Disclaimer: All the characters you recognise belong to JK Rowling and I’m just borrowing them. The others and the plot are mine for my sins.
A state of nervous tension mingled with an anxious feeling of excitement filled the large room that normally served as a spectacular dining room. The huge area, despite the hundreds of teenagers and the five vast tables, normally had a spacious feeling. There was a vibrant feeling that circulated amongst the laughter as school pupils swapped stories, jokes, essays and occasionally among the older students, kisses.
Tonight, however, the lively and buoyant atmosphere of youth had been replaced by a sober and solemn one. The hall in which they had all spent so many evenings was suddenly feeling very claustrophobic; a feeling that was only intensifying as each minute passed. Despite the fact that there were at least a hundred witches and wizards in the room, the eerie silence meant that you could hear a pin drop.
Families huddled together and bodies were intertwined. Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks were holding onto each other in a tight embrace. Their heads so close that Tonks’ shocking pink hair clashed horribly with Lupin’s greying mousey brown as they brushed against each other. The mutilated and scarred face of Bill Weasley was a harsh reminder to all in the hall as he sat talking to his younger brother, Charlie instead of spending time at The Burrow with his wife and eight-day-old son, Alastor. In the opposite corner Neville Longbottom had convinced Luna Lovegood to join him and Dean Thomas in a game of exploding snap and was now smiling rather guiltily as he attempted not to laugh.
In every corner of the room people were savouring the last moments to be had with their families, friends and lovers, trying not to think about the battle that was due to start within the hour, and reminiscing and re-creating memories of happier times.
Yet a young witch had isolated herself from the rest of the crowd, preferring for a change solitude instead of the masses of company that usually were her audience. Dressed all in black from head to toe, only her vibrant red hair made her stand out from the masses. The girl that was normally the life and soul of a party and the heartbeat of any room she entered was subdued.
She sat in a corner with her arms tightly wrapped around her knees as she stared into the bewitched sky that had been darkened with deep grey clouds. She drifted into a series of wonders as she stared. Oblivious to the noises around her she chose to focus on her hopes and fears instead of pointless discussions and games.
Tonight was the night when she might lose him forever, and that’s all that mattered. No matter that they were doing the right thing and that they could make better lives for millions, all that mattered to her at the very moment was the fact she was on the verge of potentially losing him. And she hated herself for being so emotionally feeble. She had known this had been coming all along and she would hate herself if she stopped it. Harry would not be the man she loved if he ran away from the fight. It was the right thing to do to rid the world of Voldemort; to put an end to the fear people were living in and to the evil that had taken over, but none of that made tonight any easier.
After months of looking for and destroying Voldemort’s Horcruxes, the last one to be found was Slytherin’s locket and another seventh of the evil dictator’s soul. Mere hours after Voldemort’s immortality had been eliminated and reduced him back to Tom Riddle, a meeting had been called for the Order of the Phoenix and they had quickly learnt how vast an organisation it was. It was vital that they acted quickly so as not to give Voldemort another chance to become immortal by killing more innocent people. And while Harry, as well as everyone knew that, Harry was the one who must face Voldemort alone, no one present at the meeting had hidden from the opportunity to distract the Death Eaters, giving Harry every advantage they could. Any alternative to running away from the war was just unthinkable.
So after years of waiting, the end was now in sight. One way or another, the world was going to be a very different place in the morning. The man that had destroyed so many lives and haunted their nights was facing the man who gave hope to the same lives and dreams. There really was no other choice; it had gone on far too long as it was and too many people had died. It was time to end it all. They all knew that at the end of the day, they weren’t all going to live to see the end of the story and the new world they had created. The person at the most risk was Harry.
A strong hand slipped around her petite one and drew Ginny Weasley out of her thoughts. “Can I have a word, Gin?”
Ginny let him help her up as she slowly rose to her feet and re-entered the same Hogwarts Great Hall as everyone else instead of being locked in her thoughts. She looked into her boyfriend’s green eyes and smiled softly at him. And the warmth from his hand spread through her body and gave her confidence.
She had never seen Harry’s face looking so fiercely determined. And just as Voldemort had collected his own trophies as Horcruxes for his protection, it seemed that Harry had collected a few of his own protective trophies inspired by love. Harry’s trophies were far from cursed diaries, but instead took the form of the photographs that filled his battered old wallet. Photos taken of his parents, Sirius, Ron and Hermione, the whole Weasley family and herself. Photos that conjured feelings and emotions that Voldemort had no hope of ever understanding due to his eagerness to split his soul and inability to love another person, the very things that would equip Harry to emerge victorious after the night’s events.
“Yeah, ‘course you can,” She said softly, almost whispering. There was no need for loud voices or attention drawing statements. “When have I ever said “no” to you?”
“Plenty of times, like that time you wouldn’t let me help you with your bridesmaid dress,” Harry said with a mischievous grin and his eyes twinkled, marking a remarkable difference in his whole face. “But, not here, let’s go somewhere more private.”
She raised her eyebrows. “And why would we need to do that?”
“Because I want to tell you something.”
