They make their way silently up the last flight of stairs, her hand still clutched in his, and as much as Ginny longs to stay in the room with him, she fears that it will only do them harm. Relying on each other to ease their fears will prove more disastrous than good. She knows this.
But his eyes are impossible to refuse.
Quietly, they enter the room. The posters that adorn the walls are stationary. The players no longer zip around on their brooms; it seems they know that the room's occupant no longer cares. Suspended in time, the posters are frightening in the dark; motionless watchers, shrouded in shadow, that only serve to confuse Ginny. She reaches over to turn on an enchanted light next to Harry's bed. It casts an ethereal glow on most of the room, but only makes the shadows more pronounced.
All day with Harry has been easy; easier than she would have expected. They held hands, he opened doors and carried her parcels, and she felt his eyes on her so often that she knew a simple blush was no longer an accurate way to describe her flushes. They seemed to come from the very inside of her, where she glowed with something secret and wonderful and awful, that made her feel guilt and despair.
Now, though, at night – being alone in his room feels clandestine and vaguely unreal – it is hard. It is hard to look him in the eye; alarming to know he is waiting; impossible to lift the covers and slide into them. For want of something to do with her eyes, Ginny flits her gaze around the small room. There are hints of Ron everywhere, but like the posters on the wall, the hints seem to have become motionless. Not wanting to see her brother anywhere in the room that is no longer his, and not able to look at Harry – who she feels watching her – she moves to the window.
The stars are a reminder as well, of course, but in such a way that they bring a bittersweet smile to her face. Behind her, she can feel more than hear Harry start to move about the room. Ginny tries to ignore him and pushes her palm against the cold window, watching the air trace the outline of her fingers as she presses hard against the glass. When she leans to rest her forehead against the smooth pane, her breath makes patterns. Quite involuntarily, her other hand comes up from her side and she writes in her condensation. It takes a moment for her to realize whose name she has written. With an angry swipe she erases the name and turns to the room, where she is arrested by the sight that greets her.
Harry has taken off his Muggle clothes and is in the process of changing into his night things. He looks up, as if her eyes have called to him – although, perhaps it was the gasp she let escape her lips – and pauses tying his pyjama bottoms. His eyes meet hers and a blush creeps across his body. She can follow the heat of it with her eyes, over his slim stomach and chest, where it creeps higher across his taught neck and finally settles on his cheeks. By the time her eyes have raised again to encounter his, she is quite certain her cheeks match.
Harry offers a feeble smile, which she tries to return, but like the rest of her body, her face is arrested in a permanent ‘O'. Ginny knows that her eyes are wide and she must look very much like some poor animal caught in wand light, but she cannot make herself move. Eventually, Harry looks back down and finishes tying the strings to his trousers, which allows Ginny a moment to try and compose herself.
When he finishes, he sits on his bed and leans forward, resting his elbows upon his knees and his cheeks in his palms, and he studies her. He makes no pretence of doing anything else, and it is terribly unnerving to be the object of his intense gaze. She longs to look away or to tell him to stop, but she is caught between the cold of the window and the heat of Harry's eyes, and is powerless to make it cease.
"You look like Ron." His voice startles her. All day his voice had been Harry, but with something hearty behind it, as if there were a screen that had been placed in front of him to distract him from the timbre of it, or perhaps to protect him. At this moment, the voice he is using is lower and rumbly and gritty; it's soothing. It is more Harry and less Harry, and it causes her eyes to sting.
His voice undoes the secret hold his eyes have on her, and she moves over to the bed, where she stands in front of him, so close that if she stretched she could touch the dark crown of his head with her fingertips. She is inexplicably afraid to move any closer, and his eyes are still studying her openly, without embarrassment, despite the fact that he has neglected to pull on a T-shirt.
