The browning leaves rustled as a light zephyr blew through the grounds, causing the branches of the large, encompassing yew trees to sway in the direction of the wind. As the sun began to set over the churchyard, the empyrean became tinged in amber pink hues, indicating the approach of twilight. Darkness, once again, settled over the area and an unusual spell of silence spread throughout the graveyard, all noises were absent except for one—the sound of old, worn boots striking the soft ground.
The wearer of the boots walked swiftly along the path to the black wrought iron gates, unlocking it with a quick mutter and a swish of a wand. Stepping inside quickly, she closed the gates behind her and noticed a soft, white light that began to magically flicker from the lampposts, which lined the outskirts of the grounds. The light illuminated her route as she continued the well-known trek to her destination, stepping in between the marble stones, trying to avoid collision with the headstones that lay in her path while occasionally stumbling over the grassy terrain.
There were rows upon rows of headstones, all varying in size and structure, each typifying a life lost; a life that was sacrificed for others’ happiness, a life that had been given so that the wizarding world could live in peace. Besides the memories and pictures, these stones were all that the families of the perished had to account for their loved ones’ lives, the sole reminder of the life that lay beneath the slab of rock. In some cases, it was the only thing they had as countless homes were destroyed during the Final War, eliminating all traces of life in some areas. The Ministry of Magic had been in shambles after Death Eaters had raided the building; it had taken months for the wizarding world to reestablish itself again and start functioning like it had prior to the war.
She tried to suppress the bile rising up her throat, refusing to give in to the anguish and pain as scenes from the Final Battle flashed before her eyes. It had taken her weeks to recover physically from the war, after being the victim of several well-targeted curses. But mentally and emotionally, she was still suffering. The war had battered her heart, her spirit, her soul. And even now, five years after it had ended, the heartache hadn't lessened.
They say that with time, every grief heals. An ill-conceived lie, that was. It was as if the haunting feeling of desperation had settled in a deep pit within her stomach, refusing to leave. It followed her everywhere, like a lurking shadow, mocking her, taunting her—she could touch it, feel it, hear it, see it. How easy would it have been if she could have waved her wand and made it disappear. But nothing, not even time, was going to get rid of her misery. And as long as that despair resided within her, her wounds would never heal.
The air took on a harsh chill, her auburn hair fluttering madly behind her as a sudden gust of wind blew against her cheeks. She clutched the woolen cloak even tighter around her body. His woolen cloak. It smelled just like him, the scent filling her nostrils. She found solace in the familiarity of his redolence. Even now, he provided her comfort and courage, giving her the strength to battle the toughest tasks, and the strength to live, even when life didn’t seem worth living.
Suddenly, all movement came to an abrupt halt, the howling wind fading to a mere whisper. She had finally arrived at her destination—to the place she both craved and dreaded visiting. There it was—a plain and simple headstone, just like the man who lay beneath it. He had never been one to live a posh lifestyle, always wanting to be free from any ostentation. She loved him for his ways, his habits, his fascination with life, and most importantly, for being himself.
She took a step forward, the leaves crunching under her feet. Another step forward and she would be close enough to touch the engraving upon the hard, marble stone. Could she do this? She hadn’t visited him since that day. The day when he had asked her to marry him. The day when she had agreed to be his wife.
They had been engaged for three years now, but she had kept putting off the idea of a wedding each time, making up rather capricious excuses not to get married. She knew that her future husband was a wonderful man; he had waited patiently for her until she was ready to move on. But the truth of the matter was that she was... afraid.
Drawing in a deep breath, she crossed theimaginary barrier her mind had erected.She had visited this place before, but this evening, it was different. In less than twenty-four hours, she was going to be married to man whom she was sure loved her deeply. But nearly paralyzing fear had several questions lurking in the back of her mind. Questions to which she could never find the answer, despite having spent endless nights in bed mulling over each and every one—why had he sacrificed himself for her? It had been her recklessness that had led to his death—what if she made that same fatal mistake again? She was terrified of the consequences; another mistake like that and she would be burying her dead husband next, who was more alike to the man that lay in the grave than she wanted to think. How could she take that chance again?
The letters seemingly blurred together as her eyes prickled with tears, threatening to spill. Her fingers reached out to touch the stone. The bitter coldness made sharp contact with the warmth of her finger, causing her to almost recoil at the touch. But her hand remained, and she cautiously traced the outline of his name.
H. Heroic. He was her hero; he sacrificed himself to protect and save her from harm. He had never asked for anything in return, never expected anything from her.
She was sure her lip was bleeding, her teeth clamping down on the skin in an effort to cease the onslaught of painful memories.
A. A friend. He had been her confidant, a mentor, but above all, he was the epitome of a true friend.
“Ginny,” he croaked, his voice breaking as she grasped his large hand in her small one. “Promise me—”
The salty tears once again made their way down the slopes of her cheeks and they started falling even harder as she slid against the large slab of stone, clutching onto it, welcoming the feeling of coldness seeping through her skin and into her body. It should have been me! she thought, the desperation within her fueling the harrowing sentiments. Why? Why did you step in front of me? She hit the worn headstone with a clenched fist, looking for an answer, but only found silence. I was leading the Death Eater on; I thought I was capable of battling him. I wanted to fight my own battle this time-not have someone else fight it for me. I just wanted to prove myself...to show that even little Ginny could defend herself. But you came in between and suffered the death I should have—
“Ginny!” a voice shattered her thoughts; footsteps thudded across the eerily quiet graveyard.
