The second day after the battle dawned overcast but warm. When Ginny awoke in her four–poster she was momentarily disoriented, and did not know where she was. But as soon as she looked up and saw the red and gold canopy, she remembered that Fred was gone, and it was as if a huge weight fell on her. She closed her eyes again, and everything else flooded back: swirling images of explosions, bodies, spells, blood, broken limbs, destruction. Over it all was the face of her dead brother.
But there was also another face, looking at her from the middle of a screaming, joyous mob. Even as tears for her brother spilled down her cheeks and onto her pillow, she realized she was hugging herself and wanting, more than anything except the return of Fred, Harry to hold and comfort her.
She heard low voices; she wiped her face and pushed back the hangings. Three cots lined the wall next to her bed, and she remembered that the seventh–year dorm room was unusable. The only serious damage sustained by the Gryffindor Tower was a large hole in the peaked roof, and the uppermost girls room now had an open–air skylight. The house–elves had set up cots in the sixth–year room, and Hermione, Lavender, and Parvati had moved in. Hermione’s cot had not been slept in, and Ginny assumed that she, Ron, and Harry had stayed up with the teachers and the Order, deciding what to do next, making plans for taking back the Ministry of Magic, doing whatever it was you did after you won a war.
“Morning, Gin, how are you doing?” Parvati called. She and Lavender were still in their cots, and a white bandage was wrapped around Lavender’s head.
Ginny shrugged. “Not great.”
Parvati nodded. “I’m sorry.”
Parvati’s question had brought a lump to Ginny’s throat, and she took a breath. The two girls looked at her, and Ginny noticed that Lavender’s eyes were red and swollen. “I cried in my pillow all night for Colin,” she said, “They made him leave, and then he came back...” She couldn’t go on, and put her back to the room and began crying softly; Parvati put her hand on her shoulder.
“Did you see Hermione last night?” Ginny asked as she got up and began dressing. “Was she here at all?”
Parvati glanced at Lavender. “Uh, no...” she hesitated.
“I heard that that Room of Requirement with the hammocks was still open,” came the voice of Sarah Brushmore, one of Ginny’s sixth–year roommates, from behind the hangings of her four–poster. “I also heard that a bunch of people stayed there last night.” Parvati sent a dirty look toward the closed bed, and Lavender’s sobs became louder.
“What about the prefects?” Ginny asked.
There was a giggle. “Some of them were prefects.”
Ginny looked puzzled for a moment, then a light dawned, and she looked sympathetically at Lavender, then added her own scowl to Parvati’s, directed toward the invisible Sarah. And she also smiled tightly to herself; if Ron and Hermione had slept in a hammock together last night, she would remember it, if it turned out that Ron still believed he had the right to make comments about her own love life, or bust into her room again without knocking. Of course, he had shared a tent with Hermione for nine months, but Harry had always been with them.
She finished dressing and went down to the common room, and looked around hopefully for Harry, but he wasn’t there. She hurried out the portrait hole and down to the Great Hall, passing piles of rubble and damaged furniture, portraits, wall hangings, and suits of armor. Students were wandering around looking at it; many of them were holding hands, and many had tear–stained faces. The damage to the building itself was terrible: holes blasted in walls, windows shattered, timbers splintered, bloodstains everywhere.
But the most remarkable thing that Ginny saw, in every hallway and corridor, was the house–elves. She had never seen so many outside the kitchen. They were everywhere, scurrying about sorting damaged items, carrying stones and lengths of timber, sweeping floors and cleaning walls. She did not see anyone directing them, but they all seemed to know exactly what to do. She also passed through corridors where damage had already been repaired; Hogwarts was starting to recover.
The Great Hall still showed major signs of damage: blast marks scorched the walls, and most of the windows were broken; but the enchanted ceiling was intact, and all four House tables were set up with many people eating at them. The bodies that had lain along the wall were gone.