Regardless of her fears, she moves a step closer. His eyes darken slightly behind his glasses and she longs to take the focus out of his gaze. She reaches and, with trembling hands, slides his spectacles down the bridge of his nose, pulling them off and holding them in her hand, which falls back down to her side. He seems to have stopped breathing. That would be a luxury, for her breath has started to come in fast spurts, and she worries that he can hear her heart beating like a drum against her rib cage. They both have paused in the moment and neither seem willing, or able, to break the spell that has been cast over the room.
Harry is the first to move. He lunges in an awkward, clumsy lurch, and his hands clasp onto her waist, pulling her into him, so that she stands in between his open legs, her knees hitting the edge of the bed. And suddenly, he is not something to be afraid of; he is scared, as is she, and she finds a strange comfort in the knowledge that he needs her. She can feel his need for her in the tears that have already started to soak through her top; in his shaking shoulders that he does not try to hide; in his trembling hands that attempt to pull her closer to him and cling. It is natural for her own hands to drop his glasses to the ground – where they hit with an imperceptible thud – and for them to move into his hair and that she whisper soothing words. It is natural for him to pull her completely onto the bed, pressing her right up against his bare chest and wrapping his arms totally around her.
Eventually, when his tears subside, he asks her to tell him stories. And because she knows that this is an indulgence he has never had, except perhaps from a mother of whom he has no recollection, she begins a tale of two children, brother and sister, who spent an entire night together watching the stars.
It was frightfully warm out, so hot and humid with air that blanketed the body in a mist of condensation that Ginny was positively sure she could cut through the evening with a knife. It was quite all right with her, though. Mum had put a cooling charm on the front room, and she and Ron were going to sleep down there, just the two of them, neither having any desire to brave their own muggy rooms, which were high above the ground floor and felt like tiny, little ovens. Truth be told, Ginny was quite glad for the hot air; if it hadn't been so warm, Ron would have surely wanted to spend this last night home in his room – a room that he had procured only last year – and Ginny would have had to deal with the harsh reality of his leaving by herself.
The whole long year of days with her mother stretched in front of her like an unwelcome road, lonely and dull. But she still had her brother for this one night, and she was going to make the best of it. Both placed blankets and pillows on the floor to cushion their sleeping spots, and Ginny had an enchanted Muggle torch that her father had secretly given her years ago, so that she could read in bed. Ron had just walked into the room with an armful of sweets and an ever-cool jug of pumpkin juice. Everything was going to be perfect, except….
"Okay, Gin," Ron said as he set down the evening's refreshments, "let's eat up quick. I should really get to bed soon and I wanted to look over my books again." He looked quickly over at her as Ginny felt her face fall. "I've got a big day tomorrow."
"Go to bed? Read your books?" Ginny said incredulously. "I don't want to go to bed. I thought we would stay up and talk and hang out and…."
Ron puffed up his chest. "I can't, Gin," he tried to explain. "I need to be ready to face things tomorrow. I've got the Sorting, and Fred said I would have to wrestle a troll - ."
"Oh please," Ginny interrupted. "You didn't believe him, did you? I'm sure he was just making it up. They would never make first years do that." Ginny tired to keep the terror out of her voice. Fred had told her the troll story as well, just last week actually, but Ginny wasn't about to tell Ron that she had had a nightmare about a troll not two days later.
Even in the dim light from her torch, Ginny could see Ron flush slightly behind his freckles. He scowled at her and shoved a whole Pumpkin Pasty into his mouth. "I' doeth't maver," he said around the food, spraying her with bits of orange. "I still have to get my rest, and I need to check up on a few things. I don't want to be the only one who doesn't know stuff." He shook his head dramatically. "We've already got Potion's assignments and I haven't done them yet!"
"No, Gin. I'm sorry. I have responsibilities now. You're just too young to understand."
"Just too – hmph…well, fine! If I had a little brother or sister, I'd want to hang out with them. You're not going to see me until December. That's… " She thought for a moment. "Three months. But…if you don't want to…to…." Ginny trailed off, feeling her eyes sting. She flopped down on her sleeping spot, rolled over onto her side – away from Ron – and scrunched her eyes up in an effort to block her tears.
