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Whispered Courage


It was suddenly dawning on him that there was nothing left for him to do. He could no longer save these people. Harry and the Weasleys after the battle.

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Chapter 1

The anger would be the worse scar he'd ever bare, he knew it. It cut through him like a knife. But it was easy. Anger was oh so easy, but the problem with anger was that it burned through you until there was nothing left.

The alarm clock that had been in his hand only seconds before smashed into the wall, but it wasn't enough. The small dent it had left, the less than satisfying echo it had made, the has-been pieces scattered on the floor weren't enough for what he felt.

So he repeated the action, only this time with the baseball on Ron's dresser. The hole in the wall was much more satisfying than the dent, but the resulting bang wasn't nearly loud enough. With a cry of frustration he tore the pristine orange sheets from the bed, as if they had personally wronged him.

It would never be enough. The crippling grief told him so.

As Ron's miniature figure of Krum broke into three pieces against the wall, Harry thought of the Weasleys.

The everlasting guilt convinced him to pick up the shattered frame of his two best friends.

His fingers ghosted over the broken fragments, tracing their smiles.

He could almost see them downstairs. Ron and Hermione connected by their hands on the couch looking worriedly into the fire that someone, no doubt Molly, had lit in hopes of brightening up the once warm home again.

Molly seated at the table. She'd probably attempted to get up with each crash only to be stopped each time by Arthur's gentle hand. Arthur would be anxious too, but he'd realize that Harry needed his space. He always gave Harry his space. And when Arthur wasn't keeping Molly from running up to Ron's room, he would be pacing the kitchen instead.

Fleur would be seated on Bill's lap as he rubbed her shoulders in comfort. Charlie, Harry assumed, would be out roaming unable to keep still. Percy and George wouldn't be there. They'd probably still be beside Fred's freshly plotted grave in Godric's Hollow. Harry didn't think they'd be leaving it any time soon either. And Ginny… Ginny was seated right outside of Ron's bedroom, back pressed against the door.

Harry knew this because he could occasionally hear her soft sobs or the occasional family member who would brave going upstairs to plead with their youngest to let Harry be. Each sob, each plea, only broke Harry's heart further.

He couldn't bring himself to ask her to leave either. As selfish as it was, he wanted her there as much as she needed to be there. So he allowed himself this one indulgence.

Barely a week had passed since he had forced himself off Hogwart's grounds, since he last looked into the reassuring face of Remus, had last heard Fred Weasley's laugh. A year since seeing Dumbledore's kindly face. Two years since he had felt the warmth of Sirius' embrace. A lifetime since he had known the love of his parents. Five days since he had allowed himself to be near Ginny. Seven hours since Fred Weasley's burial.

Harry almost wished for the numbness the battle had brought; compared to the whirl wind of emotions that were crushing him in the aftermath. They would return in cycles, each one would hit him harder than the first leaving him breathless.

First there had been the numbness, but that had gone away all too quickly. Once the realization that it was over had passed, and the brief excitement that accompanied it, Harry had been left with nothing but the bitterness of the knowledge that he was now alone.

The last link to his parents, to his family,…was gone.

All that hatred for evil no longer had a place as of now… And Harry had survived all of it, he wasn't supposed to, leaving him with the gut wrenching guilt.

The guilt weighed him down. He couldn't even pinpoint it to one place.

Now though, the guilt that had morphed its way into anger.

His eyes burned with the tears he refused to shed. Tears would only wash it away, and he was too terrified to find that he had nothing left.

All he knew was that he wanted it to end. His anger with the world had no place to go. His anger at life for taking everything he once considered precious away, but somehow he still couldn't justify it. There was nothing to satisfy the burning.

The injustice of it all was maddening. He tortured himself endless with the what if's. If he had gotten there a moment sooner. If he hadn't been so young. If he hadn't wasted time. If he had understood sooner. Which people would still be alive?

As senseless as the what ifs were, they were equally irresistible to Harry.

When it came down to it, he found that he hated himself mostly for being chosen. And for still selfishly asking 'why him'. After all of these years, he couldn't fathom it. Harry recognized that the anger towards himself truly came from the unchangeable notion that he was young. He has always been young. He feels things, he see things, he does things the way any teenager would, but for Harry Potter it was unacceptable.

