A/N: This is the final installment. Remember that this story takes place before Deathly Hallows. Please leave a review!
Chapter Five: The Fire Within
As I entered the sitting room, all eyes turned toward me. I kept my chin up and looked at no one. I knew those remarkable green eyes were looking right at me, but it didn’t matter.
Hermione was behind me, pushing me along towards the empty chair closest to the fireplace. I sat there, gazing into the flames, watching them flicker and dance. They were brave. They danced and they flickered and they did what they wanted. They faced their opponent and always won. Flames were victorious.
I wanted to be the flames, licking at the logs, taking control of the situation at hand.
Everyone around me was going on about his business. Fred and George were discussing something for the shop; Charlie and Ron were still talking about Quidditch. Only one person was silent. Harry.
Feeling the flames power overtake me, I closed my eyes and gathered my strength. This was going to take one hell of a bravery mask. I felt strength begin to take its hold on me.
I looked at Harry, determined not to let my defences down.
What met me was a startling green gaze. His face was lined with regret, and he looked older than I’d ever seen. He’d aged, not with time and years, but with knowledge. He was no longer an innocent boy, but a man, morphed unwillingly by fate.
His eyes held nothing but sorrow and pain. He knew. He knew it was his fault I was out there. He knew he had caused me to bear this mask. We continued to stare—he with his regretful, pleading eyes, and me with my shield of nonchalance and courage.
I finally broke the gaze and turned to the other occupants of the room.
“It’s getting late,” I said, hinting heavily for them to leave.
Hermione, being the intelligent witch that she was, caught on. “Yes, it is. We should all be getting to bed, don’t you think? And Ron, first you’ve got to show me that new chess set you’ve got.”
As Hermione let Ron lead her up the stairs, she shot me a knowing look before adding, “Charlie, did you want the shower before me? I’ll take awhile, so you might as well get the hot water.”
“Thanks,” Charlie said, getting up.
Fred and George, taking the others’ lead, went upstairs, still talking about shop products.
I need to remember to thank Hermione, I thought. She’s a lifesaver.
I turned back to Harry. He was now sitting with his elbows on his knees, holding his head in his hands. His eyes were cast downward, and his emotions shown plainly on his face.
“Do we have to do this right now, Gin?” he asked softly.
He looked back up at me, but his eyes were clouded as though confused.
I turned back to the fire, unable to hold his stare any longer. Courage, my flame, surged through me, and I turned back to him.
“I can’t stand this, Harry.” Even as a whisper, my voice seemed to break the silence that had fallen between us.
“I know, but… but this can’t change.”
“It can, Harry,” I said, bravery coursing through my spirit at high speeds. “You just won’t let it. I don’t understand.”
“You can’t understand, Ginny,” he said loudly. “Don’t you see? No one understands. I’m a part of this more than anyone. This is all happening because of me. Everything that’s going on is my fault. I carry the blame for the entire wizarding world. I can’t handle anything else. I can’t stand hurting you, but it’s easier than watching you be hurt by someone else. At least I have control over my own actions. I can’t control what Voldemort does, Ginny. This is all too much for me.”
I’d never seen Harry openly cry like he was. Even at Dumbledore’s funeral, he’d hidden his pain, but now he was letting tears fall freely. Tiny droplets were falling fast from his emerald eyes, and I could no longer bear it. All pride and courage be damned; there were more vital things than self-importance.
I stood up and walked carefully to him. I stood in front of him and sank to my knees. He desperately clung to me, his tears wetting my still cold dress. I stroked his hair softly.
“Shh. It’s going to be okay,” I whispered, praying I wasn’t wrong.
We sat like that for a long while until he pulled away and looked at me. I had never seen his face so full of sincere emotion.
“I love you, Ginny.” It wasn’t meant to be romantic or tender. It was a promise. A promise that he would be back for me when it was all done.
And it was beautiful.
“I love you, too,” I muttered, and we sealed the vow with a kiss.
That night, after Harry had gone to bed, I doused the still fighting flames because I didn’t need their strength; I had my own. And however much it didn’t seem like it at the time, I had Harry, and I always would.