Harry snapped out of his usual trance and glanced at the door where Mr. Murray stood, eyeing him sternly. Harry nodded, his eyes blank. He heard the bell tinkling followed by the door closing. He was alone once again inside this small antique furniture shop—the way he wanted it to be.
He propped his chin against his palm and stared at the grandfather clock in the corner, his eyes following the movement of the pendulum. Right… left… right… left… right… left… —everything was starting to slip out of focus—right… left… right… left… —Harry's eyelids were becoming heavier and heavier—right… left… right—
Harry jumped on his seat and muttered a few chosen words. He glanced up again at the clock, which was signaling the hour. Six o'clock, it read. Harry stood up from his chair, grabbed the keys from the drawer, and headed for the door. He locked the shop up and blended into the crowd of hurrying Muggles.
This was what he liked about Muggle London. Nobody took notice of him. Nobody knew who he was. Sure, Mr. Murray knew that his name was Harry Potter and that he was an orphan, but they never had any normal conversation for him to know more about Harry. The only interaction they had was when Mr. Murray gave orders, to which Harry complied without any complaints. Mr. Murray never cared where Harry went to school, where he lived, and whatever the hell he did as long as he came to work everyday. And Harry never cared either.
He reached the Underground station and, almost automatically, bought tokens, entered the platform, and hung back in the crowd while waiting for the train. A round of raucous laughter caught Harry's ears. He looked in that direction and saw a group of teenagers about his age talking animatedly and throwing jokes at each other. They seemed so carefree, so devoid of pain and burden—so not like him.
The sound of the approaching train echoed throughout the platform. Harry let himself get pushed inside the nearby carriage by hurrying and anxious Muggles. He held onto one of the posts as the door closed. The teenagers' laughter was still ringing in Harry's ears, making his usual train of memories rush back to him… painful memories he neither wanted to forget nor remember….
She got out of town
On a railway New York bound
Took all except my name
Another alien on Broadway
Well, some things in this world you just can't change
Some things you don't see until it gets too late
"What d'you reckon, Harry? An Exceeding Expectations at the very least?" Ron asked as they walked back to Gryffindor Tower after their Potions NEWTs.
A soft chuckle escaped Harry's lips. "Yeah, I suppose so. Good thing Snape's not the one marking my NEWTs or else I would not have sat for my exam," he said jokingly.
Hermione eyed the two boys disapprovingly. "Well, you both need to get at least an Acceptable to be accepted into Auror training."
"Oh, Hermione, lighten up," Ron said, nudging her on her shoulder. "We're only kidding. D'you think Harry will give up his chance to kick those Dark Eaters' arses?"
Harry gave a sarcastic laugh. "Thanks for that enlightening thought, Ron." He adjusted the strap of his bag on his shoulders, thinking more seriously about his friend's comment. That was the truth, really. Just their Potions practical exams remained and he'd be out of Hogwarts. He'd be allowed to join the Order and the fight against Voldemort. No one could hold him back now; he was legally an adult.
It had been two years since Cornelius Fudge announced Voldemort's return to the whole wizarding world, and as expected, terror and extreme fear reigned. Every witch and wizard—Muggle-borns, half-bloods, and even purebloods—had been living on the edge, half-expecting the Dark Forces would attack any minute. Lives were taken every now and then; the number of members of the Order was growing smaller, while the enemy grew stronger.
Harry felt a familiar pain on his forehead. Since he finally mastered Occlumency last year his scar rarely bothered him at all. He would only feel a slight twinge of pain, and it would disappear the following moment. His nightmares had stopped and so had the images of Voldemort. Harry closed his eyes as the pain seared throughout his head. He pressed his palm on his eyes until he saw stars; the pressure normally took the pain away. He could still hear Ron and Hermione talking, but their voices seemed so far away. He thought he heard Ron laugh; then it became louder—more maniacal, crueler.
Harry's eyes snapped open, and he found himself breathing heavily. Ron was shaking his shoulders; Hermione was by his side. Their eyes were concerned and puzzled at the same time.
