A wet diamond trailed down a pale cheek and dropped from a delicate chin. It sparkled with a tender ray of sun and plopped harmoniously on the ground. The solitary tear seemed unfit on such a beautiful autumn day, for this was a day when all should be merry. But how could the sun shine so brightly when nothing was as it should be? How could the gentle wind blow through the leaves? How could it turn from scorching summer to colorful fall without abating in reverence? How could life go on, when he was gone?
“If suddenly you do not exist.
If suddenly you no longer live.”
She stood like a frozen statue, still save for the way the breeze teased her scarlet hair and the way her eyes blinked, uncaring of the tears that pooled in them. Her shadow fell over it—the simple stone. No godly shrine for him, though a grand memorial had been erected at the Ministry for the purpose of giving him the honor he deserved. But there was no fancy gravestone; only a plain slab to mark his final resting place.
“I do not dare...
I do not dare to write it...
If you die...”
She drew in a breath and read the engraved words. She was not sure why she did it, for the writing had long been memorized in her mind and embroidered in her heart. How could she forget such a name, when it had been the name, that as a lovesick preteen, she had doodled into the margins of her schoolbooks? And then, after her feelings had gracefully matured, the name she had hoped would one day be her own? And now it was the name that was scrawled on the last place she'd wanted to behold it on.
She knew the other description, the ones just below the bold name, by heart, as well. Hero. Savior. Gryffindor. The Boy Who Lived. Yes, he'd been all those things and so much more. Seeker. Quidditch Captain. The Chosen One. Each title was more fabulous than the last, but she'd known him as only one thing.
Not my victory,
But the great victory comes...”
“No victory comes without great sacrifice.” At least, that's what her father had said on that first terrible day as he held his mourning daughter against his capable chest, stroking her hair gently. Yes, Harry had died bravely and vanquished Voldemort, but it had been at the price of his own life. And it was not the only thing that Harry had sacrificed. He had sacrificed his chance at ever having a normal life; he had sacrificed his godfather and his mentor; and, after Dumbledore's death, he had sacrificed them. But Harry was not the only one who had been sacrificed in this war, for when Harry had died, a part of her had too.
She lifted her face toward the sky, blinking back another layer of tears and marveling at the injustice of it all. They said the sacrifice had been great, but it was the only way. In a heartbreaking sense, it was worth it. But she knew better. It was too hefty a price. If anyone else had been murdered, perhaps she would be rejoicing now. But it wasn't anyone. It was her Harry.
They—her Mum, her meddling brothers, even Hermione—told her to move on. But how could she when her heart still ached from missing him? How could she go on with her life when she longed for how things used to be? And how could she ever love again when she would never love anyone in the deep, passionate, and unconditional way she'd loved Harry Potter?
And how could she ever want to? Would she not be betraying him if she felt that way again? And how could she ever say goodbye to him, only to love another? How could she ever let him go?
“Even though I am mute
I must speak.”
She stilled, not daring to move, not daring to breathe. The voice was familiar, but still unrecognizable, like a melody that she had not heard for so very long.
Slowly, hesitantly, she turned. It took a moment to comprehend his identity, for how long had it been since she'd seen him? Hadn't it been at Harry's funeral or had it been less time than that? She didn't know. Her life over the past two years had been nothing more than a steady blur, an unfathomable whirlpool of sorrow.
When her dry lips parted, it was a struggle to speak. It was as though the mouth was not her own, and as though she dragged her weighty heart along with the words.
He nodded; smiled a bit. He had grown into his round-face, making him seem older, more mature, and he looked nothing like the awkward boy she had once known. He'd even filled out a bit, and he seemed to hold himself with a newfound confidence, braver and bolder and, perhaps, finally the Gryffindor he'd been destined to be. In all, he looked...nice.
He paused a moment, as though searching for something to say to the woman he had not seen in so many years. She understood his apprehension. She felt it too. It was so surreal, seeing him now, grown into a man instead of the boy she had always pictured him as. The sight of him and his jittery expression brought back a thousand memories of how things used to be.
Neville in the Common Room. Neville in the hallways.
They hadn't been friends, but rather friendly acquaintances; people in the same House, the same family.
Neville asking me to the Yule Ball. Neville dancing with me; stepping on my feet.
The memories came one-by-one, fighting for a position in her mind. She focused on them and on him. It felt good to remember how things had been. How she had been. A smiling, vibrant girl ready to take on the world. Oh, what she would give to be that girl again! Oh, what she would give to be able to smile again! But she had not tasted happiness for a long...long time.
Neville being friends with Harry. Neville fighting beside Harry. Neville crying at Harry's funeral.
She jerked her gaze away and set it on the ground, focusing on the tips of her shoes and the blades of grass poking through the scarlet leaves; focusing on anything but the memories of Harry. It hurt to remember, because though remembering of how good things used to be felt wonderful, they were only reminders of how horrible things were now. No, she couldn't remember. Perhaps, she wasn't ready yet.
