Disclaimer: None of the people, places, or things surrounding Hogwarts and the Wizarding world are my creation; they belong to J.K. Rowling
Author's Note: I am SO very sorry for the delay in getting this chapter posted! You can blame college for that one. In my defense, however, the project I have been working on is for my Speech class, and it's a persuasive speech attacking the idiots who are trying to ban Harry Potter because "it promotes witchcraft and the occult." There are some real morons out there, let me tell you...and unfortunately, I can't curse them during the speech, else I will fail the class. Sad.
"I'll be there for you
These five words I swear to you
When you breathe, I wanna be the air for you...
I live and I'd die for you
Steal the sun from the sky for you
I'll be there for you" -- Bon Jovi, "I'll Be There For You"
"I Live and I'd Die for You" :
There were many things that scared Harry Potter: Voldemort, of course, and not knowing whether or not he could defeat one of the most powerful wizards in the history of the Wizarding world; the idea of he and Ron ever getting into such a detrimental fight that it ruined their friendship; waking up and realizing that all of his friends, the people who were the closest thing to family that he'd ever had, were gone; Hermione, when she was angry (though he had to confess that those anger spells were usually directed at Ron). Just to name a few...these things scared Harry Potter.
But what terrified Harry, even more than the idea of possibly not coming back from this war alive, was Ginny Weasley giving up on him. Sure, she had just walked away after saying explicitly, "I have never given up on you, Harry," but the most frightening aspect of that was that she had walked away. Harry doubted if Ginny realized what look had been blazing from her eyes at that moment—love (or so he thought), to be sure, but overshadowing the love was hopelessness, a look that Harry took to mean that while she certainly wanted to keep believing in him, she wasn't sure if she could do it anymore. And that thought was more terrifying than any dark wizard and the curses he and his Death Eaters could throw at him. Because without Ginny standing behind him, Harry had to admit that he sometimes had no idea what he was fighting for.
She made things make sense. He realized this now, and only wished that he had understood it sooner. Though she'd only sat with him for less than half an hour, during that time, Harry had so easily come to understand himself, her, the two of them together, and this cause that he'd been fighting for since practically before he'd known he was a wizard. And now here he was, hours away from leaving the Burrow with Ron and Hermione, none of them knowing whether they would see the place that was "home" in so many ways for each one of them ever again.
At the thought of his best friends, Harry glanced around the room he was currently "sleeping" in, Fred and George's old bedroom. Ron had protested when Harry had insisted on staying there, rather than sharing Ron's room like he had done every time before. But he knew that Ron and Hermione – having only recently come to their senses – needed to be together for as long as they could. When he'd told Ron this, his friend's ears had turned bright red, but he'd merely nodded, then taken Hermione's hand, shut the door, and the two hadn't been seen since (not that Harry in any way, shape, or form wanted to know what was going on in Ron's bedroom).
While they were likely spending the last night before the Horcrux hunt at least a little bit contently, Harry was merely putting up a pretense of sleep.
"This is ridiculous," he muttered finally, throwing the thin sheet off his legs and nearly vaulting from the bed. If he knew that he wasn't going to be able to sleep, why bother even pretending?
Trying to be as quiet as possible, he crept over to the door and slowly opened it, wincing at the squeak it made, something that he'd never noticed before, but in the silence of the night, seemed decibels louder than usual.
He looked up and down the hallway, not at all surprised to find it empty. Bill and Fleur were on their honeymoon trip, which had been much protested vocally by Mrs. Weasley ("What do you mean, you're going to go off on holiday during a time like this?!), and mentally by Harry ("If I can't see Bill and Fleur, then I can't know whether Voldemort has gotten to them). Fred and George had retired to their flat about the joke shop after the wedding, and the rest of the Weasley family—and now, Hermione, it appeared—was safe in their own beds.
