A/N: My super-condensed version of Book 7. A bit different from my usual style, but I hope that you still like it. I do apologise in advance for those who may become a bit miffed at the character that I got rid of. I know I got a bit teary-eyed myself. Here's hoping that this character – and Harry, Ginny, Hermione, and all of the Weasleys – live through Deathly Hallows.
Thanks to Chreechree and Sherry.
It could be tonight, Harry thought, as he stood alone by a grove of tall linden trees, moodily sipping his champagne. He felt the bubbles tickle the back of his throat as he slowly consumed the golden liquid.
I could tell her tonight.
The wedding was over; the numerous gifts had been opened and effusively exclaimed over. Luna Lovegood had caught the bouquet, surprising everyone when she had fought the other single women for it, using her elbows and her umbrella in a way that would have made Harry's old Quidditch captain, Oliver Wood, immediately offer to sign her up as a Beater for Puddlemere United.
Amidst hugs, smiles, and a few Weasleys' Wildfire Whizz-bangs that had somehow spontaneously ignited in Ron's trousers – the twins staunchly declared their innocence in the matter – Harry watched as the teary-eyed groom and the beaming bride finally took a Portkey out of The Burrow's crowded garden, towards their secluded honeymoon villa on the Côte d'Azur, a gift from the bride's proud parents.
The remaining guests slowly drifted in the direction of the house, where Molly Weasley had set up afternoon tea for those who could still manage to eat after the veritable cornucopia of the wedding luncheon.
Finally, the only people left standing in the orchard – where Bill and Fleur had said their vows under an arbour of pink camellias and white roses – were Harry and a stunning, redheaded girl in pale gold robes who was staring determinedly at him with large, soulful brown eyes.
He swallowed the rest of his champagne, seeking whatever strength he could get from the effervescent drink. Not knowing what to do with the crystal flute, he stuffed it into the pocket of his dress robes and walked towards her.
She met him halfway, and they stopped, close enough to each other that he could make out the green flecks in her eyes and the delicious smell of wildflowers that seemed to haunt him whenever he went to sleep.
"Ginny, I –" he began, and faltered. How was he supposed to tell her?
Just do it, you cowardly idiot, the annoying little voice in his head prompted him; the same annoying little voice that had insisted on reminding him the entire day of all the little things that he treasured about her.
How radiant her smile was.
How soft her skin felt.
How full of passion her eyes were.
How much he loved her.
Tell me, oh wise one, that little voice had sarcastically asked him over and over, why are you staying away from her again?
Looking into her bright eyes, Harry knew that he had no answer to that question. Before he could utter another word, Ginny raised her hand to his chest, and she met his earnest gaze with one of her own.
"It's all right, Harry. I know you're leaving soon with Ron and Hermione," she said calmly, searching his face and idly playing with the collar of his dress robes. "Probably on some unbelievably complicated and dangerous quest to finally get rid of Tom."
Harry goggled at her. "How did you – who told you –"
Ginny rolled her eyes and smirked. "I'm not dim, you know. I've got eyes and ears, and the way you three keep whispering and glancing furtively about tells me that you're up to something." She shrugged. "It only makes sense that it's got something to do with Tom."
He cleared his throat awkwardly.
"Ginny, I – I wish – I wish I could take you with me." He smiled tentatively and tucked a strand of her vibrant hair behind her ear.
"No, you don't." Ginny smiled back, although her eyes were sad. "I would love to go with you, Harry, but I might be too much of a distraction." She chuckled quietly. "We wouldn't want you to get beaten by old Moldyshorts just because you were too busy feeling me up, yeah?"
Staring at her in wonder (and feeling a little thrill at the images her words had evoked), Harry suddenly knew that she would wait for him no matter what, and he began to think that it was actually possible that he would make it back to her.
Maybe tonight was not the right time to tell her yet. He would do so after he faced his so-called destiny, when he had something more concrete to offer her.
In the meantime…
He leaned over and placed a tender kiss on her lips. She sighed and wound her arms around his waist.
"Come back to me, Harry."
* * * * * * * * * *
It could be tonight, Harry thought, as he Apparated in front of a small chapel with Ron and Hermione, the latter still sniffling softly as she leaned heavily on the tall redhead. Harry started towards the entrance of the church, his heart weighted down with disbelief and sadness at the fate that had befallen his friend.
I could tell her tonight.
Earlier that day, Hermione had finally determined the location of Hufflepuff's cup. Ron had wrestled it away from Mundungus Fletcher, who had been irreverently using it as a spittoon, and Harry had destroyed it by having one of Hagrid's Blast-Ended Skrewts sit on it. They had been in the Forbidden Forest, huddled around a small fire made up of bright blue flames when, without warning, an exhausted Errol had suddenly fallen from the sky right into Ron's lap, clutching a terse note from Ginny in his claws.