Ginny spotted Bill and Fleur at the Gryffindor table with their backs to her. She walked over and put her hand on Bill’s shoulder, and when she saw his grim face her tears began to flow again. He took her in his arms and she sat down next to him. Fleur put her hand over Ginny’s arms that were wrapped around Bill’s neck.
When Ginny was finally able to stop crying, she wiped her face and began dishing porridge into a bowl and then attacked her breakfast; meals had been a little sketchy yesterday, and she hadn’t realized how hungry she was. Bill put his hand on her shoulder. “Harry was here,” he said. “He asked for you, but he had to go see Kingsley up in McGonagall’s office — I mean the Headmistress’s office — and he said he’d be back as soon as he could.”
Ginny nodded, thinking about the hug she had just given herself in bed, and also remembering the rush of heat through her body when Harry put his hand on her thigh in the middle of that raucous crowd of celebrants after the battle. She bit into a slice of toast and swallowed it with a little difficulty. She glanced around the room. “Where are the...”
“They set up a big tent on the lawn, right outside the doors. All the bodies got moved last night. Mum and Dad are there.”
When she was finished Ginny went outside. The tent was not as big as she had thought — or feared. It stood just off to the side of the drive. It was light gray, with a peaked roof and only one opening. She walked inside and saw about fifty coffins set in rows on tables. Each one had a large bouquet of white flowers on it, which Ginny recognized from Herbology: syntle, a small white flower that was said to grow on land where the dead were buried. Professor Sprout had only one planting of it, since it was very rare, but here, somehow, there were hundreds of them bringing a touch of beauty into a somber place.
There were many people in the tent, in small and large groups gathered around coffins. The Weasleys were standing next to one in the front row, and just behind them Ginny saw Andromeda Tonks with an infant in her arms, sitting next to a table on which rested two coffins. Kingsley Shacklebolt was with her, and another woman Ginny did not recognize: she was slender and dark–skinned, wearing white robes and a white turban.
Ginny walked toward her family; they were all there — including Hermione, who was leaning on Ron’s shoulder — except Bill and Fleur. Her mother detached herself from the group and met Ginny as she approached. Molly looked exhausted, haggard; her eyes were puffy; her hair was pulled back and tied, but it was uncombed. Her clothes looked like they had been slept in, but Ginny didn’t think her mum had slept at all. Molly took Ginny’s face in her hands and looked at her; the ferocity Ginny had seen when she had killed Bellatrix was gone. In its place was a distant confusion, as if she were lost.
Her mum embraced her, and Ginny could feel her trembling. Molly held Ginny tightly, almost uncomfortably, for a long time. Her father finally came and led them back to Fred’s coffin. George was leaning on it, his head bowed. Ginny stood on her tip–toes and kissed his cheek. He hugged her, but began to weep and turned away.
Percy, Ron, and Hermione were seated on the other side of the table, facing Ginny, and they looked up as footsteps stopped behind her. She turned to see four wizards looking at her.
“Excuse me, Miss Weasley,” the wizard who looked to be the oldest of them said. He was dressed in simple robes, and had a rough–hewn face and eyes that might have been kind except for the pain in them. His hair was graying, but may have been blond at one time. They all nodded to Arthur.
Ginny looked uncertainly at her father. “How can we help you?” Arthur asked the wizard who had spoken.
“I’m sorry to bother you, sir.” He shifted on his feet. “I know you lost your son. I’m sorry.”
Arthur nodded. “Did you want to ask Ginny something?”
“Actually, we wanted her to show us something.”
Arthur frowned, and Charlie moved so that he was standing next to Ginny. The wizard noted his muscular bulk. “If you don’t mind, that is.”
“What do you want?” said Arthur. “You know who we are. Who are you?”
“I’m sorry. My name is Jensarod Wilson, this is my brother Herlo, and these are John and James Derby. We thought that maybe —“
“You’re Elizabeth’s brothers,” Ginny said to the two Derby wizards.
