|SIYE Time:4:12 on 17th January 2022|
Category: Alternate Universe
Genres: Angst, Romance
Warnings: Death, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Violence
Summary: Sometimes things don't always work out the way you plan them. Ginny must come to terms with life after the war, even if her life isn't exactly what she thought it'd be. She'll soon realize that all it takes is one little moment to make everything fall into place
Hitcount: Story Total: 69335; Chapter Total: 3366
Well, it's been a long time, but I've finally, FINALLY got an update. These last few chapters have been really difficult to write because of the subject matter, and I apologize for the length of time. Nonetheless, I've updated now and hope to keep this train rolling :) Thank you to everyone who has stuck with me and please continue to review!
Chapter 18: The Funeral
Today was the funeral. This was it.
Ginny appreciated Harry’s desire to go with her now more than ever. While she was glad that she attended the visitation by herself, the funeral would be a lot harder to do alone. This was saying goodbye forever, and only after sitting through a lot of sad eulogies and watching the pain of others crush many other people, while it threatened to do the same to her. Just thinking about today made her feel terribly nauseous. Ginny had done this far, far too many times now.
After a quick breakfast and a long shower, Ginny donned her black skirt and black blouse, which she’d kept hanging neatly on the hook of her closet door since returning home. Taking it off the hanger, she realized how depressing it was that she’d never actually put it away with the rest of her clothes.
Once she was dressed, she sat down at her desk to see to her hair and face. She brushed her hair and pulled it back into a simply ponytail, applying minimal little makeup–just enough to hide the evidence of the poor sleep she’d gotten last night. She’d learned a few months ago that makeup was something to be used sparingly at funerals, no matter how waterproof the package claimed it to be.
As a finishing touch to her outfit, Ginny dug out a bracelet she hadn’t worn in weeks. Jackson had bought it for her when they’d met back at that muggle festival. It had absolutely no value and was sold by an eccentric woman who was trying to turn a profit selling her ugly handmade jewelry. The bracelet was the only half-decent item on display and was made of knotted black string and purple and blue beads. With the eccentric woman eyeing Ginny, Jackson and Annie, all of whom were trying not to rudely comment about the jewelry, Ginny spotted the bracelet and complimented the poor woman. Jackson immediately agreed and purchased the bracelet, making the woman very happy.
Once they were safely away from the booth, Jackson made them pause as he tied the bracelet on Ginny’s wrist.
“It’s a friendship bracelet,” he’d said. “You’ve got to wear this ugly bracelet to prove yourself to us.”
“Are you initiating Ginny into our pathetic group?” laughed Annie, eyeing the bracelet as if she’d rather die than trade jewelry with Ginny.
Jackson grinned at the sight of the bracelet securely attached to Ginny’s wrist. “Yep. I’d make you wear a hideous bracelet, but I know you don’t like me that much.”
“I prove myself by putting up with you all these years,” Annie retorted with a wide smile. “Ginny can prove herself by wearing that thing. I’ve done my part.”
Ginny admired the bracelet, deciding it wasn’t as bad as Annie thought it was. It was kind of cute, in a child-like arts-and-crafts way. “I like it.”
Jackson thumped Ginny on the back and playfully shoved Annie away. “She likes my friendship bracelet. You’re out, she’s in.”
Annie gasped in mock-horror. “Some loyal friend you are!”
“Didn’t you make us friendship bracelets when we were little? You took yours off and now look what’s happened–you’ve been replaced by my new friend Ginny.”
The happy memories from that day made tears well up in Ginny’s eyes as she thought about how good it had felt to hang around such normal and happy people. Right from that moment, Ginny felt comfortable for the first time in nearly a year. For the first time, she forgot that her brother and numerous other people were dead; she forgot that she was missing Harry; she forgot that she was dying to forget how bloody awful it felt to be miserable, confused and tired from the time spent in hiding, fighting and then recovering.