It didn't fool Ron, though. "Aw, C'mon, Gin," he cajoled. "I'm really nervous about it…and…oh, please don't cry. I'm sorry ‘kay? I shouldn't have said you were too young."
Ginny didn't answer. She heard Ron moving behind her and a few moments later a large, freckly face was frowning at her. He held a pastry out to her. "Look, I'm really sorry…."
Ginny was quite mortified that Ron could see her tears. It seemed to prove that she was just a little girl, but she couldn't help it. Sometimes, her emotions just got so big, and they spilled over, and the only way to make it any better was to cry.
Ron was still trying to console her with food, and when he saw that seemed to have no effect on her tears, he switched to a different tactic. "Why don't you help me study?"
Ginny sniffled. "How am I going to help you study if I'm too young?" she said wetly and closed her eyes, not wanting to see Ron anymore.
Letting out a dramatic sigh, Ron apologized once more for calling her young, then suggested, "We could go outside, and you can help me study for Astronomy. How does that sound?"
It actually sounded quite wonderful, but Ginny wasn't about to relent so easily. "Are you sure I won't be getting in your way?" she asked, opening her eyes to glare at him through her tears and pursing her lips.
"Positive," Ron said, smiling at her.
Ginny sat up so she was facing Ron and chewed on her lip. Ron's hand came up, and he swiped it along her cheek, drying her tears. He smiled at her and held a biscuit out as a peace offering. Ginny snatched it out of his hand. "Okay," she agreed, "let's go outside."
The two went about gathering their belongings to move them outside. When she stepped into the night air, her arms heavy with blankets and pillows, it hit her like a physical force.
"Ugh," groaned Ron. "It is too bloody hot out here." He looked over a Ginny's face and quickly said, "But that's fine! The sky is really clear and we can see all of the stars."
Ginny let the blankets she was carrying fall into the damp grass. Beside her, Ron was setting down the food he had carried. He went back inside to find cups and get his books, while Ginny spread the blankets out. She gave a quick glance up at the sky and caught her breath.
The moon seemed to hang so low in the sky that Ginny was sure if she was just a little taller she would have been able to stretch and graze it with her hand. It cast a bluish light all around her. Ginny lay down on the blankets and rested her head on her hands. She didn't know what any of the constellations were, and the truth was she had never cared. To her, they were just beautiful patterns in the sky, full of light and heat and beauty, keeping their watchful eyes trained on Ginny's family.
A few moments later, Ron came back out, holding a ratty book in his hand. He smiled down at Ginny, who was lying flat on her back, trying to count the stars.
Ron sat down cross-legged on the blanket, next to Ginny, and flipped his book open. He squinted in the moonlight.
"What can I do to help?" Ginny asked, still trying to decipher if a group of stars resembled a Hippogriff or a bumblebee.
"Well," exhaled Ron. "Why don't you just read to me about the stars for a while?" He handed the book to Ginny. "When you get tired let me know, and I'll take over, okay?"
Ginny nodded. She flicked on her torch and very quietly started to help her older brother study.
"So, which one's your favourite?" he asked her sometime into the night. They had been quiet for a while now, both lost in their own thoughts; the book forgotten in favour of letting their eyes wander over the sky.
"I don't think I have one," she answered truthfully. "It doesn't seem fair to pick. They're all so special."
"Well, I think Orion is my favourite," he said firmly. "He's a fighter, and he has a faithful pet, so he's always got someone with him."
Ginny inclined her head and studied Ron's profile in the starlight. "You always have people with you, Ron. We've got the biggest family in the world!"
Ron's eyes crinkled as he looked over at her. "Yeah, I s'pose we do. But it'd be nice to have people who were faithful even though they didn't have to be…y'know?"
