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Protection by PrincessPotter

Format: Novel
Chapters: 22
Word Count: 251,450
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Mystery, Romance, Action/Adventure
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore, Lupin, Snape, Bill, Draco, Ginny
Pairings: Harry/Ginny, Ron/Hermione

First Published: 03/08/2006
Last Chapter: 05/08/2011
Last Updated: 05/08/2011

Summary:
Winner Best Plot Twist l 2008 Dobbys



This is a story about love. Love that is new and love that is old and a love that threatens to destroy everything. In a post-Voldemort world, Harry is assigned to protect Ginny from a dangerous dark wizard who has singled her out. As their love grows, the line between good and evil begins to blur as finding the truth becomes a test of trust. Through AU and canon and everything in between, this is their journey.


Chapter 1: A New Assignment
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AUTHOR’S NOTE - This story begins when Harry is 25...he has defeated Voldemort and become an Auror. It follows Canon through book six except for the tiny detail that you need to erase Ginny from the books. In this "reality," Ginny, not wanting to be just another in a line of Weasleys and wanting to become a healer, chose to go to Beauxbatons and thus does not know Harry. - - I know I know... but please don't be too alarmed; this is as you know fanfiction. So much can happen and it’s ultimately about love. I hope you enjoy. Sorry for the horrendously long note ~ Princess. :)








The morning sun was streaming through the window, adding warmth to the otherwise stale and silent office. The large open room was full of desks, most set in groups of two and spaced in several even rows.

The room was empty except for one young man, asleep on a pile of papers at his desk. His glasses pressed into his cheek and his black hair was messy - as though he’d spent many hours the night before running his fingers through it.

It was six thirty in the morning, and as usual, twenty-five year old Harry Potter was alone in the Auror office. Having become a bit obsessed with the Malfoy case, he hadn’t felt like going home. Instead he stayed late, reading report after report until he finally fell asleep from exhaustion.

He was enjoying a very pleasant dream involving brooms and open skies when a slap on the head brought him crashing back down to his desk.

Jerking up, his hand was on his wand before he paused, realizing where he was and recognizing the chuckle behind him. Taking a breath, he released his wand and reached up. Pealing his glasses from his skin he settled them back into their correct position. When he did, Ron Weasley came into focus as he rounded the pair of desks and sat down opposite Harry.

“Did you sleep here again?” Ron asked incredulously as he folded his arms behind his head and leaned back in his chair. “You’re going to make yourself sick, Harry,” he warned.

“I’m fine,” Harry yawned before standing and stretching his arms over his head.

“Did you center?” Ron asked frowning when he felt the magical energy flowing off of him as he stretched. “You can’t keep falling asleep here,” he insisted as Harry headed off to get some coffee.

“I’m fine, Ron,” Harry threw over his shoulder.

“We thought you were coming over last night,” Ron called, but Harry just waved him off. “Hey, when you don’t show up I’m the one who has to deal with Hermione!” Ron yelled after him as he disappeared around the corner. “Have some pity, mate!”

Harry returned several minutes later, raking his fingers through his hair as he sipped his steaming cup of coffee. Arriving at his desk, he found a new file in his inbox.

Knowing it would be his new assignment, he prayed Lupin had forgiven him for the incident in Kent. Picking it up, he sat down and placed his coffee on a messy pile of folders.

“Were you talking to Cho?” Ron asked leaning in. “Hermione thought…”

“No,” Harry replied tightly. “And we’re not talking about it here, remember? Remus doesn’t know yet and I’d rather keep it that way. He’ll just overreact and think I’m backsliding.”

“Well…” Ron began.

“It’s over,” Harry interrupted firmly. “I’m fine.”

Snapping open the folder, he began to scan the information. He could feel Ron looking at him and it took a second for the words to process. When they did, Harry’s stomach dropped and his mouth turned down in a hard frown.

This can’t be right, he thought.

“Hey, Ron” Harry said, looking up. “Has Remus mentioned my assignment?”

“Not to me,” Ron replied, not bothering to raise his eyes from the parchment in front of him. “Why?”

Instead of answering, Harry tossed him the heavily laden file.

It landed right in front of Ron, sending the rest of his papers flying haphazardly off the desk.

“Harry!” Ron groused, reaching out to try to catch his falling work.

“Read the file,” Harry urged.

Ron ignored him, leaning down to gather his papers.

With a sigh, Harry flicked his fingers, causing Ron’s papers to shoot toward him.

“Read mine and I’ll give them back,” he said catching them.

With a glare, Ron relented and began to skim the first page. As he read, his eyes widened before he began flipping through the parchment.

“What is this?” Ron asked.

“My assignment.”

What? But…Why?”

“Apparently Malfoy’s chosen his target," Harry replied grimly.

Across from him, Ron’s face paled as he looked up.

“But…I mean…he doesn’t even know her,” Ron stammered before trailing off as he looked back at the file. Slowly, his face filled with anger as he continued to read the notes inside. “This is just like something he’d do, isn’t it?” Looking back up at Harry he considered him for a moment before furrowing his brow. “But why is it assigned to you?”

"Because,” Harry sighed, slumping down in his chair. “Lupin seems bent on punishing me forever.”

“Hey,” Ron snapped. “This isn’t one of your crap jobs because you can’t do as you’re told, Harry. This is my sister.”

“I just mean I should be out searching for Malfoy…not just sitting around waiting for him to show up.”

“Well, you better do a bloody brilliant job of it, in case he does…”

“Ron, you know I’d never let anything happen to her,” Harry interrupted him.

“I know…I just…I can’t believe it,” Ron said as he looked back down at the file. “Bloody Malfoy. We should’ve killed him at school.”

“How do you think she’s going to take it?” Harry asked.

Watching Ron’s face, Harry was mildly amused when he saw the fear fill his expression.

“Blimey, she’s going to be pissed,” Ron declared when he looked back up. “I’d hate to be you, Harry.”

“Me?” Harry chuckled, raising his eyebrow. “You’re the one who’s going to tell her.”

“No way,” Ron shook his head.

~..~..~..~..~..~..~

Buried deep beneath the covers in her bed, Ginny Weasley groaned and rolled over. Rubbing her hand wearily against her face, she blinked her eyes open. The world was dark around her, the morning light blocked by her thick cocoon of blankets.

The air was stuffy, but for a moment she simply curled deeper under the covers and shut her eyes. Having been unable to sleep the night before, her head was hurting and her body ached.

Despite her desire to go back to sleep, her eyes snapped open when she heard the Muggle garbage truck squeal to a stop outside.

What time is it?

Pushing at the twisted sheets, she dragged them down until her head poked out the top. Her dark red hair was tangled around her face and she pushed at it irritably as she looked over at her bedside table. When she saw the time, she cursed, her mood darkening when she realized she’d forgotten to set her alarm.

Throwing off her covers she climbed quickly out of bed and crossed to her window. Pulling open the heavy curtains, she blinked quickly when the morning light flooded the room.

“Bugger,” she muttered when the sight of the truck outside affirmed the time on the clock.

All evidence of the previous night’s thunderstorm was gone. The clouds were sparse, allowing the sunlight to shine down on the now dry cobblestones. The cheery morning outside did nothing to improve her mood.

Turning away, she headed to the bathroom.

Despite the time, she stood for several minutes in the shower, allowing the hot water to pound down on her stiff muscles. The storm had kept her up most of the night and she grimaced as she thought about facing her long shift ahead.

Once she was out of the shower she managed to leave her flat in record time. Soon she was walking briskly down the streets of Muggle London. Dressed in jeans and a light sweater, she had a burgundy scarf draped around her neck and a coffee in her hand.

As she turned a corner and headed toward the abandoned department store that housed St. Mungo’s, the comfortable breeze ruffled her hair. Above her, several birds chirped brightly as they swooped from one tree to another. The day was so annoyingly pleasant; it almost seemed to be mocking her cranky mood.

Still several blocks from the hospital, a shiver of awareness ran down the back of Ginny’s neck. Slowing her steps at the unnerving feeling of being watched, Ginny glanced over her shoulder.

A block back, a man in black robes lounged against a building. His stance was casual, but his eyes hard as they followed Ginny. When their gazes locked, he stared at her for a second before running his eyes up and down her form. Finally looking away, he casually brought a cigarette to his lips.

Unused to feeling uneasy in the familiar area, Ginny continued on, speeding her steps. When she looked back, she was relieved to see that the man was gone.

“Ginny Weasley?”

Whipping her head back around in surprise, Ginny stumbled over a crack in the sidewalk. Colliding with a young man in front of her, she cried out when her hot coffee spilled down her front.

Shit!,” she exclaimed, stepping back and dropping her cup as she began to wipe at her sweater.

“Oh, geez, I’m sorry,” the man said at the same time, reaching out and trying to help.

Knocking his hands away as he tried to wipe the stain off her front, Ginny stepped back. Although she didn’t know him, his Auror robes were easily recognizable and she pulled her wand. Using a quick cleaning charm to fix her shirt, she crossed her arms over her chest.

“I’m really sorry,” the young man insisted, scooping up her ruined cup from the ground.

“It’s fine,” she replied, her eyes flicking to St. Mungo’s entrance as she wondered how her day could possibly get any worse. “Did you need something?”

“Yes,” he nodded, pulling his credentials. “I need you to come with me, if you don’t mind.”

~..~..~..~..~..~

It didn’t take long for Lupin to call Harry into his office to officially go over his assignment. Although Harry made his displeasure known, Lupin showed no signs of letting him off the hook.

“This is where you’re needed,” Lupin insisted as he paced behind his desk.

Harry lounged in a chair facing him, balancing on the back two legs as he dropped his head back.

“But, I’m more help searching,” Harry argued. “He’s not anywhere near ready, so she’s not in danger.”

“We don’t think he’s ready,” Remus corrected. “But we have no idea when he’ll try to take her. He could take her early, just to be safe. He already has people watching her.”

“But one of the younger guys could do this. What about Mullinsky? He’s…”

“This is too important and you know it,” Remus interrupted pausing to give him an irritated glance. Going back to pacing he shook his head. “She’s powerful, Harry.”

“Really?” Harry asked quirking his brow. “How powerful? As powerful as me?”

“Powerful enough that if he uses her it would only make things worse,” Remus sighed, ignoring Harry’s jest as he rubbed his eyes. “Not to mention she’s a Weasley,” he added, shooting Harry a pointed look. “Ron’s sister.”

“I know,” Harry sighed as he let the front two legs of the chair drop back to the floor.

“This is a serious assignment, Harry,” Lupin continued. “If we can’t find him, he’ll send everyone he has to make sure he gets her. That’s something Mullinsky…hell, even Ron, probably couldn’t handle. We didn’t choose you lightly. Believe me...given your history…given everything…”

Harry’s face hardened as Remus trailed off distractedly.

“I’m fine,” Harry insisted quietly. “That’s not an issue.”

Abruptly, Remus turned and sat back down in his chair. Regarding Harry closely, he leaned toward him resting his hands on the desk.

“I know you’re fine,” he nodded, “but I want this done by the book. No fooling around, no doing your own thing,” he added pointedly.

“Look,” Harry began, bothered at Remus’ grave expression. “I’ve said I’m sorry about Kent. It won’t happen again. What do I…”

“That’s not what this is about,” Lupin interrupted sharply.