Ginny fumbled with the clasp of the bracelet, wishing she’d thought to wear it more often throughout the summer. Ginny had buried the bracelet after Jackson had flirted with her on the beach in front of Harry. While the bracelet was the butt of a joke and not a romantic-gesture, she didn’t want to have any even slightly romantic ties with Jackson. Ginny wished she’d been less oblivious to Jackson’s feelings so she didn’t have to hurt him. She wished that she’d realized how he felt sooner so they never would have fought–if they hadn’t fought, she wouldn’t have met her friends in the village that day.
Ginny began to cry in earnest and the bracelet slid between her quivering fingers and hit the floor. She bent down to pick it up, hastily wiping away the tears that blurred her vision.
Ginny jumped slightly at the sound of her own name as she stood up with the bracelet in hand, and offered a warm, but watery smile to Harry.
He sighed, looking concerned as he came into her room, dressed in his nicest muggle suit. “Come here,” he murmured, pulling her into his arms.
Ginny hugged him, hating that she was crying even before they got to the church. Taking a deep breath, she kept the hug short and pulled back to kiss him hello.
“Hi. Sorry, I’m already a mess,” Ginny babbled, hurriedly managing to attach her bracelet. Despite her trembling fingers, she managed to get it fastened in record time.
Harry waved off her apology and reached for her hands. “It’s a funeral. This is a sad day. You’re allowed to be sad, Gin.”
Ginny cleared her throat and clucked her tongue impatiently. “You’d think these things would get easier, the more you go to them.”
She dropped his hands and crossed the room to dig out her good black shoes from her closet. Her shoes, at least, she’d stored away.
“Are we meeting Annie at the church?”
Ginny nodded, thinking that despite of all the terrible feelings that would result from today, at least she would get to see Annie. Between having Harry and Annie there, she hoped that today might not be as hard as the visitation was.
“We should getting going,” Ginny said with a glance at the small clock on her bedside table. She wanted to get a good seat and she certainly didn’t want to walk in late. She was sure enough people would already be looking at her once they figured out that she was the girl Jackson died to save. “How are we getting there?”
Harry took her hand and together they walked out of her bedroom. “We’ll apparate. We’ll have to walk a little ways to get to the church, but it’s not far.”
Once downstairs, Ginny peered around for her mother to let her know they were leaving. “Mum?” Ginny called loudly. “Harry and I are going to the funeral!” Her voice shook slightly on the word funeral–this was going to be a very long day.
Hurried footsteps sounded overhead and Ginny and Harry stopped on the stairs to look up. Molly Weasley appeared, leaning over the handrail with a concerned look on her face.
“Alright. And you’ll be apparating straight there?”
Ginny knew that her mother didn’t like the idea of her going back into the village again. It didn’t matter that the visitation was not interrupted by the appearance of any Death Eaters–it probably would never matter again. Her mother had come too close to losing another child to not be concerned. She didn’t blame her mother, though; she’d come close to having lost two.
“I’m taking her by Side-Along, Mrs. Weasley,” Harry interjected in a reassuring voice.
Mrs. Weasley smiled, looking a little grateful, but clearly still worried. “And you both have your wands?”
Ginny knew the question was actually directed at her–as if Harry Potter, the most targeted teenager of the century would walk anywhere without protection. “Yes, Mum.”
She nodded and raised a hand in farewell. “I’ll see you later, dears. Please be careful.”
“We will,” Harry promised.
They walked in silence to the disapparition point of the property and when they stopped at the spot where the charm ended, Ginny closed her eyes and braced herself for the unpleasant feeling of side-along disapparation. Learning at school hadn’t been as uncomfortable as side-along, which always made her stomach church. Luckily, Harry was quicker than her parents were at side-along disapparition. All that Auror-training was really paying off, judging by Harry’s more precise ability to reappear more quickly in another location.
Harry brought them to a forest, with no sign of the church or any other indication of human civilization. Harry wordlessly led her along, obviously aware of where they were in relation to the church. Ginny was glad that she’d chosen black flats, rather than heels.
A thought suddenly occurred to her and she smiled wryly. “Isn’t it going to seem a little strange for us to emerge from the forest?”
