Ginny picked her way across the rubble in the entrance hall and walked out the front doors. She glanced back to make sure no one had seen her, then slipped into the shadows that extended out across the lawn.
She had to get away from the body of her brother, and from George who was holding Fred's head in his lap, pressing his forehead to Fred's, his unending tears bathing Fred's bloody face; he would not move away. Nor would Percy, who was kneeling at Fred's feet, also hunched over but with his arms extended as though trying to ward off the wall of stone that had collapsed on them, crushing the life out of his brother. Her parents simply sat next to the body, holding each other, Molly sobbing uncontrollably, Arthur staring into space with tears streaming down his face. Ginny had begun to feel paralysis creeping into her heart, joining the grief there; that was why she had to get away: she could not let herself succumb to hopelessness.
She had not seen Harry for hours, ever since he and Ron and Hermione had disappeared into the Room of Requirement on their mysterious mission. She had followed Tonks downstairs to the Great Hall where she had fallen in with Luna and Dean, fighting up and down the corridors until the disembodied voice of Voldemort had filled the halls with its seductive message of false peace and its lies about Harry and had called a truce.
She and her companions had gone back to the Great Hall, and then Percy had staggered in carrying the body. Ginny had screamed and thrown herself at Percy, beating her fists against him in a rage, trying to will away the death that stared from eyes that had always been laughing but now saw nothing. Bill pulled her away, and she started flailing at him but he held her closely until her screams had become sobs. That was when she had felt herself starting to fall into that pit of hopelessness and defeat, but when Ron and Hermione returned without Harry, she pulled herself up from the floor where she had collapsed next to Fred, and told herself what she had been telling herself all year: she had to be ready for Harry; at some point he would need her and she had to be ready. She walked out of the Great Hall, wiping her face and taking deep gulps of air.
Now she was moving across the lawn into the darkness. Bodies were strewn everywhere, most of them students, and she stopped at each one to see if she could do anything. Most were dead, and she began to weep again as she recognized faces and saw their wounds. She tried wiping away the blood with her sleeves, until they became soaked and could not absorb any more, and then she just wiped as much of the blood off as she could with her hands, and then cleaned them on the grass. One of two were still alive, but she was afraid to move them, and she could not have lifted them anyway. She called to some other students who were also out on the lawn looking for friends or relatives, and told them to hurry back to the Great Hall and get help. They did what she asked; she supposed that her role in Dumbledore's Army and her reputation as Harry's girlfriend lent her a bit of authority.
She left the body of a sixth–year Hufflepuff boy, Joseph Pierce, who was in her Herbology classes and a friend of Neville's, and walked on. She was now about two hundred yards from the castle, and it was very dark, but she did not dare light her wand. There were not many bodies here, but then she heard moaning off to her left, and hurried toward it. She found a crumpled form, its limbs twisted gruesomely, lying near the path to Hagrid's cabin. She knelt next to it, but it was so dark this far from the castle that she could see almost nothing. She moved so that she was between the body and the outer walls of the grounds, and lit her wand but kept it as dim as she could.
She cried out and turned away when she saw the girl's bloody, mutilated face. Her stomach churned; she had to fight down the impulse to vomit that rose in her craw. She forced herself to look. There were gashes on the girl's cheeks and forehead, and her nose seemed to have been torn away. She was gasping through her mouth with a rasping sound. Ginny thought of Fenrir Greyback, but it also looked, because of the positions of her bent limbs, as if someone had deliberately broken both of her arms and legs.
Her eyes were open and they looked up at Ginny, unfocussed and glazed. Ginny steeled herself and tried to wipe the blood from her face — or what was left of it — and bent low over her. With some of the blood gone — although it kept on oozing from her nose and the gashes — Ginny recognized her. It was Elizabeth Derby, a fifth–year Ravenclaw, one of the Chasers on their Quidditch team; Ginny had not played against her because the Ravenclaw match had taken place after the Easter holiday when Ginny had gone into hiding at Aunt Muriel's house with the rest of the family. Elizabeth's hair had been long and blond. Ginny knew that she was very popular, and was considered one of the more beautiful girls at school; there were even rumors that she had Veela ancestors. Ginny was also quite certain that she was only fifteen, and so she must have sneaked back into the Great Hall during the evacuation of the underage students. She had decided to stay and fight, and she had ended up like this.
Ginny caressed her forehead, and leaned down closer to her disfigured face. She did not know if Elizabeth could hear her, but she began to talk. "It's going to be all right," she said. "We'll get you back inside. You'll be all right."
Elizabeth turned her eyes to Ginny, and they seemed to focus. The girl's arm, which Ginny thought had been twisted into an impossible position next to her, somehow moved and her hand reached up and grabbed Ginny's. "I don't want to go back there. I want to go home. Mummy. Where's Mummy?"
