I gulped in as much air as I could, sprawled on the floor and leaning against the wall of a dilapidated farmhouse. I pulled my shirt up, wincing at the wound stretching from just below my breast to my hip. It hurt like a bitch, worse now that I'd looked at it. Thankfully it wasn't too deep and the bleeding had mostly stopped. I didn't have anything to clean or wrap it with. It'd probably get infected like the one on my knee a month ago.
I let my shirt fall back down and tilted my head up. One year. One year since the British government put into action their plan to protect themselves from Voldemort and by extension magic. One year since they gathered all the people deemed most important into a specified area of London. One year since they released some sort of massive energy blast across the whole country.
None of us know what it was, how it worked or exactly why they did it, only that they did. It decimated the whole nation. Anything built by magic crumbled. Hogwarts was gone, now just the pile of ruins most people thought it to be anyway. The Burrow was gone, the place only stood with copious amount of magic. Everything our world had strived to keep hidden was made visible, most of it destroyed. But the most significant impact the weapon had, was the complete and utter destruction of magic itself.
Magic just vanished. We couldn't use it anymore than the muggles could. So many of us died, unable to live without the magic flowing through their veins. Muggle borns and half bloods had a better time of it. They didn't have such a high percentage in their blood, even though such things made no difference to their ability. But the majority of the purebloods were killed. My family was lucky. I was lucky. We were only dreadfully ill.
Life had changed. We had to relearn how to live without magic and it wasn't that simple. A huge number of the muggle population had been wiped out by the blast. Those who were left were like us, living on the run, surviving off the land. Those who had been important enough were protected inside some sort of electro magnetic shield in the centre of London. For them, life went on as usual. The best parts of the capital were walled off, still protected by the shield. Few roads were maintained, and nearly no one ventured north.
We were told that everyone living in the city had to carry ID with them at all times. For them, it was nothing, but it gave the government reassurance that anyone who managed to slip in from outside would be caught sooner or later. Caught and killed. Wizards and witches were hunted down with a vengeance, despite us being unable to use magic now. Even those who weren't magical were eliminated; after all, if they didn't have an ID, they weren't valuable enough to have been protected.
People grouped together in small numbers, usually no more than ten or twenty. It was survival of the fittest. People had no qualms in killing someone who might do the same to them. You lived off the land, hunting and finding plants to eat. There was some food production near London, but any attempt to steal would be suicide.
No one lived in one set place anymore, it just wasn't safe. Everyone moved around, keeping away from the few main roads still maintained, because government forces patrolled them. There were few places comfortable enough left to stay anyway. It was simply amazing how quickly buildings fell into disrepair without their occupants. Some were in good enough condition to be patched up, but it was too risky. Patrols flew overhead at least once every two weeks, fighter jets and helicopters with machine guns on board. Anywhere that looked like it might be being used as a refuge was bombed. Every town and village showed evidence of this. So people retreated to the woods and mountains, where they could build temporary shacks and keep them hidden.
We used older, more primitive weapons. Occasionally you found guns and ammunition at old army bases, things that were left behind by accident. The government shipped nearly everything back to the capital. No point inviting rebellion with deadly weapons. So we went back to medieval methods. Bows were the most common, swords were more difficult to find or make. I pitied anyone who never got the hang of archery. You didn't survive long without it.
But I didn't have my bow. I hadn't for nearly three months now. The only weapon I had was a knife. I'd been on the run that whole time. It had started as a disastrous attempt to scrounge supplies from a storehouse we'd found. It had been Bill, Charlie, the twins and me. We gotten in fine, and were about to make off with the stuff when out of nowhere, soldiers were surrounding us. We managed to get out, but were separated in the process.
Ten of them pursued me. I outstripped them. Living in the rough gave you a level of physical fitness that no soldier, no matter how much they trained, could ever hope to obtain. And it gave one grim determination, and an intimate knowledge of nature. I kept going though, even when they stopped following me. I knew I had to get away as far as possible. But by the time I stopped, I was a long way from where I'd started. It was too dangerous to go back and look for my family. I had to keep moving before they brought in the choppers and the searchlights.
I still don't know what happened to them, whether they get away or were captured. I just have to keep moving, keep surviving. I eluded capture, eventually throwing off pursuit, but had numerous run-ins with other groups, none of them former magic users. I'd been put to the test a few times; my latest wound a testament to that. It had been just this morning and I had a feeling the culprits were still after me. I couldn't stay here for much longer, but I hadn't been able to keep going either.