Harry, Hermione and Ron silently slipped into a back pew. The room was packed, with many Hogwarts students and staff in attendance. Headmistress McGonagall, standing next to a tall, imposing-looking witch, was dabbing at the corner of her eye with a tartan handkerchief. Professor Sprout and Professor Flitwick were comforting Hannah Abbot, who was wearing sombre black robes, a look of utter desolation on her face. Colin Creevey, Luna Lovegood and Seamus Finnigan were talking in hushed voices in one corner, while Lavender Brown, Susan Bones and Parvati Patil were crying quietly in another.
Harry finally found the distinctive auburn tresses he was searching for, sorrowfully noting that the fire in her hair seemed to have dulled in her grief.
Ginny was sitting alone in the front row, her head bowed, her shoulders shaking silently as she mourned the loss of her friend.
When people started moving forward to pay their respects to the body, Harry quickly made his way to Ginny's side and laid his hand gently on her shoulder.
"Ginny, I –"
Without a word, Ginny threw herself into his arms and hugged him fiercely, her tears soaking into his shirt. Harry tightened his grip around her and made soothing noises, finding it odd that their positions were now reversed – usually it was she who would give him the comfort that he needed so badly. He was glad that he could be with her today.
She raised her tear-streaked face to him and managed to give him a watery smile. "I'm so happy that you're safe. I'm so happy that you're here."
"He was my friend too, Ginny. I couldn't let today go by without paying my respects to him," he whispered, stroking her face lovingly.
She nodded sadly and let him lead her towards the coffin, which was draped in crimson and gold velvet, clutching his hand as they approached it. They joined a solemn-looking Ron and a weeping Hermione. The two girls embraced each other briefly, and Ron leaned over to give his sister a kiss on the cheek. Ginny placed a honking daffodil, one of their friend's favourites, on top of the casket.
Later in the evening, as they drank tea and butterbeer and reminisced in subdued voices in The Burrow's kitchen, Harry looked at Ginny and studied the contours and planes of her beautiful face all over again. The memory of her face was the one thing that kept him from going mad as he spent those long days and nights away from her, hunting for pieces of Tom Riddle's soul. She felt his gaze on her and smiled at him, her brown eyes still haunted by the loss of their friend.
Harry added Neville's murder to the long list of reasons why Voldemort should be destroyed as soon as possible.
He reached out and held Ginny's hand tightly.
There would be time enough to tell her.
He would make sure of it.
* * * * * * * * * *
It will be tonight, Harry thought as he stood in the orchard at the back of The Burrow, the arm he had injured when he had finally defeated Voldemort heavily bandaged and hanging limply by his side.
Harry's heart was beating wildly with excitement and his entire body seemed to be thrumming in anticipation.
I can finally tell her tonight.
It had been surprisingly easy in the end – a few simple words and the Dark Lord's corporeal form had dissolved into motes of grey-black dust that were immediately snatched away by the wild winds of the Scottish highlands and scattered into the clear blue sky.
He had left Hermione and Ron to inform the Order of what had transpired and had immediately Apparated to The Burrow. He hesitated right before he reached the back door and took time to pat down his messy black hair, which sprang back up as soon as he removed his hand. In his mind, he rehearsed what he planned to say to her, absently taking note of the potato-like face of a gnome which had popped its head out of its hole to stare inquisitively at him in the moonlight before scurrying back into its lair.
Harry took a deep breath, relishing the scent of the freesias blooming in abundance by the low garden wall. He became so lost in his memories of her that he was quite taken aback when the door suddenly opened, and the object of his musings appeared in her faded blue dressing gown. She pointed her wand at him, a mixture of wariness and hope in her clear brown eyes.
"Ginny, I –"
"Tell me something only Harry would know," she snapped, eyeing him guardedly.
Harry grinned, proud that his Ginny practiced constant vigilance.
"All right, how about the fact that when you're feeling a bit rebellious, especially towards your mum, you tend to go – shall we say – au naturale under your shirt, as I've had the extreme pleasure of finding out on several occa–"
"Shut it!" Ginny placed her hand over his mouth and hastily closed the door behind her. "Merlin, Harry! D'you want Mum to hear you?"
Harry closed his eyes and savoured the warmth of her hand on his lips. He wrapped his fingers over her hand and pressed it to his face, rubbing his cheek against her palm, appreciating the tiny calluses caused by Quidditch.
This was what he had been fighting so hard for. He revelled in the fact that she was there, whole and safe and alive and wonderful.
She pointedly cleared her throat and arched her eyebrows at him, her mouth curved in a half-smile. "I'm assuming that you're here because you've finally gotten rid of that bloody wanker?"
Harry came to himself with a start and offered her a sheepish nod of agreement, feeling ridiculously happy as he drank in the sight of her.
She let out a cry of triumph, and he stumbled backwards when she launched herself at him. Steadying himself, he lifted her up with his good arm, and she wrapped her legs around his waist, peppering his face with kisses until he finally captured her mouth with a deep kiss that conveyed all of his longing and all of his love for her. Setting her down gently back on the ground, he leaned his forehead against hers and smiled.
"Ginny, I –"
She stopped him from talking by kissing him passionately again, turning his legs into jelly and setting his brain on fire.
"I know, Harry."
Her voice was soft, and her glorious hair tumbled down her shoulders.