Ginny Weasley was lying on her bed, her arms crossed over her stomach. Staring up at the ceiling, she breathed deeply, trying not to think about everything that had happened…everything that was going to happen now that it was all over.
Idly, she began tracing her wrist, running her fingers back and forth over the rough raised skin. Looking down, she lifted her hands so that she could see the scars, reminders of the past year at school.
Her mum had had a fit when she'd seen them at Easter. She'd pulled out book after book, looking for something to use to make the marks fade. Ginny didn't particularly mind them. To her, they were proof, proof that she'd done something, no matter how insignificant.
She ran her thumb over the back of one wrist, pressing harder and harder as though trying to rub the marks away. The scars only seemed to get brighter as the skin surrounding them turned red from the friction. Frowning, her mind drifted back to the memory of how she'd earned them.
She sat quietly on the floor her back against the cold stone wall and her forehead resting on her knees. The faint drip drop of water could be heard - a leak somewhere in the dark empty room.
Lifting her head, she leaned it against the wall with a sigh. Serving her third detention of the month, she knew there was really no telling how long she'd be down here.
Biting her lip she shook out her arms causing the chains to scrape and clang along the floor. Her wrists were still raw from the last time and the manacles dug into her skin as she moved. Wincing, she flexed her fingers, trying to keep her hands from going numb.
Letting her hands drop back to the floor beside her, she shut her eyes, listening to the echo of the metal hitting the stone.
She hated this type of detention. There was nothing to distract her mind, nothing to keep her thoughts from straying.
As long as she was doing something she was safe. Going to class, running the DA, generally causing trouble…all of those things allowed her to act and not think.
"My goal for the year," she thought, smiling wryly. "Don't think…Don't think about Harry."
Being chained in a dark room by herself forced her to do what she hated. Deep down she thought Snape knew that. He knew thinking about Harry made her ache. Leaving her alone with only her thoughts for company was far more painful than any physical torture. It made the hole that had been in her chest since Dumbledore's funeral grow and expand until it seemed to press against her lungs, stealing her breath.
"I wonder where he is…"
Squeezing her eyes shut, she brought her hands to her face.
It was a question she tried not to ask because she knew there wasn't an answer. Wondering where he was or how he was doing only made her worry and imagine a hundred different scenarios where he was hurt or tired…or dead…
The floor creaked in the hall, drawing Ginny from her thoughts as she sat up quickly. Her heart was instantly pounding as she stared at the door, listening for any movement. She didn't think she was ready to face anyone, especially not him.
When there was only silence, her body slowly relaxed and her gaze moved to the window, staring out over the yard.
Outside of her door, Harry stood, his hands shoved deep in his pockets. He'd been standing there for the last three minutes trying to build up the courage to knock. He had no idea why it was suddenly so difficult, why he was suddenly so nervous.
After everything he'd done over the last year this should be easy. This was what he'd been fighting to be able to do and yet now that he was standing one room away from her, he couldn't seem to move.
He heard the stairs creak to his right and looked over to see Hermione appear at the top with Ron a few steps behind her.
Harry watched Hermione's eyes flick between him and the door, a knowing expression filling her face as they walked toward him.
Turning back to the door, Harry stared at the faded nameplate for a second before looking down at his shoes.
"What are you doing out here?" Hermione asked coming to a stop beside him.
Harry shrugged, keeping his eyes down. He frowned slightly, focusing on the dirt caked onto his shoes. Balancing on his left foot he lifted the right, knocking the toe against the floor and watching the brown earth crack and fall off.
"She wants to see you," Hermione offered.
"What does that mean? Of course she does," she chastised.
Harry suddenly felt dumb and looked over.
"She left," he murmured. "She didn't wait…"
"It doesn't mean anything," Hermione assured him, touching his shoulder briefly in support. "Just talk to her."
"Hermione's right," Ron nodded toward his sister's room before taking Hermione's hand and pulling her past the door. "You just need to talk to her. We'll see you later, Harry."
Harry watched them head up to the top floor of the Burrow before turning back to the door in front of him. Running a hand through his hair he reached out and knocked twice.
There was no response.
His heart sank, but he tried to remind himself that she had no reason to know it was him at the door. She wasn't ignoring him…she was just…ignoring everyone.
Before he could reconsider he turned the knob and pushed the door open.
Ginny was sitting on her bed, staring out her window. She didn't look over when he entered.
Harry watched her profile as he approached, coming to a stop in front of her. For a moment he simply stared at her as he tried to figure out what to say. A million things had run through his mind earlier as he climbed the stairs to her room. Now he couldn't remember any of them.
The silence seemed to stretch between them and he shifted his weight on his feet, shoving his hands back into his pockets.
Having showered and changed, she was dressed in an old pair of jeans and one of his sweaters. It was too large on her and the H was distorted by the way the material folded and bunched. Her hair was long and wavy as it fell over her shoulders and down her back.
"You look beautiful," he blurted out finally.
A hint of a smile crossed her face before she finally looked up at him.
Harry's heart sped up as their eyes met, hers chocolate and familiar, richer than he remembered.