“No, we’re coming into the back lot of the church.”
As it turned out, they only had to walk for a few minutes before the church came into plain sight. The church itself looked very old and had no other buildings in the immediate vicinity. There was a very small and old-looking cemetery to the right of the building, surrounded by a wrought iron fence and nearly overrun by long grass and weeds.
The parking lot was already filled with cars, with more cars lining up to pull in off the dirt road. Many people were milling around, some heading inside the church and others standing around to talk to other mourners. Ginny recognized a few people from the visitation, but she was surprised to see just how many teenagers her age were here. It now occurred to her that Jackson was from a very small town and that therefore most of his schoolmates would probably be here.
“Ready?” Harry murmured as they moved across the backyard to the front of the church.
“Yes,” she answered firmly, keeping her eyes firmly ahead of her. She was glad her voice sounded resolute, because she wasn’t entirely she was telling the truth.
Annie emerged from her parents’ car, forgetting the close the door before hurrying toward Ginny. The girls threw their arms around each other and Annie immediately let out a strangled cry of pent-up emotion. Hearing Annie start to cry made Ginny’s eyes fill with tears as she hugged Annie even tighter. It was strange how one moment you felt okay, but the second you faced another person going through the same thing, you felt apart.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Annie whispered in her ear. “I need you.”
“I need you, too,” Ginny whispered back.
They broke apart after a long hug, each hastily wiping up their own tears. Annie spotted Harry and immediately threw herself on him next.
Ginny tried not to laugh at Harry’s look of surprise as he hugged Annie back.
“Hi, Harry. It was nice of you to come today!”
Harry awkwardly patted Annie on the back, glancing at Ginny as if he wanted help. Poor, Harry. He never knew what to do with girls. Ginny supposed she should consider herself lucky that Harry was no longer incredibly awkward with her anymore.
“I wanted to pay my respects,” Harry told Annie, gently releasing her as soon as he could.
Annie smiled sadly and pulled a tissue from her purse. “You’re very sweet.” As she moped up her makeup with shaking fingers, she suddenly froze and then frowned, her eyes narrowing as she stared at someone over Harry’s shoulder.
“Oh my god,” Annie whispered.
Both Ginny and Harry looked in the direction that Annie was looking, but Ginny didn’t understand what had upset her. Annie irritably crumpled up her tissue in her hand and folded her arms across her chest with an angry huff.
“Sarah is here,” Annie whispered, still watching the person-in-question. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but it’s just weird…”
Harry looked more confused, but Ginny now understood why Annie was bothered. “Sarah? As in Jackson’s old girlfriend?”
Annie sighed, looking more and more upset as the seconds ticked by. She nodded curtly. “As in the bitch who broke his heart and took off without a word? The one who hasn’t shown her face here since before dumping him in a letter? Yep, that’s her.”
“Which one is she?” Ginny asked curiously. She’d always wondered about Sarah; who she was and what she looked like. Over the summer, both Annie and Jackson would hint at how bad that breakup had been for Jackson, but they never explicitly spoke about Sarah. It was clear that the topic of Sarah was still a very painful topic for Jackson.
“The one with the purple sweater,” Annie said tartly, still glaring.
The girl in the purple sweater was standing with two older people who were likely her parents. She stood clutching her purse, her expression grim and her head bowed slightly. She had short, shoulder-length dark hair and olive skin. She wasn’t overly pretty, but she was tall, slender and wore a pretty black dress that emphasized her long legs.
“I hate that I hate that she’s here!” Annie moaned. “She should be here! It’s just weird… I’m still angry at her for how she broke up with Jackson. And it’s really weird that no one has seen her before today! I wonder who told her about what happened…”
“Did you get along with her?” Harry asked, sounding mildly interested in the drama.
Some of Annie’s anger faded and her shoulders slumped at Harry’s question. She hesitated, looking thoughtful, before answering him. “We were good friends until things started to get serious between Sarah and Jackson– I let them have space, you know? Our friendship got put on the backburner as she and Jackson got closer.”
