A farewell is necessary before we can meet again, and meeting again, after moments or a lifetime, is certain for those who are friends. – Anonymous
Harry gazed out of the window of the train compartment, watching the scenery outside whiz by in a blur of green, brown, and blue streaked occasionally with yellow, white or red. It seemed he’d been sitting still for ages, and when he checked his watch, several hours had passed since they’d left Hogsmeade Station.
“Harry?” a voice asked, interrupting the solitude he had found so peaceful. Harry turned to see Hermione gazing at him, a question in her eyes. She waited, and when he didn’t answer, she sighed impatiently. “Harry, I asked if you wanted anything off the trolley.” She gestured to the doorway, which was open to reveal a cart loaded with sweets as well as savory items.
“’Mnot hungry, thanks,” he replied, nodding at the kind lady who nodded back and rolled the trolley on to the next compartment. Hermione made her customary tuttingnoise.
“Harry, you really should eat something,” Hermione chided gently. “You hardly touched your plate at supper last night, and I know you skipped breakfast this morning. Do you want half of my sandwich?”
Ron touched Hermione’s shoulder gently, saying, “Hermione,” in a low voice.
Harry didn’t answer Hermione. Instead, he stood and pulled his Invisibility Cloak out of the overhead compartment and yanked it over his head. “I’m going to the loo,” he announced.
Without another word he brushed impatiently past Hermione and stepped into the corridor, ignoring her soft protest and Ron’s accompanying shushing. Once there, he breathed a sigh of relief. The atmosphere in the compartment had been stifling. The three of them were morose in the aftermath of Professor Dumbledore’s funeral. Once or twice Hermione had tried to make small talk, but somehow the topic of conversation always came back to either Dumbledore, or Harry’s plans for their journey to Godric’s Hollow, and Harry didn’t want to discuss either. Not yet.
He began walking aimlessly down the empty corridor, swaying in time with the rhythm of the rocking cars to avoid losing his balance. When he arrived at the small lavatory, he didn’t stop; it had never really been his intended destination. He didn’t exactly know what his intended destination was, until he caught a glimpse of fiery red hair from the window of a compartment in the next car.
A number of students had been removed from school a few days earlier by their parents in reaction to the horrifying news of Dumbledore’s demise, leaving plenty of open compartments on the train ride home. Ginny, Luna and Neville had a compartment to themselves. Neville and Luna were busy playing a game of Exploding Snap while Ginny was staring blankly out the window.
Harry pressed his hand against the window, separated from her by more than a simple pane of glass. Where he was going, she couldn’t follow, no matter how much he might want her to. She would be better off safe at Hogwarts, or at home. She still had two years of her magical education to complete. To ask her to join him would have been selfish, more so because he was certain she would have defied her parents, her brothers, even the Ministry itself to do just that. But already, he missed her, and judging by the empty look on her face, she was as miserable as he. He hated the way he’d left things between them, even though he knew it was for the best. Still, he wondered if someday, after Voldemort was gone, they’d have another chance.
Inside the compartment, Ginny turned her head suddenly and stared directly at Harry. He panicked for a moment, embarrassed at being caught watching her like some pervy peeping tom. When he realized he was still wearing his Invisibility Cloak, he heaved a sigh of relief, until Ginny stood inside the compartment and reached for the door. Harry flattened himself against the window and prayed she wouldn’t stumble into him. Fortunately, she turned in the other direction, leaving his Cloak swishing softly against him and the floral scent of her perfume drifting in her wake.
“Absolutely not, I won’t hear of it!”
On Platform 9 and three quarters, Molly Weasley faced her youngest son, who was surrounded by his two best friends in a show of solidarity. Her cheeks were flaming red, and her nostrils were flared, but Ginny, observing quietly off to the side, could see that her mother was blinking back tears.
“You boys stop this nonsense at once! And Hermione Granger, I’m surprised at you, going along with this harebrained notion! Ron, Harry, you’ll both come home to The Burrow where you belong. Arthur, tell them!” Molly insisted, turning to her husband.