Everyone understood this too, and that was most unreasonable to Harry. No one blamed him.How could they? He was just a boy, after all. He was not the only Wizard whose youth had been denied to him. Whose life had been irreversibly changed. Just the one caught center stage. All by chance. There is no difference between himself and the Wizarding population caught in a mad man's rise to power.

One would think that the end of the War would have brought relief, but the only thing Harry could see was the heartache it caused.

Ron's room pulsed with heat, suddenly, as Harry's magic flared. Before his anger could manifest further into magic, Harry's fist connected with the wall with astonishing force. The walls rattled with the impact. The crunch of his knuckle was deafening in the silence that followed.

The already quite home became completely still, only disturbed by his ragged breathing. He could sense the tension as the Weasleys waited with baited breath below.

Minutes passed before the silence was interrupted by the steady gate of footsteps up the stairs.

Unsurprising, they stopped when they reached Ron's bed room door. Without his consent, Harry felt the room grow warm once more with his magic. A silent warning that he was not to be disturbed.

Shame washed over Harry as he recognized Arthur Weasley's tired voice. He acted like a wounded caged animal.

"Ginny, honey, won't you please come downstairs? Harry will come down when he's ready. It's no use starving yourself like this." Harry could hear the desperation in Arthur Weasley's muffled voice.

"Dad I can't leave him. He needs me." Ginny's hoarse muffled reply floated to Harry through the door.

"Darling, please, for your mother, for me. Come downstairs, we need you too." Harry could hear the break in the grown man's voice as he pleaded with his daughter.

The long silence told Harry that Ginny needed her family too.

Go, Ginny, be with your family.He wanted to tell her, but he couldn't bring himself to speak in fear that the tears would finally come. So instead he willed it with all of his might that she would understand the reason for his silence.

"For a little while." Ginny finally agreed.

Harry listened as their footsteps retreated down the stairs, leaving him alone once more.

Using what energy he could muster, Harry tore himself away from the bed and to the door where he slid down against it. Mimicking Ginny's position he put his head into his hands, feeling more hopeless than he had before.

How he was supposed to face the Weasleys, the only family he had ever known? To look them in the eye and know that there is nothing that he could do, nothing that he could say to express his sorrow for what they had lost because of him. They had given Harry everything.

It wasn't that they would be angry, on the contrary they would be accepting, and that was something Harry didn't know how to deal with. As wearisome as it was, the whip lash emotions were easier to bare than the sympathy of others.

Their sympathy could do nothing but remind him.

He was called a hero, but, in all truthfulness, this was something he would have never chosen for himself. It was decided for him the night his parents died.

Yes. Some hero.Harry thought bitterly, looking over the damage he had inflicted over Ron's room.

And Ginny. He could hardly be the man she thought he was or needed him to be. He was doing her a favor in not letting her see him. It would only be worse for her to see him like this, no matter how much he needed her. The war might have been over but Harry was just beginning the battle with himself.

For a week Harry had been sleepless, Ron's room had become his cell as his past retold itself. He was helpless to prevent it flashing constantly before him.

Every time he closed his eyes he saw an event that was worse than the previous. Sometimes he would re-witness Dumbledore's death; other times Sirius', or sometimes it was even Snape's eyes that haunted him. Yet, the worst was when he was once again walking through the Great Hall full of mourners, seeing his classmates and friends. Friends that had died to give him more time. He could still see each individual face.

Harry pressed hard on the sore bruise on his chest, his reminder that he had survived. He wouldn't let himself be torn any further from the present. He couldn't.

His anger left as suddenly as it had come leaving him with nothing, but emptiness.

The excitement had passed, the celebration faded, and the dead had been buried. And he, Harry Potter, was left alone locked in his best friend's room.

He had everything to be angry for, every reason to grieve, and most of all he had a rightto be pitiful. But somehow Harry couldn't manage the will to do so.

Harry continued to press on the bruise again and again, willing himself to feel something, desperate for anything. He knew he would be alright eventually. He had to believe he would. He was alive, barely, but still it was something. And it would have to be enough for the moment.

Harry risked closing his eyes and for the first time in weeks he saw something that didn't make him nauseous with grief. His mother's smile, it was the smile that gave him the courage to get him to where he was now.

"Do not pity the dead Harry. Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love."

Dumbledore's word followed, ringing clearly in Harry's head as if the old Headmaster had just said them out loud, and that was all it took to bring Harry to his feet.