The only good thing that came out of it all was that it did achieve their plan to eliminate Voldemort. He wasn't killed outright, but once he couldn't use magic, he was a sitting duck. They swooped in and annihilated him and his death eaters. I bet Harry was relieved that burden was taken from him. Harry. An image of emerald eyes and jet-black hair rose before my eyes unbidden. I hadn't seen him since Bill and Fleur's wedding nearly two years ago. When he, Ron and Hermione had fled. I had no idea if he was still alive. I tried not to think about him, it hurt too much. I still loved him; I knew that as sure as I knew my own name. But the chances of me ever being able to be with him again were next to none.
I drew in a deep breath, flinching when it sent a stab of pain through my side. Reluctantly, I got to my feet. I flicked my bangs out of my face. I'd cut my hair some time ago, the long strands apt to get in the way. Now it only dropped just past my chin, unlike the nearly waist length style I'd sported previously.
Moving to the doorway, I glanced around, taking stock of my bearings. North, I'd head north. The further from London the better. The majority of muggle bandits didn't venture far into what used to be Scotland either. But us magic folk did. I guess its because most of us went to Hogwarts, so even with it gone, we felt something of a connection and familiarity to the rugged landscapes.
Suddenly, a few scuffles in the trees near the door had me diving back inside. I cursed to myself. I'd lingered too long and now I would pay the price. There was no way they hadn't seen me. I'd been standing in plain view in that doorway for far too long. I'd been careless. I cursed again, looking around for the best vantage point for me, but I was out of time. They burst in through the door and a hole in one wall, six of them, all large, all rough looking and not one of them inclined to be friendly.
"Well, well, well, look what we have here," one of them sneered, raking his eyes up and down my body. I suppressed a shudder, instead tilting my chin up disdainfully, slipping my knife from my belt. I could take out at least a couple of them. If I was going down, I was going down fighting. Never let it be said that Ginny Weasley was a coward.
They circled, each with a horrible grin on his face. Finally, one darted in, knife outstretched. I parried his aside, pivoting forward to smash my fist into his nose, following it up with a kick between his legs for good measure. I spun, sensing someone behind me and rammed my knife up, catching them in the throat, their last sound a gurgle of surprise.
I kicked sideways, bringing another sprawling to the floor but before I could finish him off two more grabbed me. I struggled, but they were too strong. I kicked and clawed at them, even trying to bite. The one who had spoken smirked at me. It was clear what he intended to do, and I vowed I would rather die than let him. Just as he was preparing himself, he was shoved backwards, falling to the floor, his mouth a round 'o' of surprise. A black-feathered arrow stuck out of his chest.
Even as my brain registered the information, the two holding me gave grunts and fell, more arrows in their bodies. I whirled around, ready to face this new threat. It was possible they'd come to save me, but it was equally likely they just wanted some fun themselves.
Another man was entering the building, carrying a bow, a quiver of arrows slung over his shoulder. To begin with, I didn't recognise him, changed as he was from the hardships of the war and the subsequent living conditions. But that messy, black hair and emerald green eyes were unmistakeable.
"Harry," I breathed. Already halfway over to me, his eyes widened in shock and he stared at me.
"Who…" he began then his mouth fell open in shock. "Ginny?"
I nodded, still unable to believe it. He always did have a habit of coming in and saving people, me included, but this was just insane.
Appearing to recover his composure, he stepped over to me.
"Are you alright?" he asked softly.
"Yeah," I replied. We stared at each other for a few moments, both of us equally unsure as to what we should do. What did you do when out of the blue you ran into someone you hadn't seen in months, someone you thought might be dead? Then suddenly he was crushing my body to his, arms wrapped tightly around me and his face buried in my hair.
"Thank god you're alive," his voice sounded suspiciously wobbly. For my part, I was fighting back tears. It was such a shock, seeing him here like this after so long. I had at times doubted whether I still loved him, but being in his arms made all those thoughts go flying out the window. There was no doubt about it now. I hugged him back, clutching him just as tightly as he clutched me.
After several long glorious moments, he stepped back, although his hands remained on my waist.
"Is there anyone else with you?" he asked.
I shook my head. "I've been on my own for months. These," I gestured to the men lying prone on the ground. "Aren't the first ones I've had trouble with. Thank you by the way, they caught me by surprise."
Harry shrugged. "It was nothing," he said. "Looks like you got a few of them good as well."
I turned to look at the damage. The three Harry had shot were dead, as was the one I'd stabbed through the throat. Once upon a time this might have bothered me, but now it was just a way of life. I'd become harder; things that were once considered a horror were now a daily occurrence. The other two I'd simply managed to knock out, but by the looks of things they wouldn't be waking up anytime soon.
"We should get out of here," Harry said softly. I nodded; bending to retrieve my knife and tucking it back into my belt. As an after thought, I grabbed another knife and a sword my assailants had. You could always use more weapons in this life. Harry took my hand, my fingers lacing between his of their own accord. He led me out of the building, eyes darting around as did mine, scanning for trouble. We moved swiftly, reaching the cover of the nearby trees.