Arthur shook his head gently.
“Molly, I’m sorry, but Harry has to return to his aunt’s home until his birthday. He’ll be safest there. You know that.”
“It’s only for a few weeks, Mum. We’ll be at The Burrow in time for the wedding,” Ron added as his eyes sidled away from his mother towards Harry.
Ginny knew Ron wasn’t telling his mother the entire truth. She wasn’t privy to their plans, but from her conversation with Harry that morning, she had surmised that he would not be returning to Hogwarts for his seventh year. She also knew that wherever Harry was going, Ron and Hermione would be going, too.
And she knew better than to admit to herself that what she wanted more than anything in the world was to go with them.
Aware that her mother’s protests had finally diminished, Ginny refocused her attention on her loved ones. Harry hugged Molly swiftly and shook Arthur’s hand before he stepped away to give Ron a moment with his family. Hermione, too, had separated herself from her friends in order to bid farewell to her own family. When Ginny spotted her, she was embracing her parents fiercely.
Ron leaned down now to give his mother a hug. Molly clung to her son, wrapping her arms around his neck as she admonished him to be careful and to “make certain those horrible Muggles fed them properly.”
“Don’t worry, Mum. We’ll be fine,” Ron said, flushing in embarrassment under Molly’s attention. One by one, his brothers either clapped him on the back or pulled him into a hug. Bill and Charlie were both there, as well as the twins, who slipped a few items into Ron’s hands when Molly wasn’t looking.
“Just in case,” Fred explained, and George winked at Ginny as he caught her eye. Ginny looked away swiftly, noting that her brothers had just gifted Ron with an assortment of Skiving Snackboxes. She could only imagine Mrs. Dursley’s hysteria at her son’s unexplained nosebleeds and fainting spells, and she couldn’t help but smile. Finally, Ron turned to her.
“Bye, Ginny. Be good, okay?”
“Ron, I’m not four years old anymore,” Ginny said with an exasperated sigh.
“I know,” Ron replied, yanking a lock of her hair playfully. “But you know what I mean.”
Ginny did know, and she threw her arms around her brother. For the first time since Ron’s first year at Hogwarts, she would be the only child left in the Weasley household, and suddenly she couldn’t bear the thought of being left behind.
“Keep him safe, Ronnie,” she whispered fiercely, using his old nickname. “You be safe, too. Not just at the Dursleys’, but afterwards, especially.”
“’Course I will,” Ron mumbled, squeezing his sister tight even as his face flamed red. He hugged his father last, then kissed his mother on the cheek once more before ambling away to join Harry. Mrs. Weasley waved at them both, dabbing her handkerchief to her eyes before turning to Ginny.
“Ginny, dear, go and tell Harry goodbye, and be quick about it. It’s not as if you won’t see him at the wedding in a few weeks.” Mrs. Weasley paused to fan her face with her handkerchief. “Oh, when I think of everything that has to be done between now and then.... Ginny? Did you hear me?”
“I heard you, Mum,” Ginny answered in a low voice. She grabbed the handle of the trolley Ron had loaded her trunk onto and began steering it away from her mother, in the direction that her father and brothers had begun walking, hoping to avoid the conversation for just a few more minutes. The last thing she wanted to do was cry here in the middle of the train station, where her brothers would see, or worse, Harry. Unfortunately, Molly hurried after her.
“Ginny, you aren’t leaving without telling him...” she began, looking from Ginny to Harry and back again, obviously bewildered.
“Mum, please, not now,” Ginny whispered harshly. Her eyes were burning, and she squeezed them tight once, hoping to stem the tears that were forming. “Don’t you understand? I’ve already said goodbye to Harry. There’s nothing more for us to say to each other.”
Understanding dawned in Molly’s eyes, and she covered Ginny’s hand on the trolley handle with her own.
“You look a bit flushed, dear. Why don’t you go and splash some cool water on your face? I’ll take care of your luggage, and your father and I will meet you outside.”