Those without love…. With a determination that belonged to something far greater than himself Harry closed his hand over the door knob.

Not willing to wait any longer, Harry opened the door pausing for only a moment in front of the twin's rooms. Pushed along by some unknown force Harry knew he belonged downstairs, with his family.

The end of the staircase took Harry by surprise.

As bad as it was Harry saw something he couldn't find for himself, strength. He saw how the Weasley's picked each other up, supporting each other as they fell. Even at their weakest moments Harry saw their love.

It was tangible. It was there in the way they held hands, smiled, cried, hugged, and laughed.

Never had Harry gotten the chance to know love like this. But slowly he was coming to the understanding that it was all at his fingertips. It always had been.

His best friends, sat close together unwilling to be separated, Harry couldn't smoother the longing that rose up within him. For the past year they had been his pillar of strength. He was beginning to wonder when it had all changed, when he had discovered that his needs had become so much more.

Fleur rested her head against Bill's chest as he and Charlie talked in hushed tones, surprising even themselves when they found that they were smiling at some distant memory.

As was expected, neither George nor Percy were anywhere to be found.

His gaze was dragged to Ginny where sat curled into her father's lap as if she was a small child. Mr. Weasley gently swayed them back and forth, shushing her as she sobbed. His heart broke with hers, more than anything Harry wished that could be him, knowing all along that it should be him.

Finally, Harry saw Mrs. Weasley at the stove fiddling with the whistling tea pot. He could almost see the world on her shoulders as she carried her family.

All of this time Harry had been locking himself away, believing that he was powerless, but not Molly.

If anyone, she was the one with the right to lock herself away. But she had done something much braver. She carried on.

Still hidden behind the pillar Harry realized that he was crying. His chest ached with the sight in front of him.

It was suddenly dawning on him that there was nothing left for him to do. He could no longer save these people, the ones he considered most dear to him. Especially from the heartache. They had been the one thing that hadn't been taken away from him.

He rubbed his eyes beneath the rim of his glasses before stepping away from his refuge and into plain site. His heart was hammering against its cage, longing for something he wasn't sure he knew how to be a part of.

A chorus of gasps greeted him. They had not seen him out of Ron's room of his own free will for the past week.

Ron made move to get up but caught himself as he saw the tears run down Harry's face. "Harry, mate... Are you alright?"

A vulnerable Harry was a rare thing to witness.

"No. I'm not…." Harry caught his lip between his teeth unable to finish. But that didn't matter.

Molly stood not but five feet in front of him arms open to him in silent invitation. With hardly any hesitation Harry stepped into her embrace.

His last hopes of salvaging off the tears were broken as Molly held him close as if he were a small boy. The sob that broke through his chest was almost barbaric; hardly able to hold himself up any longer Harry sagged into Molly as he was overcome with the grief of the past week. The past lifetime.

He cried for the parents he never knew, the godfather he had only just met, Remus and Tonks and the child that they would never know, for Snape and the loss he took, for Dumbledore's suffered silence, every life lost in the battle friend or foe, for his best friends who had endured hell with him, but most of all he cried for the Weasley's. He cried for the words that would never be enough.

All along Molly Weasley just held on tight, rubbing his back and soothing him just as she would any of her children.

With every new sob that wracked his body she would whisper to him "It's all alright. We will be alright. You are alright. You are here."Crying with him for the pain that he was in; hating with every fiber of her being that he had tried to deal with this alone. He was part her family, and that was something he would never be without. She would see to it that Harry Potter would never have to go another day of his life without knowing his family was there. That they always had been.

Harry wasn't sure how long it had been, but eventually he was able to muffle his sobs into silent tears.

"Come now, let's sit." Molly whispered softly when the worst of it seemed to have passed. Harry let himself be walked back into the couch.

Molly sat Harry beside herself bringing him in close so that he was hugged against her side.

"I am sorry, I am so very sorry." He continued to repeat his mantra as if he were a broken record.

Taking his injured hand into her own, Molly whispered the incantation that would realign his knuckle. With a wave of her wand Harry's middle finger was put back into place.

Harry had hardly noticed the pain when he had struck the wall, but the sudden relief in his hand soothed something in Harry that the tears hadn't.