“I shall see it come
Though I am blind.”
Finally, Neville opened his mouth, his voice showing his discomfort. “So...how are you?”
She closed her eyes; winced. How she hated that question, because if she were to be honest she would never be able to give the answer that they wanted to hear. If she spoke the truth, she would have to say that, no, of course, she wasn't all right. She was standing on the grave of her beloved; how could she possibly be well? But no one wanted to hear that; no one ever completely wanted the truth if it was different from what they desired to believe. She opened her eyes, ready to lie, as she had so many times before, but the sight of him stopped her.
He seemed to comprehend that what he said was inappropriate and slightly stupid, for the regret showed on his face as he looked uneasily from her to the tombstone behind her, his mouth opening and closing almost comically. Perhaps there was a little bit left of that clumsy boy she'd once known.
“I'm sorry,” he finally managed, his tone apologetic. “That was a stupid thing to say.” And he dipped his head, looking utterly ashamed.
Seeing him now, she couldn't feel mad or even sorrowful that he had asked such a question. In fact, she felt her heart warm—the same aching heart that generally felt so cold. He truly understood how the question would make her feel. And that was...strange, yet entirely inviting. But, perhaps, Neville too had been tortured by the effects of the war and by Harry's death. Perhaps he felt it dragging on his heart, as it did on hers. After all, she was not alone in visiting Harry's grave. Perhaps, she wasn't the only one who was still grieving for him.
No, the question hadn't been meant to force her to say she was alright. It was honest and caring and genuine—just like Neville was.
“No,” she disagreed, though she suddenly felt tears scratch painfully at the back of her eyes. The tears never stayed away for long. She blinked rapidly, trying to hold them back, trying to gain control, but her throat felt as though it had closed over and speaking was difficult. She forced out each word. “No, it was...sweet.”
Neville raised his head almost daringly, and he stared at her with those dark, but tender eyes. He took a step forward as though tempted to embrace her. Her breath caught, knowing what he was about to do. A part of her wanted to throw up her arms as though to protect herself and tell him to stay back, or else run away as quickly as she could. No man—outside of her father and brothers—had touched her since Harry had died, and she could not betray Harry now. But there was another part of her—one that was smaller and quieter, but more defined—that almost longed for Neville to hold her. A touch of her wanted only to remember what it was like to feel safe, cherished, and comforted in a pair of strong arms.
Neville made the decision for her, for he stopped, sighed, and took a step backwards. She breathed in a shaky breath, unsure whether to be relieved or disappointed.
He blinked at her with sympathy. “If you want me to leave you alone, I will.”
She shook her head, though she was unsure why she gave such a vigorous reply. But, suddenly, the thought of solitude frightened her. “No. Please, stay.”
His eyes rose in surprise, and she told herself to get control. She was better than this; better than appearing to be someone so desperate. Quickly, she ran her hand over her cheek to brush away the tears that she had let spill. She breathed in, steadier this time, and attempted to be brave.
“Besides, you came here to visit Harry. Don't let me stand in your way.”
His gaze softened, and once again, she saw that attractive, confident side of him. “You could never be in the way, Ginny.”
The kind, gentle words startled her, but she didn't think upon them. She wouldn't allow herself to read more in them than there actually was. Instead, she ignored the words and changed her line of thought.
“Would you like to sit?”
He nodded and gave his slight, sad smile. “Yeah.”
“No, forgive me
If you no longer live,
If you, beloved, my love,
if you have died.”
They sat side-by-side on the leaf-strewn ground, eyes fixed on the tombstone and the engraved name of Harry Potter. They didn't speak, for silence was a great companion to their many thoughts and their many memories. But, all the while, they knew of each other's presence, and it was comforting not to be alone. She was all too aware of what it was like to be alone. Before, she had thought that being alone was what she had wanted, but now she was not so sure. Not with Neville so near that their legs brushed just enough that the contact teased her mind. It was not the electric feeling that Harry's touch had brought, but it felt nice. It felt good to be with him.
But, no, that thought was wrong. She couldn't enjoy another's man company. She couldn't betray Harry. No matter how it felt. No matter how much she was tempted.
“Ginny, can I tell you something?” Neville's voice broke through the quiet, nothing more than a soft inquisition as though speaking too loud would surely shatter them both.
She didn't think, only nodded.
He took a deep breath, and she could tell he was gathering her courage. She tilted her head to look at him, gathering her own gumption. She knew that whatever he was about to say, it would be important.
His eyes remained fixed on the tombstone, as though this confession were as relevant to Harry as it was to Ginny. When he spoke, his voice was steady with no true signal of how this was nearly impossible for him. His control was a sign of the courageous man he had grown up to be, because no matter how difficult this was, he had the ability and determination to do it.
“Sometimes...” He paused, and she waited patiently. She knew how hard it was to make words come. “Sometimes I blame myself for Harry's death.”
