WARNING: Death and destruction in this chapter. Blame J.K. Rowling D:
We Should Have Had Years
Chapter 3 Part 2
They did not lose any time. Now was the moment to act. Tonks apparated Ginny with her. Hogsmeade, the Hog's Head. A secret tunnel behind Ariana Dumbledore's portrait, to the DA headquarters in Hogwarts.
And there, for the first time after so long they were facing each other. It was not Harry's beaming smile that she returned. Her eyes were only for her, could only be for her, and she knew it, she looked at her with the same realization, her brown eyes could not have shined more brightly, she was okay. Regarding the circumstances, she was okay.
But now was not the time. Not the time to tell her what she had been waiting to tell her. Now – now of all things – was the time to finish what the three had begun, to end the quest, to defy Voldemort.
Harry said something about a hidden object that had to be somewhere in the castle, the rest of the Order of the Phoenix arrived, everyone was in a turmoil, McGonagall chased Snape out of the castle with a rage Ginny had never seen in the usually strict and composed professor, Ron Hermione had mysteriously disappeared after Ron had babbled about some bathroom, Harry was on his way to the Ravenclaw Tower, Luna right behind him.
Then Mr and Mrs Weasley and the rest of their children arrived; Ginny joined them and had a heated argument with her mother, who demanded her to leave the castle with the other ones that were underage. To safety. Maybe she did not want to be goddamned safe, maybe she wanted to stay and fight, to not sit somewhere insecurely and wait while the people who meant most to her all stayed here, risking their lives for the Greater Good, the effing Greater Good.
With a voice so high and hysterical that it did not even sound like her anymore Ginny screamed all of this in her mother's face, on the verge of loosing it, of hexing everything around her, cursing it until her wand would break, tears of rage glistening in her fiery eyes when even Harry (when had he come back, she did not even know) shook his head when she shot him a pleading glance.
And it was Percy, Percy of all people, who ended this to-ing and fro-ing.
He stumbled out of the cave that led to the Hog's Head.
"I was a fool!" he roared, and the ice was broken, before Ginny knew what happened her brother and her family had reconciled, were laying in each other's arms and she was being pulled to them, and then she used her chance to sneak off.
"Ginny!" Mrs Weasley barked. And this time it was Lupin who sided with her and proposed to let her stay. Under the stern gaze of her father Ginny had no choice but accept to stay in this room. Harry went to look for Ron and Hermione, or for the secret object? – She did not know that either, all the other underage students were being evacuated through the tunnel. All this passed by like a movie for Ginny; she would only remember it vaguely later on. What she and everyone would never forget, though, were Voldemort's words, his voice magically amplified, echoing through everyone's heads:
"Give me Harry Potter, and none shall be harmed. You have until midnight."
Professor McGonagall separated everyone into different groups to protect the castle. Ginny stayed with Fred and George, they would take care of the secret passageways. She wanted to help. She broke her promise to stay in the room. Her parents did not notice, they were already busy casting protection charms, and then, all of a sudden, hell broke loose. How quickly could time have passed, it was already midnight, the attack had started, the thread had become more real than ever before.
She had to find her, but where to start searching, she got almost hit by a curse, and then Tonks was there and her wand flicked through the air, the shield charm blocked the curse and Ginny started to cast stunning curses at the Death Eaters.
"Have you seen Remus?" Tonks shouted at her, Ginny shook her head, Tonks dashed away, what was she doing here anyway, she should be home with Teddy, and then someone called Ginny's name behind her. She heard something fall to the ground with a weird sound, as if it were bones, then she whirled around to be met with a pair of arms so strong that she almost lost her balance.
"Hermione!" she gasped and clang onto her, finally, finally. And they did not care, it did not bother them that Harry and Ron were standing right behind them when they kissed, Ron's jaw dropped to the ground, curses were still soaring around. For them, time was standing still for those few seconds.
"Is this the moment?" Harry asked weakly, but the girls just hugged more tightly.
"HEY! There's a war going on here!"
"I know, Harry," Ginny said, her eyes not leaving Hermione for a second, "that is why… it's now or never, isn't it." Hermione smiled brightly at her.
The four of them startled when the walls around them started shaking and some duellers sprinted into the corridor, Tonks among them. Ginny hurried towards her and sent a jinx at the Death Eater who had aimed for Tonks.
"Good girl!" roared Aberforth and led a group of students past them while Tonks called: "Have you seen Remus?"
"He was duelling Dolohov," shouted Aberforth, "haven't seen him since!"
"Tonks, I'm sure he's okay- ," Ginny said, but Tonks had already run off after Aberforth.
