the illusion he ought to have lost at the age of one: that the shelter of a parent's arms meant that nothing could hurt him. There was no waking from his nightmare, no
comforting whisper in the dark that he was safe really, that it was all in his imagination; the last and greatest of his protectors had died and he was more alone than
he had ever been before.
The little man in black had stopped speaking at last and resumed his seat. Harry waited for somebody else to get to their feet; he expected speeches, probably from the
Minister, but nobody moved.
Then several people screamed. Bright, white flames had erupted around Dumbledore's body and the table upon which it lay: higher and higher they rose, obscuring the
body. White smoke spiralled into the air and made strange shapes: Harry thought, for one heart-stopping moment, that he saw a phoenix fly joyfully into the blue, but
next second the fire had vanished. In its place was a white marble tomb, encasing Dumbledore's body and the table on which he had rested.
There were a few more cries of shock as a shower of arrows soared through the air, but they fell far short of the crowd. It was, Harry knew, the centaurs’ tribute: he
saw them turn tail and disappear back into the cool trees. Likewise the merpeople sank slowly back into the green water and were lost from view.
Harry looked at Ginny, Ron and Hermione: Ron's face was screwed up as though the sunlight was blinding him. Hermione's face was glazed with tears, but Ginny was no
longer crying. She met Harry's gaze with the same hard, blazing look that he had seen when she had hugged him after winning the Quidditch Cup in his absence, and he
knew that at that moment they understood each other perfectly, and that when he told her what he was going to do now, she would not say ‘Be careful', or ‘Don't do
it', but accept his decision, because she would not have expected anything less of him. And so he steeled himself to say what he had known he must say ever since
Dumbledore had died.
“Ginny, listen ...” he said very quietly, as the buzz of conversation grew louder around them and people began to get to their feet. “I can't be involved with you
any more. We've got to stop seeing each other. We can't be together.”
She said, with an oddly twisted smile, “It's for some stupid, noble reason, isn't it?”
“It's been like ... like something out of someone else's life, these last few weeks with you,” said Harry. “But I can't ... we can't ... I've got things to do alone
She did not cry, she simply looked at him.
“Voldemort uses people his enemies are close to. He's already used you as bait once, and that was just because you're my best friend's sister. Think how much danger
you'll be in if we keep this up. He'll know, he'll find out. He'll try and get to me through you.”
“What if I don't care?” said Ginny fiercely.