"You just left," he said, his eyes glued on her face as she gazed up at him.
"Mum wanted to come home," she explained. "You weren't around so…" trailing off with a shrug she looked down at her hands in her lap.
"I had to talk to Ron and Hermione. You weren't there when I got back…"
"I'm sorry," she replied before letting the conversation lapse into silence.
Frustrated Harry sank to his knees in front of her so that he could look up at her face.
"Ginny…" he began, before trailing off again, unsure what he wanted to say.
Why was this so hard? All he really wanted to do was pull her into his arms and kiss her, so why wasn't he doing that?
"I um…I thought you'd wait for me," he mumbled.
Her eyes flew back to his face, holding his gaze for a moment before she looked down at her hands with a slight frown.
Harry didn't understand what was going on and it worried him. He didn't understand her expression and after a second he dropped his eyes to the bedspread. Reaching out, he plucked absently at a loose string while he waited for her to say something.
In the prolonged silence, his eyes moved to her hands, folded in her lap. Her fingers were thin and pale tangled together. She had freckles sprinkled lightly across the back of her hands. The dusting of pale brown spots continued up her arms disappearing beneath the too long sleeves of his sweater.
While he watched, she absently slid her fingers under the edge of her sleeve to scratch her skin.
With a start Harry reached out and grabbed her hand, pulling it toward him.
"What's this?" he asked, pushing back the sweater on one arm to reveal a scarred strip of skin circling all the way around her wrist.
Grabbing her other wrist, he checked that one as well, finding the same faded, pink markings.
"Ginny?" he demanded, looking up at her, his thumbs pressed against the underside of each wrist as he held them.
"Detention," she said, cringing as she looked at her marred skin.
"These are from detention? B-but I thought you had to go into the forest!" Harry exclaimed as he looked down at the wrists in his hands.
"That was just for…Wait, how did you know about that?"
"It's not important," he insisted, running his fingers across her skin. "Who did this to you?"
"It doesn't matter anymore," she told him, pulling her wrists free.
"Doesn't matter?" he repeated as he watched her eyes drop to her hands. "Of course it matters! It was the Carrows, wasn't it?"
Ginny's eyes narrow automatically at the name.
Suddenly reminded of Neville's comment about the Carrows' propensity to use the Cruciatus on students, Harry's jaw clenched.
"Did they hurt you?" he asked, his throat tightening and his gaze dropping back to her scars. "If I'd known…"
"If you'd known, it wouldn't have changed anything," she replied, shaking her head.
"But I would've tried to…"
"To what? Come to Hogwarts and save me? Make them stop?"
Running her finger along one of her wrists she shook her head.
"You had more important things to do. It doesn't matter."
"It matters to me," he assured her his eyes glued on her scars.
"Well it doesn't matter to me."
"You died today," she said abruptly, her eyes glued on her hands.
Startled, Harry looked up at her.
"I…well, not really," he clarified, reaching up and taking her hands.
"But I didn't know that," she snapped.
Her tone surprised both of them and Harry hesitated before pulling his hands away from hers.
"I thought you were dead," she said matter-of-factly before her eyes seemed to cloud at the memory. "How do you think that felt? To know I'd…we'd failed you. I saw…I saw your body, I…"
As her voice caught, she brought her hands to her face fighting for control as an echo of that moment slammed into her.
"You were just lying there," she managed tremulously. "Crumpled and broken at H-Hagrid's feet and everyone…everyone was screaming and I couldn't get to you and…and…"
Watching her shoulders tremble Harry reached for her waist.
"Hey," he soothed, pulling her off the bed. She came easily, sliding into his lap as her arms wrapped around his neck. "I didn't die," he reminded her, running his hand up and down her back. "I'm fine."
"Yes, but you thought you were going to!" she exclaimed pulling away and meeting his gaze. "I heard what you said to him. You went into the forest to die - to let him kill you."
Frowning, Harry nodded, "I did."
"And you just left. You didn't even…you didn't…" shaking her head she looked away as she sucked in a steadying breath.
"I'm sorry," she apologized after a moment, curling her fingers into his shirt as she looked over at him. Her eyes were filled with the determination he knew so well but also something else…something new he didn't recognize.
"Why are you sorry?" he asked hesitantly.
"I'm trying," she explained. "I'm trying to be what you need, but I just…I just…"
"Ginny," Harry interrupted with a frown as he brought his hands to her face. "You are what I need. You've always been what I need."
Shutting her eyes, Ginny bit her lip, leaning into his touch.
"You don't know how much you've helped me," he continued, his eyes running over her face. "You've done everything I've ever asked of you without question…without a fight…"
"I'm just so tired of being selfless," she whispered.
"Me too," Harry agreed, his eyes on her mouth.
"I've waited," she said finally, her voice low as her eyes flicked open. "I've waited for you."
"I know," he nodded, running his thumb over her cheek.
"I've tried so hard to help you. I didn't ask to go with you, or be with you or know what you were doing. I accepted everything that had to happen and I was happy to do it. I wanted to do it. I wanted to make you proud of me and I wanted to make it easier for you. I knew you didn't need someone who would fight you and cry and beg. I knew that wouldn't help you."
