Author's note: All characters and their world belong to JK Rowling. I am simply borrowing them. Thanks and a smile to LadyChi for the beta.
The title of the story and song lyrics come from "Into the West" by Fran Walsh, Howard Shore, and Annie Lennox. They were too perfect to pass up.
Lay down your sweet and weary head;
Night is falling, you have come to journey's end.
Sleep now and dream of the ones who came before.
They are calling from across a distant shore.
Ginny sat quietly by Harry's bedside as she had for the past six weeks. Six weeks of watching Harry waste away. Six weeks of never getting a response—not a twitch, quiver, or hiccough. Another thing to lay at the feet of Tom Riddle: Lord Voldemort.
The final battle had been horrific. Such a sterile term, Ginny thought, to describe Armageddon. The attack had occurred on a brilliant summer's Saturday in Diagon Alley, just after the shops opened. Shoppers crowded the street; women with young children in tow, old men swapping stories, boys racing down the alley dodging slower moving persons so they could be first to see the new arrivals at Quality Quidditch Supplies, young girls daydreaming in front of Madam Malkin's. Death Eaters, Dementors, and giants had appeared out of nowhere, slaughtering the crowd at random. Simultaneous attacks had occurred at the Ministry of Magic, St. Mungo's Hospital, and Gringott's Bank.
Harry had Apparated from the Burrow right to the center of the action as soon as word had come—right in the face of Voldemort. The final confrontation was almost anti-climatic. Amid all the destruction, chaos, despair, and death; with Aurors, Death Eaters, and civilians fighting for their lives, Lord Voldemort had hurled all his hatred directly at Harry.
Ginny had been there, of course. They had all been there; no one would let Harry go alone. Ginny had been forced by age to Floo to the joke shop instead of Apparating like everyone else in her family, and she had chafed at the delay while she ran into the street to see the finish: Harry, surrounded by the love of the Weasley's, Hermione, Lupin, Dumbledore, Hagrid, and Tonks.
"So, Potter," Voldemort whispered, "come to play again, have we? Haven't you learned your lesson, yet? There is no defeating Lord Voldemort! Avada kedavra!"
It happened again as Harry had said it had once before: the golden web surrounding them, the sound of phoenix song, the shadowy images emerging from Voldemort's wand. But Ginny knew that this was the last time—if Harry didn't defeat Tom Riddle now, all would be lost. Everyone stood there spell bound—a curious congregation of Light and Dark, watching the drama unfold. For a time they appeared to be equally matched, but gradually, oh so slowly, Harry's strength seemed to wane. The bead of light started moving from Voldemort's wand to his. Harry's arms began to shake and it looked like he would cave in to the pressure. Until—
"I am here, Harry," said Dumbledore.
"I'm here, Harry," repeated Lupin.
"I'm here, Harry," "I'm here, Harry," "I'm here, Harry," traveled around the group surrounding him. He nodded but continued to look around wildly as if something was missing. Ginny had run as hard as she could through the crowd, finally hurling herself at Fred and shouted, "I'm here, Harry!"
That was all he needed to hear. Suddenly, the connection was broken, and in the split-second of stillness, Harry shouted, with all his family backing him up, "Adoremus totalus!"
Dumbledore had been right, Ginny thought as she watched Harry now. It had been love that had defeated hate, but at a high cost. When the Death Eaters, Dementors, and giants saw the defeat of the Dark Lord, they fled, causing even more destruction in their haste. The attacks at St. Mungo's, Gringott's, and Hogsmead were slower to end, but end they did once the word came. For a brief moment, the jubilation in Diagon Alley had exceeded all boundaries, until she saw Harry lying crumpled on the ground. He had been in a coma here ever since.
It was funny, she thought now. Before the final battle, she knew Harry loved her, but she always thought that it was partly because she was a Weasley. But seeing the look on his face just as he cast the curse (could you call love a curse? For Voldemort, anyway) she realized that the love Harry had for her was for her alone. Ginny. Being a Weasley was the icing on the cake. And now, when she wanted to see him smile, to hear his thoughts, to feel his response to her, she had to be content with simply holding his hand.