"I've uh, got a small camp set up, not far from here," Harry said. "Did…d'you want to…" he trailed off.
"That would be lovely, thank you," I told him, realising what he was trying to say. He offered me a small smile and we both fell silent. It wasn't really awkward, but it wasn't exactly comfortable either. I guess neither of us knew what to say, or how to act. It had been so long and I couldn't help wondering if he still felt the same way about me. He had told me when he left, that when everything was over he'd come back for me and I'd promised him I'd wait. But so much had happened, none of it expected. And it wasn't over. Not really.
Sure, the Wizarding War was over, but now it was a war against nearly everyone. The world had changed. From what we managed to find out, the situation in this country wasn't confined to our borders, rather, it was global. America, France, Spain, Germany, Australia, China, Russia, the list went on. There was no refuge now. It was somewhat ironic really. For years, the muggles had believed in the end of the world, an apocalypse. Well, that day they launched the weapon against us was an apocalypse if I ever saw one. Which technically I hadn't…but it was certainly the end of the world, as we knew it anyway.
Harry cleared his throat softly and brought me back to the present. My hand was still clasped in his. It felt nice, it felt right, just as it had so long ago.
"How-how long have you been on your own for?" he asked.
I shrugged. "Months. It's been hard to keep track of the time. You?"
He was silent for a moment. "Nearly 9 months," he said quietly. I stared at him.
"You haven't found anyone?"
He shook his head.
"Hermione?" I asked. "Ron?"
"I don't know. We were spotted by an army patrol. Somehow, they knew exactly who we were. We had to make a break for it. Hermione and Ron, they forced me to go, they led them away from me. I tried to stop them, but they insisted…"
He wouldn't look at me. I knew what it was. He hated the fact that they'd deliberately put themselves in danger for him. He never wanted anyone to get hurt for him. And his best friends had done just that and he didn't know if they'd survived.
I heard Harry suck in a deep breath and exhale again. He was trying to keep himself calm. That's how he did it, by breathing. "Everyone else?" he asked softly. "Your family?"
"They were alive last I saw them," I said. "But now…"
Harry nodded. He knew. He understood. But at least now we had each other, whatever that meant, whatever our relationship might be now.
"Here we are," he told me, pulling me through some thick undergrowth into a tiny clearing. A tent was set up at one end and there was a blackened circle in the centre that had housed a fire. "Its not much, but…"
"Its fine," I told him.
"Erm, you can have the tent tonight, I'll sleep outside."
"No," I said firmly. He stared at me. "Harry, its far too cold to be sleeping outside."
"No, it'll be fine," he protested.
I shook my head. "I'm not letting you get hypothermia. Please Harry. We're both mature adults, we can handle sharing a tent, regardless of our past."
Our eyes locked for a minute, but I knew he'd back down. He sighed and nodded, rubbing a hand across his eyes. I gave him a tiny smile, wondering all the while what his reluctance meant. Half of me said it was because he didn't feel anything for me anymore, the other half said he was just being his usual, noble, git of a self.
He dropped my hand, gesturing for me to sit down. I complied, wincing and hissing in pain as it lanced up my side. I pressed a hand to my wound, dismayed to feel sticky damp through my shirt again. The fight must have caused it to reopen. Harry looked at me in concern.
"Knife wound," I told him. "Same bastards from this afternoon."
He motioned for me to life my shirt up. I did, pulling it off completely, leaving me in just my bra. Briefly I felt a bit embarrassed, but that was another thing this life led to. Modesty was far less, as long as the most important bits were covered; everything else was something of a moot point. And the shirt would just be in the way anyway. Harry crouched next to me, gently running a finger along the wound. He stood back up and disappeared into the tent briefly, returning with a handful of things.
Carefully, wetting the cloth with water from a bottle, he cleaned the blood away. I just sat there, letting him, even though I could have easily done it myself. If I admitted it to myself, I was quite enjoying the feeling of his ministrations, his hands on my skin. He rubbed some paste onto the cut, giving me an apologetic look when I winced.
"It's an antiseptic," he explained. "I wish I could do more…"
"You've done plenty," I told him. His hand lingered on my side, fingers stroking the skin a little. We stared at each other, not for the first time that day. He lifted his hand, running a hesitant finger down my cheek. My breath hitched slightly as I lost myself in his eyes. Slowly, Harry leaned a little closer, and then his lips were on mine, just as soft and warm as I remembered.
I closed my eyes, losing myself in the kiss. All too soon, he pulled back. I sighed in disappointment, reluctantly opening my eyes. He looked like he was torn, probably between kissing me again and running away. He opened his mouth as if to say something but closed it abruptly. Then he took me by surprise, crushing his lips to mine again. This time he was far more insistent, and I was only too happy to return the favour. He ran his tongue along my lower lip and I opened my mouth, letting him slip inside.