“Then what…”

“I wouldn’t assign you to guard Arthur and Molly’s only daughter as a punishment.”

At the mention of the Weasleys, Harry frowned, rubbing the back of his neck as he considered what they must be feeling right now.

“Do they know?”

“Yes,” Lupin nodded. “I don’t anticipate the search for Malfoy will last much longer, so you won’t be with her long,” Lupin added, “but you’re to be professional with her at all times. Forming an attachment or relationship is, as you know, unacceptable.”

“Sure.”

“This is important, Harry,” Lupin insisted. “Your priority is keeping your mind focused and under control so that you’re able to…”

“Lupin…”

“I mean it, Harry,” Remus insisted, his expression stern. “This is a job. She’s under Ministry protection and it’s my responsibility and yours to…”

Moony,” Harry interrupted, confused by his friend’s intensity. “I know the rules. She’s Ron’s baby sister for Merlin’s sake. Of course, I’ll be professional,” he said making a face. “She’s only what…nineteen or something anyway, right?”

Trying to picture her, Harry couldn’t even remember the last time he’d seen her. He had vague memories of Ron’s little sister from when he was young at the Burrow, but beyond that, he’d rarely seen her because she hadn’t gone to Hogwarts.

“She’s not a child, she’s twenty-four,” Lupin corrected, “and you’re to treat her the way you would any other witch.”

“Make up your mind,” Harry told him as he broke into a cheeky grin. “Do you want me to be professional or treat her like any other witch?”

Harry…” Lupin warned, his expression turning dark.

“I’m joking,” Harry rolled his eyes. “Merlin, what’s with you today?”

“What’s with me…” Lupin trailed off, pressing his lips together for a second before continuing. “We’re about to tell this girl that an evil, crazy wizard has singled her out for something horrible. I need to know you’re taking it seriously and treating it with the caution and professionalism Ron’s sister demands.”

“I’d never let anything happen to her, Lupin” Harry replied, stiffening as all amusement left from his expression. “I know how to do my job…we both know that. You just need to find Malfoy.”

“We will,” Remus nodded firmly. “If everything goes well, you’ll be in and out.”

A knock at the door interrupted their conversation. At Remus’ call to enter, the door opened and a young wizard stuck his head in.

“Ginny Weasley’s arrived,” he said. “Mullinsky put her in the conference room. Ron’s with her now.”

“Thank you,” Remus nodded, standing at the same time Harry did.

As they walked down the hall, Harry flipped through the notes and pictures inside. In one, Malfoy sneered up at him, his platinum hair slicked back and his grey eyes glinting in annoyance before looking away.

Another, more recent image showed a young woman entering a shop in Diagon Alley. Although her profile was obscured, her hair identified her as a Weasley, red and tangled as it whipped across her cheeks. Brushing it back, she glanced around, giving the camera a quick view of her face before she disappeared through the door.

It was then that the real focus of the picture came into view. A man Harry recognized instantly as Theodore Nott approached the door only a few moments after Ginny. For a few seconds he looked through the shop window before leaning idly against the wall, presumably to wait for Ginny.

When Ginny reappeared and the image loop started again, Harry snapped the folder shut.

Coming to a stop in front of the two-way mirror of the conference room, Harry looked inside. Ron was leaning up against the window, giving Harry a view of his back.

With a flick of Remus’ wand, the conversation inside the room began coming through a speaker next to the window.

“I’m not a child, Ronald,” a woman’s irritated voice declared.

“I know that, Ginny,” Ron replied, shifting against the glass, “but this wizard is powerful and dangerous, and he’s singled you out.”

“But, I don’t even know a...what was his name?”

“Draco Malfoy.”

“Right,” Ginny huffed. “I don’t know a Draco or any other Malfoy for that matter.”

“I understand that, but it doesn’t change the fact that…”

“This is going well,” Harry murmured. When he glanced over at Remus, he was surprised to find the older man focused on him and not the window. “What?”

“Nothing,” Remus said, staring at him for another second before turning the sound off and heading for the door. “Apologies for the delay,” he said as he entered.

Harry followed him inside, crossing to lean against the wall next to Ron while Remus introduced himself.

“I understand that this is quite a shock,” Remus continued.

“You have the wrong person,” Ginny interrupted, her voice muffled.

Harry couldn’t see her face because she was hunched forward with her elbows on the table and her head cradled in her hands. Her hair created a thick red curtain around her, while her fingers massaged circles against her scalp.

“Unfortunately, we don’t,” Remus said, gesturing for Harry, “if you’ll take a look at this file, I will explain what is going on and what we intend to do to keep you from harm.”

When Harry dropped the file onto the table, Ginny tossed her hair out of her face and looked up.

With a pair of deep chocolate eyes, she met his gaze squarely for a second before her eyes widened in recognition. Her porcelain skin was dusted with freckles and her lips were thick and red. As he stared at her, her mouth opened slightly as a slight blush darkened her cheeks.

For just a second, something shifted deep inside of Harry. Stepping back, he gave his insides a stern shake, using his training to shove down the feeling that had unexpectedly roared to life inside of him.

Turning away, he felt her gaze follow him when he returned to his place against the wall. When he turned back, she was looking down at the file.

Harry watched her skin slowly drain of color as she flipped through the pages. Her hand paused over the picture of Malfoy, her brow furrowing in confusion as she stared at it.

“Do you know him?” Remus asked.

This is Draco Malfoy?” she asked as she looked up.

“So you do know him,” Remus said, taking the seat across from her as she looked back down at the pictures.

“I know…well, I know James. This is James," she said as she pointed at Malfoy's face. "I met him at St. Mungo’s. His mother was ill…this is Malfoy?”

“He said his name was James?” Harry asked, his eyes narrowing.

Her eyes lifted to meet his. When she nodded yes, he cursed under his breath.

“How well do you know him?”

“Um,” Ginny’s cheeks colored again, her eyes flicking to Ron for a second before returning to Harry's face. “I don’t know him that well.”

“Has he been to your flat?”

“No. We’ve had lunch at…at the hospital,” she explained, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear distractedly. “He asked me to go out with him a handful of times...”

“For more than lunch?” Harry clarified.

“Yes, but I always said no…”

“How about this man?” Remus asked, reaching across the table for the file.

Shifting through the papers, he pulled the picture from Diagon Alley and set it on top, pointing to where the man came into view behind Ginny.

Ginny inhaled sharply, pulling the picture toward her.

“Ginny?” Ron prompted, taking a step away from the wall.

“I saw him this morning…When was this…”

Trailing off, Ginny stared down at the image of the man who had been following her. Her hands began to tremble and she tucked them into her lap, curling her fingers tightly around each other. Remus answered her question and continued to try to explain the situation to her, but everything suddenly sounded like it was coming from behind a glass.

What had seemed impossible suddenly became much more real. Her eyes flicked back for a second to the picture of James – Draco before flicking away as her stomach rolled.

“…I understand your apprehension, Miss Wealsey, but what Malfoy is trying to do is very dangerous. If he succeeds he’ll be extremely powerful...”

“Yes, but what does it have to do with me?” Ginny interrupted, looking up. “Specifically?”

When he didn’t answer right away, she looked over to see Ron staring at his feet. Her eyes drifted to Harry Potter. He was still watching her intently, his eyes dark green and his expression unreadable.

“Ron?” she asked, suddenly feeling nervous.

“Well,” he began before clearing his throat, “the ritual requires the blood of a Pureblood and a… a…” Ron trailed off, his face as red as his hair.

“A what?” Ginny urged, not following.

“A…well a…um…”

“A virgin,” Harry finished plainly from the wall and her eyes shot back to his. “To secure his power, Malfoy needs to take the innocence of a Pureblood witch.”

Ginny opened her mouth and then shut it, feeling her face become hot.

“You’re telling me that…that this Malfoy needs to sleep with a Pureblood virgin to complete some sort of dark ritual, and you think he's chosen me?” she asked as she crossed her arms and glared at her brother. “How do you even know if I’m a virgin, Ronald?”

Ron’s face was now more of a purple. When he opened his mouth to respond nothing came out so Harry spoke instead.

“Aren’t you?”

“That’s none of your business,” Ginny snapped as her gaze flew back to his and her blush deepened.

“Malfoy’s made it my business.”

Harry,” Ron intervened, shooting him a look of warning.

“What?” Harry replied, not moving from his position, as he waited for her answer. “If she’s not then that saves us all a lot of trouble and she can…”

“Look…” Ginny interrupted tightly, “I’m sure there are plenty of Purebloods he can choose from out there. I don’t see why he would choose me…He doesn’t even know me.”

“No…but he knows me,” Ron explained, causing everyone’s gaze to move to him.

“Ron,” Ginny began in confusion as she read the apology on his face. “What…”

“I know it’s difficult, Miss Weasley, but this is a very serious situation,” Remus insisted. “We know that you’re his target and whether you want us to or not, we are going to protect you. We're protecting the entire Wizarding world by doing this, not just you.”

“Okay, but…even if what you’re telling me is true, what am I supposed to do, go into hiding or something? I can’t just put my life on hold. I have a job to do. People depend on me and…”

“We understand that,” Remus nodded, “and we don’t expect you to give up your life if we can avoid it.”

“If you can avoid it?” she repeated her brow furrowing.

“Yes,” Remus replied firmly. “We’re hoping to keep things as normal as possible,” he assured her. “That’s why Potter,” he explained, jerking his head in Harry’s direction, “is going to be guarding you. He’ll basically be your shadow, going to work with you or wherever else you need to go and staying at your flat until we can find Malfoy.”

“Staying in my flat?!” she shot, her eyes widening.

“It’s not negotiable,” Remus countered evenly. “You need round the clock protection.”

Ginny looked back and forth between them, trying to decide if it was a joke before she spoke.

“Are you telling me,” she said slowly, as if talking to a child, “that your big plan for protection is to have the most famous wizard in the world, a known Auror, follow me around?

“Well…”

“Don’t you think that will just tell him you know what he’s up to?” she demanded.

Silence fell over the room as Remus and Ron tried to come up with an appropriate response. Their struggle was quickly ended though, because at that moment, Albus Dumbledore came into the room.

“A very good question, Miss Weasley,” he said with a smile, gazing at her over his half moon spectacles. “But he already knows we're aware of his activities, and Harry is the only one I trust enough to protect you if the time comes.”

Harry looked at Dumbledore and then back at Ginny. As their eyes met and held, Harry felt for a moment that she could see straight into him. Something shifted inside of him again, darkening his eyes and causing him to look away quickly.

Taking a steadying breath, he stared at the floor as he considered Dumbledore’s words. He knew what he meant, but he wasn’t sure he would be protecting anyone if it came to that.

~..~..~..~..~..~

It took several more minutes to convince Ginny that Harry’s assignment was the best plan. She finally grudgingly agreed to what they wanted but she wasn’t happy about it.

Left alone in the room while the final details were worked out, Ginny sat at the table in silence. She had no idea how long she’d been at the Ministry and she glanced around looking for a clock. Not finding one, her eyes moved back to the open file before her.

For a few seconds she stared at Malfoy’s face glaring up at her before finally shoving the file away. The legs of her chair skipped noisily across the floor as she pushed it back and stood up.

Tucking her hair behind her ears she made her way to the window. Ministry Maintenance had charmed the window to depict a light snowfall. Considering that it was almost summer and she was currently several floors underground, Ginny couldn’t help but smile reluctantly as she watched the tiny white flecks meander past the window. The minutes inched by as she stared out, her eyes eventually losing focus as her mind wandered.