"Harry, what happened?" asked Hermione
Ron released Harry, helping him to his feet. "You scared me, mate. Why d'you have to laugh like that?"
"He's coming," mumbled Harry, his breaths coming in shallow gasps. "He's coming here…"
Ron and Hermione exchanged scared looks. "Vo-Voldemort's coming?" asked Hermione. "Ho-how do you know? Did you see him?"
Harry wiped the large beads of sweat on his forehead. "No, I didn't see him," he said, taking in deep breaths. "I felt pain in my scar—you know the usual. I thought it was nothing, then I just heard him laughing in my head." He looked up at his friends. "It was like in fifth year; I can feel what he's feeling."
"But you mastered Occlumency already—" said Hermione, her voice trembling slightly.
Harry closed his eyes, trying to calm down his breathing. "I know. The exams may have made my defenses low. Maybe that's why I heard him, why I felt him."
"Your laugh…" said Ron. "It was the same laugh I heard when I found you in the dormitory in fifth year."
"C'mon," said Hermione, "let's go straight to—"
"All students are to return to their dormitories immediately," Professor McGonagall's voice rang throughout the castle. "I repeat, students return to your dormitories IMMEDIATELY!"
Harry caught his friends' eyes. Unspoken understanding passed through them. This is it, Harry thought. Without any word, they sprinted towards the Gryffindor Tower. A rush of adrenaline flowed through him as thousands of questions flew inside his mind. Have Voldemort's Death Eaters penetrated the castle? Were they already under attack? No, it couldn't be. They could have heard it if the Death Eaters forced entrance since all seventh years were in the Great Hall taking their NEWTs. But then, there were other entrances to the castle…. Could it be that Wormtail passed this information to Voldemort himself?
There's only one way to find out, he thought and stopped at the seventh floor landing. Harry was about to run back down when Ron caught his arm.
"Harry! What are you doing?"
He tried to free himself from his friend's grip but Ron would not release him. "I'm going to find out what's happening."
"No, Harry. You're not going anywhere," said Hermione, grabbing a hold of Harry's other arm. "We're not going unless we know what's happening."
"But we could be under attack right now!"
"Miss Granger, Mr. Potter, Mr. Weasley, Gryffindor Tower if you please."
Harry turned around and saw Professor McGonagall climbing the stairs. He looked at her and caught her eye. Her usual stern look had been replaced by fear—fear he never saw in her, not even the time the Chamber of Secrets was opened.
"Professor—" Harry began.
Professor McGonagall gave him a slight nod. "I fear we are," she whispered, understanding Harry's unspoken question. "C'mon, we still have time," she said, leading the three to the portrait hole.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione exchanged frightened looks; their worst fears were confirmed. They were indeed under attack.
The Gryffindor common room was buzzing with anxious conversation when Harry climbed through the portrait hole, followed by their Head of House. A blanket of utter silence filled the room as each of the students' eyes fell on Harry and Professor McGonagall. He trudged his way to the corner where Ginny and Neville were standing, their faces ashen.
Ginny gave him a questioning look. Harry looked at her eyes and nodded. She sank further into the corner, breathing heavily. Neville, who deduced what was happening, sank to the floor beside Ginny.
"The village of Hogsmeade is under attack," Professor McGonagall said without preamble, making her voice as calm as possible. "There's already a standoff in the village and we fear that the Death Eaters might try to take the castle."
There was a hushed silence as the students looked at each other in fright.
"Everyone will be evacuated to the dungeons immediately, while sixth and seventh years can either stay with the younger students or fight," continued Professor McGonagall, looking at each of the Gryffindors.
"Pro—professor?" squeaked a terrified first year sitting near the fireplace. "D'you reckon—that You-Know-Who—"
"No. He's not there yet," said Professor McGonagall, addressing the first year, then looked directly at Harry. "But Professor Dumbledore thinks that he might join the battle."
Harry couldn't understand if Professor McGonagall was warning him not to look for Voldemort or not. But whichever way she meant, he had already decided on what he would do. He leaned back against the wall, not paying any more attention to the rest of Professor McGonagall's instructions. He wanted to get out of here at once and find Voldemort.