"I guess so." Ginny sat up suddenly. She leaned over Ron. "I don't have to like you, but I still do…and I really…like you." She lowered her voice to a whisper. "Not like Percy. I mean, I love Percy, but sometimes I want to push him out a window. I never want to push you out a window…or, at least, not one that's very high." Ginny giggled as Ron sat up and knocked her over, his hands automatically finding her most ticklish spots.
"Take it back," he demanded, a mad glint in his eyes.
"Uh-uh," Ginny said between fits of laughter.
Ron tickled her until she finally conceded, swearing that she would never be inflicted with the mad desire to push him out of a window, again. The two of them settled back onto their backs and continued to study the stars.
"How will I know you're thinking of me while you're gone?" she asked speculatively, much later into the night, before giving a wide yawn. Just beyond the horizon, Ginny could see the beginnings of a sunrise. For one of the first times in her life, she willed the dawn to stay away. When it rose, it was sure to take the stars from her, and with them, her brother.
Ron was thinking about her question. "Well…pick a star," he said slowly.
"Pick a - ? What does that have to do with anything?"
"Just pick one!"
"Okay! Merlin, don't get yourself in a tizzy." Ginny closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She opened them back up, and the first star that she saw, Vega, was what she pointed out to Ron. "That one."
"Alright, then. Whenever you miss me, look at that star, and whenever I miss you, it'll twinkle and you'll know that I'm thinking about you, and I'll know that you're thinking about me."
"D'you mean it?"
"Of course I do. Look at it right now."
Ginny looked. The star was still for a moment, then almost imperceptibly she saw it grow brighter. It seemed to be a living thing, and the longer she stared at it, the more its brightness grew.
"See?" Ron asked. He wore a large grin. "I told you. I was thinking about you, and it smiled at you."
"Let me try!"
Ginny shut her eyes as tight as they would go and tried to force all of her love for her brother onto the star, to show how much she would miss him.
"Wow, Gin," Ron whispered a moment later. "That was brilliant."
Ginny opened her eyes to peer at Ron. "Did it smile for you?" she asked.
"Yeah, it did."
"So, that'll be our star?"
"Mmm-hmm, that'll be it, and whenever you miss me, you just have to look up at it and you'll know I'm thinking about you."
After she finishes her story, she looks over and gives Harry a smile. They are lying on their backs, side-by-side on the small bed, and Harry has her head cradled in his arm. Ginny is surprised to find that the memory still makes her glow.
"That's wonderful," Harry says in a scratchy voice. "I - ." His voice cracks slightly. "I'm so glad you and he had stuff like that."
"So am I," Ginny whispers. She turns over onto her side, so that she is facing him and Harry does the same, moving his arm from beneath her and using it to prop his head up. Without his glasses, he looks so young. His eyes are smudged with black coal under them and, even though he smiles at her, his cheeks are still wet with tears. Slowly, Ginny brings her hand up. She skims her finger across his cheek, and it comes away wet and sticky. Harry brings his hand up and mimics the gesture on her face, letting his hand linger.
"I miss him so much," Harry admits to her quietly after he moves his hand away from her face. "I feel like a part of me is missing, and it hurts to think about him, but when I'm not thinking about him, I feel guilty." He swallows unsteadily. Ginny watches his Adam's apple as it slides in his throat. He moves his eyes up to the space just above her shoulder. "I even feel guilty when I'm with you."
The admission causes Ginny's breath to catch in her throat as it reddens Harry's cheeks. "Why?" she asks quietly, both thrilled and terrified at the implications of this statement, and despite the fact that perhaps she doesn't want to know the answer, she waits with her heart in her stomach, beating as rapidly as a fairy's wings.
Harry's cheeks turn bright. "Because I have fun with you. I – I laugh and I like being with you, but it…when I look at you, I can see Ron, and you remind me of him." Harry focuses his eyes back on hers; from the light the lamp provides, they appear too dark and too green to be human eyes, rather they are the eyes of an animal who is wounded, and she wants to help, but she fears she will only be hurt in the process. "I worry that I like being with you because you remind me of him. I – I know that's not really true because…." He pauses and flits his eyes away again, focusing once more on a spot beyond her shoulder. Ginny can feel the heat radiating off of his cheeks. He sucks in a shaky breath. "Well, I know it's not true…I mean most of me knows that…but I can't stop worrying that maybe it's a little true, and I don't want you to get hurt…."