"It's all right," Ginny wiped more blood from her forehead to keep it from running into her eyes. "We'll get you back inside. You'll be okay."
"But I want to go home. I don't want to fight anymore." Tears began running down her face and mingled with the congealing blood from her nose.
"I know," Ginny could not keep her voice from breaking. "It's going to be all right."
Ginny looked up; she thought she had heard footsteps, but no one else was near. She peered into the night and then she did hear something: it was definitely footsteps, but they were moving away. She held her wand up, but there was nothing.
Elizabeth's grip suddenly tightened on Ginny's hand, and Ginny bent down over her again. The girl was now staring up at the sky, her eyes filled with terror. Her rattling breath came in choking gasps. Then she turned her head to Ginny, and her hand went limp. Ginny put it down on her chest and slumped to a sitting position on the ground next to the lifeless body. She did not try to stop the sobs that racked her.
She did not know how long she sat there weeping, but she knew that it was getting close to the time of Voldemort's deadline, when the attack would begin again. She doused her wand and stood; she knew she had to get back to the castle. She wanted to be with her family, and she wanted to see Harry, even if she could not speak to him. She had no illusions about how this was going to end; all she had to do was look down at the broken, mutilated form at her feet.
She heaved a sigh that caught the last sob in her throat and started to walk back toward the castle. She took three steps, and suddenly the darkness around her vanished and there was a blinding vision in her head. She was in her Quidditch robes in a crowded common room, and she was running toward the portrait hole, but all she could see there were two emerald green points of light. She flung herself at them and kissed Harry's lips, wrapping her arms tightly about him, and now it was not a vision but she was kissing him and her entire body was anchored to his. He started to move backward away from her, but she held onto him even more desperately, refusing to let him go. Then the vision vanished as suddenly as it had appeared, and she was standing alone on the lawn in the darkness.
Ginny stood rooted to the ground, unable to move or even think. The sky spun above her, and she swayed dizzily; her heart was pounding. She could feel the wetness of the kiss on her lips. She put her hand to them, and tasted Elizabeth's blood. She spat it out, and the euphoria vanished. Here she was, and there was the body of Elizabeth Derby, and she had no explanation for what had just happened.
She began walking again, but stopped when she heard distant bangs, and she turned to look through the darkness toward the Forbidden Forest. Spells and sparks were rising above the trees. A spell would rise into the air, and a few seconds later she could hear the bang that accompanied it. She also thought she heard far off shouts and cheers. They must be coming, she thought. She turned and started walking again, then began to run. She didn't stop until she reached the steps to the castle, where a few people were standing and gazing toward the Forest. She passed through them and went into the Great Hall, looking for her family.
Molly Weasley was on the platform in the back of the Hall with the rest of the Order; Kingsley Shacklebolt was at the center of the group, and leaned toward Molly and said something to her as Ginny entered the room. Molly turned and jumped down from the platform and came running to her, weaving through the knots of people standing and sitting on the floor. "Ginny!" she yelled. "Where were you? We couldn't find you! Where did you go?" She stopped in front of Ginny. She was wild–looking; her eyes were red and puffy, and strands of her hair kept falling in front of her face.
Molly took Ginny's hands in hers and stared at them, horror–stricken. "It's not my blood," Ginny said in a strangled voice. She looked at her mother beseechingly. "Scourgify them, Mum, please, please."
Molly cleaned the blood off, and Ginny dropped her hands. "They're coming, Mum. I was outside looking for people on the lawn. The Death Eaters are sending up signals or something."
"Yes, it's almost time," Molly said distractedly. "And no one knows where Harry is."
Ginny looked quickly away; she did not want her mother to see how frightened she had suddenly become. Now she knew whose footsteps she had heard in the darkness. But there was that vision, she thought. Had it been a farewell? She stumbled blindly to the door and back into the entrance hall.
There was a small crowd there, and in a minute Ron and Hermione joined her. "Have you seen Harry?" Ron asked, glancing around anxiously. She looked at them wordlessly, then turned; she did not want to speak of her vision, not before she knew what had happened to Harry.
The voice of Voldemort rang out in the castle again. When it began speaking of the death of Harry Potter, Ginny listened for a moment, but then began to shake her head violently; she put her hands over her ears and looked down. She would not believe it, she would not believe that Harry was dead, no, not with the claim coming from the mouth of the master deceiver, not with the feel of Harry's lips on hers still so real. She would have to see it with her own eyes before she would believe it.
Voldemort's voice stopped, and for another few minutes there was silence. Ginny glared at Ron and Hermione, as though she were daring them to believe what Voldemort had said, but they would not look at her. Then someone standing on the steps outside shouted, "They're here!" People poured out of the Great Hall, moving toward the doors. Ron pushed them open, and Ginny stepped through with him and Hermione. When she came out onto the steps she saw that the Death Eaters were spreading out before the castle in a long, menacing line.