He didn't notice that a commotion had already broken out and that Professor McGonagall was gone. A couple of first and second years were crying in the corner, while others sat rooted on their chairs, not believing what was happening. Some older students—like Harry—were standing in the corner, not uttering a single word.
Harry was thinking of taking advantage of the hubbub and get out of the castle when he felt a slight tug on the sleeves of his robes. He turned to his right and saw Hermione looking at him, shaking her head.
"Don't," she whispered.
Harry stared directly at her frightened eyes. "No."
He shook his head, staring at her with a determined look in his eyes. "No." Harry yanked his robes from Hermione's hand and walked towards the staircase, leaving them shocked.
"Harry—" Hermione called after him.
"Let him be," he heard Ron say softly to Hermione. Harry didn't care what Ron, Hermione, Neville, and Ginny were thinking. They would never understand, anyway. They would never understand the pain and anger he was feeling. They had never experienced everything that he went through; they never had a hard life because of Voldemort. They never had.
He ran towards the boys' staircase. He needed to get away from that fake I-know-what-you-feel look everyone had been shooting in his direction. They really think they know, don't they? He yanked open the door of his dormitory and opened his trunk, looking for his Invisibility Cloak. He would sneak away and find Voldemort when they leave for the battle. Nobody could stop him.
"You're going after him, aren't you?" a soft voice said behind him.
Harry turned around and saw Ginny standing at the door. "Yes, and you can't stop me."
"I'm not stopping you," Ginny said, her voice firm. "I'm coming with you."
He looked sharply at her, shocked at what she said. "No, you're not."
"Yes, I am. You heard McGonagall; I can choose to either stay or fight."
"I know I can't stop you from going out there to fight," Harry said, his voice rising. "But I'm not letting you come with me either."
"Why? Because I can't take care of myself? Is that it?" she snapped, her arms crossed in front of her.
"No, it's not that."
"Why don't you want me to go?! Because I'm too young?" Ginny spat, her eyes flaring.
"Because I'm not good enough?!"
"No! Ginny how could you possibly think I'd think that! It's just—"
"Or is it because you're afraid I might die?!"
Harry was left speechless as the words sank into his heart. He wanted to say something, but something held him back. He wasn't sure what it was, but it was probably the fact that what she said was the truth.
He was afraid he might lose her in the battle. He was afraid he would never see her again. He was afraid he would lose the one person he cared most about.
"I—I don't want anyone to get involved," Harry said instead. "This is my fight. My fight alone."
Ginny gave a sarcastic laugh. "Your fight alone, huh? But the last time I checked you're not the only one suffering because of Voldemort! You're not the only one who lost a father and a brother because of Voldemort!" she cried, her eyes shining with angry tears. "And you're not the one who's been possessed by Voldemort!"
Her words hit Harry hard—again. How could he forget the terrible loss and the extreme grief they felt with the death of Mr. Weasley and Percy? How could he forget what she went through during her first year? How could he?
"What?" yelled Ginny. "You're sorry now that that thick skull of yours got the picture?"
"I just don't want you to get hurt, all right?! I won't forgive myself if something happens to you—to any of you!" Harry yelled back, his temper rising once more. "I don't want to add another worry to my list."
"Then don't. But I'm going with you, whether you like it or not!" Ginny said firmly. She turned around and left the room, closing the door in a loud thud.
"Fine!" Harry shouted through the closed door, kicking a foot of his four-poster. He hastily folded the Invisibility Cloak he was holding and tucked it inside his robes.
When Harry came back to the common room, almost everyone had gone. Only the seventh and sixth years were left and total silence filled the room. He felt every eye was upon him when he went to the opposite corner where Ron, Hermione, and Ginny were standing. Harry knew that Ron was trying to catch his eye, but he intentionally looked the other way. He'd had enough of Hermione's nagging or Ginny's death glares. He'd had enough of their sickening concern for him. He just wanted to get this war get over and done with—without any one of them getting hurt.
The portrait hole swung open again and Professor McGonagall climbed into the common room. "Follow me to the Great Hall."