The tremor in his voice begs Ginny to reassure him that everything will be fine. Even though she doesn't necessarily believe it, she reaches out a hand to cup his cheek and whisper soothing words to him. "It's okay to feel that way, Harry. I've felt guilty today, too. I think it's natural."
Harry nods under her hand. He brings his own up and takes hers in it. Slowly, he forces her hand down and places it over his bare chest, with her palm pressed flat, trapped under his warm hand. Somewhere during her story, Ginny had forgotten his chest was unclothed and the feel of his heated skin under her palm causes her cheeks to flare and her lips to fall open. His heart is beating rapidly, almost frantically, and her own heart trips over itself as it quickens to keep time with his.
Harry brings his eyes back to hers. "D'you feel that?" he asks.
Ginny swallows and nods, the movement causing her eyesight to darken as she grows dizzy, and the light in the room begins to fluctuate. She is quite certain she will pass out very shortly. Or perhaps break into a million little pieces.
"I didn't think it was there," he continues, "until I woke up this morning and saw you next to me. I thought maybe I had lost it. I wanted to have lost it. It hurt me too much."
Harry presses her hand slightly against his flesh and she can feel the resiliency of his skin as the pressure is exerted. If it's at all possible, his heart moves more rapidly. Slowly, he takes his own hand away and moves it close to her. It hovers for a moment before her face, and then he gently lowers it, until it touches her T-shirt, mirroring her hand upon him.
Ginny's eyes go wide, and she feels a gasp leave her open lips. Her heart feels on fire from his touch, and her mind swirls with colours as an unfamiliar throbbing in her belly makes her breathing become choppy and harsh. No one has ever touched her there; it causes a flame to light in her stomach. Harry presses deliberately against her. "I'm glad my heart is still beating," he tells her in a voice just above a whisper. "And I'm glad it was you who made it beat."
Ginny's voice seems to have flown away. "I - ." She desperately wants to tell him he is the cause of her own erratic heartbeat, but the words fail her. She is only capable of a small nod and a sort of breathy sigh that sounds as if it's coming from someone else. It appears enough for Harry, who smiles softly at her before pulling his hand away from her body. She feels branded by his touch, nearly positive that if she looks at her flesh there will be a handprint, warm and red, and that it will never fully leave her.
Ginny removes her own hand, letting it slide down the front of him before it hits the bed. She watches Harry's skin pucker slightly beneath her hand, as his eyes fall shut, and she feels inexplicably powerful. The two lie on their sides, facing one another, and eventually Ginny hears Harry's breathing become regular. She studies him and watches his chest move up and down in a comfortable rhythm. Eventually, sleep claims her as well, and she is pulled down into dreams.
The first funeral she had ever gone to was that of her grandfather, Wilfred Weasley. She was six, and only remembers flowers and the fact that she was able to wear a new set of dress robes, navy blue with silk piping.
This time she wore black.
Getting ready for a funeral is an odd thing. You dress up to mourn. It didn't make sense. She didn't want to wear beautiful robes with embroidered flowers and matching gloves. It was ludicrous to her that the Great Hall of Hogwarts was filled with blossoms. And while they were beautiful, Ginny felt it an injustice that they were not black as well.
There have been very few times in her life when she was truly terrified to do something. The Chamber of Secrets was her first encounter with real terror. Getting ready for her brother's funeral brought to mind that sense of total helplessness and loss of control she felt then. The sublime, absolute terror; that is what she felt. And it always led back to same person. Except this time Harry could not save her.
He could not even save himself. Throughout the ceremony, Ginny watched him under her lashes; torn between the desire to comfort him and fear of him rejecting the comfort. In the end, she did nothing. She only watched. It was as it had always been. He could not even save himself.
