Several months later
"Harry?" Kenshin called quietly, opening the door to the fifth year's common room. He saw Harry's still form sitting on the edge of his four-poster, a bit of crumpled paper in one hand and a smooth, flat mirror in the other that he was leaning over closely. Harry raised his bowed head slightly before quickly tossing the mirror into his trunk.
"What?" he said. He was trying to sound tough, but Kenshin could hear a noticeable waver in his voice.
Kenshin closed the door behind him.
"Hagrid told me that you might need somebody to talk to. He was worried."
Harry didn't answer. His swirling, battling emotions were so strong Kenshin could almost feel them in the air, see them hanging over the young wizard like a black, suffocating cloud.
Kenshin felt slightly awkward. He wasn't very practiced in comforting people, and this situation in particular was a delicate one.
"Harry." He said finally. "You can't beat yourself up over this…Sirius, like all of those in the Order, chose to fight knowing the risks, and knowing the possible consequences that could come from-"
"You sound just like Dumbledore." Harry said sullenly. "I'd rather not hear another lecture about how he was just asking for it."
Kenshin gave him a concerned look.
Not good. He thought. I don't think he wants to listen to anything I have to say.
Kenshin sighed and sat down on the opposite edge of the bed, his back facing Harry's. "What I'm trying to say is that everyone makes mistakes." He said. "Logic isn't foolproof, especially when love gets in the way." He paused, shifted slightly, then said in a soft voice, "I was married, once."
"What?" Harry looked at Kenshin, who did not move. He was slightly puzzled at the abrupt and seemingly random change in topic, but the statement had fulfilled its intention- he was distracted from his own thoughts for a moment. "You were married?"
"Yes. A few years ago. It was the best thing that had ever happened to me- to find someone who loved me despite who I was, someone who could enfold one of my bloodstained hands within her own and make me feel human again. Our happiness could not last, however. One day she vanished. She was labeled as a traitor, and I was ordered to follow her and kill her once she was found."
The black cloud came swirling back in a rush, filling the room with heavy, dead air.
Kenshin shook his head. "It's complicated, but the man who gave me those orders was the actual traitor. Maybe I could have tried to verify what he said, but I was too intent on her. I followed her. I don't think I know what I planned to do exactly. I know I didn't want to kill her. But I did want to know what was happening. As I traced her footsteps up the mountain, I ended up walking right into a trap. A group of ninjas attacked me, using set bombs to impair my senses and using any means necessary to wear me down. As I faced my last opponent, I was only half-conscious, and when I dealt the finishing blow, too late I saw that my wife had jumped in front of my opponent to protect me. With that strike, they both died."
Silence reigned for a moment. Harry was good and depressed again now.
"I would never call Sirius a fool, Harry." Kenshin said. "Dumbledore may look on Sirius' actions as the rashness of youth, but then, he is old and wise. I am neither, and I say that he did just what I would have done. There were few people who were as close to him as you were, Harry. You both were driven by the terrible fear…of losing something that you didn't even realize was so valuable. Love is what made you fall into that trap, yet, in the end, it is what saved you."
"…I know. Dumbledore told me. Voldemort couldn't possess me even though I wasn't able to keep him out with Occlumency."
Kenshin turned to smile at Harry. He seemed happy all of a sudden.
"That's how it was for me, too." He said. "Love saved me as completely as it had brought me loss. The dead don't seek revenge, only the happiness of those left alive. I am certain of that now, after all these years."
Harry stood up and started piling things into his trunk.
"Did Dumbledore tell you everything?" he said conversationally.
"No." Kenshin said with a solemn shake of his head. "Even if he would have, it's not my place to become too involved with what's going on here. I'm going home soon." He added offhandedly.
Harry paused in his work to look up. "What? Why? I thought you were still helping out with the Order."
"I am to escort you and your friends to the train station, just as I rode with you on the train to here." Kenshin said. "But that will be my last duty. I am pleased that I was able to disappear so thoroughly, but now I think I am ready to go back and help rebuild. I've found the strength that it will take to do so." He stood and gave a brief bow. "Excuse me. I'm to sit with the staff at the feast." He then turned and left the dorm, leaving Harry alone with his swirling emotions.
Harry sighed and knelt to clamp his trunk shut. He sat for a moment with his hands resting on the top, eyes boring a hole through its surface.
"The man who gave me those orders was the actual traitor. Maybe I could have tried to verify what he said, but…"
Harry's hands clenched into fists, tears stinging at the corners of his eyes. He now knew the answer to the question he'd asked himself what felt like an eternity ago.
The only thing worse than seeing someone being killed in front of you…was being the one responsible for it.
Kenshin turned his head to see Hermione, Ron, and Neville standing at the door of his compartment.
"How come you're sitting here all alone?" Ron said.
"Well…" Kenshin wanted to say that he felt like it would be best for their little bunch to all be together before their summer started, that he was not a part of their group, but he didn't get the chance. People came piling in, and before he knew it, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville, Ginny, and Luna Lovegood were all squished in there with him.
"Surprise!" Ginny said, holding out a box to Kenshin. "Since you're leaving, we got together some going-away gifts! We even checked on what was okay for you to take back with you."
Kenshin's look of surprise was priceless as he took the box. "A-arigatou."
"Uh oh." Ron said with a grin. "I think we surprised him into forgetting English again."
Kenshin tried again. "Thank you. Everyone. Sessha is grateful, demo-"
"Quit babbling and open the box." Ginny said. "Before you lose it altogether."
Kenshin nodded mutely and opened the box. It contained a drawstring bag for traveling as well as a light blanket, neatly folded. He sat staring at his gift for a moment, completely unaware of what to do or say.
"Here." Ron said. "We all bought you these too." He dropped a white paper bag into Kenshin's lap.
"It's candy." Neville said. "We couldn't put in any Chocolate Frogs- sorry, I know how much you like them but since they move, it wasn't allowed. We had to take everything out of the wrappers, and you have to promise to keep them to yourself."
Kenshin's face went from astonished to beaming in a second. "Of course!"
"Wasn't there another one too?" Harry said.
"I think Hermione has something." Luna said calmly.
Hermione's face flushed as everyone turned to stare at her.
"Well... she said, pulling a lumpy parcel out from behind her. "I made something…I'm not really good with needlework, but Dobby helped, he got the pattern and everything, since the house-elves got your clothes for you…it's a gi."
Kenshin cautiously took the squishy parcel in his hands.
"Open it, Hermione's dying to know if she got it right." Harry said, and indeed, Hermione had the very same look she always got whenever they received their work back in class.
Kenshin smiled. "The consideration is worth a lot in itself. Thank you, Hermione." He tore the paper and pulled the gi out, holding it up. It was stitched tightly and accurately, with obvious care. The lines were precise, and it was made for just his size. Still…
"Kenshin?" Hermione said. "What is it?"
woot! the end! i apologize if it seems abrupt. i realize that there is still much to be done, but, at least for now, this story is over. there are a few new ideas burning holes in my brain that i feel i must write to keep my sanity. this has been my best work so far, and i would like to work on it again someday. this makes my first completed work! yay for not giving up and deleting it! and here's hoping to break 100 on reviews ((crosses fingers))
look out for some FMA work from me in the future. that's what i'll be doing next!