Author's Note: I wrote this far in advance of HB, so it falls within OotP canon and contains spoilers for the fifth book.
Standard disclaimers apply: Harry and friends does not belong to me, I'm not making money off my fic, etc. The two songs used in this fic, "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen and "Lift The Wings" by Bill Whelan, aren't mine either. Also, I must give very special thanks to Antonia East, who was the first to read and like this fic and gave the confidence to keep working on it.
"Come on, you can do better that that!" Sirius Black shouted, his voice echoing throughout the cavernous room. No sooner had the words left his lips than a jet of light hit him in the chest. Without thinking, Harry bolted toward his godfather, in a desperate bid to get to him…but he was too late. In a single graceful motion, Sirius dropped toward the veiled archway. Just before he disappeared through it, he turned to Harry, furious:
"How could you be so stupid?! How could you let this happen?!"
Harry woke with a violent start. Panting, his eyes darted about in the early morning darkness. In his panic, it took him a while to remember where he was. His eyes registered Ron's violently orange walls, low ceiling and Pigwidgeon's empty cage.
He sighed heavily. Harry sank back onto his makeshift bed, trying to steady his breathing. He had had the nightmare again. Harry shook his head briskly, trying to shake away the remnants of the terrifying dream. He rolled onto his back, looking up at the sagging ceiling, his mind churning with questions he could not ask, and to which he did not want to know the answer.
After a lot of tossing and turning, he realized that he had a better chance of joining the Slytherin Quidditch team than going back to sleep. As quietly as he could, he slipped out of bed and looked up at Ron. The flame-haired boy was sound asleep. Careful not to wake him, Harry crept out of the room.
As he made his way down the five flights of stairs, his thoughts strayed back to the nightmare. He still had to remind himself that it was only a nightmare each time it happened. It was just another part of the past. It hadn't gone away since the night of the battle at the Ministry of Magic. Every night, he saw Sirius fall through the archway, felt his eyes on him, heard him ask those same questions. Each time, Harry woke before he could answer.
Harry paused on the second floor landing. Slivers of moonlight streamed in through a window, casting a bluish light on him. The stars still twinkled against the dark sky, so it must have been very early indeed. He leaned on the windowsill and stared up at the sky, trying to wash the dream's aftertaste from his mind.
It was a dream. It was only a dream, he told himself.
Harry rubbed his eyes. Exerting his brain on such little sleep was giving him a headache. He continued his path downstairs and before he knew it, he was at the foot of the myriad staircases. He peered into a nearby mirror. A bleary-eyed, messy-haired boy of sixteen stared back at him. He groaned.
The mirror hissed, "Just what are you doing up at this hour? Do you have any idea what time it is?"
"I couldn't sleep," Harry replied. He left the mirror to whatever thoughts a mirror could possibly have, and headed toward the kitchen. It was soon apparent that he wasn't the only one awake. A petite form was bustling about the cupboards, singing quietly.
"Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah
There was a sharp gasp and Ginny whirled around, wide-eyed.
"Harry!" She exhaled loudly. A hand was clutched at her chest and, despite the dim light, Harry could see a brilliant blush staining her cheeks. "Don't do that. You scared me half to death."
"Sorry. I didn't think anyone would be up."
"Neither did I."
A choking silence hung between them. "I didn't wake you, did I?" Ginny finally whispered, her gaze held steadfastly at her feet.
"No, I just couldn't sleep." He paused, unsure of what to do. His mind grasped frantically for a change of subject, but nothing came to him. So, he stuck his neck out and hoped for the best. "Er...you sang very well."
Ginny's eyes snapped up. "Really?" Then, as if embarrassed by her reaction, she looked away. "How much did you hear?" she asked in a quieter voice.
"Just a bit. But what I heard was...well, really good."
A shy smile crept onto her face. "Thank you."
Another awkward pause. Valiantly, Harry pressed on. "What...er, what song is that?"
"It's called 'Hallelujah'…obviously," Ginny giggled, self-deprecatingly. "Hermione and I were listening to it earlier."
"So she's finally got you in to Muggle music, then?"
Ginny looked up at him. "Yes. It's quite good, actually. I mean, it's not the Weird Sisters, but—"
"Excuse me," a voice said from out of nowhere, "but I believe I'm done. If you don't mind...?"
Ginny's attention suddenly turned toward the stove, where steam was pouring silently from a kettle. Harry looked around, bewildered. Where had that voice come from? As Ginny filled a mug with tea, the unfamiliar voice said, "Thank you, dear."