"Now, you listen to me, young man," Her gentle voice turned sharp "There is nothing, nothing,you or anyone else could have done. It is notyour fault, none of what happened is. Do you understand that Harry James Potter? You saved ten times the amount of lives than were lost. Every Wizard and Witch is in debt to you, and I will never be able to thank you enough for what you have done for our family. Our numbers would be far fewer than what they are had it not been…" The rest of her words were swallowed by her tears.

Recognizing his chance to return the favor, Harry wrapped an arm around her shoulder allowing her the little comfort that he could offer.

"Oh don't say that. Please, don't ever say that. I can never repay pay you for what you have given me." His desperation making itself clear.

Harry's eyes immediately drifted to Ginny's from across the room for the first time since he had come down stairs. He could hardly believe how his heart could be so over filling with love for her but be broken all at the same time. Just the thought of her not being here was unbearable.

"Well let's call it even then. It's what families do for each other." Mr. Weasley's said appearing on Molly's other side.

Harry withdrew his arm as Arthur wrapped his wife in an embrace, doing a far better job at comforting her than he had been.

Arthur Weasley could hardly fight the smile that tickled the corners of his mouth as he watched the silent exchange between Harry and Ginny. They managed to bring out something in each other that no one else could. His heart was overwhelmed, his family had endured so much already and he'd be damned before he sat by and watched the two angsty teens prolong their own sufferings any longer.

Catching his eye Mr. Weasley gave a not so subtle head nod in the direction of his youngest. Making his intentions clear, this was his blessing to Harry.

Harry's eyes widened, "Mr. Weasley I..."

"Damn it boy, go." Arthur Weasley said firmly, this time pointing to Ginny.

With no room left for argument, Harry managed a smile. He wanted this. More than anything, and now he wasn't taking any chances.

Out of the corner of his eye Harry could see Ron trying to approach him again, only to be held back by Hermione.

Later. Harry reminded himself, there would be time for that reunion later.

This was something Harry had put off for far too long, any longer and he was sure he was going to burst.

His hands shook as he approached the chair that she sat in, his heart pounding against his chest, his legs screaming for him to move faster but he took his time, savouring that fact that he had time.

The smile he had just given her father had melted her heart, for a moment, if only a second, she had caught a glimpse of the young boy that she fallen in love with.

Ginny knew that boy still lived within the man that was currently advancing on her.

Had you asked her five months ago if she was going to give Harry a hard time when they got back together she would have told you, not only yes, but, hell yes. She knew now just how impossible that was, because five months ago Harry didn't die, because five months ago her family was still whole, because five months ago she was still somewhat sane.

Her eyes drank in each detail as he moved closer to her, the way he used the edge of his shirt to wipe his eyes, the slight limp he still had when he walked, but most of all she focused on his eyes. The way he watched her, watching him.

His eyes were the sole reminder that this was still Harry, not The Boy Who Lived and not the savior of the Wizarding World. Just Harry. The boy who she loved more than anything, despite how hard she had tried to stop she couldn't. Not even for a second.

She wanted to stand to meet him, but she wasn't sure if her legs would support her.

As it turned out, standing wasn't necessary. Harry wasted no time in making them eye level, kneeling down right in front of her. He cupped her cheeks in both of his hands bringing their faces just a little closer. He couldn't stand another moment of not touching her.

Neither of them said anything, content with being where they were for the moment.

This all seemed too surreal for Harry, that he would be given this chance. His mind couldn't fathom it.

He realized, suddenly, that he didn't know where he stood with her. Rather or not she'd be angry. Or maybe she was just as tired of the distance as he was. Regardless, he knew, without a doubt, that he would wait for her. As long as she need him to. Just as she had done for him.

Slowly, as if he would break her if he moved any faster, he brought his lips to her forehead in a tender kiss.

It was like he was breathing for the first time in months as he inhaled her. His eyes closed in the pure bliss of the moment. "Ginny…" he mumbled as he pulled his lips away from her forehead to be able look at her.

"Oh, Ginny..." His voice broke with emotion. Her name tasting like honey on his lips.

"Harry." Ginny answered, her brown eyes filling with tears. But she was too afraid to blink in fear that he would disappear.

"Ginny," Harry repeated, holding her brown eyes with his own. "A week ago I thought I was going to die, in fact, I choose it. When the moment of death came, I was ready. I had made peace with the life I would have never gotten. Never did I think I would get this chance. A chance to see you again. A chance to tell you just how much I love your laugh or how I thought of you nearly every moment when I was away,"

Ginny was openly crying now, the tears running freely down her face. It took all of Harry's resolve to continue.