“Ginny…”

Jumping slightly at the sound of her name, Ginny spun around to find Harry standing in the doorway. For a moment neither moved as they stared at each other.

“Did you need to do anything today?” he finally asked, crossing to her.

“What do you mean?”

“Before you came here,” he clarified, “did you have any plans for today?”

“I’m supposed to be at work,” Ginny told him.

“I meant anything else,” he clarified. “You’re not going to work today.”

“What?”

“Lupin’s there now. He’s talking to Healer Martin and dealing with security. Was there anything else you needed to do?”

“I thought you said I didn’t have to stop my life,” Ginny replied, her back straightening.

“You don’t,” Harry promised.

“Then, I’m going to work,” she declared crossing toward the door.

When the door swung shut in front of her she instantly pulled her wand.

Alohamora,” she said firmly. When the door didn’t open she spun back around. “Let me out,” she ordered.

“You’re not going today. It’s already done, Ginny,” Harry pointed out calmly as she glared at him. “We can leave whenever you’re ready but you’re not going to work.”

“I want to go to work,” she replied tightly.

“You can go tomorrow.”

Pressing her lips together in a thin line, Ginny studied him for a second before crossing her arms tightly over her chest.

“Fine…whatever. I need to go to the apothecary, if that’s allowed,” she added sarcastically.

“Oh, it’s allowed,” Harry replied his voice suddenly annoyingly chipper as he walked past her and opened the door.

Spinning on her heel, Ginny glared at his back as she followed him to the lifts.

“Where’s Ron?” Ginny asked as she looked around the Auror office.

“Gone,” Harry replied, slowing his steps so that she could catch up.

“What do you mean, gone?” she demanded. “He just left me here?”

“Do you need him with you?” Harry asked, cocking his brow as he looked over at her.

“I don’t need him,” she countered. “But he could have said he was leaving.”

The conversation lapsed quickly into silence as Harry and Ginny made their way out of the Ministry. Harry continued to watch her while Ginny seemed determined to look anywhere but at him.

“Would you rather Apparate to Diagon Alley or take the Knight Bus?” he asked as he pushed open the door of the cramped phone booth and stepped out.

“Apparate,” Ginny decided, making a face at the thought of riding on the Knight Bus. The one time she’d ridden it several years before it had made her nauseous for the rest of the day.

“Ok,” Harry nodded, closing the distance between them.

“Wha…what are you doing?” Ginny demanded, backing up as he reached for her.

“Side-along is safest,” he explained following her retreat.

“I assure you,” Ginny replied crossly, “I’m perfectly capable of getting to Diagon Alley by myself…”

“Mhm,” Harry replied. Only when her hand landed on his chest to hold him away did he stop moving. “And what happens if Malfoy’s there when you arrive?”

Clenching her jaw, Ginny hesitated before dropping her hand with a huff.

“Side-along isn’t that bad,” Harry chuckled as he stepped up to her. Slipping his hands around her waist he pulled her up against him.

Instantly uncomfortable with the close proximity, Ginny stared at the button of his shirt. His arms wrapped securely around her, his hands gripping her sides as she held onto his shoulders.

“One, two,” he counted softly, his breath rustling her hair as he tightened his hold on her. “Three,” he finished before they disappeared with a small pop.

They reappeared almost immediately in an alley across the street from the Leaky Cauldron.

“Ugh,” Ginny grimaced pushing away from him and feeling like she’d just been shoved through a narrow tube. She’d never liked the sensation of side-along apparition; it made her feel out of control. “Happy?” she grumbled, running her fingers through her hair.

“Yes,” Harry smiled benignly.

Rolling her eyes at him, Ginny passed him and headed out of the alley.

“I don’t need a babysitter,” Ginny grumbled as she stepped off the curb to cross the street.

Reacting instantly, Harry grabbed her arms, yanking her back against him as a muggle car zoomed past.

“You could’ve fooled me,” he said smugly into her ear causing her to jerk her arms out of his grasp.

I’m going to kill Remus for sticking me with this, he thought as he watched her storm away before he followed.

It took only a few minutes to make their way through the Leaky Cauldron to the familiar brick wall. With a few taps of Harry’s wand they were soon walking down the streets of Diagon Alley. With her hands tucked into her robes, Ginny walked beside Harry, unwilling to get drawn into conversation with him.

When she suddenly sped up, Harry grabbed her arm, pulling her back into step beside him.

“Don’t walk off,” he told her, ignoring her thunderous expression.

Watching her from the corner of his eye, Harry tried to decide if he was amused or annoyed by her stubbornness.

On one hand he was relieved that she wasn’t crying or overwhelmed with fear. He also didn’t blame her for not wanting a guard, but the threat was real and not something to be disregarded.

Reaching the Apothecary, Harry accompanied Ginny inside as she picked up what she needed. Soon they were back on the street. Despite his instruction for her not to leave his side, Ginny walking briskly a few paces ahead of him.

Harry caught up with her quickly, falling into step beside her as they made their way past the wizarding shops.

Knowing her flat wasn’t ready for them to return, Harry glanced around, spotting a small coffee shop a few doors down.

“Let’s go in here,” he suggested, putting his hand against Ginny’s lower back to steer her towards the door.

“I can walk on my own,” she glowered as she shook him off and stalked ahead. “And I don’t want to go in there,” she threw haughtily over her shoulder.

Seeing her walk away from him again, Harry reached the end of his patience. Setting his jaw, he caught up with her, grabbed her arm and hauled her back toward the shop.

“Let go of me!” she exclaimed, attempting to jerk her arm out of his hold.

Spinning toward her, Harry pulled her close.

“You can’t just walk off, Ginny,” he ordered. “I know you’re not happy about this and I don’t blame you, but don’t be stupid.”

“Don’t manhandle me,” she shot back.

Gritting his teeth, Harry stared at her for a moment.

“This sort of situation, walking down a busy street,” he bit out, gesturing toward the people ambling by, oblivious to their presence, “is a perfect opportunity for Malfoy to try to take you.”

“I walked down this street yesterday and nothing…”

“Yesterday was different.”

“You don’t know that,” Ginny replied tetchily. “Yesterday could be just like today and tomorrow and the next several weeks – with nothing happening. You guys said you don’t know when he’ll be ready. We could be stuck together for a month before he even begins to try to do anything!”

“Trust me, it will not be that long,” Harry assured her.

“You can’t know…”

“Believe it or not, I don’t want to be stuck with you anymore than you want to be stuck with me,” Harry snapped.

Glaring up at him, Ginny remained silent.

“Look,” Harry said tightly after a pause. “You’re right. We don’t know, for sure, when he will try something, but he already has people watching you, so he has to be reasonably close. We’re stuck with each other for awhile, but there’s no reason it has to be horrible. Let’s just go in, get something to drink and talk, ok?”

Considering him for a moment, Ginny finally huffed and looked down with a nod.

When they entered the diner, it was a small den-like space, with mismatched chairs and sofas placed around. There was a lone waitress sitting with some regulars.

Sipping her coffee, she didn’t bother to seat them and just waved them in. It was the kind of place that artists would like, with painted walls, handmade dishes and an air of artsy indifference.

When they were seated at a table near the back, Harry settled into a large cushy chair before sitting back and studying her.

As he watched her, Ginny sat across from him, fiddling with a spoon and glaring at the room in general. Eventually she looked over at him, glaring at him too.

Unaffected by her cold nature, he continued to watch her steadily.

What?” she snapped after a minute as she tucked a piece of hair behind her ear.

“I was just wondering when you were going to stop sulking,” he smirked at her tone.

“I’m not sulking,” she said folding her arms over her chest.

“Oh,” Harry replied simply as his brow rose and his lips twitched, resisting a full-blown grin. “This is your ‘not sulking’ face. I’ll make a note of that.”

Biting back her smart remark, Ginny took a calming breath. She knew she was acting like a complete jerk, but she couldn’t seem to shake her mood.

“Look,” she said tightly. “Why don’t you just tell me how this is going to work, exactly.”

Flicking his wand, Harry threw a Muffliato charm over them and leaned in a little.

Ginny resisted the urge to roll her eyes since there were only three other people in sight and they were on the other side of the room.

“We know Malfoy's been watching you, so right now Ron and a team of Aurors are going through your flat, looking for surveillance charms and such. Once it’s clear we...”

“Wait, there are Aurors at my flat?” she interrupted him, giving him an affronted look. “Right now?”

“I’d be pissed too, but it had to be done,” he contended. “It was easier to do it when you weren’t there. At least, that’s what Ron thought…but regardless,” he hurried on when she opened her mouth, “we just need to go get my stuff and then I’ll be staying with you, going wherever you go.”

Ginny stared at him for a moment before she decided not to argue. As frustrating as it was that they were so invasive, the idea that someone had been watching her was even more disturbing.

“So, wherever I need to go,” she said slowly as she considered him, “you have to go with me?”

Harry nodded.

“When I go shopping you have to go too? If I go see a ridiculously girly muggle movie you have to see it too?”

Harry nodded again, suddenly not doubting by the gleam in her eye that she might actually take him shopping.

“What did you do?” she asked, raising her eyebrow. “Piss off the boss?”

“Something like that,” he grinned, running a hand through his hair.

They stayed at the coffee shop until Harry got the signal that her flat was clear. He paid for their drinks and they Apparated to his flat so that he could pick up some things before going to her place.

~..~..~..~..~..~..~

“But, I mean…why me?” Ginny asked as Harry followed her into her kitchen, having deposited his things into the guest room. “He could choose anyone. He doesn’t even know me.”

“Well, for one thing, choosing you hurts Ron,” Harry admitted. “That only makes it sweeter for him.”

“Why doesn’t he like Ron?” she asked as she pulled open a cabinet.

“He doesn’t like anyone close to me. Especially Ron,” Harry explained as he watched her reach up to get a cup from the top shelf. “And you’re just Malfoy’s type,” he added as her shirt shifted up to expose a bit of her pale, flat stomach.

“Oh yeah?” she asked, irritation slipping back into her tone as she turned toward him. “And what type is that?”

Harry dragged his eyes back up to her face, taking the cup she offered to him.

“Pureblood,” he replied as she moved to lean against the counter opposite him, “petite, strong-willed…beautiful,” he continued, crossing to the sink and filling his glass at the faucet.

He thinks I’m beautiful? Ginny thought in surprise.

Feeling her stomach give a little flip, Ginny pushed off the counter. Her reaction confused her, especially considering that almost everything he’d done so far irritated her. Cursing her pale complexion as she walked quickly to the fridge, she prayed he wouldn't notice the blush she could feel blooming on her cheeks.

“But, how do we even know what his type is?” she asked as she opened the door.

Harry watched her as she leaned down, looking inside.

“Because I know him,” he said, heading back to the front room. “And his taste is the same as mine,” he added without thinking.

Ginny froze, her hand curled around the can of muggle coke before she looked up. Peering over the door of the fridge, she watched him leave the room.

What was that? Harry’s mind was racing as he walked to the sofa and sat down. Why the hell did I say that? She’s not my type...is she?

He’d never really thought about what his type was, but apparently some part of him thought she was it. Frowning, he ran through the people he’d dated, but none of them necessarily fit her description.