Harry looked accepting – enraged and devastated, yes – but it was not hard to read his eyes; he had always felt something truly horrifying would happen. He no longer expected his loved ones to make it through this war. He's already lost too many. Ginny watched his detachment from Hermione, knowing she should do something to prevent it, but powerless to make it stop.
She longed to comfort Hermione, as well, but perhaps it was even more terrifying to find words to say to the brilliant witch who made her brother smile and yell and blush. Hermione's eyes were filled with a kind of hollow despair that made her look far older than sixteen, and her voice had gone scratchy and low. Ginny could not even begin to find emotions enough to feel what Hermione must have gone through. She often wonders what she would do if Harry was somehow gone. She doesn't even have him and the thought alone leaves her cold. But what do you say to someone who has lost something that they will never gain back? Ginny watches Hermione, openly stares at the girl, and can't think of single utterance that would leach some of the pain out of her face.
It was easier this way. To observe others so that she did not have to think about herself. Because if she spent even a second worrying about what her own heart felt, she knew it would break.
When the funeral was over, friends and family were allowed a few moments alone with the body…the body. Not the boy, not Ron, not her brother. They actually used that term: the body.
Ginny's mum had to be taken out of the ceremony; she had had a breakdown, right in front of everyone. Professor McGonagall led her out of the room, and Ginny had felt a moment of guilt for not following, but her legs were glued to the chair. But after the ceremony, when only a few people remained, her mum was ushered back in, hanging on the arm of her dad, who seemed to have aged a lifetime in just a week.
Ginny felt someone behind her. She glanced over her shoulder to see Charlie watching their parents. His eyes were red and the mirth that usually looked out from them was replaced by something hard. But he looked solid. Ginny leaned herself into him, pressing her back against his chest, and was relieved when he moved his arms around her.
"You okay, Little One?" Charlie whispered, resorting to a name he hadn't used for her in nearly seven years.
Ginny found it impossible to nod, so she moved her head slightly against the scratchy material of his dress robes, and Charlie seemed to understand. He tightened his arms around her. They watched as everyone lined up in front of Ron's coffin, and one-by-one, placed items in; items that would be buried with him for eternity. Her dad placed a picture of the family inside and next to it, her mum set down Ron's old baby blanket. Bill placed a Cannon's jersey within and Percy…well, that appeared to be a letter.
Probably an apology, Ginny thought bitterly, although it was hard to remain angry with Percy when his hands shook and his freckles stood black against his pale skin. All of the Weasleys looked like pictures of contrast today, with pale, pale skin and too-bright hair, but Percy seemed the worst, by far.
He stepped away from the coffin with stooped shoulders. As Ginny watched Fred step up to the casket holding a packet of dungbombs – his face more sombre than Ginny had ever remembered seeing it - she gave Charlie's hands a squeeze and moved out from beneath his arms, heading over to where Percy stood alone in a corner.
George was putting something in the casket by the time Ginny reached her brother. Percy brought his eyes up to her, but Ginny doubted that he truly saw. She moved her hands, putting them on the sides of his arms and drew him into a hug. He clung to her for a few moments, his shoulders shaking, and Ginny felt her robes grow damp from his tears.
Over Percy's shoulder, she studied Harry as he stepped up to the coffin. He hesitated for a moment, then lifted unsteady hands and placed his Firebolt in with Ron. Harry stood in front of the casket, looking quite unwilling to move, and he stared with dry eyes down at the prone body of Ron, his shoulders stiff and unyielding. He stayed even when Hermione came up next to him. Ginny watched her slip something in beside Ron; it looked like a book, and Ginny allowed herself a smile. At least some things were consistent.
Charlie stepped up to Ron next and Ginny realized that she would have to move soon if she wanted to bestow her last gift onto Ron, as well. She moved away from Percy and was grateful when she saw Fred step up and put a hand on his arm.