Or so he thought. Harry's heart jumped into this throat as he made his way down the stairs and came across Ginny sitting on the sofa in the living room. She was resting her head on one hand, her legs curled underneath her, and her other hand, Harry noticed with more than a small pang of longing and regret, was wiping away a tear. Seeing Ginny cry made him want to hurt something, hurt himself, vomit, and cry all at the same time. He didn't like that feeling. But that is exactly why you ended things in the first place, his mind tried to remind him. You don't need a distraction that could get someone else killed!
As hard as it was, Harry turned around, intending to walk back up the stairs and perhaps cast some sort of sleeping charm on himself. When he turned, however, he came face-to-face with a chest. Though at the back of his mind, Harry knew that it was not a Death Eater out to get him, he didn't hesitate to pull out his wand. His hand was shaking, but he was ready.
"Whoa, easy there, Harry. This is a strictly Death Eater-free area."
Charlie. Harry breathed a sigh of relief and lowered his wand. "Sorry," he muttered, glad that it was dark so Charlie couldn't see the blush that crept up his neck.
Charlie merely stared at Harry, his eyebrows drawn together. Harry gulped. He hadn't spent much time with the elder Weasleys over the years, Charlie especially, seeing as he'd been in Romania for much of the time that Harry and Ron had known each other. Charlie cocked his head to the side a bit, then peered over Harry's shoulder. Charlie's gaze shuddered a bit when he undoubtedly noticed Ginny crying quietly on the sofa.
"I'm assuming that has something to do with you."
And just like that, Harry went back to clutching his wand, even though he knew that if Charlie hexed him, he wouldn't fight back; he deserved that punishment and much more. "I—I…yes," he said quietly, bowing his head.
"But you didn't actually do anything, I'm wagering…In your mind, seeing Ginny cry is all part of your plan for success, am I right?"
Harry's head shot up, his eyes blazing with anger, the shame forgotten. "I don't want to see her crying!" he said in a harsh whisper.
Charlie's face relaxed into a smile. "I knew that," he said gleefully. Just as Harry was about to forget that this was someone whom he thought of as an older brother, Charlie slapped him lightly on the back and gestured to the kitchen.
"If we sneak through there and into the yard, she won't notice," he said.
Harry was slightly perplexed that Charlie was going to simply pass over his very obviously sad younger sister in favor of the man who had caused the sadness in the first place. He suddenly wondered if Charlie's teasing was just a front, and the moment they were outside where no one could hear them, he would neatly do away with Harry. Charlie could easily kill him without anyone hearing, then hide his body hours before others would notice him missing.
Forget Voldemort. Nobody messes with the wrath of a Weasley.
Without speaking, Charlie led him to a bench near the back porch. Neither boy sat on it, however, instead sitting on the ground and resting their backs against the legs. Harry was growing more anxious by the moment, but Charlie seemed as relaxed as he would if he had just brought one of his friends outside to talk.
"Look, before you do it, I—I just want to say that I didn't mean to make her…you know," Harry said suddenly, unable to bear the awkward silence any longer.
Charlie turned his head to stare incredulously at Harry. "I know that you didn't mean it," he said slowly, as if speaking to a small child. "I thought we'd established that back there," he added, hitching his thumb towards the house. He paused. "And what'd you mean, 'before you do it?'"
Harry palms started to sweat. "Um, you know…kill me?" he said meekly, wondering if he should at least attempt to put up a fight. He was a good wizard, he knew that much. He could be prepared for a fight, if necessary.
What he wasn't prepared for, however, was Charlie's laughter. Anger, of course. A non-verbal spell that would land him on his backside quicker than he could blink…perhaps. But laughter? Not in a million years. Yet, laughter was what he got. Charlie had his head thrown back and was—dare Harry say— guffawing.
"Erm…" he tried, then gave up for lack of an actual response.
Charlie wiped a stray tear from his eye. He was now holding a hand to his stomach and was panting. "Sorry," he managed after a few moments. "I—it's just that… kill you?! You honestly thought I'd brought you out here to—to kill you!"
Harry's face was now red. He crossed his arms over his chest in a sort-of pout. "Oh, come off it, Harry," Charlie said, his voice now mostly devoid of mirth. "What would make you think I wanted to kill you?"