Ginny followed him into the room a few moments later and curled up on the other end of the sofa.

“So how do you know him? What’s he like?”

“We went to school together. His father was a Death Eater, really high up,” Harry added with a bite to his voice. “Malfoy was just like him – cruel, arrogant…a real piece of work.”

As they sat on the sofa, Harry told her about his time at school and pretty much everything he knew about Malfoy.

Eventually the conversation shifted to a more general discussion about school and growing up, Harry talking about Hogwarts and Ginny sharing her experience at Beauxbatons.

Hours had passed before either of them noticed how long they’d been talking. Given the rocky beginning of their day, it wasn’t lost on either of them how comfortable it now seemed or how at home they felt in each other’s company.

Neither was particularly thrilled with that realization and they went to bed with an awkward goodnight.

~..~..~..~..~..~..~



Chapter 2: A New Friendship
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Ginny awoke slowly, her eyes blinking open and then falling shut again as she rolled onto her side. Breathing deeply she burrowed farther under the covers for a second before her eyes snapped back open.

Stiffening, she stared at the wall in front of her as her mind ran over the previous day’s events. With a groan, she rolled onto her back and covered her eyes, praying it had all been a strange and horrible dream.

Finally throwing back the covers she climbed from her bed and made her way down the hall to the loo.

Harry’s toothbrush on the sink assured her that it was real and as an afterthought she locked the door. With a sigh she slipped out of her pajamas and stepped into the shower.

She was dressed and ready in no time and soon stood alone in the kitchen drinking a cup of coffee.

After a few seconds, her eyes were inevitably drawn to the doorway and then the clock. She hadn’t heard anything from Harry yet and if he didn’t hurry up she would be late for work. Her irritation rose as she watched the seconds tick by, beginning to wonder if she needed to go wake him up.

Finally she pushed off the counter and headed down the hall, muttering under her breath as she went.

He throws my life into chaos, and then he doesn’t even have the decency to at least try to make my day go smoothly…obviously a friend of Ron’s…bloody Aurors…

Knocking softly on his door, she paused and waited to hear a response. When she didn’t get a reply, she pushed it open, only to stop and stare.

Harry was sitting on the floor with his legs crossed. His back was to her as he faced the window with his hands resting lightly on his knees. He’d yet to finish dressing and his shirt lay on the floor beside him. Unable to help herself, her eyes ran automatically over his smooth, tan back and toned muscles before coming to rest on a tattoo of a dog.

Situated in the small of his back Ginny watched as it seemed to wag its tail at her arrival and then got up and ran in a circle. Finally sitting down again, the image transformed into the word “Padfoot” before turning back into a dog.

Determined to hang onto her irritation Ginny dragged her eyes away and stomped over until she was standing in front of him, blocking the light that had been shining on him through the window. Her eyes narrowed and her annoyance mounted when the front was even more beautiful than the back.

Bloody Aurors, she thought crossing her arms over her chest.

Opening his eyes suddenly, Harry watched as she huffed and shifted her weight from one foot to the other causing the sunlight to turn her hair to fire.

“Are you planning on getting ready anytime soon?”

Dragging his eyes back to her face, he watched her lips as she spoke.

“I’m going to be late, if you hadn’t noticed…What are you doing anyway?” she added when he didn’t respond.

“Centering,” he replied simply as he grabbed his shirt from beside him.

Pulling it quickly over his head, he pushed off from the floor and stood up.

As he covered his body, Ginny felt an unexpected twinge of disappointment.

“Centering?” she asked, reminding herself that she was annoyed with him, not attracted to him.

“Yeah,” Harry replied simply, crossing the room to put on his shoes. “By the way,” he threw over his shoulder. “I showered and ate before you woke up. We can go whenever you’re ready.”

As he left her standing in his room, he couldn’t help smirking. She’d obviously thought he’d been asleep.

~..~..~..~..~..~..~

Harry accompanied Ginny to work, following her through the halls of St. Mungo’s as she started her day.

Trying to give her room and make her feel as comfortable as possible, he hung back, lounging against the wall when she stopped at the desk to pick up a file.

He watched with interest from his post as she talked to one of the nurses. Her elderly colleague had obviously been told about the arrangement because, while she glanced at Harry curiously, she didn’t ask any questions.

Finishing her brief conversation, Ginny continued down the hall and Harry fell into step a few feet behind her.

For several moments they walked in silence, Harry’s eyes drawn instinctively to her hair. Having pulled it up into a pony, it swung back and forth as she walked, causing gold highlights to shimmer through it.

“You’re a little creepy…you know that, right?” she asked suddenly, glancing over her shoulder.

Harry’s lip twitched as he sped up so that he was walking with her instead of behind.

“People will think you’re a stalker or something,” she mused with a slight smirk, “and one is more than enough don’t you think?”

When he didn't respond she looked up at him to find him watching her. His eyes were intense and she dragged her gaze away, her heart fluttering as they approached a row of curtained off exam areas. Some were open and empty while others were closed with muffled voices coming from the other side.

Ginny came to a stop in front of one of the closed curtains and looked down at her chart, quickly skimming the notes. After a few seconds, she looked up and pulled the curtain open to reveal an exam room.

Stepping inside, she started to pull it shut again when Harry caught it with his hand. Startled, she looked up, meeting his gaze as he shook his head.

“Nothing’s going to happen,” she said, leaning in as her eyes narrowed.

Harry mirrored her movement, leaning in until their faces were inches apart.

“Leave it open.”

“Haven’t you ever heard of the concept of privacy?” she demanded, trying to keep her voice low. “Patient confidentiality?”

“Put up a silencing charm if you want,” he suggested, “but you’re staying where I can see you.”

“Nothing’s going to happen,” she insisted in frustration.

He held the curtain firmly in place as she tried to yank it closed and she huffed when he cocked his eyebrow at her and mouthed, “open.”

“Fine,” she hissed. “I’ll leave it open a little, ok?”

Harry paused for a second, as if trying to decide if she was lying before he let go and stepped back.

Ginny glared at him as she pulled the curtain almost closed.

Turning back toward the bed, it occurred to her that it would be much easier to truly be angry if he wasn’t trying to protect her…and if he wasn’t so attractive.

Shaking her head at her thoughts, she walked to the bed where a little girl was sitting in-between her parents. It wouldn’t have been strange except that the little girl was purple and her parents were trying to get her to stop crying.

Harry leaned against the wall and watched Ginny approach the bed through the opening. Pulling a hat out of his back pocket he dragged it down over his hair, covering his scar.

“Hi, Sweetheart,” Ginny said, crouching down in front of the girl. “What happened to you today?” she asked gently.

Instead of responding, the girl simply buried her head into her dad’s shoulder, clutching the doll she was holding tighter as she cried.

“We think she got into the potion cupboard,” the girl’s father explained, “but she won’t say what she tasted.”

“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” Ginny assured him with a smile as she stood up. “Can I speak to you for a minute over here?”

Harry watched from his place on the wall as Ginny spoke softly to the parents. After a minute the couple came toward him, disappearing down the hall in the direction of the nurse’s station. His eyes went back to Ginny as she walked back to the bed and sat down beside the girl.

“Anna, do you want to tell me what you drank?” Ginny asked in a soft voice causing the little girl to shake her head. “Do you know the name of what you drank?” she asked and Anna shook her head again with a sniffle. “Ok, well, do you mind if I take a look at you?” she asked.

Anna paused before shaking her head and clutching her doll closer.

Ginny put her hand on her forehead and had her stick out her tongue. Talking softly to her as she continued to examine her, soon the girl’s tears began to slow.

“Alright, Anna,” Ginny began as she finished her examination. “I’m going to fix you something to drink that will have you back to normal in no time, ok?” Ginny asked, smiling and standing up.

When Anna shook her head quickly and her lip started to tremble, Ginny kneeled back down in front of her and looked up into her eyes.

“What’s wrong, Sweetie?”

“I don’t wanna drink…anything…else,” the girl told her as she began to cry again.

“But this is going to make you all better,” Ginny soothed, stroking her hair. Looking down she noticed the doll the little girl was clinging to. “Who’s your friend?” she asked, pointing to the doll.

Sniffling, Anna held the figure out for Ginny to see and gave a wobbly smile.

“Harry Potter,” she said. “My brother gave him to me.”

Taking the doll, Ginny stared down at it in surprise. It wasn’t a very good likeness, but it had his signature black hair and scar, and Ginny suddenly laughed.

“Do you like Harry Potter?” she asked with a smile as she handed the doll back to Anna.

“He’s my favorite,” Anna nodded quickly, wiping the tears from her eyes and taking the doll back. “He’s a superhero!”

“A superhero, huh?”

Anna nodded as Ginny’s grin widened.

“Anna, can you wait here for just a second? I’m going to get someone to sit with you, ok? I’m going to be just outside and back in two seconds. Can you sit here and be a good girl?”

When Anna nodded, Ginny got up and walked away from the bed, her eyes fixing on Harry. Slipping through the curtain, she crossed the hall and came to a stop in front of him.

“What?” he asked, a little thrown by her expression.

“I need you to do something for me,” she smiled sweetly and he narrowed his eyes instinctively.

“What?” he repeated when she pulled off his hat off and handed it to him.

His hair was messier than normal and Ginny made a face as she tried to pat it down into some semblance of control.

“That’s not going to work,” he murmured, fighting a smile as she ran her fingers through his hair.

Meeting his gaze, she quickly pulled her hand away and gave up. Instead, she bit her lip and reached out, lacing her fingers through his.

Harry looked down at their clasped hands as she pulled him off of the wall, leading him back through the curtain and towards the bed.

“Anna, I have someone who wants to meet you,” Ginny said when the little girl looked up, her eyes going automatically to Harry. “This is Harry Potter, Anna. He’s going to sit with you for a minute, ok? Harry, this is Anna, she’s a big fan of yours,” Ginny said.

Confused, Harry glanced over at her before looking back at the little girl, whose purple face had lit up, her eyes wide as saucers.

“Um, hi,” he greeted her awkwardly, his eyes darting back at Ginny for guidance.

Instead of helping, however, she simply turned him and pushed him down onto the bed to sit.

“I’ll be right back,” she announced before turning and heading to a potion cupboard set up along the far wall.

As Ginny walked away, Harry’s eyes followed, his hand feeling oddly empty now that hers wasn’t in it. Flexing his fingers absently, he turned his eyes back to Anna. She was staring up at him in awe, her purple face glowing.

“Are you really Harry Potter?”

~..~..~..~..~..~

When Ginny turned back to the bed a few minutes later she paused, watching from across the room. Anna had moved to her knees and had her hands on Harry’s face as she traced his scar with her finger.

Harry was chuckling at something Anna was saying to him and he glanced up at Ginny as she approached, his eyes dancing.

Anna looked over, saw the steaming cup Ginny was holding and immediately scrambled behind Harry. Clutching his arm she poked her head over his shoulder just high enough to keep her eyes on Ginny who was now officially the enemy.

While Ginny sat down on the bed, Harry twisted around, catching Anna and pulling her onto his lap.

It only took a few encouraging words from him before she was sipping the drink gingerly, her chin wobbling for the first few sips before the purple began to fade.

“See, it’s not so bad is it?” he asked, smiling at her as she shook her head.

Glancing up at Ginny, he found her watching him and she broke into a smile when their eyes met.