“No, Miss,” the one named James answered; his hair was dark, but Ginny remembered that Elizabeth’s eyes were blue like his. “Lizzie was my niece, we’re all her uncles. We heard that you were with her when she... at the end.” His voice broke, and he cleared his throat. “We were hoping you could show us where it happened and maybe tell us something about it.”
Ginny leaned back against the table. She didn’t really want to go back there, nor did she want to talk about what she had seen. But she also saw the pain in the four pairs of eyes. “I’ll do it,” she said in a low voice.
“Ginny, you don’t have to go down there,” her father said.
“No, it’s okay, I’ll go.” She looked around at her brothers. “Can someone come with me?”
Charlie stepped forward immediately and took Ginny’s arm. As they started to walk away, she paused, and looked at Ron and Hermione. “If Harry comes, tell him I’ll be right back.”
She let the four wizards lead her and Charlie out of the tent and then she turned off the drive and started across the lawn toward the Forbidden Forest. She walked slowly, trying to retrace her steps. After about ten minutes, she stopped next to a spot where the grass was still bloodstained, as if a body had lain there. She looked at the Forest and then back at the castle. “This is it." She pointed to the bloody grass. “She was here when I found her.”
The four wizards stared at the spot. Jensarod turned to Ginny. “What was she like?”
Ginny looked at the sky. It was still overcast, and was beginning to appear stormy; a small breeze had sprung up. She could hear birds singing in the trees at the edge of the Forest. Charlie took her hand. “You don’t have to talk about it,” he murmured.
She swallowed and forced herself to speak. “No, I want to.” She gave Jensarod a blazing look. “I want everyone to know what she looked like, what they did to her. Her face was horrible, there was blood everywhere and her arms and legs were broken. They did what they wanted to, and then they threw her away!” Ginny’s eyes brimmed with tears and she began to shout. “She wanted her mum! She was scared and she wanted to go home!” The wizards leaned back from the force of her voice that was almost like an attack.
Ginny’s voice dropped. “I was holding her hand, and then it went limp. That was all.” She looked at the bloody grass, then at Elizabeth’s uncles. They looked as though they had been clubbed over the head. “Didn’t you see her before they closed the coffin?” Ginny asked.
Jensarod shook his head. “They had already sealed it. They told us they couldn’t undo the magic.”
Charlie put his arm around Ginny’s shoulders. “Come on, Ginny, let’s go back.”
“Miss Weasley,” John Derby spoke as Ginny was about to leave. “Thank you for being there. It must have been... really hard.” Ginny nodded, but he continued. “Tell Harry Potter that as far as I’m concerned he’s the greatest wizard who ever lived. We heard what he did, how he walked into their camp. Tell him that.”
Ginny finally turned and started walking, just as she had done two nights ago, except that now Charlie was holding her arm, keeping her from stumbling. She counted her steps, and at the third one she put her hand to her lips and closed her eyes. She had kissed Harry, even though it was a vision. She ached for him, and a sob escaped through her fingers. Charlie tightened his hold and they soon came back to the tent.
Everyone was still there, except for Ron and Hermione. Her father told her that Harry had shown up and waited, but then Neville had come and said he needed help with something up in the Room of Requirement, and Harry had left with Ron and Hermione. “Harry said he’ll be down for lunch,” Arthur finished.
They all stayed in the tent for another hour, talking quietly, bringing Andromeda into their group after Kingsley and the dark, slender witch left. Percy told Ginny that she was Saliyah Ushujaa, Kingsley’s companion and an Auror. Ginny found Elizabeth’s coffin and saw her parents. Her mother bore a strong resemblance to Fleur, and Ginny knew then that the rumors about Elizabeth’s Veela ancestry were true. Elizabeth’s father talked to her and thanked her for trying to comfort his daughter, but his wife sat in a chair next to the coffin and did not take her eyes from it and did not speak.
“She was our beauty,” Mr. Derby said through his tears. “Now she’s gone.” Ginny could bear no more, and left the tent.
The Great Hall was filling up for lunch, and Ginny sat at the Gryffindor table, facing the door so that she could see Harry when he came in. But when Neville appeared with Luna and Dean, Harry was not with them. They all sat down across from Ginny.