“That must have been hard,” Harry murmured sympathetically.
Annie nodded sadly, her eyes locked on where Sarah stood. “It was. Especially since she told me that she was leaving before she told Jackson. She asked me to tell him–She asked me to do her a favour by telling him she was leaving. I got mad at her and told her I couldn’t. I pointed out that she and I had barely spoken in months and that she had no right to ask me to do that.” Annie sighed heavily. “She left anyway. Jackson got a letter from her a few weeks later, telling him what neither Sarah or I could. I felt terrible…”
Ginny stared at Annie, trying to process this information. She glanced at Harry who held the same look of sympathy for both Annie and for Jackson. Before either of them could think of a response, Annie put on a brave smile and excused herself to go say hello to some friends that had just arrived.
“Wow,” Harry muttered. “No wonder things got weird between you and Jackson at the bar that night.”
“I guess you never really know what someone’s been through,” Ginny murmured, now realizing that all of them had been through hard times and that they all had secrets–it wasn’t just Ginny who was hiding a part of herself. Both Annie and Jackson carried a lot of resentment and hurt feelings over what Sarah had done.
“We should go find seats,” Harry suggested gently, changing the subject. “The funeral will be starting soon.”
“Yeah,” Ginny agreed, turning her attention back to what she was here for. “Let’s go.”
As it turned out, the church was nearly full when she and Harry walked through the doors. They sat in a pew near the back, at the end a row of teenagers who looked about their age. Ginny looked around, pleased to see that so many people were here to pay respects and honour his memory.
The funeral service was led by an elderly reverend who had a deep, moving voice. Ginny hadn’t been raised in a Christian household, but the way this man spoke was really awe-inspiring. He led his sermon and then stepped aside so that members of Jackson’s family could speak.
It was at this point that many members of the congregation started to weep, Ginny included. Harry kept a stoic expression throughout all the heartbreaking eulogies about Jackson, but the times that Ginny glanced at him, she sensed he was reliving the anguish and loss he had experienced after losing so many other people in his life.
To his Ginny’s surprise, Annie was one of the last speakers, and one of only two non-family members to speak, the other being Jackson’s long-time rugby coach and teacher. Ginny braced herself for what she knew would be an emotional eulogy. Annie was clearly having a hard time controlling her emotions as she gripped the sides of the podium, her hands quivering as she collected herself to speak about her best friend.
“Jackson and I have been best friends since we were little,” she began softly, keeping her eyes on her notes. “And in my whoe life, I have never known anyone who is kinder, or as good of a friend as Jackson. Jackson always put his friends first; there was never any question of his priorities. He was loyal, and honest; brave, and the best friend I could ever ask for.”
“I will never forget my friend, my brother and the bravest guy I’ve ever met. In his last minutes on this earth, I will never forget the look of determination on his face, despite how hopeless we were, despite how dangerous it was.”
Ginny felt her chest tighten as Annie slowly raised her tear-filled eyes and found Ginny in the audience. She sharply inhaled, begging herself not to cry as others turned to look at Ginny. Beside her, Harry’s hand clasped hers, giving her the strength to exhale and keep it together.
Annie continued, “He died to save my friend and me. He gave his life to protect us, and he didn’t hesitate before he stepped in front of my friend, or when he shielded me, or when he tried to keep me from being taken. I wished I could have stopped him, I wish I could have done something to save him, but when I think about all the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys,’ I realized something when I think about that look of sheer will to make good win over evil: I realized that there was no stopping him. Jackson would always have chosen to put his friends first. That’s who he was, and as much as I hate that he’s gone, I realize that the reason he’s gone is the reason that I loved him so very much.”
Tears clouded Ginny’s vision and she lowered her head, tear drops falling onto her lap. Harry squeezed her hand even tighter and pulled their clasped hands onto his knee.
“Jackson, I miss you, I will always miss you. Thank you for being there in good times and bad; thank you for making every day an adventure. Thank you for being the person that I will forever look up to. You will always be my hero and my best friend.”