"Ginny," Harry swallowed, "I know…"
"I love you," Ginny continued, stunning Harry into silence as she shook her head. "I feel like I've loved you forever and I…I don't know what's wrong with me."
"What do you mean?"
"I've never been angry at you like this," she whispered, her cheeks flushing with guilt as she avoided his eyes.
"Why are you angry?"
"I don't know! I mean…I just…I thought when it came to the end that…that you'd…"
"That I'd what?" Harry prompted when she didn't finish. "That I'd what, Ginny?"
"That you'd say goodbye!" she cried.
The silence that followed her words was deafening, pressing in on Harry from all sides as he watched a tear roll down her cheek.
"You were going to your death and you knew it and you didn't even…you didn't even see me."
"That's not true," he argued. "I saw you."
"You didn't talk to me."
"How could I do that?" he asked softly. "How could I say goodbye to you? I'd never have made it out the door if I tried to talk to you, but I saw you. I passed you as I was leaving the castle and then…"
"You passed me?" Ginny asked, her eyes widening. "You passed me and you didn't…"
Before Harry could respond she'd pushed away with a sob, jerking out of his arms as she shot to her feet. Harry watched her flee to the other side of the room as he stood up.
"I love you," he said.
Ginny froze, her hand curled tightly around the back of her desk chair.
"Don't," she said angrily.
"I love you," he repeated, undeterred as he followed her slowly across the room. "I thought about you all the time. I worried about you and wanted you with me. I think I wore that map completely out watching you in the castle, wishing I could be there with you instead of alone and cold in the woods."
"You had Ron and Hermione," she replied.
"That's not the same."
Placing his hand on her shoulder, he turned her gently, coaxing her gaze to his.
"I love you. You helped me more than you will ever know," he told her. Bringing his hand to her face, he cupped her cheek in his palm. "You gave me something to remember you by. Something amazing and perfect right here in this room."
"A kiss is hardly…"
"It saved my life," he interrupted, bringing his fingers to her lips.
"It saved my life," he repeated, his voice soft and suddenly full of wonder as he considered his words.
"What do you mean?"
"I couldn't let him win and I knew the only way to stop him was to let him kill me. My whole life had been leading to that moment and I…deep down I knew it."
Pausing, he stared into her eyes as they filled with tears.
"I went into that forest to die and it…it was ok," he explained, his vision blurring suddenly as he watched the tears begin to escape and roll down her cheeks.
"It was ok because I knew that's how it was supposed to be and I'd accepted it," he explained thickly. "I saw my parents and Sirius and Remus and I knew I'd be ok…that I'd be with them. And then…and then I saw you…The last thing I saw before I died was you."
"What did you see?" Ginny breathed shakily.
"This," he murmured.
And then he was kissing her. He was kissing her and it was better than her memories. The taste of him, the feel of him against her…it stole her breath as well as her anger and sadness. Before she knew it she was on her toes, her arms around his neck while his hand tangled into her hair.
"Ginny," he breathed when he finally pulled back just far enough to speak.
Ginny merely whimpered as she brought their mouths back together. Unwilling to let go yet, she tightened her hold on him as he lifted her up.
"You were amazing," he told her when his forehead eventually came to rest against hers. "This year, last year…as long as I've known you, you've done anything you could to help me. Don't ever think I don't know that. You've done everything I've ever asked of you."
"Well, that's not quite true," she countered, shaking her head even as the corners of her lips quirked upward. "I didn't stay in the Room of Requirement."
"Yes well, until that point," he smirked before sobering. "But now that you mention it, what did you think you were doing?" he demanded loosening his grip on her as he shifted back. "Fighting Bellatrix? You could've been killed!"
"Well I couldn't get to You-Know…Voldemort, so…"
"Get to Voldemort!" Harry sputtered, horrified as he imagined what could have happened.
"He'd just killed you!" Ginny exclaimed. "I couldn't just sit by and…"
Harry cut her off with a kiss, pulling her up against him as his lips moved with hers.
"Merlin, what am I going to do with you?" he asked eventually.
"I don't know," she smiled bringing her hand to his cheek. "Maybe you can kiss some sense into me…"
"Maybe so," he considered with a playful smirk. "It's definitely worth trying anyway…"
Just as he lowered his mouth to hers, the door flew open, hitting the wall with a bang.
They jerked apart, looking over to find Ron in the doorway. Hermione was standing behind him, her hands on her hips as she glared at the back of his head.
"So…um…how's it going in here?" Ron asked trying to look innocent as he glanced between the two of them.
"Ron," Ginny said dangerously as visions of last summer's interrupted birthday present flashed through her mind. "Sod off."
"Um…is that good or bad?" Ron inquired an instant before the door swung shut with a bang.
Looking over in surprise, Ginny found Harry with his wand pointed at the door. He met her gaze before tucking his wand into his back pocket with a small grin.
"Should've done that last summer," he murmured, pulling her back against him.
"Yes, you should have," she smiled against his lips before melting into his embrace.
Authors note: This story was originally posted as part of the HPFF staff project "Loyalty"