Our tongues began a long lost but well remembered battle, and Harry gently lowered me to the ground. Incoherent as I was, I couldn't help but notice that he was careful not to aggravate my injury. His hand rested on my stomach but it soon began creeping upwards.
I broke the kiss, chest heaving as I gasped for air. Harry trailed kisses along my jaw before turning his attention to my neck. He sucked gently on my pulse point and I moaned softly. His fingers brushed the skin just below my bra. I dragged his mouth to mine, burying my fingers in his hair. This was heaven, kissing him again. My body felt like it was on fire. I moaned again as his hand cupped my breast, stroking it gently through the material. Frustrated that he could touch me and I couldn't touch him, I yanked his shirt off, tossing it somewhere to the side. I ran my hands down his back, feeling the muscles he had developed. My fingers lingered near his waistband and it was his turn to groan into my mouth.
The hand that was on my breast disappeared, only for me to feel him slip it behind my back and fiddle with the clasp on my bra. This had me torn. I wanted to continue, I really did, and you never knew what day might be your last. But something held me back. I pulled my mouth away from his.
"Harry," I gasped. "Stop, stop…" For a moment I thought he hadn't heard me, but then he placed a few soft kisses on my lips and withdrew his hand, pulling back to a sitting position and bringing me with him. We were both breathing heavily and his eyes were slightly glazed. We were silent for a few moments, both of us trying to regather our thoughts.
"Are you still sure sharing the tent is a good idea?" Harry asked, his lips quirking into a smile. I swatted his arm gently, leaning my head on his shoulder, my body melting into his.
"Git," I said. We sat there for a little bit, just taking comfort in each other's presence. For my part, I was deliriously happy, an emotion I hadn't felt since…well, in a very long time. Knowing that he still felt the same way, even if we hadn't actually talked about it, I knew, I could die right now and die a happy woman.
The light dimmed, the only signal from inside the forest that the sun had slipped beneath the horizon. With its departure went the last traces of warmth in the air and I shivered, still without my shirt. Goosebumps rose on my arms and I burrowed further into Harry's side, still surprisingly warm. Harry must have noticed, because he started looking around for our discarded clothes.
"Here," he said handing me my shirt, his in the other hand. I pulled it on, the chill a little less. He looked at me and frowned. "You don't have anything warmer?"
I shook my head. The last coat I'd stolen, I'd had to leave behind at a campsite when I was taken by surprise. Since then, well, yeah I'd been pretty cold at night, and despite me telling Harry earlier that it was too cold to sleep outside, that's essentially what I'd been doing. I'd learned to deal with it.
Harry stood up, grabbing his pack out of the tent and pulling items out until he found what he was looking for. He held the coat out to me. It wasn't overly thick, but it would be better than what I had. I smiled my thanks and pulled it on, sighing as its warmth enveloped me. He returned it, and then went back to the pack. He rummaged around a bit more before extracting a smaller bag. Opening it, he pulled out a few items of food. A couple of apples, half a loaf of bread and something I didn't quite recognise.
"I wish I could offer you more," he said uncertainly, "But I haven't had time to hunt today…"
"It's plenty Harry, thank you," I said, taking one apple and sinking my teeth into it, closing my eyes and savouring the taste. I hadn't had an apple in ages. Actually, I hadn't much of anything other than what I could find on the run in ages. As far as I was concerned, this was something like a small feast.
Stomachs as full as they were going to get, Harry and I retreated to the tent. I was dead tired, and from the looks of things Harry was too. A little awkwardly, we lay down side by side, facing each other. Neither had known what to say to begin with, and our snogfest earlier, lovely as it had been, hadn't exactly helped matters.
Harry was the first to break the silence, clearing his throat. "I uh…oh bloody hell. I love you Ginny. I loved you two years ago, and I still love you. I couldn't imagine spending my life with anyone else, and if circumstances were different, I'd probably propose. I-"
I placed my finger over his lips, having finally gotten over my shock at his declaration. It had the effect I wanted, silencing him immediately. I could barely see him in the dark, but I knew he was staring at me. "I love you too," I whispered.
"Really?" he asked.
"Yes," I replied. "Shut up and kiss me you prat."
He did exactly what I told him, his hands cupping my face as he kissed me gently. Probing my lips apart with his tongue, not that it took much effort, he explored my mouth. This kiss was completely different to the one before. It had been passionate and uncontrolled; this was soft and loving, but equally as good. We kissed for a while; I don't know how long it was exactly. Eventually we pulled apart and I snuggled into him. Harry draped his arm around my waist, holding me close and he dropped a light kiss onto my hair. Slowly, I slipped out of consciousness, falling into the blissful realm of sleep. For once, everything was perfect, even if it only lasted a few hours.