The small chamber choir began to sing a beautiful song as Annie stepped away from the pulpit and was embraced by Jackson’s parents. Several men moved up to the front of the church and each took hold of one of the golden rails of the coffin. The reverend came forward and gently closed the lid over Jackson’s still form. He began a final prayer over the choir and everyone bowed their heads. In one fluid motion, the men lifted the coffin and carried Jackson slowly down the aisle.
Everyone in the church stood up and watched as the coffin was carried away. As it passed her, Ginny’s knees shook slightly as a sob overcame her. Harry’s arm encircled her waist and steadied her. The moment the coffin disappeared out the doors, Ginny turned into Harry’s arms and cried on his shoulder, no longer able to hold her heart in check.
“It’s okay,” he murmured. “It’ll be okay.”
She already knew it would be okay, but it was still wonderful to hear him say it. If Harry could come through the worst, so could she; this was what she kept telling herself. Ginny’s cries eased up after a few minutes and as she took her final calming breath, she realized she felt a bit better. She still felt a horrible gaping hole where she’d lost Jackson, but after the visitation and the funeral today, there was a new ray of hope for a future; one where people were free of Voldemort.
Ginny wiped up her tears and silently followed Harry and the rest of the crowd out of the church. Outside, the coffin was just being loaded into a black vehicle and Jackson’s family had moved to the road, standing so close they were all touching, forming a semi-circle around the car.
“This will be the last one,” Harry said confidently, wrapping an arm around her waist reassuringly.
Ginny glanced up at the grey sky overhead, glad that the rain had held off for today. Funerals were even worse when it was raining.
“Yes,” she agreed, only managing to sound half as sure as he did. “Let’s go find Annie.”
Harry nodded and gestured toward Jackson’s family. “I think she’s probably by the car.”
Harry and Ginny hadn’t gone five steps before someone tapped Ginny on the shoulder. They turned and Ginny found herself face to face with none other than Sarah, Jackson’s ex-girlfriend. They stared at each for a long, awkward moment before Sarah offered a small, uncertain smile of greeting.
“Hello,” she said in a soft voice.
Ginny was really unsure of what to do or say. She’d been curious about Sarah, but she’d never expected Sarah to seek her out. Why had she come to talk to her?
“You’re Ginny?” She asked in the same soft voice, tucking her hair behind her ears. Ginny thought she seemed like a very timid person, which was not at all what Ginny had imagined an ex-girlfriend of Jackson’s to be. She’d always pictured Jackson to be with an outgoing, happy-go-lucky type of girl.
“Yes. You’re Sarah, right?”
Sarah’s eyes widened slightly. “Oh, you recognize me?”
“Annie and Jackson have mentioned you.” Speaking of Annie, would Annie be upset at Ginny’s talking to Sarah? Somehow, she didn’t think her friend would be thrilled at this meeting.
Sarah looked between Harry and Ginny, her cheeks turning scarlet. “Oh. Well, I just wanted to come over and tell you I think you’re very brave. It must have been awful…”
Sarah’s eyes went to Harry again, her gaze lingering on him for a few seconds longer than Ginny liked any girl looking at her boyfriend. Pathetic jealously bubbled over her sadness and over her unease. Sarah seemed to realize that she was staring and she moved her gaze back to Ginny, her cheeks still a bright cherry red.
Sarah took a small step closer and glanced over her shoulder, her expression uneasy. Ginny took a tiny step back out of discomfort and habit. She didn’t see Sarah as a threat, but she didn’t like any stranger so close to her–it limited one’s ability to pull out one’s wand for defense. A sad, but true fact of the world they lived in today.
“Thank you,” Ginny replied a bit stiffly. Sarah’s eyes turn again to Harry. Why did she keep looking at Harry? One look at Harry made it clear to Ginny that he was just as uncomfortable with this as Ginny felt.