Ginny reached into her formal robes and pulled out a small box, along with her wand. She whispered a spell and enlarged the chess set to its normal size. Sucking in great gulps of air, she walked over and looked down at her brother, her eyes automatically filling with tears, which she had been so good keeping at bay until now.
She stared down at Ron, watching his freckled face blur as tears started to move down her cheeks and fall off her chin, dropping onto his face. At the first splash, Ron's eyes opened. Ginny barely registered this as she placed the chess set into his coffin. At the second splash of tears, Ron captured her wrist, preventing her arm from moving away, and her eyes flew to his, watching his mouth form a smile. All movement in the room had stopped. Ginny tried to look behind her, but she was rendered immobile as Ron started to sit up in his coffin.
A feeling of panic started at Ginny's toes and swiftly travelled through her body. By the time it reached her head, she was light-headed and quite certain she was now alone in the room with her dead brother who was not really her brother…he couldn't be. She knew this was wrong. This wasn't how it happened at all, and she watched with a sickening feeling of dread as Ron tried to speak to her. His hand latched onto her wrist was cold and clammy, and she was positive she would vomit at any moment.
"Ginevra," Ron calmly said to her, in a voice that is not his, "help me."
His eyes began changing before her, becoming less sky-blue, turning cobalt and stormy. His hair was lengthening, darkening. No, no, no. She tried to pull her arm from his grasp. She yanked and yanked, but he was too strong and he knew it. The corners of his mouth turned up into a feral smile and the eyes belonged to a man, a boy, who was already a monster.
She tried desperately to scream. Please, her body cried out, but her mouth couldn't form the words, couldn't do anything but grow dry as she watched the freckles meld into pale skin. She struggled to break free, pulling so hard, and twisting and turning, until with a pop her wrists cracked. Pain stormed through her body, as Riddle, still sitting in the casket, still holding on to her broken wrist, began to chant her name.
"Ginny," he says over and over until it sounds like a mantra. "Ginny! You have to wake up."
He is still holding her wrist, and he has her pinned down. It doesn't matter how hard she fights, she can't get away. "Please," she cries out, "please, no!"
"Ginny, wake up!"
Her eyes snap open, and the first thing she registers is a shock of dark hair, dark eyes and pale, smooth skin. She screams.
"Ginny!" Harry cries, cutting off her scream.
The room is still bathed in the fairytale light of the lamp, and it takes only a moment for Ginny to realize that Harry is holding onto her, his face looming above her own, his green eyes dark with worry, and Riddle is nowhere in the room.
"Oh, Harry!" And she feels that tears have already begun to flow freely. They slide out of the corners of her eyes and drip down her temples, falling into her hair that is spread beneath her. Ginny shuts her eyes tightly and lets shuddering sobs overtake her. "It was him. It was Ron, only he was Riddle…he was dead, and he turned into Riddle, and he wouldn't let me go. He was asking me to help him, and I knew he was going to kill me and there was nothing I could do…." Then she is lost, too trapped in grief to make out the words Harry is saying, although his voice is soothing.
Dimly, she is aware of Harry manipulating her body so that she lays spooned in front of him, facing the window and the darkness outside. She feels his hand move repeatedly in her hair, the action sending shivers throughout her body. Harry inches closer, as though in answer to her trembling, and her body burns in every place he touches her. The sound of her harsh breathing slowly quiets, and she can begin to make out the words he is saying. Promises of protection and loyalty leave his lips, and Ginny allows herself to relax completely into him.
She feels Harry reach behind her, the bed shifting slightly, and then the room is immersed in darkness. "Are you alright?" he whispers, sounding drowsy.
Ginny nods her head. She peers out the window in front of her and locates a star. She imagines it twinkles in the darkness, smiling down on her. Harry's hand becomes heavy in her hair, his breathing regular once more. "I'm fine," she whispers back, although she knows he can longer hear her. "I'll be fine."
A/N: Thank you, as always, to Susan, Annika and Allie!