Harry stared at her quizzically. "Your kettle talks?"
"Yeah, Mum charmed it. It used to scream like a banshee."
Harry was about to ask if it really screamed, but decided not to. He had a feeling he already knew the answer.
Ginny turned around. "Would you like some?"
He hesitated. "What is it?" After seven years in the wizarding world and its various foods, Harry had learned to always ask before accepting anything to eat or drink, no matter how benign it seemed.
"Just tea. It's a recipe Mum made up. It'll help you sleep."
"I think I will have a bit; thank you."
She poured him a mug and stood there, holding the tea self-consciously.
"Here, let's sit down," Harry said, seating himself at the spacious plank table. Ginny bustled over and pulled up a chair.
It was several minutes before either of them said anything. "So," Ginny said, finally meeting his eyes, "you think I sing well?"
"Yes. Why don't you do it more often? I've never heard you sing before."
"Well...I've always been too shy."
He stared at her in disbelief. "Shy? You? Fancy that."
She shot him a look of mock irritation. "Yes, when it comes to some things. How can you live with all those boys and not get teased? I used to sing more often, but they teased me all the time--especially Fred and George. They used to say that the kettle and I should do a duet sometime."
She took a sip of her tea. "Well, that's why I stopped doing it. Wasn't worth the hassle. Another reason Mum charmed the kettle, too." She took another sip. "So," she continued, "if you don't mind my asking, what's got you up at this hour?"
"I just couldn't sleep." He didn't feel the need to elaborate. "What about you?"
"Same with me."
Something in her voice told Harry that this wasn't the whole truth, but he chose not to pursue the matter. They drank in silence again. After a few minutes, Ginny picked up her mug and swirled it around.
"This reminds me of Trelawney's class. Did you ever do tea readings?"
Harry pulled a face at that memory. "Oh, yes; I don't care to do that again."
"Oh, I know. I hated it! Besides, it's all bollocks."
Not entirely, Harry thought. He remembered the first time he had done a tea reading, when Trelawney saw the Grim that turned out to be Sirius...
He did not like the direction the conversation was going, and was eminently grateful when Ginny changed the subject.
"I'm just curious: How do you feel about Ron and Hermione?"
Harry laughed through his nose. They had finally started dating over the summer. "I can't believe it took them that long to wake up."
Harry had to bite back a laugh. "So it wasn't just me."
"Of course not! All Ron ever talked about was how much she irritated him! Hermione this, Hermione that...doesn't take a genius to work out what's going on."
"Really. Once, he was off on one of his tangents about her and I asked him when he was finally going to up and snog her already."
Ginny laughed and rolled her eyes. "Haven't we all?"
"He got snippy and accused me of changing the subject...but he knew I had him there."
Ginny smiled suddenly. "I'll never forget the day when they finally realized what was staring them in the face."
Harry laughed out loud at that memory. One day at the Burrow, they got into another one of their famous arguments. It lasted all day and their ire was so great that they ended up in the living room, fighting in front of Harry and the rest of the Weasleys. As they paused for breath, Ron saw his opportunity and...
"...just dived at her and snogged her square on the mouth," Harry laughed.
"It was so funny!"
"Remember how he nearly knocked her over?"
"He was like a charging Erupment!"
Harry laughed outright at Ginny's observation.
"And Fred and George's reaction..." Ginny continued.
"Gave them a standing ovation."
Ginny burst out laughing and had to cover her mouth. "Oh, I'll never forget that as long as I live," she said.
They sat in silence once more. It was a while before Harry, his thoughts straying back to Sirius, noticed that Ginny was looking at him, appraisingly. There was something about the way she looked at him that made Harry feel very uneasy, like she was sizing him up.
"Harry…we're friends, right?"
He furrowed his brow. "Of course. Why would you ask that?"
She swirled her tea around again. "Well…no, I shouldn't," she finished quietly.
Ginny paused, then took a swig of tea, as though fortifying herself. "I heard you talking in your sleep."
Now it was Harry's turn to blush. "I…I was?"
Ginny looked puzzled. "You didn't know?"
"No…no one's told me—''
"You mean Ron can't hear you? What is he, deaf?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Ron could sleep through Armageddon." But that was a matter for another time. "I was talking in my sleep?"
He dreaded the next question. "What was I saying?"
"I couldn't tell. But you sounded upset." She stared into her mug. "And you've been doing it a lot lately."