Sarah hesitated, starting to appear more uncomfortable as the seconds ticked by. “I saw the village not long after– I still cannot believe all the damage. It must have been terrifying to be in the café when the window exploded. I still can’t believe they blew up the café, and two other businesses! And what curse did they use on you that cracked the street open?” Sarah babbled anxiously. “It’s a miracle that more people weren’t killed.”
Ginny opened her mouth to reply that it was actually her curse that cracked the street open, but then she realized what Sarah said. Her mouth snapped closed in shock and she stared at Sarah, unable to believe her ears. Curse? No… there was no way that Sarah could be a witch…
“I knew you looked familiar!” Harry exclaimed suddenly, startling Ginny.
A ghost of a sad smile flicked across Sarah’s face before she nodded once, peering around anxiously as if looking for any eavesdroppers.
“You go to Hogwarts?!” Ginny demanded in a sharp whisper. She stared at Sarah, trying to place her in her memory of Hogwarts students, but came up blank.
“I’m in Hufflepuff,” Sarah explained quickly. “I’m a year younger than you. I didn’t go last year, though. My parents pulled me out of school because of the war and we went into hiding.”
Ginny’s head was spinning as she realized what this meant. Annie was still angry with Sarah who’d abruptly left last year, which Ginny now realized was because of the war; a war which muggles were oblivious about. Jackson had had his heart broken and he would never have known that it was because of the same secret that Ginny had kept: a secret about a world that Jackson had no part of.
Jackson had the worst luck in girls…
Harry obviously wasn’t as interested in the way Sarah’s secret had affected the social dynamics between her friends. Instead, he was more shocked that Sarah could be a witch who spent part of her life here in the village. “I didn’t know there were more wizarding families living around here.”
“My dad is a muggle and he lives here. I spent my time between here and London since my parents are divorced. Because of the Floo network, no one ever realized how often I wasn’t here in the summer. It was easy to go back and forth between houses whenever I waned.”
“I can’t believe I don’t recognize you,” Ginny murmured in disbelief.
Sarah shrugged. “We ran in different social circles. I don’t play Quidditch and we’re in different houses and different years… it happens.”
“So Jackson never knew about you,” Harry summed up, looking sympathetic.
Tears welled up in Sarah’s eyes as she shook her head slowly. “Sorry if this is weird, but I recognized you and Harry, and I needed to talk to someone who knows. Listening to all these lies about how it happened and why… listening to people talk about how much it hurts and how they don’t understand why it happened… it makes me sick! I just can’t listen to it anymore.”
“I know,” Ginny whispered, truly understanding how Sarah felt about keeping the truth hidden from the people they loved most.
Sarah sighed miserably before adding, “That’s why I broke it off with Jackson.” And suddenly, Sarah was crying, making Ginny felt terrible and even more uncomfortable. She didn’t know Sarah well enough to just hug her, as much as she wanted to do just that
What were the odds that Jackson had met two girls who had decided that they couldn’t be with him because he was a muggle? After Ginny had basically doing the same thing to Jackson this summer, she now understood why Sarah had abruptly ended things and left Jackson alone, confused and hurt. It was too dangerous to be associated with muggles… her association had gotten her friends attacked in the village, while Sarah had left before it could happen.
“I made a mistake,” Sarah was sobbing. “I was scared–I didn’t think he would accept me for who I am, but I couldn’t lie anymore! I didn’t have time to tell him the truth and I wouldn’t be allowed to tell him anyway unless we were planning on getting married. As much as I wanted to be with him, I wasn’t sure marriage was ever in the cards, the way my life was going. Then the war started and I had to leave. I didn’t have time to figure out how to lie, how to let him down gently. I just knew I had to leave and cut off all connection with him. I didn’t want to put him at risk by associating with me.”
Jackson–poor Jackson. Left broken hearted because of a reason he would never have heard from her. “You were just trying to protect him, Sarah… you did the right thing.”
“Yes,” Sarah whispered, peering around nervously again. “I also altered his memory of me–I know I shouldn’t of, but Jackson was so determined to go after what he wanted. I was scared that he’d come after me if he didn’t believe I was done with him. I was lucky I did it before the Ministry fell–they were so busy and paranoid with other things, that they didn’t notice my underage magic.”