The words Harry said to calm her were empty, and they all knew it, then he grabbed Ron and Hermione and they left. Ginny did not know where to go, so she just ran after Tonks and Aberforth, not realizing she was running directly into the battlefield.
And what she saw there made her heart almost skip a beat. Remus, on the ground, Tonks duelling Bellatrix, Percy duelling Thicknesse, Fred duelling a masked Death Eater, and while Fred was still laughing about some joke Percy had told, not only the ceiling above them but also a part of Ginny's world collapsed. When she recovered from the dust Percy was screaming: "No – no – NO! No, Fred, NO!" And he sank down beside his brother, and Ginny's vision turned black for some moments, seeing Fred laying there, his last laughter still on his face.
She never heard the other explosions, the curses, all she could see was her brother laying dead on the floor, the tears falling onto his ripped shirt, she did not know whose hands pulled her away, whose voice called her and told her to get to safety, away from here, away, but how was she supposed to leave when the world ended here. In a trance-like state she followed Percy and Harry who had grabbed Fred's corpse and carried it into a niche, and then Harry was gone again.
And for a short moment Ginny gave in to the horrendous truth, let her mind realize that Fred was gone until Percy stormed off and she followed him again, back into the battle, back to duel. How many curses had left her wand, how many protection charms, she could not say afterwards, but her world was crashed another time. She saw Tonks fall down slow-motion-like after Bellatrix had screamed the Killing Curse with a face twisted in evil and a mocking laughter. Tonks had not been quick enough. Bellatrix had hit her straight into the chest.
"No – NO!" Ginny heard herself scream, she rushed up towards Bellatrix, but before she could reach her all Death Eaters had withdrawn when Voldemort's voice sounded over the place a second time, this time with a direct call at Harry to deliver himself. He gave them one hour.
One hour. One single hour.
Ginny sank down next to Tonks and clang to her cape, hoping she was not dead, she would just get up and calm her, no problem, just a scratch, but she did not, of course she did not, Fred had not done so either. It were the rough hands of her father that lifted her up gently and pulled her into his arms, that carried Tonks to the Great Hall an put her down next to Remus. Tears ran down Ginny's face, she was unable to stop them, she was sure she would soon wither away from inside, and it got even worse when she saw her mother collapsed over Fred's chest, shaking, crying, almost choking from misery. Ginny knelt down beside her, George was crouching at Fred's head, and no one was able to utter a word. Never had Ginny seen her family in such pain. Emptiness… nothing. Ginny believed she would never be able to feel anything but this pain, this hole that Fred and Tonks and Remus and all the others left in her heart.
Then she was hugged, and she wrapped her own arms around Hermione's body, relieved that she was there, that she was alive, and yet the pain was not any less awful when she buried her face in Hermione's shoulder, trying to forget, to escape, to make herself believe that this was not real.
Reality was so cruel sometimes.
And then, when she looked up into Hermione's dark brown eyes looking at her with such hurt and despair, but yet held so much warmth, her tears faded.
Be strong. She needs you just like you need her.
She took Hermione's face in both her hands, stroke her wet, smudgy cheeks, rested her forehead against Hermione's, kissed her lips ever so gently and let her cry.
"I'm so sorry, Ginny…"
"I know." Her voice broke. "It's gonna be fine somehow."
Ginny did not even believe so herself.
They all got up when the doors flew open.
Where was the time they needed so much? The hour had passed so quickly; the short moments of security had gone by so fast. But where was Harry?
"NO!" Professor McGonagall's voice shouted. Ron, Hermione and Ginny stepped up to her, and they all stared in horror, nothing but terrified screams leaving their throats.
"NO, Harry! HARRY!"
She could not believe it. Not him, not Harry, the only hope they had had, resting in Hagrid's arms, dead. Defeated.
And while Voldemort talked about Harry being such a coward, having his friends die for him while he had tried to flee, so many things happened at the same time.
Neville stepped up to the Dark Lord.
Harry disappeared out of view.
Neville rejected the curses Voldemort threw at him, and with one single movement her pulled out the sword of Gryffindor at cut off Nagini's head.
The battle started again. Chaos.
Harry, Harry, where's Harry?
Her searching eyes did not find him, but Bellatrix Lestrange. The witch who was just firing curse after curse at –
Something in Ginny's head snapped. She stormed towards Bellatrix who was now firing her curses so quickly that her wand was just a blur; Hermione had difficulties to hold up her shield charms. Ginny ran, dashed, shot jinxes, shockers, curses, anything at that witch, Luna joined them, but Bellatrix stood her ground against the three of them. Ginny felt a curse soaring so close to her ear it almost hit her.
"NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!"
Ginny incredulously watched as her mother hurried up towards Bellatrix, throwing her cloak away in doing so. Bellatrix started laughing.
