Author's Note: I own *nuthink*. JKR owns it. Thanks go out to my prebeta Tari and my beta Lhriangel. You would not be reading this if not for them. There's a sequel coming soon, assuming I survive finals.
The sunsets this time of year are always so beautiful. One of the things I'm going to miss when I leave. One of many things I'm going to miss. I can hear footsteps behind me now, coming up the path from the Burrow. Another one of those things I'm going to miss, after tonight. I really should turn around and see who it is, even though I can probably guess. Nobody else would really have the courage to confront me tonight of all nights. And anyway, I don't want to miss a single moment of this sunset. The last English sunset I'll be seeing for a very long time, I think. But then, a voice to match the footsteps, soft and low. Her voice, and just the simple sound of it is enough to drive me mad. She's been crying again, I think, her voice sounds just a little raw around the edges. It brings all of my own pain right to the front again, and the sunset is forgotten.
"You really are leaving."
It wasn't a question, of course. She never did have to question these things, she always just knew. Knew me better than I knew myself, really. Which is part of why I have to leave. I should leave, right now, just…disappear, but I can't. I can't resist her scent, the sight of her, the sound of her voice. I can't…
"You know that I can't stay here, Ginny."
"I know that you think that you can't stay. I also know that you're never going to find whatever it is that you're looking for, out there."
I turn to face her. "How can you know that, when even I don't know what I'm looking for?"
"But then why do you have to leave here, leave us, leave me?" She's almost pleading now, and the little catch in her voice scrapes across my soul. I wince. She notices, of course, and starts to reach out for me. She wants to soothe away the pain, and I wish that she could, but we both know that she can't.
"Because it hurts too much to stay. There's too many memories here, too many reminders."
"You can't run away from the pain, Harry. You can't run away from the people that love you. You can't run away from me."
I turn away from her again because the pain inside me rears up at her words, like a living thing, a beast inside of me. I don't want her to see me cry. Nobody ever gets to see me cry, to see me weak. I learned my lessons well at Hogwarts, and… after Hogwarts. Nobody is ever there to help me; I must always face the world alone.
"I think that you'll find that I can indeed ‘run away,' as you so wrongly put it." The bite in my voice is audible, and I know that she flinches a bit to hear it. Another of those lessons, you see. The best defense is a good offense.
"Don't you dare push me away, Harry Potter."
And now she's angry. Most people are afraid of Ginny when she gets angry. Her Bat-Bogey hex is legendary, and for very good reason. I think I like her better when she's angry, because anger dulls the pain. For those few moments that we shout at each other, it doesn't hurt. For only those few moments.
"I don't dare, do I? How little you know me, then. For all the world knows that I'm fearless Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived. The Man Who Killed Voldemort. Twice savior of the entire wizarding world. The famous Harry Potter. Everyone in the world knows that I'm far too strong and powerful to be scared of the likes of Ginny Weasley."
And now I'm angry. Yet, where Ginny's anger flows outward, towards me and towards the world that made me into what I have become, my own anger only ever flows inward. Anger, hatred, pain, despair…. why did I have to be the Boy Who Lived? Why did Sirius have to die? Why…. I have to stop. If I get started with the whys again, I'll never leave. I have to leave, I have to.
Ginny still hasn't said a word. I've been lost in my thoughts, and she still hasn't said a word. She never quite knows what to say when I get like this, anymore. She used to be able to bring me back; make me snap out of it. Lately she hasn't been able to as much. Or maybe she just got tired of trying. It doesn't happen as often as it used to; I don't often let the demons come out to play. I've gotten so much better at control, over the years. But what she doesn't know is that the demons keep getting stronger. I can't fight them as well anymore. Demons and shadows.
"Harry…" Her voice hesitates. "Harry, please don't leave. I can't fight with you anymore, I haven't the strength."
She's telling the truth; I can hear the weariness in her voice, it's overwhelming. I haven't the strength either, which is why I have to leave.
"I haven't the strength either, Ginny, but I don't know how to make it stop. I don't know how to make the pain and the anger stop. So I have to leave, because there's no reason that we both should suffer this."
"And that's where you're wrong. But I know that you can't see that now."
For a moment I'm tempted to just let her have it. All of it. The pain, the anger, the doubt, the guilt, let her see all of those things that I keep bottled up inside. I'm tempted to show her the darkness that breeds demons in the depths of my soul. She's always been on me to open up and to let her inside. But what she doesn't know in this case might hurt her deeply. Lord only knows how much it hurts me to keep it locked up inside. She thinks that I don't see, but I see all too well. I can see what's inside of me, and I can see how much pain it would cause her if I let it get out. I can't let that happen. I've brought enough pain and darkness down on her already, and I have to spare her from this. Even if it ends up killing me, where so many others have failed.
"I think that I see much clearer than you imagine. Goodbye, Ginny."
I hear her sigh behind me, a sound filled with all the years of longing, frustration and pain that she's gone through on my behalf, and it tears at my heart. She speaks one last time.
"Be well, Harry. May you find the peace you so desperately seek."
Her voice is strong again, so much stronger than I could have imagined after all that we've been through together. For one fleeting instant I truly believe all that she's been telling me in the last few weeks. I truly believe that she really could make all the pain go away and leave me peace. If only I would let her love me; let her help me. If only… But then the demons rear up again with violence renewed and all my hopes are once again dashed.
Peace, I fear, is quite beyond my reach now.
For a quite moment, we both turn and watch the last bits of the sunset vanish over the horizon. I want to remember this moment, as I doubt I shall return here again, so I sit and I watch until the silence begins to be oppressive. I gather what shreds remain of my dignity and my concentration, and I vanish. And Ginny watches me go.