She knows she should be grateful, but it's hard to be anything when your family is torn apart and your oldest brother is missing and the one boy you've liked practically forever is in love with your closest friend. It's hard to feel grateful to the dentists who have taken you in without question when your father is out fighting a losing battle and your mother is in the hospital, and the daughter of those dentists is sitting on her bed, reading love letters from Harry Potter.
Ginny Weasley is ungrateful, and she hates herself for it.
She can't help herself, though. Whenever she sees Hermione coming through the front door holding another letter in her hand she feels sick to her stomach. It's not fair to resent Hermione for this, Ginny knows, it's not her fault Harry feels that way. But it just tears her up inside.
And what about Ron? So far away, living in Romania with Charlie as he hides from the Death Eaters on his trail... not Harry's fault either, he didn't want this. It wasn't his intention for Voldemort to try to get to him through the Weasleys. He's sorry, and that's all that matters.
To Dumbledore, anyway.
Ginny wonders if Ron misses Hermione as much as Hermione misses him. That's the funny thing, she misses him a lot, even as she dallies away the lazy summer days reading and re-reading Harry's letters. Ginny knows this because she has seen Hermione secretly look at the picture of herself and Ron taken in their sixth year when she thinks no one is watching.
But Ginny is always watching. She's learned to do that, to always be alert. Constant vigilance. Moody - or Crouch, or whoever he was - had been right about one thing. If you don't pay attention, you pay. Look at Bill. He paid a hefty sum for not watching out for himself - his own life. Ginny wonders if Draco Malfoy can sleep at night.
She knows she can't. The minute she shuts her eyes the nightmares begin, awake or not. A swirl of images, death, blood... twice she has seen Harry dead, twice she has cried in her sleep.
She can't seem to forget where she is.
Or why she is here.
Hermione knows she has these nightmares, but Hermione has never mentioned them aloud or asked exactly what is it Ginny sees. For this, Ginny is grateful.
Lying on the bed, her eyes fall on the stack of envelopes on Hermione's dresser. Some are open, some aren't.
They're all from him. She recognizes the handwriting, the scarlet ink Hermione gave him for christmas. She just wants to tear them apart, rip them open and read what he's said to her. She wants to know what he is thinking, how he's doing, every little emotion that runs through his body as he rushes out into the war.
Even though she wants to, she wouldn't.
Those letters are not for her eyes.
So she sleeps.
It is dark when she wakes, the sky outside the window is nothing but black. The entire house seems to wake at once, and almost immediately, Ginny hears Hermione bolt out of bed. She is standing by her side in no time, shaking her gently.
"Ginny. Someone's at the door."
Her blood runs cold. Someone. Who would arrive at the Granger house, in the dead of night? What would they want?
"Come on."says Hermione urgently, pulling Ginny's bedcovers off and tugging at her hand. "Let's go see."
Her words shock and puzzle Ginny. She can't believe Hermione wants to do this, to go and face possible danger, just the two of them alone. Level headed, clever, cautious Hermione.
It is almost as though she knows who is there.
Ginny follows Hermione, her insides a writhing mass of worms. She is scared, scared far beyond reason and rationale. Turn around, a voice says in her head as their feet pad along the carpeted hallway, don't be stupid. This is stupid.
You can't let them get you too. Not like Bill.
"Shhhh...." whispers Hermione, and all Ginny can see of her is one eye and the sillhouette of her face over her shoulder. The house is dark and fraught with shadows at this time.
Ginny breathes deeply as they approach the door. She can see a dark figure through the thick glass. Hermione reaches out slowly, her hand hovering below the mail slot that all of Harry's letters have had to come through in order to reach her. Ginny shuts her eyes. She can't seem to forget the letters.
The door opens. Moonlight shimmers past the frame, a tall figure stands there, alone, beyond the threshhold. There is silence. Then, finally, he speaks.
"Hullo." his voice is hoarse and raspy.
"Hello, Harry." she breathes, still clutching the doorknob in her right hand.
Ginny freezes for a moment. She opens her eyes, disbelieving and afraid. She looks up anyway.
It really is him.
Harry has finally come.
"Ginny," he says, staring past Hermione's shoulder, as though she doesn't exist, and all that is between him and Ginny is translucent air."I've got something to tell you."
She can't breathe.
It can't be, she thinks, blinking back tears. It can't be possible...
He can't have disappeared.
"He's been missing for over two weeks now." Harry says hoarsely, watching her with wary eyes. There is a touch of restraint in his voice, a slight raise in pitch that hovers in the air between them, densely invisible. She senses that he wants to say something, but whatever it is, he won't let himself.
"Does... Hermione know?"
She can't look him in the eye.
Silence. The shadows are a good place to hide, she thinks. Ginny is relieved there are plenty of shadows in Hermione's kitchen. They haven't bothered with turning on any lights. They are simply sitting down, alone together in the dark room. Hermione has gone upstairs in search of blankets and pillows for Harry.
"We'll explain to mum and dad in the morning," she says before tiptoeing away.
Ginny's lips form the words without meaning to.
"What... what about Ron?" she asks.
"He's fine." Harry stares out the dark window, his face illuminated by the street lamp. His voice is soft but firm and solid, it breaks the silence viciously, almost like an assault on the very thing that keeps Ginny in the room. If he speaks again she might run away. If he looks at her once more she may not know what to do.
"He's upset..." continues Harry, lowering his gaze to his hands. A long scar runs from his right thumb down to the center of his wrist. He caresses the scar with a finger, staring at it absently. Once again she can sense the hesitance. He wants to say something. Harry opens his mouth, and pauses.
"We all are."
That is not what he wanted to say.
"Mum... I have to tell her." Ginny says, suddenly thinking of her mother, fragile Mrs. Weasley who has aged more in the past year than she ever did all those years raising seven children. The tolls of war are greater than any of them had thought.
She knows. Ron knows. Hermione knows.
Just Ginny left. But she knows now.
When it's too late to do anything.
"I visited her before I came out here," he says, turning his head slightly on an angle. The light from the window only shines on half of his face, the side with the lightning bolt scar. She shivers, for no reason at all. He continues, not noticing.
"She's hanging on, but just barely."
Ginny exhales sharply. She doesn't seem to be here, everything seems to be a dream of some kind, the sort of dream that never started in the first place but never will end.
I'm so sorry.
"I never knew." the words escaped her lips without her meaning to.
Harry stares at her, in a way she can't fathom. She fights the urge to duck away, to hide her face in her arms. There are no tears, but she feels certain there should be.
He speaks after a moment.
"You would have known if you had read my letters."
"Your letters?" she says in surprise. The letters he sent to Hermione? Why would he think she would read those? They weren't meant for her eyes...
"Yes. I sent you seven letters before giving up. You never replied."
Her entire mind seems to go numb. Those letters... were for her? But... suddenly she remembers Hermione's voice, speaking quietly.
"You should read these, Ginny... they're from Harry."
"I'm a bit busy at the moment..." she'd replied, making up another excuse to get away as she wondered why Hermione would want to torture her this way. She knew how Ginny felt about Harry. "Maybe later..."
"All right, I'll leave them here for you."
She never touched them, and now she regrets it.
"I..." she says, stammering. She feels so utterly stupid. "I - I thought they were love letters."
He looks at her squarely in the face, his expression serious and calm. She notices how mature he is, how much he's grown over the summer.