Harry hesitated. Was this a rhetorical question? Apparently not, as Charlie was looking at him earnestly, obviously expecting an answer. He squirmed under the intense gaze, and was contemplating the idea of Apparating back into the house when Charlie spoke again.
"If you don't tell me, I just might kill you."
Harry's body visibly jerked and his eyes took on a sheen of horror that, once again, caused Charlie to break into laughter. Finally, Harry answered stubbornly. "You lot haven't exactly been supportive of Ginny's other boyfriends," he said through clenched teeth, absently thinking how glad he was that Ron was otherwise occupied and couldn't hear this conversation. Harry imagined that his best friend wouldn't soon let him forget it.
Charlie snorted. "Ginny does what she wants. We're there if necessary, but she's a strong girl." He sighed, stretching his arms above his head. "Besides, it's always been Ron who's been the most protective of her…shouldn't be surprising, really. Those two were really close when they were little, the rest of us off at Hogwarts, Fred and George were already a pair."
Harry smiled without thinking. He could imagine a much younger Ron and Ginny playing together, something that he knew neither sibling would acknowledge now. "Anyway," Charlie continued, " You're Harry Potter." He said this as if it made all the difference in the world.
Though he knew what Charlie had meant by that comment, Harry rolled his eyes and chuckled anyway. "If I had a Knut for every time someone has told me that…" he muttered. Charlie joined his quiet laughter for a moment or two before they fell into silence once more. Charlie cleared his throat and Harry sensed that the conversation was taking a serious turn.
"Look," Charlie began, "I don't know exactly what happened between you two and—"
"I like her," Harry broke in, then immediately wished to take the words back. Charlie's mouth closed abruptly and he looked at Harry with eyebrows raised. "A lot?" Harry finished as a question.
"I gathered that much, yes," Charlie said with a smirk.
Harry sighed, twiddling his thumbs in his lap. It should feel quite strange, he thought at the back of his mind, to be discussing something this personal with someone whom he'd barely ever spoken to. Yet, somehow, that made it all the more less uncomfortable.
"It's just that…I'm Harry Potter," he continued with a deep breath. "I can't just be a—a normal bloke. I'd give anything to be normal, even just for a day. And…and with Ginny, I can do that. I can feel normal. Except I know that I shouldn't. Because I'm not normal. And every minute I spend with her, somewhere in the back of my mind, I'm trying to convince myself that I am. And that's dangerous. For her, for me, for every bloody witch or wizard in the world."
He finished and there was silence. He chanced a look at Charlie, who was staring blankly at him. "And you didn't think that I realized that you really liked her."
Harry glared at him. I'm starting to re-think that bit about not fighting back.
"Sorry. But don't see, Harry? You're not normal, as you've said multiple times. And you're aware that, as happy as Ginny makes you feel, you always will be the 'Boy Who Lived' or the 'Chosen One' or whatnot. So, how can you possibly think that it makes a bit of difference whether or not you two are together?"
"Because he could use her to get to me!" Harry yelled in frustration. Merlin! How many goddamn times do I have to explain this to people?! he thought furiously.
"Just like he could use Ron to get to you? Or Hermione? Or any member of my family? Or any of your other friends or teachers at Hogwarts?" Charlie shook his head in what appeared to be irritated-amazement.
"When you put it that way, Harry, I wonder why the bloody hell you saddled with yourself with—brace yourself for this one— people who care about you in the first place. If you're going to one-by-one eliminate them from your life, why bother having them at all? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, my friend, but this is what it's like having friends."
Harry was speechless. These were things he had thought about, of course. (Especially the bit about his friends at Hogwarts, Hermione, and the Weasleys being in danger.) But never before had anyone so bluntly said exactly what he had been thinking about for months. He realized that this gave him a new and even greater respect for Charlie.
But that doesn't mean I'm going to cave, he thought resolutely, even knowing in his heart that he was going to.
"Ron and Hermione know what they're in for," he murmured, more out of defiance than anything else.