"OUT OF MY WAY!" Mrs Weasley called and Ginny knew she had to obey her mother. She drew back, seized Hermione's arm and held back some other students who had motioned to help her mother. Never had she seen her mother this enraged. They had no chance of helping her; Ginny did not dare to shoot a curse at Bellatrix for fear of hitting her mother.
While she clang to Hermione's arm and was no longer fighting she saw that Bellatrix' duel and Voldemort's duel against McGonagall, Slughorn and Kingsley were the last ones. All the other Death Eaters had been defeated.
Bellatrix started mocking Mrs Weasley about Fred's death, and that seemed to be the spark that sent it off. With the next sway of Molly's wand the curse hit Bellatrix straight in the chest, her exhilarated face twisted, and she fell over. Voldemort screamed furiously about the loss of his last lieutenant, his fury burst like a bomb, his three opponents were flailing through the air away from him.
Then, out of nothing, when Voldemort aimed the worst curse at Molly Weasley, someone screamed "Protego!"
He was not dead, he was there, he was not dead!
(A/N: The rest of the battle to be read in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I won't be writing all of that down right now…)
"It's me," Harry mumbled to Hermione and Ron, "Will you come with me?"
Hermione had been watching Ginny. She was sitting next to her mother with her head on her shoulder. Hermione knew there would be time to talk later on. They would have time, days, weeks, months, years even. The worst was over now.
She followed Harry and Ron outside.
Harry still carried the Elder wand. But he did not want it, he said. He used the wand to cast Reparo on his broken Phoenix wand. He did not want the mightiest wand. He would bring it back to Dumbledore's tomb, and thus end the bloody line this wand had drawn through history.
This wand is more trouble than it's worth. And honestly, I've had enough trouble for a lifetime."
How very true. They started to walk back towards the Great Hall. Before they arrived there they paused again, as if to take another deep breath.
It was not Harry, but Ron who talked first.
"So, Hermione… you and Ginny, huh?"
It was not a question, more like a statement. Hermione nodded. Harry remained silent.
"So, that ring was…?"
Ron sighed. Hermione was surprised to see Harry smile.
"I figured," he said at her prompting glance.
"Say what?" Ron said, dumbfounded. He boxed Harry's arm. "And you don't tell me anything, mate?
"Nah, I thought you had figured as well?" Before the two could continue bickering Hermione threw her arms around both of them at the same time. She was simply relieved that they took it so well, that they did not retreat from her or found her disgusting. The boys returned her embrace.
"Thank you," she whispered when they let go.
"Well, I'll have to get used to this, but it's alright, 'Mione. At least I won't have to be afraid she'll pick the wrong bloke." Ron grinned at her, his ears turning his trademark red.
"I have to admit you have a fine taste," Harry commented and winked at her. Hermione had to try had to restrain her tears; she had hurt them both so badly – yes, she knew she had – and they just took it like that, accepted it, even Ron, who did not always have such a grip on himself. She threw her arms around them again. Then they all started laughing, for the very first time since what felt like years.
"Time for you to go back inside, you'll have some people waiting for you. I'll be bringing this back to where it belongs," Harry muttered and raised the Elder wand, and so Hermione and Ron went back inside through the demolished gate together. Hermione's eyes flew across the room while his mother pulled Ron into a fierce hug.
"Oh Ron, I'm so glad, let me see you, are you alright? Oh my dear…"
"Yeah, I'm fine, mom," Ron answered and did not push her away like he would have done usually. She let him go and turned to Hermione, then drew her close as well. She seemed to examine her for any injuries from head to toe, then let out a sigh when she found nothing serious.
"Hermione, dear… Ginny is over there, " Molly said and motioned to a group of bedrolls which had been put up in the Great Hall. She seemed to know what Hermione's eyes had been searching for her alone all the time. And indeed, there the redhead was, sitting on one of the rolls, gazing obliviously at the enchanted ceiling where dawn had just started to show. Without asking if Molly actually knew about her and Ginny Hermione walked up to her and sat down next to her, draping one arm around her shoulders an letting Ginny wrap her own arm around her waist.
The first beams of the sun started to break through the clouds and made the light a little brighter in the Great Hall; they returned some of the glamour this place used to hold.
And this moment belonged to them.
Ginny lifted her head and cupped Hermione's cheek with her free hand, gently turning the brunette's head to face her. She tenderly stroked her thump over Hermione's skin, then leaned forwards to plant a soft kiss onto her lips.
Now was not the time for story telling, they would have time for that later. Now, it was only a few words that mattered, and Ginny did not hesitate any longer to say them out loud finally while looking into those chocolate eyes she had been longing to see.
"I love you, Hermione."
"I love you, too, Ginny."