasty clipped her elbow, but it didn't register. She didn't have room for pain. She was overwhelmed by freedom and binding. She was free from Voldemort, and she was being tugged towards Harry.
Around her, Death Eaters were beginning to notice that their master had fallen. A large figure blundered into her path, howling in pain and clutching his arm. The mark must be burning. The fighting was ending. Some, like Lucius Malfoy, carried on. Some tried to flee. Bellatrix was tearing and screaming at the magical fastening which bound her. Somewhere, she knew, Hermione would be sobbing into Ron's chest, and Ron's own tears would be mingling with Hermione's hair. Unless they were dead, of course.
For a second, fear and grief lurched up Ginny's throat, and she fought the urge to fall to the ground and cry until she retched. She clamped her mouth shut and raised her chin. Ron and Hermione were not dead, and in a few minutes they would be searching for Harry as desperately as she was.
But she was searching for him now.
When she found him, he was blind to her. Only moments had passed since the death, and Ginny passed through the ash to Harry in time to see him sway and drop to his knees. She lurched forward and caught him.
He opened his eyes and saw dust and red, and red and white. He blinked and tried again. He became aware of cold and pain spreading through the depths of his bones. There was a warm point on each arm; some pressure there was stopping him from seeping away through the ground. He was being held up.
He raised his head - he'd never known the back of his neck and shoulders could scream so fiercely - and made out Ginny's blurry face looking down at him. He could see nothing else. If he strained his ears, he could hear distant cries. He wondered if they were all dying.
He could make out Ginny's voice now, a croaking whisper which made his brain feel a little less numb.
She let go of his arms and stepped closer.
"Harry, you did it," she said, and he could feel her body trembling, the material of her jumper moving against his face.
Then the tears came, and with them the relief. The screams and nightmares and blood and green light washed out of his mind with his cries. He felt Ginny's arms across his back, and he pressed his cheek to her stomach.
"You did it. You did it," she said, over and over again, the words shaken with sobs. He could feel her hunched over him and leaning against him, just as he leant against her. He had no idea how long they stayed like that. Shoulders convulsing, chests hitching, they let go the years of pain and loss, not knowing whether they were grieving or rejoicing. He didn't know which sounds were whose; from the sterile hospital bed in later days, he would be unable to remember if neither of them had said 'I love you,' or both. All he would recall was that he knew from then on that he loved her, for weeping with her had felt like coming home.