“That was a very brave thing you did,” Harry told her sincerely.
Sarah shrugged, unwilling to accept the compliment. “Listen, I heard you’re friends with Annie. I know she must hate me and I’m sure she hasn’t painted a pretty picture about me, but I swear, I never wanted to hurt him. I need someone to know that. Everyone my age gives me these dirty looks– they know I broke his heart before he died. They know I really hurt him, and they know I never got to make it right.” She looked at Ginny desperately. “You’ve got to believe I never wanted to hurt him.”
Sarah looked so tortured and desperate, even after Ginny swore she believed her. Sarah just kept on talking, as if she didn’t hear her.
“I heard what happened in the Daily Prophet. I just came over you to tell you thank you for fighting for him. I loved him, and I’m glad he had a friend like you to protect him. Some people might have just run when the Death Eaters showed up, especially after what happened at Hogwarts. And yet, you stayed. You fought, and you nearly got yourself killed.”
“He was my friend,” Ginny whispered fiercely. “I’d never have left Jackson and Annie. I just wish I could have done something to save him.”
Harry’s expression turned very serious as he touched her arm to get her attention. “Ginny, you were hurt–the Healers are surprised you were still conscious when we got there.”
Sarah gave a watery smile for a moment and then said, “A friend of my mum’s is a Healer. Apparently you’re a hero in their eyes–they still talk about how you still fought, even when it should not have been physically possible.”
Harry nodded, pleased that he had Sarah’s support on this. He looked at Ginny in a way that made his gratefulness apparent. “I’m grateful to him, for saving Ginny when I couldn’t. I nearly lost her…”
Sarah looked between Harry and Ginny and smiled again, this time more sincerely. “You’re very lucky to have each other. I’m happy you guys made it through so you could be together–I always thought you deserved someone strong like Ginny to make you happy, Harry. All those girls who loved you for being famous… they don’t deserve you.”
Harry seemed embarrassed by Sarah’s sincerity and Ginny fought a smile over his discomfort. She agreed whole-heartedly with Sarah, and despite the mood, seeing Harry’s discomfort over a compliment was always a little amusing. Poor guy…
There was a long moment of silence before Sarah cleared her throat and looked around again.
“Anyway, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make today any worse… I just needed to talk to someone who would understand. As much as I wanted to come back here, I hate that no one here really understands. I hate that they look at me like I’m this heartbreaker…” She shook her head sadly and then her eyes flicked from Harry to Ginny. “I should have stayed or come back sooner… I should have been here. I could have helped you, Ginny…”
Ginny bit her lip, unsure how to really make Sarah feel better when deep down, she was asking so many of the same ‘what if’ questions herself. “You don’t know you would have gotten here any faster than my friend Hermione, or Harry and the Aurors. It’s not worth beating yourself up over…”
“Ginny!” Annie appeared suddenly, startling Harry, Ginny and Sarah. Annie came closer, eyeing Sarah in a slightly suspicious fashion. Ginny watched as Sarah’s shoulders slumped in defeat, already sensing Annie’s disapproval and dislike.
“Hi, Sarah,” Annie greeted awkwardly. Ginny was grateful that Annie was not the type of person to be mean to anyone without a direct cause, otherwise this moment would be way worse.
She badly wanted to make Annie be nice, but she knew that there was no way to explain why it was necessary for Sarah to leave like she did. Sarah’s lower lip quivered like she was about to start crying again, but she managed to hold it together.
“Hi, Annie,” Sarah returned softly. “I’d better go. It was nice meeting you, Ginny. And you, Harry, it was really nice meeting you.” Translation: like most people, she was very happy to meet Harry Potter. “Maybe I’ll see you around…”
“Nice meeting you,” Harry replied politely, but Sarah was already quickly walking away and likely didn’t hear him.
“What was she talking to you for?” Annie asked incredulously. “She wasn’t being mean, was she? I wouldn’t be surprised if she found out that Jackson had a little thing for you and was coming over to size you up, or something.”
