Harry sank down on to the grass next to Ginny. They sat quietly for a while in a comfortable silence. He could hear her breathing and counted those breaths; it was the sweetest sound he’d heard all day, all that week, perhaps, of her avoiding him.
After several minutes of silence, Harry broke it. “Ginny?” he asked tentatively.
There was a pause. “I’m not mad,” she said quietly, still looking stubbornly ahead.
Harry sighed and picked up a handful of leaves before slowly crumpling them in his hand. “You should be,” he said finally.
Ginny turned her head and looked at him, waiting patiently for him to go on.
“It’s just… I’m an idiot. You were right.” Harry closed his eyes briefly. “But if being an idiot is the only way to keep you safe, if it’s the only way I can – ”
“Don’t,” said Ginny fiercely. “Don’t say that you have to protect me, because you don’t.”
“Please, Harry!” Ginny said sharply. She let out a heaving, shaky breath and after a moment’s pause bluntly said, “Come on. Do you really expect me to just sit on the sidelines while you and Ron and Hermione fight? Do you expect me to just accept all this, go back to school, everything’s sunshine and rainbows? Because I want to, Harry,” she said vehemently. “I want to fight.”
“You can’t – what do you mean, fight?” said Harry, trying – and failing – to sound casual.
Ginny made an angry sound at the back of her throat. “I mean fight! Fight him, fight Voldemort!”
Harry sighed and put his head in his hands. “I can’t let you fight, Ginny,” he told her, his voice muffled.
“I don’t think it’s up to you to make that decision for me!” she said, taking his hands in hers and shaking them angrily.
Harry let out a groan and pulled his hands from her grasp. “Maybe, Ginny,” he said hoarsely, “maybe I don’t like making these decisions any more than you like me carrying them out, but we can’t ignore the fact that Voldemort’s out there and he wants to kill me, and he’d kill you, too, if he thought you were a way to get to me! I’m just saving you from –”
“Harry, this isn’t the Chamber of Secrets, I don’t need you to save me!”
“I wasn’t – ” started Harry desperately.
Ginny glared at him. “Don’t lie to me, Harry. I can always tell.” She pushed herself up and strode swiftly out of the orchard.
Harry stood up and watched her leave, her long red hair dancing behind her. Idiot. That’s what I am. He gave the nearest tree an angry kick.