She lifted her chin and arose at the sound of his voice, his sight a welcome one. He walked briskly through the grounds, sprinting the last few steps before he stood in front of her. Leaning down, he lifted her slowly and took her in his arms, holding her close to the warmth of his chest. Ginny brought her hands around his neck, her nimble fingers entwining with each other to form a tight clasp against the nape of his neck as she buried her face in his black cloak.
“Harry,” she whispered, her voice hoarse from crying. She met his eyes and saw tears sparkling in the deep, emerald orbs. “I can’t believe he’s really gone,” Ginny said, a tear rolling down her face. “Why did he have to leave us?”
Harry shook his head, choking on his own words as he brought his finger to gently wipe the trail of wetness the tear had left. She leaned into his touch, his calloused hands caressing her wind-kissed cheeks with small, feather light strokes. Ginny brought her left hand to cover his as they turned around to face the grave, both lost in their final memories of their friend.
“Promise me, Ginny, yeh’re not goin’ ter let him push yeh away. H-he—” He stopped suddenly, loud, piercing coughs racking from his chest, rattling the large bed and floorboards. They subsided gradually and he lay there, trying to grasp his breath, calming down enough to speak once more. “Ginny, he loves yeh. An’ yer gonna have ter fight back, if he’s stupid enough ter let yeh go again,” he said, his speech barely above a whisper towards the end.
Her petite hands were lost in his large one. “I give you my word, Hagrid, he’s not going to get rid of me that easily,” she mumbled though her tears, grasping his hand tighter as he let out a small chuckle.
“I had a feelin’ yeh wouldn’,” he said softly, closing his eyes.
For a second that contained eternity, Ginny stared at his whiskery face. No, Hagrid, please, not now. You have so much to live for; please don’t die.
The door to the hut opened suddenly, revealing Madam Pomfrey, as well as a team of Healers. They rushed to Hagrid’s side, pushing Ginny aside as they did a preliminary check over him. Ginny looked on helplessly, dazed and lost in the noise of the room. She felt a small tug at her jumper, and she turned to find Harry holding her arm, pulling her away from the clamor.
“Let go, Harry. I need to stay with him, he needs me,” Ginny said forcefully, extracting herself from his grasp and moving towards the bed once more.
He walked over to her, placing his hands on his shoulders. “No, love, what he needs is medical attention. He’s going to be fine,” Harry whispered soothingly in her ear, “but we have to leave—“
“I can’t, Harry,” she cried, turning around to face him. “Not when I put him here!” She gasped, finally coming to realize the weight behind her words—it was her fault. If she hadn’t fallen to the Death Eater’s taunts, Hagrid wouldn’t have been in this position. He wouldn’t be fighting for his life right now.
Ginny collapsed, but before she could hit the floor, Harry’s arms shot out towards her. He slid one hand under her head and brought the other around her knees to pick her up. He carried her outside towards the castle, the darkness engulfing the couple in its folds as they left Madame Pomfrey and the Healers to save the moribund half-giant.
He had succumbed to the effects of the curse not long after they had left. Madame Pomfrey and the team of Healers had tried their best to save him, but they had been unsuccessful in stopping the Dark Magic that had quickly gnawed away the insides of his body, until all that was left was a cadaver. The curse had been a form of ancient magic, used several centuries ago as a cruel method to exterminate hordes of wizards in the most painful way possible. There was no cure, no remedy—just a spell or two to alleviate the agony and pain the curse had generated.
For months, the haunted images of her nightmares plagued her sleep; she would often see flashes of Hagrid, writhing in his bed. Sometimes, she would only hear voices in her visions, shouting incoherently at her. And each night, the nocturnal torment would start all over again as she relived each moment, each feeling—the helplessness when she realized she couldn't save him; the guilt at realizing her part in his grievous injuries; the bereft emptiness she'd felt when she had come to terms with his death; and the desperate ever-present fear of history repeating itself.
They stood there until the stars twinkled in the night sky and the full moon hung over them, the quietude of the graveyard encompassing the couple. Ginny shifted slightly and placed her hand on his shoulder. Turning around fully, she opened her mouth to speak, but all that came out was a breath of air, because it was at that moment that she caught sight of her engagement ring, a stream of moonlight projected towards the ruby stone, producing a soft red glow. Ruby...the Stone of Love. How could she have been so blind? Her eyes flicked towards his... searching... looking. This time, she saw more than his tears; she saw a pool of understanding...and love...for her. She took in a sharp intake of breath as Hagrid’s last words came crashing over her in waves. “Ginny, he loves yeh. An’ yer gonna have ter fight back, if he’s stupid enough ter let yeh go again,”
But he wasn’t letting her go, was he? She was the one who had been pushing him away all this time. It was she who had pulled away from him as she wallowed in guilt. It was she who had let the guilt drown her so much that she had become selfish in her own pain. And now, looking back in retrospect, everything she had felt since Hagrid’s death had been always about her.
Harry. She had done disservice to Harry. And to Hagrid’s memory as well. Would they ever forgive her?
Another glance at his face and she knew. It would take time but she was ready to start anew. Hagrid wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Tears leaked from her eyes, but this time, they weren’t in sadness. They were tears of relief, tears that perhaps should have been shed a long time ago. She clung to Harry and he understood, hugging her back in the same manner, as if it was their last and final hug.
The moon shone brilliantly against the stark blue night sky, signaling the end of the day, but also the beginning of a new life. As she and Harry turned around to start their journey back home and a life together, she heard Hagrid’s gruff voice echoing through her ears and felt comforted by his words. "What's comin' will come, an' we'll meet it when it does." And she couldn’t have agreed more.
A/N: The last line spoken by Hagrid is a direct quote from GoF, US/Paperback Version, page 719.