Everyone silently obliged; a low scramble of chairs was heard as the remaining students climbed out of the portrait hole. Harry immediately followed Professor McGonagall out of the common room to avoid the others. The sooner he got out of here the better. The Entrance Hall was filled with almost every sixth- and seventh-year student; each one was ready to die defending the castle and their peers.
Harry retreated near the broom cupboard, his gaze fixed on the ground and intentionally avoiding everyone. The other teachers, led by Professor Snape, emerged from the Great Hall and headed towards the castle doors. Everyone followed. Harry, his heart pumping hard with adrenaline and anger, followed suit. He glanced sideways to Ron, who nodded. Beside him, Hermione swallowed hard but kept Harry's gaze. He looked to his right and saw Ginny emerging from the castle. For some reason, Harry felt a great sense of foreboding.
Ginny met Harry's eyes for a second, then she sharply looked the other way. The nagging feeling in the pit of his stomach became stronger. He wanted to approach her and say sorry for what he had said, but he knew this was not the time for that. Maybe after the war, he decided. He saw Ginny take a deep breath before running towards the castle gates.
With a heavy heart, Harry tightened his grip on his wand and ran outside the castle towards the High Street.
Baby, baby, baby when all your love is gone
Who will save me from all I'm up against out in this world
And maybe, maybe, maybe
You'll find something that's enough to keep you
But if the bright lights don't receive you
You should turn yourself around and come on home
"Foolish. Simply foolish," hissed Voldemort, his snake-like eyes gleaming with malice as he looked down at the fallen body of Dumbledore lying beside Harry.
"What do you know," he continued, chuckling, obviously finding the scene before him highly amusing. "The great Albus Dumbledore foolishly sacrificed himself to save you, Potter." Voldemort fixed his scarlet eyes on Harry. "Someone foolish enough to try and take me on."
Harry stared back at Voldemort, his eyes flaring with intense anger. Shaking from the scalding pain on his forehead and from Dumbledore's death, he tried to get back to his feet but kept his eyes fixed on Voldemort.
"Trying to avenge your headmaster's death, Potter?" said Voldemort, pointing his wand at Harry. "Or should I say, are you ready to join Dumbledore?"
Harry staggered to his feet and aimed his wand, but even before he could cast a spell, Voldemort had already sent his.
Harry fell down on all fours again, writhing in pain. His hands and knees gave way as extreme pain seared throughout his whole body. Tears started to sting Harry's eyes. End it now, he screamed silently. Bloody end this now!
"Want me to end your life right now?" Voldemort asked, sounding concerned and delighted at the same time. "It'll be my pleasure."
Voldemort made a swift movement with his wand that sent a new wave of pain to him. Harry twisted his body into a tight ball, screaming. Voldemort was laughing as he watched Harry squirm in pain.
Voldemort, obviously irritated with the interruption, stopped his cruel laughter. "Well, what do we have here?"
Harry turned to the direction of the voice and saw Hermione running towards him, closely followed by Ron. Both held their wands aloft. "Hermione! Ron! NO! STAY BACK!"
"Come to Potter's rescue? I'm afraid not. Avada Kedavra!" Voldemort said calmly, as if it was as simple as a Cleaning Charm.
"HERMIONE!" Harry cried as a jet of green light erupted from Voldemort's wand and flew directly at Hermione's chest. Her eyes went wide as the spell hit her. Her body went rigid and fell backwards. Ron caught her, his eyes wide in shock.
"And as for you, boy," Voldemort said, aiming his wand at Ron, "Avada Kedavra!"
Another bright green light shot from the end of Voldemort's wand, hitting Ron before he could deflect the spell. He fell lifeless with Hermione still in his arms.
"RON!" bellowed Harry, his lips quivering both with anger and grief. He tightened his grip on his wand and slowly stood up, shaking, his breath coming in shallow gasps. Extreme rage was flowing in Harry's veins. Thrice Voldemort had taken away the people closest to his heart, the people he loved most—his parents, Dumbledore, and his best friends.
