Authors Notes: Originally written for the 4th wave of hpgw_ficafest challenges.
Disclaimer: These characters all belong to the wonderful JK Rowling.
Barely an hour ago, she had been in McGonagall's sunlit office. It had been only sixty-three minutes ago when her world had started to fall apart. She had known it was coming the second the Headmistress had come to her Charms lesson. A callout from a lesson could only mean one thing. She had seen it happen so many times before: a deafening silence filled the room and everyone knew that the war had claimed another life
The words had washed over her as she sat in the large circular room. It was almost as if she was watching the scene from above. Her mouth had dried up as the Headmistress spoke of a Death Eater attack at a dragon reserve in Romania, but her gaze had stayed steadfastly focused out of the window, and her heart had not flickered. It wasn't until Charlie'sname was mentioned that her heart wavered and reality was forced upon her. As soon as the older woman had spoken of her returning to The Burrow, she had found herself automatically rising to her feet.
She needed time alone, first, before she faced her family, or what was left of it. She wanted to think of him alone and ignore the guilt that was starting to creep in. How could she look them all in the eyes, people who where putting their lives on the line and had now made the ultimate sacrifice? Especially while she was learning how to brew Amortentia. It made her whole existence seem utterly worthless.
Tears had welled in her eyes as her side, led by her shoulder, had clattered against the old oak door, flinging it open. Her heart was pounding against her chest as she sprinted down the moving stone stairs. Hair flew in her eyes, obscuring her vision, as she ran aimlessly through the school, looking for an escape. Suddenly, she came to a halt at the Quidditch pitch.
It was somewhere where Charlie had been a hero, just like he was today. Fred and George were not the type of people that where willing to praise anyone lightly, but even they had spoken of Charlie's cult status, uplifting a poor and inexperienced Gryffindor team from the depths of depression with inspiring performances. Although she had never seen him play in anything other than family pick-up matches, she had felt a sense of pride when Angelina Johnson had compared her catch against Ravenclaw in her fourth year to one of her brother's.
She ducked under the boards, the front of her school uniform rubbing against the mud caused by the April rain. She wove her body through the mass of wood supporting the large stand to hide underneath the seats. Resting her back against the old wood, she let the tears she had been fighting to keep under control, flow freely down her face. She allowed the warmth from the tears to run down her cold face, with no intention of making them stop.
No one could see her here, and she didn't have to be strong. When she was alone, there was no need to rely on the front that she showed the world on a daily basis; that everyone was okay, that she was okay. She could unleash her emotions, insecurities, and the pain from the tight hold she kept on them, mourning her big brother without interruption or prying eyes. She could go home and be what people needed her to be. Putting on her mask, she was able to hide those things that hurt her, the things that she did not want anyone to know and go back to the great act she had been performing for six years: the strong, feisty and determined girl who didn't let people hurt her nor did she let them playing with her heart and mind, instead she stayeding in control of her actions.
Looking through the gaps in the seats onto the pitch where Charlie had made such an impact, she felt a lump rise in her throat. Ginny had been told many times that she was so similar to him, but right now, she felt like she hardly knew him. He had left for Hogwarts when she was only three and disappeared to Romania just before her tenth birthday.
She knew his explosive temper matched hers and guessed that it was the reason why he was so good with volatile animals. He could never sit on the sides; Charlie needed to be involved right in the middle of the action, and never would have been able to sit by and watch others suffer, whether it be a baby dragon with a thorn in its foot or the future of the wizarding world.
Charlie may have been christened a Weasley, but he was a Prewett through and through, from his quick temper to his stocky figure and rough hands. His hands were always covered with so many burns and cuts, each of which had a fascinating story that lay beneath it. Stories that were never to be told again, as huge parts of his life remained somewhat of a mystery even to those closest to him. And now, like his uncles before him, he had given his life to protect others. Fighting bravely until the end and refusing to run despite the hopeless nature of his battle, allowing a message to be sent to everyone as he fended off Voldemort's lap dogs: that the last thing they should do is to lie down and die letting evil takeover.
He was worth a million times more than the seven Death Eaters that had outnumbered him.
Ginny hugged her knees close to her chest, partly to provide warmth against the cold wind and partly for support. She could feel her body shaking against the cool air. The cuts on her face from the match against Hufflepuff two weeks ago, were stinging. It felt like these tears were never going to stop but she knew they would have to if she went back to the warmth of the castle. Fighting against the cold, she pulled the ends of her jumper over her numb hands and curled her body into a tighter hold.