"Wait, how can you hear me?"
She rolled her eyes. "Harry, the walls in this house are thin as parchment. I hear everything that goes on around here. Now stop changing the subject."
He rubbed his eyes. This was terrible.
Ginny stopped swirling her tea and met his eyes. "Harry, what's wrong?"
He stared at the tabletop.
"I want to help you."
"You can't help me," he said bitterly.
"How do you know?" she retorted sharply.
"Ginny, you just can't. You don't have any idea what I've been through—"
"Oh, don't start that again. Just because I haven't had all the same experiences you have does not mean that I don't know the pain of feeling helpless, of losing people I love—"
"Percy doesn't count," he snapped.
He knew it was a mistake the instant it came out of his mouth. Ginny's expression morphed from irritation to sheer fury in a matter of seconds. She yanked him up by the wrist and dragged him outside. Once in the yard, she shouted, "Don't you dare talk about my brother that way!"
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean that," he muttered.
"You damn well better not have," Ginny fumed. "And need I remind you again that I have also suffered directly at You-Know-Who's hands? You're not the only one, you know, not by a long shot. So get that out of your head." She sat down on the porch for a long while, her fingers resting on her temples. When she finally looked up, her expression had softened considerably. "Look, Harry, I really do want to help you. I can't stand to see my friends in pain. So please…let me help you."
Harry sat in belligerent silence again.
"It's Sirius, I know it is."
He couldn't meet her eyes.
"Please don't shut me out."
"I'm not shutting you out!" he said indignantly.
"Yes, you are! Whenever someone mentions Sirius, you glaze over and nobody can get a word out of you. We might as well have a conversation with the wall, for all the help you give us."
"Well, excuse me, but I don't feel like talking about it right now!" he shouted.
"Funny, you never feel like talking about your problems!" Ginny countered, just as loudly.
They sat, staring at each other mutinously. "Fine," Ginny finally snapped. "Fine! If you don't want my help, you can just sit there and let your grief over Sirius kill you!" She got up and started toward the door.
"You weren't kidding, Ginny, that's some great advice you gave! That really made me feel better!" Harry shouted after her. She stopped at the doorway, and Harry had the distinct impression that she was counting to ten before she spoke again.
"Well, I'm sorry, but you can try the patience of a bloody saint. You're the most stubborn person I've ever known, and I've lived with Ron my whole life," she said from behind gritted teeth. After a heavy sigh, she went back to the porch steps.
"All right, maybe what I said about you shutting us out was unfair of me. You weren't allowed to show your feelings growing up. Maybe you just aren't sure how to go about it. But you'll feel so much better if you do. You don't have to be poetic. Just say what you feel."
He looked at Ginny, weighing his options. Although Ron and Hermione were his best friends, he didn't feel as though he could tell them about the way he felt after losing Sirius, about the constant churn of emotions he felt all the time. He knew they just wouldn't understand. But with Ginny…there was something different at play. There was something about her that put him at ease. Like he could tell her anything, and she would know precisely what he was talking about. Perhaps it was because she also knew the direct sting of Voldemort's actions, or maybe it was because there was something about her that he just connected with. But whatever the reason, he felt sure she would understand.
He sat, trying to vocalize the jumbled emotional mess he felt, but nothing happened. "I don't know how to start. I don't know where to start."
"Just say whatever comes to mind."
He stared into the sky. There seemed to be no way to smoothly segue into this topic, so he dived into it headlong.
"I can't believe I was so stupid."
"What do you mean?"
"You know what I mean," he snapped. "How could I have been stupid enough to think Sirius was in trouble?"
"All right, first of all, you're not stupid. That connection had been going on all year, and how were you to know that this time he'd intentionally tapped into it?"
"But that's the thing! I should have known he'd do that."
"And how could you possibly know?"
"I—I dunno…I just should have known."
"Harry, you're not psychic."
"I know, Ginny, but I should have known better!" he shouted. "I acted without thinking, and I--" His throat tightened. "I got him killed, and I could have got you lot killed too. If it weren't for me, Hermione wouldn't have been hit by that curse, you wouldn't have broken your ankle…it's all my fault." He couldn't meet her eyes.
"That's not true. You thought he was in danger. Anyone else would have done the same. And besides, my ankle was fixed in no time. It's fine now," she said, wiggling it to show him.
"But I shouldn't have been so gullible," he muttered.
"It's not a matter of gullibility."
"So what is it, then?" he challenged.