“Harry and Ron and Hermione had to go into Hogsmeade,” Neville reported. “Something’s going on at the Hog’s Head between Aberforth and some goblins. Shacklebolt wouldn’t say what it was, but he wanted Harry there.” Ginny sighed and poked at her food; all of a sudden she wasn’t very hungry.
Luna glanced at the Ravenclaw table. “Let’s eat over there tonight, that would be a nice treat for them, they’d like that,” she said. “Harry was really angry.”
“Huh?” Ginny was pouring herself a glass of pumpkin juice, and she looked at Luna quizzically, then at Neville.
“Yeah,” said Neville, as he reached across Dean and grabbed a chicken leg from a serving dish. “He was really pissed off. He said you were waiting for him at lunch, but then McGonagall and some bloke from the Ministry showed up and whatever was happening in Hogsmeade was getting worse, and they really needed Harry. Dunno why, though,” he shrugged.
Before Ginny could question him further, Neville was distracted by two sixth–year Hufflepuff girls who stopped next to him. “Hi, Neville,” said one, a very pretty dark–complexioned brunette; she smiled at him. “How’s your big sword?”
Ginny gagged on a mouthful of pumpkin juice, splattering it all over Luna, who seemed only mildly surprised by the orange shower. Neville turned bright red, and Dean nudged him, then grinned at the two girls.
“It’s, uh, it’s fine,” Neville stammered, a drumstick half–way to his mouth.
“Can you show it to us?” the brunette asked in a throaty voice.
There was a thump under the table, and Neville scowled at Dean. But then he dropped the chicken leg on his plate and stood up. “Sure, you want to see it? It’s up in my room. Come on, I’ll get it.” He looked at Dean again, who nodded encouragingly, and after another second Neville turned to the girls. “Why don’t you wait, uh, wait up on the seventh floor in front of that big tapestry with the dancing trolls?”
The one who had spoken took Neville’s arm. “We’ll wait anywhere you want us to.” They walked toward the door, but just before they reached it the girl on his arm turned and winked at her friend, who peeled off and went the other way, back to the Hufflepuff table. Neville and his new friend disappeared into the entrance hall.
Ginny watched them leave, then Scourgified Luna. “Has that been happening a lot?” she asked Dean.
“Yup. At first he ignored it, but I had a few words with him and now it looks like he’s right on top of it.” He grinned at Ginny.
“Well, I wish him luck,” Ginny said as she stood up. “By the way, did Harry know when he would be back?”
“No. Sorry, Ginny. But like Neville said, he was really ticked off.”
Ginny left the Great Hall and went back outside to the tent; she found her parents and George sitting by the coffin. She pulled up a chair and stayed with them, mostly holding her mother’s hand, occasionally weeping herself. She saw Elizabeth Derby’s uncles come in, and noticed then that there was a very large number of witches and wizards gathered around that coffin, plus a young female house–elf who was holding the bouquet of syntle. As Ginny watched, Elizabeth’s father helped her mother stand, and then one of the uncles took his wand out and the coffin rose off the table and floated ahead of the family as they moved out of the tent. John Derby nodded to Ginny as he left and she bowed her head in return. And even though she tried not to, she remembered the blood on the grass.
Ginny decided to leave, also; she followed the Derbys outside and went up to the common room. She was feeling tired and dispirited, and did not even know if she wanted to see Harry right now. House–elves were still bustling about industriously, and she was surprised at how much progress they had made. All of the windows were repaired, there were no longer any piles of furniture or other damaged items in the hallways — although none of them had been returned to their proper places yet — and she did not see any bloodstains on the walls. It was amazing, she thought, almost a miracle. Her spirits rose, and she entered the portrait hole hoping against hope that Harry would be there.
He wasn’t, and Ginny’s mood collapsed. None of her friends were there either, so she slowly climbed the stairs to her room, hoping now that it would be empty, wanting to be alone and not have to talk to anyone. This hope was fulfilled. She lay down on her bed, pulled the hangings shut, and, feeling thoroughly sorry for herself, had a good cry and fell asleep on her wet pillow.