Voldemort turned back to Harry. "There's no one to save your neck now, Potter." He moved closer to Harry, his red, snake-like eyes giving him a menacing stare. "Are you now ready to join them?"
Harry remembered the people he loved and lost in this war—his mum and dad, Sirius, Hagrid, Mr. Weasley, Percy, Dumbledore, Hermione, and Ron. He knew he alone could stop this. He needed to end this now—before somebody else got hurt.
Dumbledore's words two years ago came back to Harry. It is the power…that you possess in such quantities and which Voldemort has not at all. That power also saved you from possession by Voldemort, because he could not bear to reside in a body so full of the force he detests…it was your heart that saved you.
Harry stood up and faced Voldemort with renewed strength given by those he loved very much. "I'm not joining them," he said, aiming his wand straight into Voldemort's chest. "But you will."
Voldemort gave an amused laugh. "You think so? Let's just see."
"AVADA KEDAVRA!" Harry and Voldemort cried at the same time. Bright green lights burst from both wands. Harry expected a repeat of the same effect from when they dueled during his fourth year, and it surprised him when it didn't. Voldemort's spell was flying directly at Harry; there was no way he could dodge it.
Everything happened so fast. He knew the spell hit him and made him fall to the ground. He thought he was dead, but a strong force—something like a powerful shield—made the curse bounce off him. He heard a loud cry—a cry of defeat—then something fell down to the ground. He felt a blinding pain on his forehead that made him cry with anguish. In spite of the pain, he tried to get back to his feet.
A mass of black robes was lying across Harry. He staggered towards it, straining his eyes because the pain was blurring his vision. Voldemort was lying lifeless on the ground, his scarlet eyes wide with shock, his face whiter than before. Beside his long and thin fingers lay his wand—broken. Harry knew that, for the second time, the spell had bounced off him—but how and why, he did not know.
The pain on his forehead was starting to fade. He looked back and saw the fallen body of his headmaster. He limped towards Dumbledore and fell on his knees beside him. "It's over now," he whispered as the tears started to fall. "We did it."
He closed his eyes, remembering the last moments of Dumbledore—how he bravely battled with Voldemort… and how he made himself a human shield to save Harry from the Killing Curse. Harry stood up and went towards Ron and Hermione. More tears fell from his eyes at the sight of his two best friends, together until the very end. He kneeled down beside them, crying silently.
Even though he had finally defeated Voldemort, Harry couldn't feel triumphant. He couldn't celebrate the victory because this victory took the lives of the people he cared most about—the people closest to his heart. Everyone he loved was taken away from him. Every single one of them—his mum, his dad, Sirius, Hagrid, Dumbledore, Ron, Hermione, and—
Harry's eyes burst open. He had not seen her since they left the castle. He didn't know where she went or if she followed him or not. He needed to find her, to know that she's safe, to know that she's alive. Harry bolted up to his feet and ran as fast as he could.
Please, be safe, he prayed silently as he ran along the other end of Hogsmeade. Ginny, please be safe.
A mess of bloodstained robes and tangled bodies lay upon the street. No sign of movement could be seen anywhere. He reached what was left of Gladrags and still there was no sign of Ginny—or anyone he knew for that matter. Panic raced inside him.
Ginny's voice rang inside his mind. Is it because you're afraid I might die?!
No, she had to be alive. She had to be.
A shimmer of red caught Harry's eye at the far end of Gladrags. No, it couldn't be. Harry sprinted forward again with his heart thumping hard inside his chest. Harry saw Ginny sprawled across the ground. He halted, his wand falling from his grip.
He ran towards her, falling to his knees beside her. He brushed the hair off her cheeks, sighing in relief to see her peaceful face. She was still warm.
"Ginny," he whispered, shaking her shoulders slightly. No response. Harry raised her a little—her hand fell limply to the side and her wand created a soft thud as it hit the ground.
Harry froze. He turned her head; it, too, fell limp on his arm. Harry reached his hand toward Ginny's face with trepidation. His hand was shaking and his eyes were burning, but he wasn't feeling anything. He just wanted to touch her and look at her face until she opened her brown eyes to him.