"It—okay, you won't like what I'm going to say, but you need to hear it. Hermione's right—you do have a hero complex."
"That's not true--!"
Ginny put her hand up. "No, listen to me. She's right. You do have a tendency to think that everyone needs to be saved, and that you're the only one who can do it."
"Because I've got people into enough trouble as it is, it's only right that I be the one to pull them out of it! Remember, I didn't want you lot coming with me to the Department of Mysteries."
"And we demanded to come with you because there was no way you could have gone there by yourself and got out alive."
He pressed on. "Anyway, it's my own damn fault that we're at war to start with. He wants me, just me. Since it's only me he wants, it should be only me that fights him."
"Harry, for heaven's sake, you cannot do all that alone! You're not immortal. You're not a superhero. He—no." She sounded determined. "No, I'm not going to be afraid of that anymore." She took a deep breath. "Voldemort preyed on your goodness."
It was this that made Harry look at her. He had never heard Ginny say that name before.
"He did. He used you. That's what he does best. You had no idea what you saw that night wasn't real."
"But that still--"
Ginny cut him off. "That's enough. Now listen to me. You are one of the smartest, bravest people I know. You've faced…Voldemort and lived more times than anyone. Do you honestly think someone weak-minded and gullible could do that?"
He sat in silence for a few minutes, absorbing what she had said. "Fine. All right, I guess I couldn't have done those things if I was gullible," he conceded. Silence descended upon him again, and he stared at the fading stars.
"But…?" Ginny prompted.
He continued to look out at the sky, hoping desperately that he could keep his emotions in check. "But now I'm…I'm alone. Really alone."
"No, you're not."
He swallowed hard and dropped his gaze to the grass. "He was my last hope of a family," he whispered.
There was silence again. When Ginny finally spoke, she sounded on the verge of tears herself.
"Harry, look at me. Please. Look at me."
Reluctantly, he raised his eyes. She looked like she was trying very hard not to cry, but her face was a mix of emotions: Grief, determination, bravery.
"You're not alone. You have Ron and Hermione, the Order and me. I can't believe you haven't cottoned on yet, but for all intents and purposes, you are a Weasley. You're practically a son to Mum and Dad, you really are. If it weren't for that spell Dumbledore put on your relatives' house, they would have adopted you years ago. And Ron thinks of you as a brother. He would do anything for you."
Her jaw set determinedly.
"And so would I. You have already laid your life on the line for me, and I would do the same for you in an instant. I wouldn't even need to think about it."
Harry's vision was so blurred he could only see the red of Ginny's hair. The last thing he wanted was to break down in front of her, and he got up and headed for the door. Without missing a beat, Ginny got up and caught him by the wrist.
"I'm not finished."
He turned to look at her.
"When you're at your lowest, when you think you don't have anyone, just think about us. We may not always be right there with you, but we're here for you. We are your family. And we love you."
Harry could feel his eyes spilling over and turned his face away from her. She gently turned it back to meet hers. Tears were flowing unrestrained down her face.
"Don't keep it in. Just let it out."
It was as though Harry had been waiting for approval. All at once everything he had been feeling, all the shame, all the guilt, all the grief, came pouring out of him in choked, anguished sobs. He could not remember ever crying like this.
In an instant, Ginny's arms were around him, her hand running soothingly up and down his back. He could feel his legs beginning to buckle. Before he had an opportunity to grab hold of something for support, he and Ginny were on the ground, her arms still around him, as though trying to hold him up. And he let her do it, resting his weight on her as he cried.
He felt like he had forgotten how to cry. He certainly wasn't used to this, sobbing so openly and freely. He must have been making an utter fool of himself, yet Ginny still held him.
He couldn't be sure how long they sat there. It felt like ages. When Ginny finally spoke, he jumped, startled by her voice.
"There's a song Mum used to sing to us when we were little. It would help me when I was homesick, and it still does." She cleared her throat and recited:
"Lift the wings that carry me away from here and
Fill the sail that breaks the line to home
But when I'm miles and miles apart from you
I'm beside you when I think of you
And I'm with you as I dream of you
And a song will bring me near to you."
"I like that," Harry whispered.
"Use it whenever you need to."
He smiled gratefully. "Thank you."
Ginny ran a hand soothingly up his arm. "I suppose you want to go back to bed?"
He paused. "No," he said. "Let's just sit out here for a while longer."
They gazed out at the sky, watching the night fade away into a beautiful sunrise. For the first time in a long while, Harry was glad to see the start of another day.