Charlie snorted. "No, they don't. No more so than you do. They've been with you from the very beginning, Harry, because they are your friends. Plain and simple. Anywhere you have to be, anything you have to do, they are going to be there." He paused, as if waiting to make sure this information touched Harry deeply, before continuing.
"And my sister wants to be there for you, too. You've been her hero since before she even knew what the word 'hero' meant."
Hearing Charlie say that reminded Harry of Ginny's earlier words that night. "You are my hero. You always have been, and you always will be." To his surprise and embarrassment, he felt his throat close up and the sting of tears in his eyes. Turning away from Charlie, he took a deep, steadying breath.
"What—what if she...I couldn't bear it...your mum..." He growled in frustration; the emotions were there, nearly bubbling to the surface, but he couldn't find the words to express them.
"It would kill me to see her hurt," he said finally, trying to remain as detached as possible. If he allowed the actual image of Ginny hurt—or worse—to enter his mind...
"But you're hurting her now," came the quiet response. "But more than that, you're hurting yourself. You are leaving in a few hours, and there's no telling when, or if, you'll be back. Do you really want your last memory of her to be the picture of her crying over you on a sofa?"
"No," Harry breathed, with the tone of someone discovering a long-held secret.
"And why not?"
"Because...because I love her."
Charlie grinned at him. "Right you are. And it's a good thing, too. Because if you didn't, I just might have brought you out here with the intent of hexing off something that you two will need later on to bring more Potter-Weasleys into the world."
Just like that, the serious, awestruck moment was gone. Harry nearly swallowed his tongue. Charlie was fairly cackling now, reminding Harry, oddly, of Ginny herself.
"Erm...uh...that is..." he sputtered helplessly.
"You do plan on marrying her, right? After this whole business with You-Know-Who is taken care of?" Charlie asked the question in jest, but Harry detected a note of sincerity.
He took another breath and faced the second eldest Weasley head-on. "Yes," he said firmly.
"And that will only work how?" Charlie prompted.
"If I go to her and apologize for being a world class prick," he responded dutifully. "But I still think I was right in trying to keep her safe."
Charlie laid a comforting hand on Harry's shoulder. "That was never the question, Harry. In many ways, it probably is safer if you and Ginny are apart." Harry opened his mouth to agree emphatically, but Charlie held up a warning hand. "But, I think you need to remember what Dumbledore was always teaching us, for Merlin-knows how long. 'All you need is love,' or some rubbish like that."
It wasn't quite what Dumbledore had said, they both knew, but it was close enough. Harry smiled at Charlie, and quickly the two embraced, then broke apart, a bit embarrassed. Charlie stood and Harry followed. They walked back to the back entrance to the Burrow.
"Charlie?" Harry asked before he could make his way up the stairs.
He turned. "Yeah?"
"Thanks for, you know, not killing me back there."
Charlie grinned. "No problem. Besides, with a Weasley for a life partner, not to mention the whole family you'll inherit, there'll be plenty of years for threats, curses, and the like."
Harry laughed. He couldn't think of anything he would want more.
Other than for Ginny to speak to him without crying.
With that thought, he turned back toward the living room. Ginny was still on the couch. Though she had stopped crying, her face had a look of utter devastation and despair that made Harry wanted to hex himself to just get it over with. She was lying down, now, her hands under her face, and she was staring blankly into the fire roaring before her. It absently struck Harry as odd that she would light a fire during the heat of the summer, but then he recalled her once telling him that she associated fireplaces with the Gryffindor common room, where she often went to be alone and reflect. He hesitated before entering the living room completely. Should he speak to her? Did he know what he wanted to say?
Deciding that words could wait—knowing Ginny, she was already well aware of what Harry was feeling—he strode over to her, ignoring the shocked look that came across her face. Without speaking, he put one arm underneath her knees and the other behind her neck, lifting her gently off the sofa.
"Harry?" she asked in a quiet, yet not entirely unpleasant, voice.
"Shh," he whispered, resting a hand gently over her mouth. He didn't want her to speak, for fear that she would demand that he put her down. This was the absolute last thing he wanted at the moment.