“Mummy, Daddy look! Harry Potter’s here!” Anna yelled suddenly as her parents walked back into the room carrying an ice cream cone.

They stopped up short, seeing their daughter sitting on the lap of the most famous wizard in the world.

~..~..~..~..~..~..~

Harry continued to follow Ginny around the hospital each day, watching her deal with pediatric injuries and illnesses. It was his job to watch her, and Harry was finding it to be a simple task, simply because he couldn’t seem to keep his eyes off of her.

It was easy to see she was great at her job, finding a way to comfort each child in an individual way. No matter the issue, whether it was a swallowed potion, broken bones or more complicated spell practice or a prank gone wrong, she always managed to discover a quick solution to their problem.

Despite Ginny’s initial irritation at his presence, they quickly grew comfortable with each other as they began to talk and joke – and argue, of course, as they moved through her rounds.

As the days slowly ticked by, Harry only became more and more fascinated with her. He’d never felt so at ease with a woman so quickly. They were able to talk like they were old friends and their arguments were even more intriguing.

She usually won their debates, mostly because about halfway through Harry would get too distracted to argue back.

He truly did try to focus, but her determination was amazing. No matter how hard he tried to make his point, she was just so passionate when she spoke that he’d lose track of his reasoning. The way she looked, along with the fire he saw in her eyes, kept drawing him in and forcing him to forget his original point. To Harry’s dismay, he too often found himself surrendering to her side of the issue.

Most of the time, he didn’t even care. He found he loved to watch her as she talked. The way her cheeks became flushed and she flicked her hair, her wrist gesturing elegantly through the air as she made a point.

It was always about the time he got stuck on the movement of her lips that she would bring him back to the moment with a smack on the shoulder or a shout of his name.

Tonight when she called his name, he snapped out of it with a blink and a shake of his head, his gaze moving back up to her eyes to find her glaring at him in exasperation.

“Sorry…what?” he asked sheepishly, wondering how many times she’d said his name before he noticed.

“I said, we had meat last time, so vegetable is something different,” she repeated crossing her arms. “If you don’t care then why are we arguing?”

Grinning slightly, he moved to pick up his drink from beside her on the counter. “Because…you like to argue,” he said looking over at her before heading out of the kitchen.

“I do not!” Ginny declared, grabbing her drink and following him.

“Yes you do.”

“No, I don’t, Harry!”

“Yes, Ginny… you do.”

“No, I…”

Harry spun around and put a finger on her lips, cutting her off.

“At the moment you’re arguing with me about arguing. Let’s just let me win this one, ok?”

Ginny nodded her agreement vaguely. At any other time she probably would have argued with him, but at the moment she couldn’t remember what they were talking about.

Her mind was fixated on his finger as he lowered it, trailing it down her bottom lip before leaving her to go order her vegetable pizza.

Crossing her arms over her chest, she glared at his back as he left the room. She wasn’t sure what irritated her more, the fact that she’d let him win the argument or that one touch from him had turned her into complete mush.

Harry shook himself as he walked away, trying to figure out why he was so affected by such little contact - the softness of her lips, the warmth of her breath on his skin...

It made him nervous that she had such an effect on him and he frowned…not sure how he could seem to be falling for someone so quickly.

I haven’t fallen for her, he tried to correct himself. I’m just…she’s just…shite…

Raking his fingers through his hair he quickly turned off his thoughts.

~..~..~..~..~..~

With her eyes closed, Ginny stood in the shower, the hot water trailing over her. As she rinsed the last of the shampoo from her hair, she couldn’t help thinking about the last several days.

Harry had been staying with her for a little over a week already, and it had been far from what she expected.

After she’d been forced to take him as a house guest, she never thought she’d actually enjoy having him around. In a very short time, however, she’d found herself looking forward to seeing him each day across the breakfast table.

He’s just here to protect you, she reminded herself, shaking her head as she dipped under the water. Don’t get too used to him being here.

Since he’d begun “guarding” her nothing had happened that seemed at all out of the ordinary. There’d been no sign of Malfoy or anyone associated with him. Truthfully, Ginny had begun to doubt the seriousness of the situation, but she’d kept it mostly to herself. Taking away her protection would mean taking away Harry, and for some reason that seemed like a terrible idea.

Trying to push him from her thoughts, she finally climbed out of the shower, leisurely dried off and wrapped her towel around her.

Moving to stand in front of the sink, she wiped the steam off the mirror with her hand. As she stared at her reflection, her mind drifted rebelliously back to its newest favorite subject – Harry.

He’s brilliant...he’s attractive…funny…

Irritated that she couldn’t seem to stop thinking about him she looked down and grabbed her brush.

When she raised her eyes back to the mirror she found Draco standing behind her reflection. With a scream she spun around, brandishing her brush instinctively like a wand only to find the room empty.

“I love these moments together, Ginevra,” Malfoy’s voice said from behind her.

Spinning back toward the mirror Ginny found Draco smirking in the reflection. Screaming again she stumbled back from the sink, hitting the wall with a thud.

“I do hate when you put that towel on so quickly, though,” he added, his lips curling into a sneer as her hand flew to her chest, holding the terri-cloth tighter against her.

Draco laughed cruelly; his image fading away as the door of the bathroom suddenly burst open and Harry came barreling in, his wand drawn. Looking around, his posture relaxed just a touch when he found her alone and seemingly unharmed.

Ginny looked over at him, her chest heaving as she sagged against the wall. He had his jeans on but they were undone and he was barefoot and shirtless.

“What happened?” he demanded, taking her arm and pulling her off of the wall.

Ginny suddenly felt a little stupid, and more than a little uncomfortable that she was wearing only a towel and Harry was having to hold his jeans up with his hand. It was only a reflection after all.

”He…he was in the mirror,” she mumbled, feeling her face get hot.

Harry looked over at the mirror and pulled her behind him.

“Did he say anything?” he asked, as he examined it.

“Um…I love these moments together,” she said softly and Harry turned around after a second with a frown.

He saw her face and his own expression softened at her obvious fear.

“You’re fine, Ginny, right?” he said stepping closer to her. “He can’t get you from there, you’re fine,” he said softly, cupping her cheek with his hand.

She nodded, her skin tingling where he touched it and after a second he lowered his hand, letting his fingers trail down her cheek on the way down.

“I just…it just wasn’t really real before you know? Not really,” she murmured.

“Don’t get too attached, Potter,” a voice drawled from the mirror and Harry back spun around, shoving Ginny behind him. “She doesn’t belong to you.”

Harry raised his wand and shattered the mirror before grabbing a towel and throwing it over the frame.

“Call in sick, get dressed, we’re leaving,” he said, taking Ginny’s arm and dragging her down the hall to her room.

“Harry,” Ginny said, pulling against his grip as she held her towel in place. “Harry, stop!”

He swung around so abruptly that Ginny practically ran into him.

“I can walk,” she said irritably as she stepped back and adjusted the towel.

Harry wasn’t listening, having finally noticed what she was wearing – or not wearing really.

His eyes were glued to her body, just barely covered with the towel she was shifting. As his eyes traveled down over her smooth, pale legs and then back up, heat surged through him.

“What are you wearing?” he asked dumbly, the words escaping before he could think about it.

Ginny’s hand went to her hip, which wasn’t good because the shift of her body and the fabric caused the slit on her leg to lengthen and Harry’s mouth to go dry.

“I would think that was obvious, Harry,” she replied arching her brow as she passed him with the posture and air of an irate queen. “Maybe you should think about what you’re wearing.”

Harry watched her go before looking down at himself. He’d lost his hold on his jeans and they were around his ankles, leaving only his dark green boxers. Cursing under his breath he bent down and jerked them up before heading quickly to his room.

Once safely inside her room Ginny collapsed against the door, her heart pounding and her face hot. She was flushed and it wasn’t just because she was embarrassed or frightened.

Brilliant…just brilliant, she thought as she looked down at herself. Only I would develop a thing for my bodyguard…not to mention the most famous wizard in the world who could have whoever he wants…

Her thoughts dissolved as the image of his chest popped back into her mind, smooth and tan and toned and…

Pull it together Ginny, she shook herself. You’ve seen guys without shirts on…he’s not even that attractive.

She rolled her eyes at herself.

Ok, maybe he’s a little…or a lot…or extremely bloody attractive…

Forcing herself to stop the direction of her thoughts, she jerked away from her door and began throwing things into a bag.


Chapter 3: Sparks and Lightning
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Harry took Ginny to his flat while the Aurors went back to her place to go over it again. Arriving with a pop outside of his door, Harry kept his arm securely around her while he began lowering the wards.

“How long are we going to be here, do you think?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied, shaking his head. “I doubt we’ll go back actually.”

“What?” Ginny asked, her eyes widening as she pulled away from him. “Why not?”

“I just wouldn’t trust it…and it’s safer here anyway,” he explained, opening the door to his flat and gesturing her inside.

Moving past him, Ginny dropped her bag on the floor and headed straight to the sofa, plopping down with a sigh.

“I still don’t see why I couldn’t go to work,” she muttered.

Ignoring her comment, Harry picked up her bag and disappeared down the hall.

“Want something to drink?” he asked as he passed through the lounge again, heading for the kitchen.

“Sure, whatever,” Ginny replied as she sank deeper into the cushions and looked around.

Taking in the room, she found a large fireplace across from her with a few framed pictures resting randomly across the mantle.

Standing back up, she went to take a closer look. She didn’t recognize most of the people waving at her from inside of the frames except for Ron and Hermione.

As her eyes drifted around the room she thought his furniture looked rather new, as though he’d bought it when he moved in and then never really used it.

New except for the sofa that was noticeably more rumpled than its matching chairs. Ginny didn’t have any trouble picturing him ending up there instead of his bed at the end of the day.

She’d been so frustrated about having a bodyguard the first time Harry brought her here; she hadn’t really paid attention to how it looked. Now, as she looked around, she noticed how sparse it really was. It appeared as though Harry wasn’t home very much.

The windows were bare and there was an overall lack of finish to the room. It was as though he hadn’t gotten around to buying anything else – or hadn’t cared about buying lamps, rugs and the knickknacks that most people would use to decorate a new place.

The whole place screamed single male and Ginny was struck with a sudden burst of happiness that he obviously didn’t have a female to decorate for him.

Frowning at her reaction, she crossed back to the sofa and sank back onto the cushions.

When Harry reentered the room, he handed her a butterbeer before sitting down in one of the large cushioned chairs opposite her.

“This is what you drink? Butterbeer?” she asked, smirking a little. “Not really what you’d expect from a bachelor.”

“Well, I like it,” he defended before taking a drink. “And besides…I don’t drink things that would make me lose control.”

“Ah,” she replied, taking a drink from her bottle. “And why is that?”

“I just don’t,” he replied gruffly, his eyes clouding slightly as he took another drink.

Ginny felt his mood shift and wasn’t sure what had happened. In an attempt to fill the sudden lull in conversation, she looked around the room, trying to think of something to say.

“So…” she began, “this is your flat?”

Is that all you could come up with? she thought, almost rolling her eyes at herself. Really good transition Gin.

“Yeah,” he shrugged, looking around. “It’s not very exciting really. But you know, I’m not here much, so it works out.”

“Where are you usually? Girlfriend’s?”

Ginny didn’t really like the way her body seemed to tense a little, as though the answer to this question was very important for some reason.