Stunned, she didn't know what to say, but she knew she should say nothing. Just listen. That's all he wanted.
“I could have been the answer to the Prophecy. I could have been the Boy Who Lived, if You-Know-Who had chosen me. And if he had, it would be my name on that stone. You and Harry could have been together. But, instead, it ended up like this.” For the first time since he started speaking, he turned his head to look at her, his gaze filled with the guilt he had confessed and with deep sorrow, but not for himself. For her. “I'm sorry, Ginny. I truly am. I wish it had been me.”
She knew she should have wished it too. She knew the truth in all he was telling her, and she knew that she too should wish that their places could be reversed, so that Harry would be alive and Neville dead. But, no matter how much she should have, she couldn't. She couldn't even force herself.
She shook her head. “No, Neville. Don't. Harry wouldn't have wanted that.” I wouldn't have wanted that.
He only stared at her uncertainly, the remorse still in his eyes. She thought perhaps she could see a flicker of something else in his eyes. She thought she could see tears.
“Don't blame yourself, Neville,” she insisted kindly. “It's not your fault. It's no one but the Dark Lord's.”
He didn't seem so sure; perhaps he never would be. But maybe that was all right. Because he could still live on anyways.
They drifted into silence.
“All the leaves will fall in my breast,
It will rain on my soul night and day.”
“Ginny?” His voice was soft and tender, and she could feel him move his hand closer so that it brushed hers on the ground. And she didn't mind, didn't move away, only focused on the way his hand brushed against hers.
“Do you miss him?”
She closed her eyes against the sudden wave of emotions. Such an innocent question and, yet, it was so difficult to answer. But she wanted to answer, she wanted Neville to know. Because he missed Harry too—Harry's friendship and his kindness. Because Neville would understand.
“Yes. And I always will.”
“The snow will burn my heart.
I shall walk with frost and fire and death and snow.”
It was getting dark and the great drop of a sun bobbed on the horizon when Neville finally climbed to his cramped legs. She looked up at him, wanting to ask him to stay. Whether it was wrong or not, his presence had been a comfort. No matter how she cried in the hours past, he had understood, and simply sat beside her, unmovable and solid—the exact comfort that she needed. But she didn't have to speak, for he extended a hand out to her.
“Come with me?”
The offer was innocent and kind, yet she could do nothing but stare at his palm, knowing that is was more than an offer of a hand and a renewed friendship. It was the offer of something more. She knew it then, as she had always known it in one way or another, that Neville cared very much for her. In one way or another, Neville had always loved her, from that moment when he'd danced with her at the Yule Ball, throughout the times he watched her at Hogwarts and with Harry, until now, when he loved her so deeply and so sweetly. She could see it in the way he looked at her and hear it in the way he spoke to her—sweet, understanding, loving. And she didn't mind that he loved her; because, somewhere deep in her heart, she liked being loved again.
But still, she knew not what to think or how to react to his offer, only that she knew, in some part of her heart, she ached to accept. She nearly desired to say goodbye to all the pain and begin a chance at something new with him. She wanted to love again.
But how was it possible, when a piece of her heart would always belong to Harry? How could she possible say goodbye? She couldn't betray him and she couldn't forget him! She wouldn't!
“My feet will want to walk to where you are sleeping, but
I shall stay alive.”
But, maybe--her mind wondered, as it was teased with a touch of hope--saying goodbye wasn't quite what she thought it was. Perhaps it was all right that she would always love Harry. There would always a part of her that missed him—and maybe that was all right too. Perhaps saying goodbye meant simply that, despite how desperately she still needed him, she would live again, smile again, and love again. Never forgetting, but instead, honoring him by being happy. A man who gave his life for love would not despise knowing that there was a bit more love in the world.
As the wind caressed across her cheek, she was sure of it. She could almost hear him in the breeze and feel his gentle touch across her face. He would always be with her; she understood that now. He would always be a part of her. And he was the part of her, right now, that desired for her to live and to take Neville's hand.
But how could she know if she was ready? She knew she was no longer the brilliant, fiery girl who could face everything without a flicker of fear. For, as much as it delighted her, the thought of letting go of the life she had lived with Harry and starting anew, scared her all the more. But then again—perhaps living again wasn't a feeling or even the end of all pain. Perhaps it was a choice, a decision to live life to the fullest. And perhaps she could be strong enough to do it. Perhaps she could be that brave Gryffindor she had once been. Perhaps, because she could nearly hear him, his voice drifting in the wind, telling her he loved her, telling her he understood, and telling her to live again. Perhaps she could do it...for Harry.
With determination and all the bravery a Gryffindor could have, Ginny looked to the tombstone—to Harry—and did the hardest thing she had ever done. She chose to live again.
She turned to Neville, smiled through her tears, and set her hand in his.
DISCLAIMER: Poem is Dead Woman by Pablo Neruda. I have cropped out parts for it to better fit the story, but I claim absolutely no rights.
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