"No, what I did was worse. I didn't tell her anything."
Harry sat with his head in his hands, looking at his shoes.
"That's not worse than upsetting her, Harry," Ron put his hand on Harry's shoulder. "I … I think she knew, anyhow."
Harry didn't reply, but a tear rolled off his nose and hit the floor. The golden trio were in the Gryffindor common room, where they had just returned from the last battle.
"Harry? You can't beat yourself up about it --"
"Why not, Hermione? I as much as killed her. If I had have insisted she stay at Grimmauld Place instead of coming with us to battle Voldemort --"
"Harry Potter!" a voice yelled from outside the portrait hole.
Hermione looked at the back of the portrait. Neither of the boys looked like they’d heard the voice. Harry just sat there, not moving. Ron eyes were red and tears were rolling down his cheeks, sobs raking his body.
"It's not fair!" yelled Ron suddenly, as the voice called, "Let me in!"
Hermione heard the Fat Lady mutter, "Now, really …"
Hermione pushed the portrait open to find Ginny standing there, looking at her.
"But -- but we saw -- how --" Hermione stared at the redhead, a vision playing in front of her eyes.
"Ginny!" Hermione called, looking for the girl. "Ginny, where are you!"
"Her -- Hermione!" a voice whisper-called from behind a half-demolished wall to Hermione's right.
"Ginny! Harry! I found her! Ron!" Hermione ran over to behind the wall to stop dead, paling at the sight before her.
Ginny was laying on the ground, her fiery hair soaked in drying blood. Her stomach was a mess, completely covered in blood. But what shocked Hermione the most was Ginny's face.
It was completely ruined. Her nose had been broken, her cheeks slashed and grazed with curse-marks and her eyes had swollen shut from her broken nose.
"Hermione?" Ginny whispered, trying to see out of her eyes. "Where’s Harry? And Ron?"
"They're coming, Gin," Hermione whispered, sitting down and smoothing the girl's forehead. It was ice cold.
"Hermione!" Ron called, then ran around the wall to stop dead as he saw his sister.
"Ron? Hermione?" Harry called, then saw Ron standing and looking at something hidden behind the wall. "Is she --?"
Ron looked at Harry as he climbed over the wall before falling to his knees next to Ginny. "Please, Merlin, no …"
"H--Harry?" Ginny whispered, "I love you, Harry …"
Harry lifted her to him and he felt her stop breathing as he cried.
Hermione sat there and watched the pair before Ron walked over to where she was kneeling and wrapped her up in his arms, crying on her shoulder. She felt her tears well up, and felt them flow down her cheeks.
"Hermione? What's wrong? You look like you've seen a ghost." Ginny smiled slightly and seemed to glow as she stepped toward the portrait hole.
"G -- Ginny … I thought -- you -- you d --" Hermione stuttered, but Ginny cut her off.
"Come on, Hermione!" Ginny said joyously, acting as she used to before the war.
"C -- coming Ginny." Hermione looked down the burnt corridor and re-entered the common room to find Ron staring open-mouthed and Harry backed up to the wall, staring at Ginny in much the same way Hermione had.
"What's wrong?" Ginny asked, looking from one boy to another and back again. "Ron? Harry? What's wrong?"
"G -- Ginny," Hermione said, moving forward and reaching to touch Ginny's shoulder. However, she pulled back at the last second, scared that her hand would touch solid flesh. "Ginny, we saw you die."
Ginny stared at Hermione as if she had lost her mind. "I think all that studying has messed with your mind."
"Don't -- don't you remember the battle?" Harry asked stepping forward slightly.
"What battle? We're just about to go out and fight. Aren't we?" she added as Ron and Harry looked at each other. Hermione was still focussed on Ginny, and she noticed that, if she concentrated enough, she could slightly see through the girl.
"Ginny," Ron said quietly, but it carried in the still common room. "You died in the battle."
Ginny laughed, but when no one joined in, she said, "You're joking. He's joking, right?" she asked Harry, who shook his head sadly.
Ginny looked to Hermione who said, "Gin, do this," and held up her hand.
When Ginny did, Hermione attempted to give the girl a high-five and her hand went right through the redhead's.
Ginny, staring in disbelief, tried again and again, but each time her hand went through Hermione's.
"No," she muttered and walked up to Harry, who stood stock-still. Ginny attempted to kiss him, but her head went through Harry's and he shivered.
"No," Ginny repeated before running straight for the portrait hole. She went right through the stone and past the portrait, Hermione hot on her heels, though she couldn't go through anything.
"Ginny, wait!" Hermione panted, "Wait!"
Ginny ignored her and ran, straight for the Astronomy Tower. At the top of the stairs, Hermione found a weeping girl that she almost mistook for Moaning Myrtle.
"Gin?" Hermione murmured softly, crouching next to the redhead, "Gin, look at me."
The ghostly girl looked up at the brunette. "What, Hermione?"
"I'm sorry, Gin. I was the one that found you. You looked horrible. At least you'll be whole and pretty for eternity," Hermione tried a stab at humour. Ginny just looked away. "Look, Gin," Hermione said softly, "I'm sure it'll be alright, being a ghost --"
"Please don't, Hermione," Ginny said, looking out the window at the sunset.
In the distance she could just see the deserted Hogsmeade. Hogwarts had been closed after Dumbledore's funeral, and Hogsmeade had soon followed. The battleground of the last duel was just outside the village's south boundary.
Hermione and Ginny turned at the sound of Harry's voice coming up the stairs.
"Yes, Harry?" Ginny said, in barely more than a whisper.
Harry climbed the stairs into view and walked up to Ginny. As he knelt, he looked at Hermione. She took the silent message and climbed the stairs to the roof of the tower and out of earshot.
"Ginny, I've been thinking, since I saw your body and your last words to me, I've regretted not telling you sooner. Gin, I loved -- love you, and I'm sorry I dragged you into this." Harry looked at the redhead, who was looking out the window again.
"What were my last words?"
"That you loved me. You died before I could tell you the same."
Ginny smiled a smile that brightened the all of her. "Are you serious? You never told me that before."
"I am serious, Ginny. And I'm sorry I never told you."
Ginny smiled more. "It's okay, Harry."
Harry smiled. "It's not okay. I should have told you earlier."
Ginny's smile glowed brighter and she whispered, "I'll wait for you."
When the light cleared, she was gone, except for the faint scent of flowers.
Harry smiled at the empty space and climbed the stairs to Hermione.
"Harry! Where's Ginny?"
"She's waiting for me," was all he said, and the pair wandered back to the common room, back through the burnt-out shell of Hogwarts and on to a new future, the three of them.
It has never been known whether Ginny did wait for Harry, but, on his deathbed at age one-hundred-and-eighty-seven, Harry told those around him that he could see Ron, Hermione and Ginny waiting for him. He died with a smile on his face.