"For so long now I have been fighting, Gin. It's all I've ever known. I know what it means to lose, I gave up my future when I left you behind so I could continue to fight and I can't apologize for that," He choked on his words, desperate to get them out. Ginny's hand rested softly against his neck, gently encouraging him to continue.

"But it was myself I've had to fight the hardest to keep. Ginny, this is what is left of me. Broken parts included, it's all I have to offer you. In case I never get this chance again I want you to know. I am back now, and I won't stop fighting for you. I won't let you go ever again. The only chance I realize that I still want is a future with you. Will you give me the chance to be yours again?" The lump in his throat was impossible to ignore, tears spilled over against his control.

Through the tears a slow smile spread across her face.

"I wouldn't have it any other way,"

She agreed, laughing before she launched herself at him, nearly knocking him over.

Chuckling the entire time as he clumsily wobbled around trying in vain to regain his balance while trying to support her weight as well his own. Harry gave up as he spun them around so that he could fall into the overly stuffed chair.

Their laughter seemed to fill the home as Ginny landed on Harry with a groan. Admiring the way her eyes sparkled, Harry twisted a red curl around his finger.

Suddenly things weren't so funny anymore as Harry found his mouth pressed against Ginny's.

The creaking floor boards told them that they were being given privacy.

Giggling, Ginny pulled back from Harry, kissing his cheek before she turned to look over her shoulder.

"Merlin's shorts it's about time!" Ginny said, taking Harry by surprise "I thought they'd never leave."

"You were waiting for them to leave were you?" Harry teased raising his eyebrows.

"Oh yes, since the moment you spoke my name they had over stayed their welcome," Ginny confirmed not ashamed in the least.

"Is that so, and just what do you plan on doing now that their gone, Ginevra?" Harry hedged, loving every moment of their silly banter.

"Oh I wouldn't be so coy, Mr. Potter. You see, my Weasley senses are telling me that, odds are, they are all listening just around the corner, and I'd bet my wand that Hermione and Fleur are right there with them."

A chorus of laughter confirmed just that. Ginny smiled, obviously pleased with herself. Harry blushed madly, only increasing Ginny's smugness.

"Bloody hell, that's scary. How does she always do that? You two aren't even Weasleys and she knew your were here!" Ron's asked giving up all pretenses.

"She's mum's daughter that's how," a voice, sounding suspiciously like Bill answered.

Hermione laughed, "Oh, honestly! When Weasleys are silent it's always suspicious. You shouldn't be surprised."

"I'm only here, for, how you say? Supervision." Fleur clarified, mockingly.

"Oh go on, speak up Dad. Don't pretend that you weren't listening." Charlie's voice said tauntingly.

"Oh, erm, yes. Here you boys are, I was wondering where you all had gotten off to."

"Oh, that was weak!" five humorously outraged voices crowed.

"Why are they still in the hall, if we know they are there?"

"Probably because Mum threatened to hex their bits off if they set foot in here without her say so," Ginny said laughing at her brothers' expense.

The smile that lit up Ginny's face was one Harry found he could live for, and he was finding it increasingly harder not kiss her.

Their eyes met for hardly an instant and he knew that she was thinking the same thing. Leaning forward so that she could whisper in his ear, Ginny said, what might just become Harry's favorite words, "Kiss me."

He decided then and there he would never deny this woman anything ever again. And so without further ado, Harry did as he was told.

Pressing his mouth firmly against hers, Harry kissed the her way he wished he could have every day that they were apart. The way he planned on kissing her every day for the rest of their lives.

Sighing, Ginny twisted her fingers in Harry's hair like she had so often dreamed of doing. Harry suddenly got the feeling that no matter how many kisses they shared it would never be enough, they would never have enough of each other, he certainly would never get enough of Ginny and that was more than okay with him. He got the feeling that he was really going to enjoy trying.

"Oi! I don't hear any talking!" Ron bellowed from their hideout in the hall.

They broke apart breathless, smiling like fools, laughing, not just because it was funny, but because it felt so normal to laugh.

One look in Ginny's eyes and he knew he had it, love. He would never need anything else.

He still had the world and everything in between to deal with. But he didn't have to do it alone, he never had.

"I love you, Gin." Harry said smiling, nuzzling his nose his her neck making her giggle madly.

"I love you too, Harry." She responded as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

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