Besides, he figured, if he allowed her to speak, then she would probably expect him to talk with her, and he simply didn't think that he could, not without seeming as he'd gone off his rocker. Instead, he carried Ginny up the stairs and into her empty bedroom. As he laid her down on her bed, she grabbed his arms and held on, a look of diluted panic in her eyes. He answered her silent question by kicking off his shoes and crawling into bed with her. His heart was pounding so loudly he was sure she could hear it. But she didn't seem to mind, crawling towards him and twining her legs through his, her face buried in his neck.
They had been this close before, on the grounds at Hogwarts, but only for brief periods of time and never like this, in a bed, alone, with no interruptions in sight. Not for the first time, Harry was glad that Ginny understood him so well. Anyone else would be demanding to know why, in the middle of a bout of crying, the person whom one was crying over suddenly appears and carts one off to bed. But not Ginny. She had always known him. It had always been her.
"It's always been you," he repeated the words out loud, his mouth nearly touching her ear. "Whatever happens, never forget that." He felt her shiver, and wrapped his arms more securely around her.
He thought she had drifted to sleep until he felt her lips move against his neck. "Harry?" she asked quietly.
"It's always been you. Whatever happens, never forget that."
For that second time that night, Harry was honestly afraid he was going to cry. He didn't deserve her forgiveness, not right away. She should make him grovel for it, make him suffer, make him hurt the way he knew that he'd hurt her. She'd given him so much over the past months...and so much more over the past years, when he'd been too stupid to notice.
"I love you, Gin."
The words were easier to say than he'd anticipated. He was Harry Potter, after all. Every person he'd ever loved and who had loved him back had left him. His parents, Sirius, Dumbledore. That was why he'd been so afraid of saying them to Ginny—if she, too, was taken away from him, he would be more than devastated. And that was a scenario he refused to think about. He wished that he could tell her that...that it wasn't because he didn't love her that he had trouble saying the words, but that it was because he did love her. But somehow, further proof that Ginny was one of the most amazing individuals he had ever met, he knew that she understood that.
Still, his words seemed to shock her. Her body went still against his, though she didn't pull away. She gasped into his throat and in the next moment, Harry felt her trembling. He unwrapped one arm from around her and gently lifted her face to his. She was crying, but also smiling at him to let him know that they were happy tears.
"Oh..." he breathed out, as puzzled by her reaction as he was moved emotionally. Without thinking about it, he leaned over and pressed his lips to her now-closed eyelids, softly stroking her cheek. He rained kisses across her forehead and down her neck, following the trail of tears. He heard that intake of breath again and suddenly realized that she only ever made the sound when they were like this, pressed closely together...safe.
"Harry," she whispered, pressing a hand to his heart. It was racing. She smiled at that.
"Harry, I love you. And—and it's always been you, too. For me. Always."
With that, he finally kissed her soft lips, shocked to the very core at the feel of her again. How had he gone for weeks without her? She seemed to be feeling the same way, moving as close to him as she could. He broke away gently, skimming a hand down the back of her neck, telling her with his eyes that this night was for love, comfort, and the simple joy of being together. She snuggled closer, and soon he felt the pattern of her breathing change to sleep.
...There were many things that scared Harry Potter. Voldemort, until he was finished, would always be one of them. The thought of everything and everyone important in his life being taken away would always be constantly in the back of his mind. However, these were all temporary fears, riding on his ultimate fear—Voldemort. But with Ginny's passion and life to be his guiding light, Harry honestly couldn't think of one good reason why he could possibly fail against the Dark Wizard. Because he had the one, ultimate, strongest thing that Voldemort didn't have.
Love. Ginny lived and would die for it. And, as Ginny represented love, so would Harry.
"I'll be there for you," he whispered to her sleeping form in the darkness. "I will never leave." It was an affirmation for himself, more than anything. But something was different this time. This time, when he told Ginny he wouldn't leave, he meant it.
And that thought would carry him through.