Suddenly there was a scream and Ginny jumped; it was Professor McGonagall, but Ginny had never heard anything like it from her before. Then Ginny came to the front of the crowd on the steps, at the same moment as Ron and Hermione. Before her stood Voldemort; a great snake was wrapped around his shoulders. Next to him, a waterfall of tears pouring down his face, stood Hagrid with the limp form of Harry Potter in his arms.
The world tilted under Ginny's feet, and she, Ron, and Hermione all screamed at the same time. She thought she saw Voldemort glance at them, and his eyes momentarily gleam. But then Ginny clapped her hand over her mouth. Her mind was reeling, but she would still not believe it; she would not accept what her eyes saw. And then she flashed back to the vision; her lips suddenly moistened again and Ginny knew, beyond a doubt, with her entire being, that Harry was alive.
People around her began shouting curses, screaming at the Death Eaters, until a loud bang and a flash of light from Voldemort's wand silenced them. He spoke to Hagrid and gestured, pointing to the ground in front of his feet, and Hagrid gently placed Harry's body there. Harry lay still, he did not move. Ginny could tell that Ron was trembling next to her, and she could hear Hermione crying on his other side. But she did not cry. Tears were not needed, not for Harry. She would save them for those who needed them, for Fred, and for Elizabeth.
Voldemort spoke in mocking tones to the throng on the stairs, but Ginny no longer cared about his words. She did not take her eyes from Harry. There was movement around her, people shifting, taking out their wands, muttering. Someone near her shouted, and she saw out of her peripheral vision that Neville was charging forward, only to be stopped a few yards in front of Voldemort, his wand blown away. Ginny's eyes stayed riveted on Harry.
Then, the two emerald green points of light that she had seen half an hour ago in the vision appeared again, but this was not a vision, and a shock like a magical spell jolted her body. Ron reached to hold her, thinking that she needed support, but she stood rock steady. For the tiniest instant, the two points of light had appeared where Harry's eyes were.
Ginny knew that no one else had seen that blink of green; everyone was looking at Neville and Voldemort. Neville was shouting at Voldemort, who responded with contemptuous sneers. Then he waved his wand, and Neville stood straight and rigid, unable to move. Ginny still had not taken her eyes from Harry, and she saw the green points again, but this time his eyes stayed open. Voldemort waved his wand, and those around Ginny looked up as something soared out of the castle into Voldemort's hand. Another jolt coursed through Ginny when she recognized the Sorting Hat, and the hope which had already been rising inside her, now flared into a certainty: she remembered five years back to the Chamber of Secrets, and she knew that Voldemort himself was about to deliver the tool of his own destruction into the hand of his enemy.
Voldemort walked forward and placed the Sorting Hat on Neville's head, and Ginny, still staring at Harry, leaned toward Ron and whispered, "Watch Harry."
Ron turned to look at her, total incomprehension on his face. But as Ginny began to say more, the world exploded around them. The Sorting Hat burst into flames, there were distant shouts and the sound of thundering hooves from the edge of the grounds, a rush of wings from the skies above, and the booms of a giant's footsteps to her right.
Voldemort looked up, then around, and a moment of alarm passed over his face. It was instantly replaced with rage, and he looked back at Neville, but too late. Ginny had seen Harry jump up and throw his Cloak over himself, and she saw the Shield Charm come up between Neville and Voldemort. And then silver and red flashed, and a giant snake head was flying into the air.
Chaos erupted. Ginny shot a Stunning spell at Voldemort but it missed and struck a Death Eater standing behind him. Voldemort whirled, looking for the source of the spell. People shouted and screamed. Ginny tried to get closer to where Harry had been, but there was now a mob of defenders and Death Eaters in front. A deep booming voice from behind her shouted, "Fight them! Fight them!" and spells and jinxes started flying everywhere.
Ginny was pushed back into the entrance hall and then into the Great Hall along with the rest of the castle's defenders. She stood for a moment, uncertain what was happening as Death Eaters, too, were forced into the room. But then Hermione grabbed her. "Stick together!" she shouted over the roar of voices and the explosions of spells hitting the walls and windows. Luna was with her, and Hermione pointed her wand at a tall female Death Eater who was only a few yards away. But as Hermione's spell shot toward her, she whirled with a maniacal screech and parried it, then sent what seemed like dozens of hexes back at them. Ginny recognized Bellatrix Lestrange, and a fury that she had never felt before rose in her. This was the witch who had killed the only family that had been left to Harry.
