Io: what is the good of life to me? why should I not
quickly dash myself down from this blind precipice
to strike the ground and win a quittance
of all my pains? better at once to die
than suffer torment all the rest of my days.
Prometheus: you would find it hard to bear these trials of mine,
since for me death is not decreed at all.
Death would indeed be a riddance of my suffering.
--Aeschylus, "Prometheus Bound"
Ginny dies on Tuesday. It's the one thing that makes Harry sure they'll lose.
They don't lose.
They find Tonks hanging from a tree, just like Dedalus. Her tree is in a graveyard, a peaceful little place next to a small stone church. The Dark Mark is burned into her flesh, and no charm will remove it. Her mother, last in the Black line, will be the only one to get the news. Briefly, Harry wonders whether Andromeda will contact either of her sisters, for vengeance or otherwise, for this transgression. No one called on Sirius's account; it feels like someone should recognise, sometime, somewhere, that people are attacking their relatives, that Andromeda lost a child to someone one of her sisters know, perhaps a sister herself.
"I don't believe it," Emmaline mutters when Ginny drags her body across the threshold, ropes still hanging off her wrists. "She's still alive."
"After you talked to Rita," Ginny said. "I looked you up in the library."
Harry was busy trying to finish a ten inch scroll for Professor Snape on which poisons worked best at night, which at dawn, and which would only kill if you used them at noon. Why someone would devote such care to creating specific poisons was beyond him, but apparently they had. "That's nice," he said. "Find some nice tidbits to share?"
"Harry." Ginny stared at him, lips pursed. "I didn't do it for that. I just." She shrugged. "I wanted to know what they said about you. Everyone already knows who you are."
"I know that."
"Do you want to know what they said?"
Harry stopped himself from snapping, only just. "not especially." He tilted his head down.
"It was strange," she said. Ginny was curled up in a chair in the Gryffindor common room, knees pressed to her chest to ward off the chill. The two of them were alone in the room, everyone else still in the library, frantic over schoolwork. It was nice, spending quiet time, though Ginny would not have been his first choice of companion. "Most of the books I read had pages and pages and pages - whole chapters - on Voldemort, and the horrors he'd committed." She stared into the fire. "But they barely mentioned you. A few lines, awed lines, but no details."
Harry hadn't ever read anything about himself in history books or Dark Magic books before; he preferred to avoid any of the press surrounding his childhood. Any reminder of the fact that he was destined to turn up a murderer didn't sit well in his stomach; none of the options for his future were things he wanted particularly to dwell on. "They didn't," he said.
Ginny shook her head. "It's really not fair," she told him. "You might not like to think about it, but even though people think you're a hero, they devote more pages to the bad guy."
It felt like they'd been having the same argument ever since.
"Harry, you've got to face facts," and Ginny scowled at him, angry. "I know you don't want to but you're going to have to kill him. Apparently you can, so you have to."
"What do you know about prophesy? What the fuck does something Sybil Trewlawny said twenty years ago have to do with how the future will actually turn out? What difference does it make?"
Ginny stood, eyes narrowed. Her voice was harsh. "Voldemort believes you can kill him. That's one big fucking difference."
The crack of her Apparating jarred his nerves; he wished he could follow her, check there was no one waiting wherever she ended up.
Sometimes Harry wondered if he loved Ginny or not. Other times he knew.
"Hold him steady," Kingsley had said, and started to cauterize the wound. Ginny pressed her hand to Ron's shoulder, getting her fingers covered in blood.
A Muggle physician would have said forget it, there was no hope, the wound was deep enough you could see the bones in his ribcage. All Harry could focus on was Ron, gasping, and getting no air, that thick sound. Something was blocking his windpipe; his right side was crushed. Harry suspected his arm was shattered, radius and ulna both, all the way to the elbow.
A Muggle doctor would have said it was hopeless. Ginny slowly lifted her hand while Kingsley murmured words. The blood magically disappeared, the skin stretched, covering the gaping hole. It was nothing but a bandaid over a crater, like Dumbledore picking up shards of metal while half a locomotive lay smouldering beside the tracks.
"Ginny," Kingsley warned, but she was already up, in pursuit of the faint trail, Apparition signatures still whispering their maker's whereabouts. She wiped her hands on filthy Muggle jeans - they'd been kneeling in the dirt - and popped out of existence.
Harry said, "she'll be fine."
Kingsley looked dubious, but then Kingsley didn't know Ginny. Ron's eyes were already glassy. George, at least, had died quick. They'd managed to save the train.
"You and I," Remus said, "are too much alike."
"Maybe," Harry shrugged. "Bar stool?"
Remus pulled a stool next to Harry and the wizard behind the counter set a foaming mug in front of Remus. "I never was a beer drinker," he told Harry wryly. "So what's she done now?"
Harry didn't deny the suggestion, didn't even try to dissemble; Remus would know he was lying. "Someone my godfather didn't like very much at all set us up to cover his own arse. Clever, I suppose," Harry said, not a little bitterly. "He nearly gets us killed and deals with a nice annoying problem all at once."
Draco had lived for six days without food or water; Dumbledore had given him over to the authorities after then. Remus stared at his beer. "What did she do?"
Harry answered, "what I couldn't."