They’d talked about almost everything under the sun over the last week, but somehow relationships didn’t make it onto the list. She gave her insides a firm shake and took another drink as Harry gave a short laugh.

“No,” he shook his head. “I’m usually at the office, actually.”

“Ah…” she perked an eyebrow. “Workaholic?”

“Lately I guess,” he answered simply. “Important case,” he added, taking another drink before leaning back to watch her.

Ginny began to reply but was interrupted by the sound of the doorbell.

Looking over, Harry stood up and pulled his wand. Setting his bottle on the end table he twirled his wand in his fingers as he walked to the door. Peering out the eyehole, he hesitated, looking down at the floor for a second as he debated.

Whoever it was knocked again, a little longer and a little louder this time. After a handful of seconds, Harry waved his hand in front of the door, unlocking it and taking down the magical wards.

When he opened it, there was a dark haired girl in front of his doorway. Cho Chang just stood outside his flat, her arms crossed self-consciously over her chest as she looked up at him.

“Hi,” she greeted him with a wobbly smile.

Harry didn’t open the door all the way and he leaned against it, hoping to shield Ginny from view.

“Hi,” he replied as he watched her eyes drop to her feet for a second. “What are you doing here?”

“I…I brought you your shirt,” she explained, holding it out to him.

“Oh, um…thanks,” he told her. Tucking his wand into his back pocket he reached out and took it, his lips curving downward and into a slight frown.

As she looked back up, her eyes were swimming and Harry nearly groaned aloud, knowing what was coming.

I don’t have time for this, he thought even as she started to speak.

“I…I wanted to see you,” she admitted, taking a step forward. “I needed to talk to you, I think.”

“You think?”

“Well, I’d hoped…” she offered quietly, her eyes soft and sad.

“Look, I don’t really have time to do this right now,” he stopped her, trying not to make it worse.

“Right, of course…” she shook her head, her eyes dropping to the floor briefly. “It’s just that…I miss you. Can’t I just come in for a few minutes? I really want to talk.”

“There’s nothing to talk about, Cho,” he countered, his voice even and firm. “You know how I feel, nothing has changed.”

“But…I love you,” she pleaded softly, taking a step closer.

Harry didn’t answer; instead he closed his eyes, trying not to get angry.

They’d been over this a thousand times. He’d tried to love her, he really had. Even he didn’t understand what was holding him back. She was beautiful, kind and she obviously cared for him.

Regardless, he knew the reality of the situation was that they didn’t have a future. He wasn’t going to pretend to feel something for her just because she wanted it and his steadily increasing fascination with the redhead behind him only strengthened that understanding.

“Cho -” he started to respond, but his words were swallowed as she suddenly launched herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck as she smashed her lips against his.

Ginny’s eyes widened when Harry suddenly came stumbling back into the flat, a woman with long black hair attached to his face. She watched as he reached up, trying to pry her arms away but the girl only clung tighter.

The jealousy that curled inside of her was unexpected and her hand fisted into the cushion of the sofa when she saw Harry try to speak and the girl deepen the kiss with a moan.

“Cho,” Harry said in exasperation as he finally wrenched her off of him and held her away.

“Should I leave you two alone?” Ginny asked from her place on the sofa, causing both of their heads to snap towards her.

As Ginny met Harry’s gaze and raised her eyebrow, Cho suddenly dropped her arms and stopped trying to move back to Harry.

“Who are you?” she shot accusingly, causing Ginny’s gaze to move back to her.

“I’m Ginny, who are you?”

The girl looked at her with such contempt that Ginny almost laughed.

“I’m Cho,” she answered finally. “Harry’s girlfriend.”

“Ex-girlfriend,” Harry corrected her quickly.

Cho’s face crumpled and she suddenly started crying.

Ginny looked at Harry who ran a hand through his hair and shrugged helplessly at her before turning towards Cho.

“Who is she?” she demanded through her tears, rounding on him at the same time.

“She’s a friend,” he replied evenly.

“A friend? A friend? ” she repeated sarcastically. “You expect me to believe that? How come I’ve never met her if she’s a friend?”

Harry opened his mouth but it was Ginny who answered.

“I’m a new friend,” she called from the sofa, thoroughly enjoying herself now that she knew it was an ex-girlfriend.

Harry shot her a ‘you’re not helping’ look, but she just smiled sweetly at him and he rolled his eyes.

“How long have you been seeing her?” Cho demanded, tears now rolling freely down her cheeks.

“I’m not seeing her, Cho, she’s just a friend,” Harry insisted, beginning to lose patience with the whole situation. “And you know, even if I was seeing her, it’s really none of your business.”

Cho only seemed to cry harder as she shot a look at Ginny, who took a drink of her butterbeer, watching the scene.

“Did you leave me for her?”

Ginny choked on the butterbeer.

“What? No, Cho, I -”

“Oh, God, did you cheat on me? I can’t believe you cheated on me! How long were you seeing her?!”

Harry couldn’t answer; he just gaped at the weeping woman in front of him, trying to figure out how she’d made that leap, and frankly, why she was in his flat at all.

“Cho,” he said finally. “We broke up. That’s the end of it. Ginny has nothing to do with this.”

“But I love you, Harry,” she insisted, as though that would change everything. “She won’t make you happy…she could never love you like I do…just talk to me, we can work this out…”

Ginny couldn’t help it; she saw the look on Harry’s face and started laughing. She quickly clamped her mouth shut, trying to smother her mirth.

“What are you laughing at you little tart?” Cho shot, swinging around towards her, her dark eyes narrowing.

“Hey!” Harry intervened as Ginny stopped laughing and narrowed her eyes.

“Excuse me?” Ginny countered, rising from her spot to face off with the woman.

“You heard me,” Cho snapped, wiping her eyes as she began to walk towards the sofa. “Do you think this is funny,” she spat. “You steal him from me and then sit there all high and mighty like you didn’t do anything…”

“I didn’t steal anyone,” Ginny told her, her eyes flashing angrily. “You’re completely out of line and I think it’s time for you to leave.”

“No one asked you,” Cho countered.

“Well, no one had to…Harry’s made it more than clear that he doesn’t have anything to say to you and what I am or am not to him, is none of your bloody business!”

Cho’s eyes were wide with fury and she grabbed her wand. In an instant she was flinging her arm outward, but Ginny was faster. Before Harry could stop her, wings erupted all over Cho’s face.

“Ginny, put that down,” Harry ordered as he brought out his own wand.

“She tried to hex me! It’s not my fault I’m faster,” Ginny insisted, crossing her arms as Harry held a screaming Cho still long enough to fix her face.

When Cho was set right, Harry shot Ginny a warning look and began pulling Cho toward the door.

She didn’t, however, go quietly. Giving a cry of frustration Cho pointed her wand at Ginny again. Averting her attempt, Harry grabbed her hand and jerked her arm up so that her wand was pointed harmlessly at the ceiling.

Unfortunately Ginny’s hex was already flying. She opened her mouth to try to warn him, but there was no time and she winced as it hit him in the arm.

“Ow! Shite, Gin!” he exclaimed as he shot her a look.

“Sorry,” Ginny replied with a sheepish shrug. “It was just a little stinging hex.”

“Just sit down and wait for me,” he ordered. Exasperated, his gaze flew back to Cho as she continued to struggle against his grip. “That’s enough,” he said in a hard voice as he dragged her to the door and out of the flat, shutting the door behind them.

Ginny sat back down on the sofa, taking another drink of Butterbeer as she listened to Harry and Cho yell at each other in the hall. Although she couldn’t understand their words, the frustration on Harry’s part was clear.

After a few moments the volume died down. It took several more minutes for Harry to finally reenter the flat, thankfully alone. His mouth was set in a terse line as he resealed the door before finally crossing to her.

Sinking into the chair, he ran a hand through his hair before leaning his head back and closing his eyes.

“No wonder you never stayed at your girlfriend’s place,” Ginny said and he laughed, rubbing his face with his hands. “Bad breakup?”

“Not for me,” he told her, opening his eyes to look at her. “But she seems to be taking it pretty hard, I guess.”

“Pretty hard?” Ginny snorted. “She’s mental, that one. Where did you find her?”

“She’s not mental. She’s just a little…emotional,” Harry shrugged, with a smirk.

“That’s one way to put it,” she managed as she tried to stop giggling.

“I don’t know what you’re laughing at, Ginny…” Harry shot her a look as he raised his eyebrow. “Look who you attracted.”

Ginny stretched out on her side on the sofa, tucking her arm under her head.

“True,” she admitted with a quirk to her lips. “I guess we should just give up the chase and be together. At least we’re both normal.”

“I guess it’s our only option,” he agreed, leaning back again and closing his eyes with a smile. “Although I’m not sure I qualify as normal.”

“That’s ok,” Ginny added, propping her head up on her hand. “It probably wouldn’t work anyway.”

“Oh yeah?...And why is that?” he asked, keeping his eyes shut, “because your brothers would kill me?”

“No…because I could never love you like she does,” she replied, her voice overly dramatic as she batted her eyes, imitating Cho’s earlier tone.

“Thank, God, for that,” he laughed, opening his eyes.

~..~..~..~..~..~

“Five minutes!” Ginny called as she disappeared into her room.

They’d just gotten back from St. Mungo’s and Harry headed to the kitchen, suppressing a groan.

She’d flown through her last round, determined to get home in time for some show that was coming on. Although her excitement was adorable, he didn’t even want to think about what horrible program it was and he hadn’t bothered to ask.

All he knew was that he was going to miss the Chudley Cannons game so that she could watch some wizarding soap-opera. He just prayed that she wouldn’t force him to watch it too, although he had the sneaking suspicion she would, and that she’d enjoy every minute of his pain.

“Harry!” she called from the living room and he scowled.

No way, his mind told him as he began to feel a bit ill.

The last thing he wanted to do was spend the next hour watching a bunch of witches fight over their favorite wizard. He had his limits after all.

Suddenly he wished he’d finally gotten around to purchasing a telly for his room. That way he could tap into the Wizarding Broadcasting Corporation and watch the Cannons in peace.

“Harry!” she called before he emerged from the kitchen. “Come on! Aren’t you going to watch?!”

“No, I’m absolutely not - ”

He stopped in surprise, his mouth falling open slightly at the scene before him.

Ginny sat perched on the sofa, the table in front of her covered with snacks and butterbeer. She was wearing an oversized Chudley Cannons jersey that clashed horribly with her hair, practically bouncing up and down in anticipation. The pre-show was on and she was watching as the teams warmed up and the mascots performed.

This synched it, she was perfect – she was a goddess and he didn’t think he had ever been more attracted to anyone in his entire life. She was beautiful, and intelligent and feisty and… and she loved quidditch? Of course, she loved quidditch, just like his dream girl was supposed to. And not only quidditch, she loved the Cannons…his Cannons.

He loved her.

He was in love…he was…he was going to kill Remus. He was being punished. He knew he’d screwed up in Kent, but this was beyond payback – this was just cruel.

He hadn’t been assigned this because he was the only one strong enough to challenge Malfoy, it was because Remus knew she was perfect and wanted to torture him by dangling her in front of him like a prize just out of reach.

And what about Ron? his mind demanded.

This was obviously the reason he hadn’t introduced them before. Ron knew he wouldn’t have been able to keep his hands off of her.

… selfish bugger, keeping her away from me.