The three girls immediately had their hands full. "Spread out!" screamed Hermione, and in the instant that Ginny was momentarily distracted, a jet of green flame passed just in front of her, barely missing her face; she could feel the heat from it, and jumped back. She heard another scream, and thought that someone had been hit, but then a hand threw her aside and her mother was standing in front of her, shouting curses at Bellatrix and firing spells so fast that Ginny could not follow them.
She had never seen her mother like this. She was a madwoman and there was murder in her eyes. She seemed to have grown taller, and her hair was a flaming red mane. Bellatrix began taunting, and Ginny saw her mother's face become colder as her wand became a blur. Bellatrix let out a shriek of insane laughter. Ginny heard her mother snarl like an animal, and her next spell hit the Death Eater square in the chest, and Bellatrix dropped to the floor, dead.
A shriek of rage and a loud bang came from the other end of the Great Hall. Ginny saw three bodies fly through the air and crash to the floor. The shriek had come from Voldemort, who was in the center of a large circle of people. Ginny looked around and saw no Death Eaters standing, but to her amazement there were dozens of house–elves around the room, some with bloody knives and cleavers in their hands; she could also see centaurs waving their bows, shouting and stamping their hooves.
A Shield Charm appeared in front of Voldemort, and then Harry was standing there, and the room erupted in cries of "Harry!" and "He's alive!" Hermione grabbed Ginny's arm, an expression of total joy spreading across her face. Ginny just looked at her and smiled. "I knew he wasn't gone," she whispered. "I always knew." Then the room went totally silent, and Ginny turned her head to see what was happening.
Harry and Voldemort were circling each other, wands raised. Ginny pushed to the front of the circle they were prowling, watching their dance, and she knew it was a dance of death. She watched Harry as he circled. When Harry was in front of her, his back only a few feet away, she lifted her wand a few inches, closed her eyes, and willed her love, her total love, into his body. When Voldemort was in front of her she stared at the back of his hairless head and emptied her mind of everything; she did not want to give him a hint of her presence or what she was feeling for Harry.
The dance continued, and Ginny sensed the climax approaching; she saw it in Harry's eyes as he circled across from her, and she saw his wand come up a fraction of an inch. As he approached her again, she listened to what he was saying.
"It's your last chance, it's all you've got left," Harry said. "I've seen what you'll be otherwise." Harry was directly in front of her now, and she sent a wave of emotion toward him. He hesitated for a fraction of a second. "Be a man... Try... Try for some remorse." Ginny saw something in Voldemort's eyes that had not been there before, but then it was gone, and he and Harry continued to circle.
Ginny only watched Harry. They were talking about wands, when suddenly the ceiling overhead burst into light as the sun rose, and then there was a massive explosion as red and green flames met in the center of the circle, and Tom Riddle lay dead, almost at her feet.
She stared at the body for a moment, then looked across at Harry and for an instant their eyes met. Then Hermione was charging across to Harry and jumping on him and screaming as Ron was hugging both of them, and then Ginny found herself next to Harry with her arms around him for the first time since last summer, and then they were surrounded by a mass of screaming witches and wizards and house–elves and centaurs and Hagrid.
As Ginny finally relinquished her place next to Harry, he glanced at her again, and she knew what his eyes were saying: today was for the rest of the world, but tomorrow would be hers. She smiled, but as she started to pull her hand from his, the cheering, jostling crowd pushed them momentarily together again, and his palm pressed into her thigh. He left it there for a longer moment than he had to. Ginny felt a flush of heat rise into every part of her body, radiating from the place where his hand was. Then they were separated by the mob, and Ginny moved slowly away.
When the cheers and the celebrations had died away, and the tables had reappeared and people began to sit down, Ginny found herself back with her family. She didn't try to look for Harry; she was content to leave him for others this day. She rested her head on her mum's shoulder and looked toward the side of the room where the bodies of fallen friends and family lay. Her eyes began to fill with tears. George and Percy were with Fred again, and Ginny knew that as today wore on and when she woke up tomorrow his death would not seem real. She did not know what the world would be like without Fred.
She saw Ron and Hermione walking toward the door, separated by a space of about two feet, and Ginny knew that Harry was between them under his Cloak. She watched them leave, and then heaved a sigh and took her mum's hand. Molly squeezed it and then put her arm around Ginny and pulled her to her bosom; she was weeping. Ginny put her arms around her mother. Her heart had become filled with pain again, but it was also now buoyed by a glorious feeling of hope and anticipation. Harry would be sleeping in his room in the Gryffindor Tower, and Ginny would be sleeping in hers, only a few yards away, under the same roof. Today and tomorrow and for a long time would be days of grief for Fred and Elizabeth and all the others, but starting tomorrow would also be an endless time of rediscovered happiness. She knew that all would be well.