"Ah. Your godfather," Remus muttered, "learned to do the same thing. What needed," and he stretched out his words, "to be done. Either you will, or you'll rely on Ginny."
Harry really didn't feel like talking about Ginny, about one crime perpetrated to prevent another. "He did deserve it," Harry said. "It would just be easier if I could just," and then, what? Harry didn't know what he could do, what he would if pressed. He'd tried to kill Avery last year after he took out those tourists in Kent.
Remus shoved his drink away. "Maybe without Ginny you would." He put a sickle on the bar, and left. The coin glinted in the dingy pub. Harry didn't touch it.
Molly and Ginny fought all the time; hardly a week went by when they weren't drawn into some argument or another. Often they escalated into near-war. When George was still living at Grimmauld Place - that's how Molly used to refer to them all, as if they'd simply changed addresses - he'd diffuse the situation as best he could. After he was gone, not even Fred had the energy.
In one fight, Ginny had carelessly dropped the comment, "and don't tell me you wouldn't kill the Death Eaters that killed Dad."
Molly went white, and she'd shrunk in her chair. Her voice was a reedy screech. "You know who you sound like? Bartimus Crouch. Crouch!"
Ginny had got up to leave, and told her mother calmly, "you're the kind of person that means we're going to lose."
When Harry was a very small child, he would have given anything for a friend. Someone who would play with him, and like him, and generally not treat him like a complete and utter outcast, as if he had some kind of infectious disease. When he found out he was a wizard, he'd counted it as the best day of his life.
Exactly six seconds after Ginny pulled Tonks down a dozen hooded figures appeared not ten feet away from them. Emmaline went down quick, just like they always did. Harry realized too late it was a set-up; in the back of the mass was Voldemort, standing tall and smiling, face nothing but a hazy mirage.
"Go!" Ginny screamed, and ducked as a green spell narrowly missed her head. She countered with something low and gutteral, more a grunt than a spell, some raw thing from the stomach. "I'll hold them off!"
"No way." Harry chanced to peer out, gauging where the Death Eaters were positioned. A Muggle church; nothing was out of bounds. "I'm not leaving you."
"Harry, in the time we've taken to have this conversation, you could have come back with help." Ginny sent another curse, this time the Crucatius, straight at one of their hoods; they just narrowly moved. She turned to Harry, and said, "go."
Finding out he had a destiny served to make sure that no matter what Harry did, he was guaranteed a place in the footnotes of history. He would live forever.
"At least, it feels like it." Another pub, back when they had the luxury of nights off. Before Kingsley and Tonks were gone. "I'm never going to die. You know who Harry Potter is, don't you?"
The girl serving his back table nodded vigorously. "Oh, of course." She went red, smiled shyly, and bustled away with their empty pitcher.
"She fancies you," Ginny told him, grinning.
"She knew everything about me before I even set foot in this place."
"She didn't know everything," Ginny protested. "Anyway. I think you take this martyr complex too far, Harry." She railroaded right over his fury. "In a hundred years, after you've killed Voldemort, no one will remember you at all. You'll be completely forgotten."
Harry knew it was probably true; when they'd studied the Dark wizards in school, it was always their terrible misdeeds, never the ones that ultimately defeated them. "I don't know whether that makes me feel better or not."
"It should." Ginny leaned back, stretched her arms over her head. A strip of pale stomach was visible where her shirt rode up. "I take great comfort in the inevitable anonymousness of death."
"You would." Harry watched her scratch the pale strip. Ginny's fingers ran along her waistband, slow, lazy. Harry looked away. "Could you do it?"
Ginny looked surprised. "Sure."
Being a wizard turned out to be less fun than it first appeared. Less than twenty four hours after Hagrid came to get him, he became a celebrity, a marked individual. What a stupid thing for people to revere you for; anyone could keep breathing.
Hermione coughs up blood; Remus already gripping her wrist, released from Azkaban for no reason at all, no trial, nothing. There's another shrill cry, someone else unable to duck quickly enough. Everywhere is a flash of spells rebounding off each other.
Harry Apparates right to Voldemort, leaving the rest of the Aurors and Order he could scramble to chase ghosts in hoods. He leaves Ginny out in the open a second too long. Perhaps if he'd been paying more attention - but no. Probably not. There's a wet, rasping sound, and then Harry sees Ginny hit the cobblestone.
When Ginny dies it should be a big deal, but instead it's like this: one minute she was standing, facing down two Dementors and Rabastan Lestrange, and the next Harry sees her wilt to the pavement, hair falling into a mud puddle. They catch everyone - luck, anger, fear. Harry feels nothing, not the mist rolling up from the river now that it's twilight, not the mud splattered on his robes.
Ginny's skin is faintly green, and her eyes are still open. Harry looks at her, looks her right in the face, but can't say what kind of expression she wears. He decides to tell Molly that Ginny looked surprised. Carefully, he closes her eyes, and a knot of pain forms under his breastbone, squeezing his ribs together.
But only for a minute. He looks down at her, at her hair, hanging in a puddle, and then roots around in the gutter. A tin can to become a port key; as he gets ready to port out of the graveyard, he finally grabs Ginny, fingers meeting easily around her skinny wrist.
Prometheus: O holy mother mine,
O sky that circling brings the light to all,
you see me, how I suffer, how unjustly.
--last line, "Prometheus Bound"