Harry was pulled out of his runaway thoughts as she glanced over at him with a smile.

“What are you doing? I thought you loved quidditch.”

Harry blinked at her before turning and disappearing down the hall.

Ginny furrowed her brow, watching him go before turning back to the game.

A few seconds later Harry came flying over the back of the sofa, landing beside her wearing his own jersey. She handed him a butterbeer with a smile and they settled in to watch the game. They cheered and laughed and talked about the season, discussing everything from past games to their favorite players.

Harry had to keep reminding himself along the way to keep his hands to himself, as every other second he wanted to reach over and brush her hair out of her face, or during his more delusional moments – perhaps just grab her and move her onto his lap and forget about the game.

He contented himself with passing her drinks or snacks or pretty much anything she wanted so that their fingers could hopefully brush. Eventually he gave that up too, feeling a little pathetic that he was more interested in those few seconds than the game being played in front of him.

Ginny wasn’t faring much better as she sat sideways on the sofa, her legs stretched out so that her feet rested against his thigh. Somehow that position had become a regular occurrence when they sat around.

She felt ridiculously stupid as the game wore on because she found herself forgetting to watch the game as she stared at his profile. She felt even more stupid that she kept asking for him to pass her things so that their fingers could touch.

With a huff of frustration she dropped her head back.

“What is it?” Harry asked turning his head to look at her.

Ginny’s head shot up as she tried to think of something to say other than Oh nothing, I’m just frustrated because I‘d rather be kissing you than watching this game…

She settled on, “We’re losing.”

He raised his brow and smiled at her. “We’re always losing,” he pointed and she rolled her eyes.

“Yes, well, today we’re really losing,” she countered.

When he finished laughing at her, they fell into a rather random and sporadic conversation about all things quidditch, the game in front of them forgotten.

“Have you ever been to the World Cup?” Harry asked several minutes later, his excitement rising at his memory. “We went fourth year, it was amazing!”

“Oh yeah!” Ginny shot back as she nodded. “The veela were hilarious, all of you guys falling all over yourselves…it was really pathetic.”

Harry laughed, nodding as he remembered before he sobered. “Wait, what do you mean? You were there? Who did you go with?”

Ginny’s smile faltered. Had she gone? It was so long ago now that she couldn’t remember.

“Um…yeah, I’m sure I went with my family,” she said as she thought back but trailed off at Harry’s look as he shook his head.

“No, I went with your family. You weren’t there…how could you, quidditch lover that you are, not remember if you were there? It was the World Cup! You would remember it anyway, death eaters attacked.”

Ginny furrowed her brow. “They did? Well, I guess I didn’t go then because I don’t remember that, I must have stayed with Mum…” she nodded as she thought back. “Hermione – I think Hermione told me about it.”

Harry shook his head, giving her a look before reaching for some crisps. Lounging back on the sofa, he threw his legs over hers. So far she’d claimed most of the sofa for herself and Harry didn’t mind it; he just didn’t see why she was the only one to get to stretch out.

They stayed on the sofa long after the game ended, talking and doing nothing until it was late into the night. Eventually they fell into an easy silence and just stayed together until Harry found himself dozing off. Shaking himself, he dragged his eyes open and looked at Ginny, who was already asleep.

Untangling their legs, he pulled himself up off the sofa, trying not to wake her. He looked down at her for a minute, watching her as she shifted, stretching out into the space he’d left. After a moment, he bent down and scooped her up, cradling her against him and carrying her back to her bedroom.

She was light and his body responded instantly to the feeling of her pressed against him, her warm breath on his neck and her hair brushing his arm as he walked with her.

He laid her down on her bed and began to pull back when he stopped, running his gaze over her face as he leaned over her. She was just so beautiful to him with her hair spread around her and her lips slightly parted as she slept.

He stared at her lips. He would have sworn they were trying to pull him closer and he brushed a piece of hair out of her face, trailing his fingers down her cheek.

Lowering his head he brushed his lips against hers. She was so soft, she was…he jerked away from her, completely horrified at himself. Shaking his head, he ran a hand over his face.

Bloody hell…

Grabbing a throw from the end of the bed, he draped it over her. He left the room quickly without looking back, the words just a job on repeat in his head.

Ginny woke up cold several hours later. Sitting up she pulled off the thin blanket and got out of bed. She walked quietly to the window running her fingers through her hair as she watched the rain falling softly.

Frowning, she glanced up at the sky. It didn’t seem too cloudy and she quickly changed into her pajamas and climbed back into her bed.

She didn’t remember coming in here earlier and it occurred to her that Harry must have carried her. Suddenly she felt a little down that she’d missed it, but she smiled ruefully to herself and flipped onto her side as she pulled the covers to her chin and went back to sleep.

~..~..~..~..~..~..~

The next day dawned dark and dreary and Ginny’s mood mirrored it perfectly when she woke up.

It was Saturday and she was stuck inside. She couldn’t go visit her friends. She couldn’t go to the store or for a walk and the weather only seemed to be getting worse as the rain increased.

That was the real problem. The reason she was moody was that she didn’t like rain. In fact, she hated rain. Rain meant storms and storms meant thunder, and thunder meant…

Laying in her bed with the sheets pulled up to her chin, she watched the rain fall through her window. It was coming down much harder than it had the previous night and it wasn’t showing any signs of stopping.

Although it was already ten, it was still dark outside because of the clouds. Shuttering as she heard the distant thunder she closed her eyes and prayed for the rain to lighten up – for the storm to move away. She didn’t want to be stuck here during a thunderstorm.

With a sigh she rubbed her temples and opened her eyes, trying to force herself to relax. She didn’t know what to do if the storm got worse.

No one knew about her “problem,” as she called it. Usually she just shut herself into her room and rode it out. She did not want to be stuck here with Harry of all people if it began to really storm.

Pulling herself out of bed, Ginny slipped into her robe, wrapping it tightly around her. Her hands trembled slightly as she tied the sash. Gathering her hair into a knot on top of her head, she headed to the bathroom.

As she stood in front of the mirror brushing her teeth, she watched as her hands trembled more with each roll of thunder.

Trying to ignore the signs of what was coming, she finished quickly and headed to the kitchen to find some coffee.

That was where Harry found her. The weather was getting worse, the thunder moving closer and flashes of lightening brightening the room every once and awhile.

Coming to a stop in the doorway he watched her move around his kitchen in a huff, slamming cabinets shut as she went. Seeing her in his kitchen in her bathrobe seemed surprisingly normal to him and he crossed his arms over his chest and cocked his head to the side.

“Looking for something?” he asked as he leaned on the doorframe

Whirling around, Ginny clamped her arms over her chest and glared at him.

He straightened when he noticed something seemed off about her. He’d thought she was just in a bad mood or something, but she seemed uncharacteristically jumpy and nervous.

“Where’s your coffee?” she clipped out brushing away a piece of hair that had fallen into her eyes.

A burst of lightening suddenly brightened the room and she jerked away from the window.

“I think I’m out,” Harry said, furrowing his brow and beginning to approach her. “Are you ok?”

“I’m fine,” she shot back as she headed to the door, her hands pulling restlessly on the tie of her robe.

Something’s wrong, Harry decided catching her arm as she tried to slip past him.

“Are you ok?” he asked again as he studied her.

“I’m fine,” she ground out, shifting closer automatically as the room lit up for a second flash of lightening. “I just don’t like rain very much and you don’t have coffee, that’s all.”

Harry’s lip curled up and she glared at him.

“You do realize you live in England,” he said as she pulled away and walked quickly back down the hall, her steps faltering a little as a clap of thunder shook the windows, closer now.

“It tends to rain a lot here!” he called after her as she disappeared into her room and slammed the door.

Unsure of what to make of her behavior, Harry scratched the back of his neck and headed to his fireplace to try and get some coffee from Hermione.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Ginny sat in the middle of her bed cursing Harry into oblivion because he didn’t have curtains. The storm was now raging and the lightening was becoming more frequent, the sound of the rain and thunder drowning out everything else. She began rocking back and forth resting her head on her knees. She squeezed her eyes shut and bit her lip, trying to keep her breathing steady.

She hated storms. She didn’t understand why. She just knew that when it stormed she cried, and she shook…and huddled in a corner until it was over. Most of the time she blocked it out; not remembering it when it was over.

Her hands flew to her ears and she whimpered as a loud clap of thunder sounded outside, making the windows rattle. The wind was howling, a tree branch scraping against the glass and another flash of lightening illuminated the room, followed a few seconds later by another clap of thunder.

Ginny cried out and flew off the bed, scrambling to get away from the sounds and retreating into herself as she let her mind take over.

Harry looked up from the counter in the kitchen, his head snapping in the direction of Ginny’s room at the sound. Narrowing his eyes he focused his energy, listening until he heard it again. He heard her cry out and he abandoned the coffee he’d been fixing - drawing his wand as he ran down the hall.

Throwing open her door he strode in only to stop when he found the room dark and empty.

Fear flooded him and he called her name, moving farther into the room as he looked around. He soon relaxed when a flash of lightening illuminated the room for a second and he saw her. She was huddled in the far corner facing the wall. He hadn’t noticed her before and he approached her cautiously.

She seemed to be mumbling as she rocked, her arms wrapped around her knees and her head resting against the wall. There was another clap of thunder and her body jerked as she whimpered and he crouched behind her.

“Ginny,” he said as he touched her shoulder and she whirled around with a cry, batting his hand away.

He watched her face as her eyes darted around, unfocused as though she was somewhere else as she cried.

Blimey, he thought as he watched her shaking.

He’d never seen anything like this and he had no idea how to help her. When he said her name again, she finally let out a sob.

“Harry,” she whispered as she moved from her position and crawled past him. “Harry?!”

What the…

The lightening flashed and she collapsed to the ground with a cry. Harry crouched over her, pulling her hair back so that he could see her face as she began to sob his name, her eyes squeezed shut and her body twitching slightly.

He pulled her up so that she was facing him on her knees.

“Harry,” she whimpered.

Pulling her against him, he wrapped her in his arms as another bout of thunder shook the room.

“Harry,” she sobbed. “Where are you?”

“I’m right here, Ginny. It’s fine,” he soothed as he stroked her back but she just kept shaking and crying out with every burst of lightening.

The storm was right on top of them at this point and the thunder was sounding at almost the exact same time that the lightening flashed.

He tried talking to her and shaking her but she didn’t respond to him, too lost in herself as she mumbled, trying to move away from him - trying to get to someone or something else but he couldn’t understand what she was saying. He grabbed her chin and tilted her head back so that he could see her face. Her eyes were squeezed shut and her breathing shallow as she whimpered; her skin clammy and paler than normal.

When her eyes flew open, her panic increased as the thunder continued to explode through the room and rumble away.

“HARRY!”

He pulled her back to him and she clung to his shirt, her knuckles white as she sobbed against him.

“I’m right here, Ginny,” he soothed. “I’m right here,” he said in her ear but it just seemed to make it worse as she jerked and cried out with the thunder.

“I couldn’t…find you,” she managed brokenly before her words became all but gibberish as she twitched, trying to hold tighter, trying to move closer.

She was small and frail in his arms and she didn’t seem to even realize where she was or that he was holding her. Doing the only thing he could think of, he picked her up and carried her across the room. The door of the closet flew open as he approached and he went in with her.

As the door swung shut behind them he sank to the ground in the dark before he scooted back through the few cloaks he’d stored inside and into the corner as far as he could go.