"Ginny—" he whispered. "Ginny, please wake up."
But Ginny remained immobile before him. He swallowed hard, trying to block the tightening of his heart. Harry smiled. Ginny was probably pulling his leg again. "Come on Gin, you can open your eyes now; joke's over."
He brushed a few strands of hair off her eyes, half hoping that they would open as he did so. But they remained closed. Harry was still waiting in vain, shaking her slightly; but Ginny remained motionless in his arms.
"Gin, come on," he whispered, hoping that the next thing he would see was Ginny smiling brightly at him. "It's not funny anymore."
But still no response came from her. Ginny's eyes remained closed, her face expressionless. The first tears started to fall from his eyes. It couldn't be. It just couldn't be. He was afraid to touch her. He didn't think he could take it if he touched her cheek and found it as cold as ice.
He reached a shaking finger to her face slowly. It's now or never. The moment his finger touched her cheek, he couldn't take it any longer. He cupped her face with his palm, taking the cold with it. "Ginny, no! No! NOOOO!!!"
His arms were suddenly around her, warming her, sharing his body heat. It couldn't be true. He still could save her. But no, Ginny remained still in his arms.
"Ginny, please don't be dead," he croaked. "Please don't be dead."
Pain and anguish coursed through him. He buried his face in the crook of her neck, sobbing, crying his heart out. "Please don't be dead," he sobbed. "I need you." He stroked her face, his hand shaking uncontrollably.
"I need you, Gin...I need you. Please don't be dead," he cried, his voice faltering. "I love you."
I love you...the words sank in. Yes, he loved her. He loved her smile. He loved the way she threw her head back when she laughed. He loved the sparkle in her eyes whenever she felt mischievous. He loved her tactlessness. He loved her. He loved everything that was Ginny. And like the others he loved—she was gone. She was taken away from him. She was taken away—
He opened his eyes and took one look at Ginny's dead form. He couldn't bear it. He couldn't look at her, dead and cold as ice. Harry held her close to him, holding her tight as more tears escaped from his eyes. He felt his heart bursting, his whole world falling apart.
"GIIINNNYYY!!!" he screamed into the silent night. He tightened his arms around her, crushing her. He rocked her back and forth as a waterfall of tears cascaded from his eyes.
He stroked her face before bending down to kiss her lips. He closed his eyes, the tears streaming down his cheeks, the cry of anguish still in his throat. His warm, wet lips touched her cold, dry ones. The kiss was long and gentle, the first and the last time he would be able to feel this again. He couldn't help wishing that she would wake up and return his kiss. Then everything would be all right. Everything would be fine. But the longer Harry pressed his lips against hers, the more painful things became. Ginny's lips still remained closed, not moving.
Harry looked at Ginny's closed eyes for a long time, remembering how richly brown and expressive they were. How he loved staring at those eyes, how he loved to see them shining when she laughed, and how he could feel himself melting under their gaze. He traced his shaking fingers across her cheeks, memorizing every detail of her beautiful face. Harry closed his eyes, etching this picture of her in his memory. His lips started to quiver uncontrollably again.
He couldn't take it any longer. He couldn't live here without her. He just couldn't.
With a heavy and bleeding heart, Harry laid Ginny's body back on the ground. He leaned over and kissed her one last time, savoring the bittersweet taste of her soft lips.
"I love you," he whispered in her ear.
Harry stood and ran as fast as he could into the silent night without a single look back, leaving it all behind.
A/N: This piece is inspired by Matchbox Twenty's Bright Lights. This is supposed to be a song fic but my beta and I decided to make this There Might Still be Hope's sequel. I still included the lyrics of the song since it fit perfectly with the story. Dumbledore's words were taken directly from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
A million thanks to Mea (coffeebean) for helping me write Ginny's death scene. If that made you cry, you should also hunt her. To my lovely betas and good friends, Mea and Jenna Mae, many, many thanks! I know you two wanted to kill me but I still love you both! *hugs* Big, big thanks also to KC, my wonderful PS.net beta.