Molly brushed her daughter’s hair away from her face, smiling when Ginny nodded gratefully. Then, as she pulled the trolley along with her, she called back over her shoulder, “Try not to dawdle too long, dear. Fleur wants you to try on your bridesmaid’s robes the moment we get back to The Burrow.”
Ginny laughed, unable to help herself, and waved at her mum to show she understood. Then she watched until Molly disappeared through the platform barrier.
“It’s good to hear you laugh,” a familiar voice said behind her.
Ginny whirled around, waves of shock, pleasure, and fear coursing through her body all at once.
“How long have you been standing there?” she asked.
“Not very long,” Harry replied evasively.
Ginny guessed that he’d heard at least part of her conversation with Molly, and her cheeks flamed with embarrassment.
“Ginny, what I said this morning....”
“Harry, I understand. You know that. It doesn’t mean I’m happy about it...but I’ve accepted it.”
Ginny nodded reluctantly.
“’Cause I don’t think I have. Logically, I know it’s the best thing. But I can’t help feeling...” Harry trailed off, looking at his feet.
“Harry?” Ginny said tentatively, afraid he had changed his mind about whatever he was going to say. Harry looked up and glanced around the platform. It was nearly deserted, the other students having already left with their families. Down at the end, the Hogwarts Express let out a shrill whistle and a hiss of steam as its wheels slowly began to turn. The sensation of motion caused a funny feeling in Ginny’s stomach until Harry gently took her elbow and led her away to the side of a nearby support column. Finally, he took a deep breath and continued.
“Have you ever picked up a book to read somewhere, maybe at a bookstore, or an appointment, and started reading it, even though you knew you couldn’t take the book with you when you left, and you had no hope of finishing the story before you had to leave? And later, you couldn’t stop thinking about it?”
Ginny nodded mutely.
“I can’t help feeling as if I don’t know how the story turns out. Our story,” he clarified softly.
Ginny nodded again. The accuracy with which he had described her own thoughts should have been eerie, but instead she found it comforting.
“It started here, you know,” Harry said, gesturing to indicate Platform 9 and three quarters. “The day I left for Hogwarts my first year. You were here, with Ron and the twins. I heard you ask your mum if you could get on the train to see me.”
Ginny blushed. “I had no idea you remembered that. I was a silly, ten-year-old girl, Harry. You don’t still hold that against me, do you?”
“I never did. Honestly, it made me feel a little bit better,” he admitted with a shy grin. “I kind of liked the thought that someone was there to say goodbye to me. I knew you were waving at your brothers, but a small part of me hoped you were waving at me, too.”
“I was, Harry. Of course I was.” She reached for his hand and squeezed it gently; when she would have pulled away, he grasped her fingers tightly, his eyes searching her face with an intensity that almost frightened her.
“Does the story end here?” he asked, and in his voice Ginny thought she heard desperation.
In response, she could do nothing but shake her head “no” before stepping close to Harry and wrapping her arms tightly around his waist. His arms closed around her, too as he lowered his head to her shoulder to whisper several words in her ear before breaking away to kiss her once, hard.
Then he was striding quickly to where Ron and Hermione were waiting for him. Ginny waved at them both briefly while Harry’s back was turned, and her eyes prickled again with tears as they waved in return. Hermione’s face was streaked with her own tears, and Ron flashed Ginny his familiar “big brother” grin before sobering once again. Ginny’s heart hurt to watch them go; she knew their visit to The Burrow in a few weeks for Bill’s wedding would be a brief one. She would be busy with her duties as a bridesmaid, and it was unlikely she would get a chance to spend any time with them before they departed on their journey.
Harry had reached them now, and he focused on Hermione as she spoke to him. Whatever she asked, he nodded in response, and Hermione seemed briefly cheered. The three of them gathered their belongings and began to follow Professor Lupin, who was escorting them to the Dursleys’ home and, after the wedding, to Godric’s Hollow. Harry stopped short after a few steps and looked back for a moment, his eyes locking with hers.
Ginny lifted her hand in farewell, waving until at last he disappeared from view.