Why do you weep? What are those tears upon your face?
Soon you will see all of your fears will pass away-
Safe in my arms you're only sleeping.
He didn't understand why he couldn't open his eyes. He could hear a Voice—one he wanted to get to desperately—calling him from the mist he seemed to be floating in. Vague images troubled his mind: curses flying about, dead bodies lying in pools of blood, a commanding, terrifying presence mocking and taunting. Underlying it all was the Voice. He knew it, had talked with it, wanted to reach it but something held him back.
Most of the time the Voice was soothing, cajoling him from the mist into the light. Sometimes he could even feel a touch—a caress across his forehead, a hand holding his. He didn't like it when the Voice cried. It seemed to be doing that more and more. It had even shouted at him, once, and he had gone back to the mist in confusion and fear. He didn't want to be yelled at. He wanted the Voice to—what was it? Something he had known once and then forgotten—
He was tired, so tired of the mist and not being able to reach the Voice. He wished it would stop. All of it: the floating, the frightening images, the vague feeling of incompleteness. He wanted the Voice, why couldn't the he reach it? He was so tired—
White shores are calling, you and I will meet again.
The mediwizards had given them the news this morning. There was nothing more they could do for Harry. He could wake up in a moment, or never.
Ginny sat beside him, gripping his hand tightly. She refused to give up, she would fight for him every day if need be. No one understood what had happened to him when he had destroyed the Dark Lord. The love he had channeled had been an awesome and awful force that had obviously had some affect, but no one knew what. Hermione had spent hundreds of hours at the library researching possible treatments. Ron had been at the ministry, trying to finagle a way into the Department of Mysteries to find out if they knew anything. Molly had helped Ginny make Harry's room as homelike as possible and the twins had tried to use jokes and humor to waken him—to no avail. They were beginning to give up. She could see it in their eyes now. Even Ron, with tears in his eyes, had tried to get her to leave.
She had shouted at him, yelling at him that Harry needed her here and here she would stay. Then she had yelled at Harry, venting her fear and frustration at his helpless figure. Afterward she had sobbed uncontrollably, ashamed of her outburst and bitterly aware that—maybe—they were right.
"Harry," she said quietly, "Harry, you have to come back. I can't stay here forever. School started last week, and Mum has laid down the law that I have to leave today. I can't stand the thought of leaving you. It hurts me to see you like this. I love you, Harry, and I know you love me. I watched you cast the spell. I watched you fall, and I have watched you sleep all these weeks. I have watched the mediwizards move your arms and legs so you will still have muscle when you wake up, and I have watched you move deeper inside yourself where I can't follow."
She gripped his hand even tighter. "Feel this, Harry," she cried. "Feel my hand holding yours. Wake up and look at me, come out of the shadows and look at the light."
"It's time, Ginny."
"No, Mum, please—"
"I'm sorry, darling. We'll have someone stay with him. I promise."
"Come along, now."
As Ginny walked with her mother out to the corridor, a whisper of sound caught her ear.
"What did you say, Mum?"
"Hmm? Oh, nothing, dear."
"But I thought I—there it is again."
"Come on, now, Ginny. Ginny! What are you doing, it's time to—"
"He's awake! Harry's awake!"
And rushing back into his room she knew, as she looked into his tired eyes and kissed his sunken face, that Dumbledore had been partly right. Love had destroyed hate, but it had nearly destroyed Harry as well. Ultimately, it was the love she had for Harry that had called him from the mist, and his love for her that had enabled him to come back.
The Voice had a name now. Ginny. Love. Home. He knew she was crying over him, knew Molly was there as well, knew that everything, finally would be all right and that the mist hadn't claimed him forever. There would be many days of work ahead for himself and for Ginny, but they would endure. Journey's end would be, for them, just the beginning.