When she woke up and opened the hangings she saw that she had slept away most of the afternoon and the sky was darkening; she could hear distant rumbles of thunder echoing in the hills. Her roommate, Christina, was standing in front of a mirror adjusting her clothes and primping her hair. “Hi, Ginny,” she said when she saw Ginny in the mirror. “Harry Potter was just in the common room looking for you.”
Ginny jumped out of bed, ran a brush quickly through her hair, straightened her blouse, and rushed downstairs. She didn’t see Harry, but Ron was standing next to a table glancing through a copy of the Prophet. He looked up when Ginny came over and showed her the headlines: Shacklebolt Takes Over Ministry read the first; and below it: Prison Conditions Worsen As Azkaban Fills Up.
“No matter what happens,” he grumbled, “no matter how good things are, they’ll always find something to complain about. I mean, who gives a rat’s ass if they pack a hundred of them into one cell?”
“Where’s Harry?” Ginny ignored his rant. Ron frowned, and Ginny’s spirits sank once more.
“He and Hermione got called up to McGonagall’s office — again. Some stupid git found the tent we were using and got lost in it. Harry asked me to wait here and tell you he’d meet you at dinner.”
Ginny’s frustration had turned to resignation. Maybe they would have better luck tomorrow. “Come on, then,” she sighed, “let’s go eat.”
They trudged down to the Great Hall — even more damage had been fixed in the hallways — and joined the rest of the family. But of course Harry and Hermione did not show up. They all went outside to the tent after the meal and stood around the coffin in candlelight, holding hands. Bill told her that they would be taking Fred home tomorrow to be buried the day after at the Burrow. When she heard this, Ginny broke down. It was final, totally final. Fred would be in the ground; she would never see him again. She would visit his grave and cry, and that would be the closest she would ever be able to get to him, ever. Bill held her as she sobbed inconsolably, until finally, gasping for breath, she tried to pull herself back together.
Ginny knew that it wasn’t just the finality of the impending funeral that was turning her into a weeping mess. She needed Harry. She had waited almost a year, and now that he was in her grasp he kept on slipping away. She was constantly touching her lips, feeling his kiss on them, but now she wanted the real thing, not the after–image of a vision. She had never known such longing, not even in the darkest days of last winter when Harry was somewhere out in the cold world running from death and she didn’t know if she would ever see him again.
She found herself alone back in the common room waiting for Harry, curled up in a chair under a window being pelted by rain as lightning flashed and thunder rolled. The storm was perfect, as far as she was concerned; let it rain on everyone, why should she be alone in her misery? As the hour grew late, Ginny slipped lower into the chair and dozed.
A peal of thunder woke her up. She sat up and looked around; the common room was empty, the fire almost out. She heard a noise and saw the door to the boys’ stairway closing behind someone; she thought she saw a shock of black hair and a lanky body. She jumped up, but as she called “Harry!” a loud clap of thunder drowned her voice. She ran to the door, opened it a few inches and peered up. She heard footsteps and called again, but whoever it was kept climbing.
She pushed the door open and stepped into the stairwell. She had been in the boy's tower only once before, and she felt a little awkward; she did not want to run into anyone in his skivvies, even though she had long ago gotten used to it at the Burrow. She started quietly climbing. She met no one and heard no one. When she reached the top she hesitated. What if it wasn’t Harry that she had seen? Still, the worst that could happen was that she would find one of his roommates in his underwear, and she had seen worse things than that.
She knocked softly. “Harry?” she called. There was silence for a moment, then footsteps. The door opened, and Dean stood in front of her in his pajamas holding up a lit wand; behind him was Seamus also with his wand alight. Dean blinked. “Blimey, Ginny, what are you doing here?”
“I thought I saw Harry come up. I fell asleep in a chair and someone came up the stairs, and I...” She felt herself blush, and Dean smiled.