She wasn't ready to go back in yet.
Rubbing her arm roughly against her eyes, she caught her tears in the coarse wool, before returning her arm to its protective hold around her legs; it was incredible how people thought that this was for the best--that being at school would shelter her from all the pain. This was supposed to keep her safe from Voldemort's reign. She let out a small and hollow laugh that echoed around the empty stands. So much about being protected from the horrors of war.
Harry had broken up with her and torn her heart in two in the process of leaving without her. It was so much harder than she had ever expected; to live without him in her life after those few glorious months was sheer torture.
Despite her long protests that lasted for hours at a time, her parents had sent her back to Hogwarts, claiming that her return to school was only for her protection. Her mother had insisted that wars were not for children, and she was still an underage witch. Hogwarts offered the relative safety of having the majority of the staff in the Order; a safety which could no longer be guaranteed at The Burrow.
Well, the grand plan hadn't worked, as best made plans tended not to do. She was hurting now more than she had ever done before and the fact that she could do nothing about it hurt just as much as her brother's death. She hated feeling useless and incapable, like a stupid little girl, but that was what she had been reduced to.
"Gin," a soft voice whispered, carrying through the still air.
She turned her head, a blurred vision meeting her eyes. She roughly wiped her eyes with the tips of her thumb and fourth finger. His sparkling green eyes met her brown eyes as he made his way over. He was the person whom she had been longing to see for so long. It had been eight months since she had last seen him, and even longer since they had last spoken. Yet despite that separation and the pain and frustrations it had caused, he was the only person in the world she desired to see.
Wrapping his strong arms around her, her head fell onto his shoulder, and she hid her face in his strong body. He pulled her closer to him and kept a firm hold on her as his hand ran through her hair. She felt so protected, so strong, so safe, and despite everything that had just happened, better than she had done all year. The only wish and need was that she could stay here forever, in these arms. She belonged here, and as if the gods had wanted it, her petite body fitted perfectly against his.
Whether she was in his arms for five seconds or five hours, she didn't know, but she felt a renewed strength as she broke the hug; as though she could face the world. Slowly, she raised her head from his shoulder and looked back into those intense green eyes. As the pairs of eyes interlocked, a small smile graced her lips for the first time in hours, acknowledging his presence and importance to her.
"I came here as soon as I heard," he explained as he offered her hand a small squeeze.
"Thank you," Ginny gulped, bowing her head slightly as she attempted to stop her emotions taking over her voice. "I needed you."
He tipped her head so she was left with no option but to look at him. "No, you didn't." He told her as he offered her a small smile. "Ginny, you're so much stronger than you think. You could have coped, without me."
"Just coped," she explained, her eyes glistening. "Nothing more. I needed to be with someone who loved me and needed nothing in return." The words had left her mouth before she had even thought about them. "Someone who wasn't in mourning; someone who could help me feel a little bit less useless."
"You're not useless," he told her firmly. "You're many, many things; some wonderful, some less so, but the last thing you can be is useless."
"I'm an underage witch, who can't Apparate and sits on the sidelines, watching the people she loves suffer." She looked away out onto the pitch as she spoke. "Everyone says it's for my own protection, but I don't feel much protected now. I feel hurt, but not protected. I can't sit on the sidelines and watch people die, not when I could be doing something."
"I know," he said softly, "I know how you feel. I would be feeling the same if our positions were reversed, desperate to do something. But at the same time, I can't face losing you."
"Neither can I, but I face that reality every day." Her brown eyes met his green ones, and her voice held firm as she spoke. "The thing that makes it bearable is knowing why you are doing it."
"What are you saying?" Harry asked, wanting to make sure he understood exactly what she was saying, as his eyes showed understanding
"I don't want to be protected; I don't want to be kept away from the battles," she told him, a passionate glare in her eyes. "It may mean if I stay here, I'll come out of this war alive and in one piece but I'd never be able to live with myself if I just sit by and watch others fight. Watch others die." She paused to give an impact to her words. "Let me join you."
A look of reluctant understanding filled his eyes as he offered her a small smile. Pulling her closer to him, he kept a firm hold on her, as if he never wanted to let her go. He whispered in her ear, "I'm not the one who's telling your mum."
She laughed. "Well, what she doesn't know can't hurt me. We can just leave in the night and by the time she finds out, we'll be gone."
"So you intend on fighting a war, only to be killed by your mother when you return?"