Harry tensed slightly at that comment and beat Ginny to reassuring Annie about Sarah’s motives. “She was just being friendly,” Harry supplied calmly.
Annie looked skeptical for a moment, but then lost interest. This was probably because of the daggers Ginny was staring at Annie for bringing up Jackson’s crush in front of Harry.
Annie glanced at her watch and then back at Ginny. “I was wondering if you wanted to come with me to where it happened? I wanted to leave flowers and just... be there. It just feels more personal than being at the church.”
At first, the idea of returning into the village was not a pleasant one, but then Ginny thought that maybe she needed to go back there as much as she’d needed to come to the funeral today.
“Sure,” Ginny agreed slowly, reminding herself that she had her wand, and moreover, the danger had past.
Harry released her gently. “How about you two go, Ginny? It might be good to get closure…”
“Oh, Harry, you can come, too,” Annie said quickly, looking guilty. “I didn’t mean to exclude you.”
Harry didn’t look upset by the idea of letting Ginny go without him. Instead, he seemed to think it was a really good idea.
“No, I think you two should go.”
Part of Ginny wanted him to stay, but the other part of her was telling her to be brave. Going back to the part of town that had been blown apart by Death Eaters would be hard, but it wouldn’t be nearly as hard as going back to Hogwarts would be, and this was coming up quickly. “I can meet you at your place after,” Ginny told him. “Just don’t tell my mum you left me.”
Harry smiled and kissed her briefly. “I won’t. Just swear you’ll be safe, okay?”
Ginny nodded, squeezing his hands. “I promise. I’ll come straight to your place after.”
Harry nodded, but he was hesitating. “I’ll leave the keys where we came in,” he told Ginny meaningfully. “That way you can come right in.”
It took Ginny a minute to realize that Harry was telling her he was going to leave a portkey that would take her directly to his house. Trying not to laugh at his poor attempt at subtlety, she agreed and kissed him once more before he said goodbye to Annie and walked off.
“He’s a good boyfriend,” Annie remarked when Harry was out of ear-shot. “It’s nice that he worries about you. He obviously really loves you.”
Ginny smiled in spite of the situation, fully appreciating the fact that Harry did worry about her and cared about her very much. There was something about being around death that reminded you how lucky you were to be alive, healthy and happy. “I know. I love him, too.”
Annie bit her lip, suddenly looking guilty. She grasped Ginny’s arm, looking as if she might start crying again. “Listen, I’m really sorry for bringing up that Jackson had a thing for you. I know that neither of you like to think about it… I was just a little riled up by seeing Sarah again.”
“It’s okay, don’t worry about it.”
Annie breathed a sigh of relief. “Good. I don’t want you mad at me, and I wouldn’t want to cause anything weird between you and Harry. You’re much happier than when I first met you.”
Ginny smiled her agreement, getting a final glimpse of Harry’s retreating back before he disappeared around the side of the church. “Anyway, we should get going before it rains.”
“Yeah, good idea,” Annie agreed with a quick look up at the sky. “I’ve got flowers in the car I’d like to leave there, just give me a second.”
“I’ll wait here.”
Annie smiled gratefully and hurried off, winding her way through the crowd. Ginny’s gaze fell on Sarah who was standing with her parents again. Their locked eyes and Ginny offered a friendly smile, raising her hand. Sarah waved back, her eyes sad, and her expression speaking volumes about her pain and guilt.
Ginny marveled at the unpredictability of life and how small the world was. She’d spent a lot of time feeling alone in her guilt and isolation from Annie over the truth about Jackson’s death, never thinking for a moment that someone else could be going through the exact same thing. She didn’t recognize Sarah from school, but their lives had run parallel to each other for a long time. They both lived through the war and although Ginny had the larger reason of Harry, Ginny and Sarah’s secret had cost Jackson pain.
As Sarah turned away, Ginny promised herself that she would seek out Sarah at school. Sarah should not have to suffer alone, especially when their pain was one in the same.
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