“He hasn’t been here all day, as far as I can tell.” He turned to Seamus, who shook his head. “But if we see him, should we tell him...?”
“No, no, that’s all right. Tell him I’ll see him in the morning. Thanks.” She turned and started down the stairs. She stopped at a window half–way down and looked out. Flashes of lightning lit the hills across the lake; below her she could see the tent illuminated in a ghostly fashion by dozens of candles; the shadows of a few people moved around inside, still mourning, still unable to leave their loved ones. Harry was like one of those shadows. He had been moving about all day as she looked down from above, unable to reach him, unable to...
She stopped herself. This was silly; she would see him tomorrow. But still, it was frustrating that a whole day had gone by, a day that she had been anticipating for almost a year. Everyone else had wanted Harry, and everyone else had gotten him, except —
The door at the foot of the stairs opened and closed and someone began climbing. Ginny turned, her heart pounding, and Harry stood in front of her, looking tired and surprised. “Blimey, Ginny, what are you doing here? I was looking for you everywhere. Hermione went up to your room but you weren’t there and...”
“And?” Ginny was trembling; she was sure Harry could tell.
He walked slowly to her. “Why did you come up here?”
“I was looking for you. I fell asleep in a chair, and I thought I saw you go upstairs, but Dean said you weren’t there and...”
“And?” He took her hands. “And this?” He put his arms around her and kissed her mouth, and she kissed him and then he was crushing her against him and then his hands took her hair and his mouth was kissing her face, her eyes, her nose, her chin, her lips. She was digging her fingernails into his back and he was kissing her ferociously and she was beating her palms against his back, wanting to rivet their bodies together. They were on their knees, their thighs and bellies and chests pressed together. Harry’s hands were all over her and she was crying out and Harry pushed her down.
“No, no, Harry!” she gasped. “Not — not—“
“Not what?” he was breathing fast; his mouth was on her neck, his hands on her shoulders, pressing her to the floor.
“Not here. Someone might come.” She sat up and leaned against the wall, panting. Harry was on his knees in front of her. Their breathing gradually slowed.
He got up and held his hand to her and pulled her up. “Come with me,” he said. “I know where.”
They made their way to the corridor outside the Room of Requirement, and when it opened for them and they stepped inside Ginny saw dark velvet curtains all around, lit by dim candles, and a thick carpet on the floor. It was very quiet, not in a sinister way but hushed. The carpet muffled their footsteps as Harry led her along a curtained corridor, and they heard no sounds. They came to a break in the curtains, and Ginny saw a chamber, walled by more curtains, with a large hammock suspended in the air, and candles glowing with a soft yellow light.
Harry pulled her inside, and the curtain closed behind them; the world was quiet and still. “Someone found this the morning after the battle,” Harry whispered. “I guess they needed some privacy. I don’t think the teachers know about it yet.” He grinned.
“It’s lovely. It’s perfect.” She sat on the hammock and when he sat next to her they rolled into it. It was made of a fine, soft silky material, and when they put their heads down, puffy satin pillows appeared underneath them.
Harry reached down and pulled both of their trainers and socks off. They lay back, wiggling their toes. Ginny turned to him, but before she could say anything they heard a clanking noise nearby, and high, giggling laughter. Then they heard a lower voice, and even though it was muffled, they both recognized it.
“Neville?” said Harry, a little surprised.
“Sounds like. I think he’s taking advantage of his new rep.”
“Good for him. I was thinking about doing the same thing myself.”
“Oh, so you think you have a rep?”
“I don’t know. Do I?”
“Yes. And I was also hoping you would take advantage of it.”
They did not sleep at all that night, and between caresses they talked for hours.
Readers of Professor Tolkien will recognize a reference in this chapter to a plant he described that has come down to the wizarding world from Middle Earth. It was known through the Fourth Age of Middle Earth as symbelmyne, but wizards know it by a different name, syntle. The Professor’s history does not tell us how it managed to survive so long as a magical species in Britain, and I will not speculate here.