And yet sitting here on the edge of the lake, with the terrible weight of grief dragging at him, with the loss of Sirius so raw and fresh inside, he could not muster any great sense of fear. It was sunny and the grounds around him were full of laughing people, and even though he felt as distant from them as though he belonged to a different race, it was still very hard to believe as he sat there that his life must include, or end in, murder . . .
He sat there for a long time, gazing out at the water, trying not to think about his godfather or to remember that it was directly across from here, on the opposite bank, that Sirius had collapsed trying to fend of a hundred dementors . . . .
The sun had fallen before he realized that he was cold. He got up and returned to the castle, wiping his face on his sleeve as he went.
Order of the Phoenix, p. 856 (American Edition)
Harry had no idea where he was going. He wanted to get away from the lake; it held too many memories that he didn't want to visit just then. He was too late for dinner, but not yet ready for bed. He was walking the halls of Hogwarts, getting in from the cold now that the sun had fallen, but not yet ready to sneak to the kitchens or go back to the common room. A door opened in the hallway, a familiar voice called to him and a small hand grabbed his wrist.
"Harry, get in here."
Harry slipped into the room without thinking, shutting the door behind him. That was a bit of a mistake – the room was blacker than his mood. He couldn't see his companion, but his ears had already identified the harsh whisper as coming from Ginny Weasley.
"Harry, I'm going to ask you a question, and you are going to answer me, and you are going to tell me the truth, and you are not going to answer me ‘fine.' Okay?" Ginny's voice was still low, but it was filled with the "I'm not gonna take any guff from you" tone that Molly Weasley used so often.
Harry's eyes had finally adjusted to the light, dimmer than twilight in the room, and were barely able to make out the form of Ginny Weasley leaning against a desk; her wand was pointed at Harry's middle. Harry sat on another desk near the wall, pulling his knees up to his chest and looking down at the floor. Harry knew that the wand pointing at him meant business, although Ginny's hexes were more often embarrassing than painful.
"Okay then, what's your question?"
"How are you dealing with Sirius being – gone?" Ginny's voice had softened, and Harry could sense her concern.
"I'm . . ." Harry started to say, "I'm fine," but stopped himself. "She deserves an answer," he thought to himself. "We'vefaced death together, first Tom and then Bellatrix." Harry drew in a deep breath, exhaled and then breathed in again, normally. "It's . . . contained . . . I've got everything boxed up right now, Ginny. Dumbledore and I had. . . . words the night Sirius . . .. left us. I was horrible to him, but I think he's still the same as he always was with me. Sometime soon I'm going to open those boxes up, and I imagine that I'll get totally unwrapped for a while, and then I'll go back to living again. I have to, I suppose."
"I wish you weren't going back to the Dursleys."
"Me too," Harry answered as he thought about the hell he'd endured last summer at the Dursleys.
"Harry, you have friends, you have people who love you. Don't shut us out again."
There was a long silence. Ginny wondered if Harry was getting ready to explode, or if she'd managed to make him retreat behind whatever door he shut on his world. In the dim light she saw him look up, locking his glistening green eyes onto hers.
"Keep reminding me, Ginny," Harry said, with a voice that sounded like he was exhausted.
Ginny exhaled. Only then did she realize that she'd been holding her breath, waiting for some reaction.
There was another long silence, but this one was companionable. Ginny started several times as if to speak, but cut herself off. She looked down at her hands, noticed that she still had her wand pointed at Harry, and put it away, into her sleeve. Harry broke the silence first.
"Ginny, you've been a good friend to me this year – thanks for putting up with me. I had no idea that this year would be so hard."
"I've always been your friend, Harry."
Harry looked down again. Ginny couldn't tell if he was deep in thought, or just falling asleep.
"What happened to the crush?"
Ginny inhaled sharply, but as far as Harry could tell in the twilight, she wasn't blushing. She answered in a low, flat voice.
"Last year, after the tournament, I decided that I wasn't going to wait for you to notice me any longer and I was going to get on with my life."
"I noticed you, Ginny. Long before Ron figured out that Hermione was a girl, I noticed you. I was just . . . preoccupied." Harry hoped that the heat that he felt creeping up his neck didn't mean that he was blushing like a Weasley.
"You never noticed me, you fancied Cho."
"Yeah, well, I was stupid, too. Your dad was right, though, you don't go for looks alone. Cho's a nice girl, she really is, but Cho wanted something that I couldn't give her. Every time something started to click between us she'd be going on again about Cedric. I guess I couldn't get the dead man away from the table long enough. She needs someone who won't always remind her of how her first boyfriend died."
There was another long silence. Ginny began to fidget.
"Harry, if I write to you this summer, will you write back?"
"I don't know how much writing I'll be doing – owl post isn't secure. If the Ministry can intercept it, and I reckon that the Death Eaters can too."
"You let me worry about that, Harry. You missed dinner – would you like a sandwich?"
Ginny pulled a thick sandwich from her satchel, wrapped in paper.
Harry unwrapped the sandwich enough to take a bite – roast beef with sharp cheddar and pungent mustard that bit his tongue. After swallowing the first mouthful, Harry smiled.
"Thanks, Ginny. Now, how are we going to get back to the Common Room without getting the usual tongues wagging?"
"Well, Harry, we can do the easy thing, and leave this room in separate directions, or just before we reach the common room, I can set off one of the last of my Dungbombs – I'm sure that Fred and George will stock me up again when I get home."
"Ginny, you are truly a Weasley, and you are all right." A smile crept on to Harry's face, and his eyes were alive with light for the first time that day.
Author's note: Many thanks to my wonderful Beta, the ever-persistent Lissa. I listened to everything you said. I did most of what you suggested. What results is my fault, not yours. Thanks also to Werrf for brit-picking. Again, the errors are mine, not his. Thanks to the legion of pre- and post-Betas for your thoughtful comments, you have made this much better than I could.
Disclaimer: This is my story – stuff you don't recognize is my own work. The stuff you do recognize from the Hogwarts world is the property of J.K. Rowling and her licensees. This is a non-profit writing exercise under the fair use doctrine.