Slowly and in silence, she let Harry lead her away from the masses of people in the Great Hall. Sometimes there was just no need for talking; each knew how the other felt without the need for constant reassurance. It was almost as if they were two halves of the same person and today was one of those times. Harry did not need to talk for her to tell he was feeling nervous, a little scared and relieved that it was all going to end soon. She knew that already. Just as she knew the only reason he had pulled away from the rest of them was to do something noble again.
The waxing crescenthalf-crescent moon that had earlier been blocked by dark grey clouds, shone down upon them as they crossed the Hogwarts grounds towards the moonlit lake. The lake was one of the most impressive features of the school grounds and the place where all students past had enjoyed many a sunny afternoon with their friends. The very lake held so many memories for them as well, both of the happy and sad variety.
It was by this lake after an exhilarating Quidditch match that they had spent a steamy couple of hours together as they became a couple in the shade under a tree. Then just months later, an act of nobility had prematurely ended their relationship after Dumbledore’s funeral. Barely five months after that, it was by the Hogwarts lake that a mournful Harry had taken her on her release from the hospital wing and they had resumed their relationship. It had not taken long to come to the conclusion that they were both in danger as neither of them where withdrawing from the fight.
Yet something from the circumstances of the day and the walk that they had taken down from the castle told her that this was not going to be another happy memory.
Ginny picked up a stone off the ground. She held it up to take a more careful look at the grey pebble before, with a flick of her wrist, throwing it into the water. The stone skimmed across the water and she chose to watch it for a couple of seconds instead of turning to face Harry. She just needed a minute to compose herself before she was victim of another act of Harry Potter nobility.
“It’s amazing how something so small can make so many ripples,” she said softly as she slowly turned around to face him.
He smiled gently back at her. “Well the best things do come in small packages.”
“I’ll remind you of that on your birthday,” she replied, returning his smile.
Harry gave a warm laugh. “I’m sure you will,” he said in an uplifting and confident voice before pausing and taking her hand. He pulled her closer to him as he continued in an equally assured tone of voice. “I actually brought you down here to ask you something.”
“Ask away,” she replied in a nonplussed tone as she adopted a plain look on her face.
A broad smile had graced his lips and he let out a small breath. “Ginny Weasley, will you marry me?”
Her mouth dried up in an instant and it felt like her heart had stopped. This was the last thing in the world she had been expecting and she was not quite sure how to take it. Slowly as she started to regain her senses, she pulled her hand out of his and studied his face. Was this some kind of practical joke or was he being serious? It was just so out of the blue, but then why would Harry joke about something like that?
“What did you just say?” she asked uncertainly.
If Harry had any doubt over her reply, he didn’t show it. Instead he remained confident as he spoke. “Will you marry me?”
“I’m so sorry, Harry,” she said quietly as she forcibly stopped tears escaping from her eyes, “but I can’t.”
She had never imaged that there would ever be a time when she would answer that question with a ‘no’ and she had dreamed about Harry asking it so many times. Yet something deep down was telling her that saying ‘yes’ would be the wrong answer to give and she always trusted her gut reactions.
He looked puzzled. “Why can’t you?”
“Because it’s not the right time,” she said firmly, unwilling to elaborate on her statement.
“What’s time got to do with it?” he asked, a frown forming on his brow.
She couldn’t help feeling a little guilty about his confusion but just as confident that she was doing the right thing. Getting engaged before a battle was both irresponsible and completely defeatist. Quickly she racked her brain for the right words to explain her actions.
Casting her eyes downwards, she spoke simply in a quiet but carrying voice. “The fact is, that you are only asking me tonight,” she paused briefly as she took a deep breath to regain her confidence, “because you’re facing him.”
“What does it matter if that prompted this?” he asked stubbornly.
“‘Cause you can’t be thinking of me out there. You’ve got much more important things to be thinking about. You’ve got to be on your game tonight,” she replied with all the courage she could muster. “And what happens after tonight, tomorrow and next week when all the euphoria dies down? I mean, I’m not even of age, Harry, I’m coming back here next year, not learning to be a wife. There’s been so much going on in our lives, I mean we haven’t exactly had a normal relationship as it is. Neither of us knowknows how different things will be after tomorrow.” She took a deep breath and ignored her heart throbbing against her ribcage. “And there’s some small part of you that is asking because you don’t think you’ll see it through the night.”
“No,” he said quickly as he carefully chose his words, “I’m asking because I’m going to make it through this.” He softly pushed her hair out of her eyes. “And tomorrow when my new life starts, I want you to be by my side.”
“I’ll always be by your side, Harry, no matter what happens.” She caught his hand in hers as he lowered it and gave it a small encouraging squeeze. “Ask me again, tomorrow.”
He gave her a bullish smile as his whole face positively beamed. “And you’ll say yes then?”
“I’ll think about it then.” She gave him her own impish grin. “Let’s get the world back to normal first.”
Leaning forward, she placed a small kiss on his lips. He captured her as she pulled back and tugged her closer towards him, his hands resting on her bum as he gave it a slight squeeze. She didn’t object as he kept a firm hold on her, unwilling to let her go. Her lips parted as his tongue entered her mouth, and her heart began to race as the pair of tongues twisted in a slow dance with each other. Ginny ran a hand through his hair as she lost herself in the kiss and all thoughts of battle disappeared, only concerning herself with Harry’s lips.
Slowly and reluctantly she pulled away from him. “Go. Go, and be a hero.”