Once he was situated he sat in the dark with her, cradling her against his chest as she shook. She continued to mumble incoherently but she was a little more subdued without the lightening.

Eventually the storm lessened and she fell asleep in his arms. He rested his head on hers as he tried to figure out what had just happened.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Ginny woke up with a headache in the dark and tensed. She tried to move but something was holding her in place and she felt someone breathing beside her. She tried to jerk away and Harry cursed as her elbow found his ribs and her head knocked into his chin hard.

“Ow! Bloody - ”

“Let go of me!”

“Hold on!”

“Ow!”

They shuffled and cursed each other as they tried to move in the cramped space and after a few seconds Ginny’s back hit the floor as Harry came down on top of her with a curse.

She tried to shove him off as she twisted, but she stilled when the tip of his wand lit, flooding the small space with light. She found him glaring down at her, their faces inches apart. Their eyes flicked automatically down to the lips of the other for a second before moving back up.

“Could you hold still for two seconds?”

“Could you get off me?” she shot back as she began to try move again and he rolled his eyes and pushed up with his arm.

“You pulled me down here,” he huffed as he reached up through the cloaks, trying to find the door knob with the hand holding his wand, causing the light to bounce around them.

“I most certainly did not! You fell on me.”

“You knocked me over! I told you to stop moving.”

“Oh right,” she huffed as she pushed a cloak out of the way so she could see him. “Like I could really understand you…plus you elbowed me in the head!”

“Well you were,” he found the doorknob and flung the door open – “kicking me,” he said as he crawled over her and out of the closet.

She grabbed his leg and yanked it back, scrambling over him and pushing him to the ground as she climbed past.

“Ladies first,” she muttered.

“I’ll remember that when I see one,” he muttered back with a snort.

Ginny spun around on her knees with a glare, but he just smiled cheekily at her and she shoved him in the shoulder before turning back around as her lip twitched.

It was raining lightly now, the sun beginning to poke through the clouds.

“What were we doing in the closet?” Ginny asked, turning back to look at him.

“You don’t like storms,” he said simply, crawling over to her and sitting up on his knees as he watched her reaction.

“I don’t know what you mean,” she said lamely, trying to think back.

What happened? she wondered. She couldn’t remember anything and her face began to flush.

“I mean, you really don’t like storms,” he said softly. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

She tucked a piece of hair behind her ear and fiddled with the tie of her robe in her lap. “I don’t have to tell you everything,” she countered, watching his eyes as they narrowed.

“Don’t you think you should have told me this? I found you terrified, disoriented and practically hysterical in a corner.”

Her eyes widened and she looked down. She didn’t remember that.

“I’m sorry,” she said softly and she found herself suddenly blinking back tears and she didn’t know why.

She was embarrassed for sure, knowing that her fear was irrational and hating that he’d witnessed it. No one knew about it and for some reason the idea that he would think she was weak made it that much worse.

“Come on,” he said, taking her hand and pulling her up. “I found you some coffee.”

Leading her to the kitchen, he used his wand to reheat the cup he’d poured her earlier.

When he’d handed it to her, he leaned against the counter and watched her drink it.

“Are you ok? he asked after a moment causing her to look up at him over the rim of the mug before lowering it.

“Yes.”

“Is it always like this?” he questioned her further. “When it storms?”

For a moment she seemed to consider whether or not to answer him before she shrugged and moved past him.

“Ginny,” he implored quietly catching her wrist and bringing her to a stop. “Talk to me…please.”

Her gaze flicked to his and she hesitated for a second before looking down at his hand on her wrist. Biting her lip she laced their fingers together before pulling him with her into the other room.

“Is it always like that when it storms?” he asked again as they sank down on the sofa.

Ginny tucked her legs under her and let go of his hand.

“I guess so,” she shrugged, dropping her eyes briefly as she tucked a piece of hair nervously behind her ear. “I don’t…usually remember much of it after a point. I just wake up when it’s over.”

“Why are you afraid of them?”

“Honesty…I don’t know,” she admitted, leaning her head against the back of the sofa and stretching her legs out until her feet rested against his thigh. “I don’t remember not liking storms as a child…it’s sort of…it’s sort of new I guess.”

For a long time after she fell silent, they stayed on the sofa together. In those moments, any initial friendship between them was solidified.

He didn’t laugh at her, or make fun of her for it. In fact, he seemed genuinely concerned about her.

When Ginny started crying, admitting almost without thinking that she felt stupid for being afraid; he’d pulled her to him and held her, assuring her that she wasn’t.

He told her about his nightmares. About how he’d had them regularly until he was about twenty and still sometimes woke up tangled in his sheets.

As he stroked her hair he told her how they could just be irrationally scared of things together - talking to her until he had her smiling and chuckling softly.

Harry wasn’t sure what came over him, but something did. He’d seen her reduced from the strong, independent person he’d met to a frightened wreck and he wanted to protect her from that.

He wanted to make her feel better. He wanted to make sure she was safe and never afraid and he swallowed as he rubbed her back.

I’m in big trouble, he thought with a frown, trying to figure out how his feeling had somehow raced straight past attraction to true affection.


~..~..~..~..~..~..~..~..~..~..~..~..~..~..~..~

A special thanks to Helix for the help with this one. :)


Chapter 4: Under Pressure
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Harry and Ginny made their way down Diagon Alley with a few Aurors following them at a distance. Scanning the crowd as they walked, Harry reached out and took Ginny’s hand. Linking his fingers through hers, he pulled her closer as they weaved in and out of people.

Ginny felt her skin tingling at his touch and looked down at their hands, noticing how small and pale hers was compared to his.

Smiling slightly, she thought back to their earlier conversation.

“Ginny, I said no and I meant it.”

“Then what are we going to eat?” Ginny demanded, flicking her wand and causing the cabinets to fly open, revealing their empty shelves. “You’re out of almost everything, and not just in the kitchen.”

“We still don’t need to go out,” Harry argued, barely glancing up from his paper at her display. “I’ll just have someone send…”

“That’s not the point,” Ginny interrupted, crossing to the kitchen table where he sat. Hopping up on the table next to him, she snatched the paper from his hands. “Just because you can have someone else bring us supplies, doesn’t mean...”

“Ginny,” he huffed irritably, “I said no…”

“Well I want to get out of this flat,” Ginny said, holding the paper out of reach as he moved to grab it back. “It’s Saturday and besides, you can’t just keep me here indefinitely.”

“I know that,” Harry glared.

Grabbing her wrist suddenly, he pulled her down until their faces were close. He pulled the paper out of her grasp with his free hand, but didn’t release her.

“It’s an unnecessary risk,” he told her firmly.

Ginny considered him for a second before moving her hand to his where he held her. He tensed under her caress, his eyes suddenly wary as she broke into a sweet smile.

“Please?” she asked, watching his gaze drift down to her mouth as she spoke…


Lost in thought, Ginny ran right into a large wizard. The man had been striding in the other direction, looking in a shop window instead of where he was going. They collided with a thud and Ginny’s hand slipped out of Harry’s as she stumbled backwards.

Harry spun when he felt Ginny tugged away and heard her give a startled cry. Grabbing her arm, he yanked her back and behind him. His wand was up and pointed at the man’s startled face an instant later, cutting off his stammered apology.

“Put that away!” Ginny ordered. “Honestly, I just ran into him,” she insisted when he didn’t move. “I’m fine.”

Ginny looked around, feeling the Aurors begin to move in.

“Harry, stop it!” she urged, grabbing his arm. “People are staring.”

Harry hesitated, narrowing his eyes as he held the man’s gaze. After another second he dropped his wand. He nodded to the nearest Auror and they immediately began to blend back into the crowd. With that, Harry took Ginny’s hand and continued walking.

Ginny shook her head. “You’re a jumpy lot, aren’t you,” she muttered.

“You never know when something could happen,” he replied curtly, looking down at her.

“Harry, we’re in public, surrounded by people. Who would be stupid enough to try something now?”

Harry simply ignored her, scanning the crowd as they made their way to Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes so Ginny could see her brothers. It was their last stop of the day and Harry was more than ready to get out of Diagon Alley.

She’d dragged him to all sorts of shops. Harry was pretty sure that if she hadn't been trying to stay out as long as possible, she'd never have wanted to go to most of them.

The shop was just coming into view when they were stopped by a wizarding family with two teenage daughters.

“Harry Potter! Look girls, it’s Harry Potter,” the mother exclaimed, pointing at Harry while shoving her daughters in front of him.

Ginny watched the girls’ eyes light up with interest before she glanced around, noting the curious looks from the people near enough to hear the woman. Harry had told her this occasionally happened to him, but she’d never experienced it.

“Nice to meet you, sir!” the father exclaimed, stepping up and holding his hand out.

Harry groaned inside as the young girls began to giggle. Other shoppers began to gather around them as well, forcing them to a stop. Harry smiled tightly as he began shaking the hands that shot out to him, while at the same time pulling Ginny closer to him.

Brilliant.

No matter how many times this happened to him, it was something he never got used to and never enjoyed. He didn’t like the attention and was continually amazed that his popularity hadn’t faded as the years went by.

Even now, more people were beginning to move forward, eager to meet the savior of the wizarding world. Harry’s grip on Ginny’s hand tightened and he maneuvered her behind him without taking his focus off of the crowd.

Rising up on her toes, Ginny whispered into his ear, “I think they’re in love.”

Harry felt her breath on his skin and goose bumps erupted instantly on his neck. He turned his head and was immediately lost in the depth of her laughing eyes.

“You think?” he murmured as his eyes dropped to her lips.

She let out a laugh as she nodded and he looked back up at her eyes. He followed her gaze to the two daughters who looked like they were about to start drooling. He didn’t even try to hide it when he rolled his eyes.

Resting her cheek against Harry’s back as he tried to politely disperse the crowd, Ginny looked down the street to her brothers’ shop. She could see the sign from her vantage point with its bright colors and moving font standing out against the dark buildings.

Glancing back at the gathering crowd of Potter fans, Ginny realized they wouldn’t be going anywhere soon. Deciding to take matters in hand, she tugged on Harry’s arm to get his attention.

“I’m going to walk on,” she told him when he looked back at her. “It’s only a few doors down.”

Harry tightened his grip on her hand and shook his head.

“No, Ginny…” he said but she twisted swiftly out of his grip. “Wait…”

As soon as she’d stepped away, several wizards pushed into her place, blocking Harry as he reached for her. She was gone in an instant, disappearing into the crowd as they moved forward to speak to him. One wizard grabbed his hand and began shaking vigorously, but Harry pushed him off.

“Ginny!” Harry called angrily, ignoring the attempted introductions as he followed her.

Harry fumed inwardly about her recklessness as he tried to push through the crowd. His irritation spiked as the people in front of him refused to cooperate and he took back every nice thing he’d felt about her recently.

He was just about to part the way with his wand when a series of loud cracks sounded and several hooded wizards apparated onto the street around him, shooting curses and throwing the crowd into a panic.

“Damn it…GINNY!”

~..~..~..~..~..~

Ginny heard Harry’s yell and turned back.

Really, he’s such a…

She didn’t get a chance to finish her thought because someone knocked into her hard and she stumbled to her knees. Her heart sped up as she heard the sounds of screams and the blasts of spells. Looking up, all she could see was the rush of robes around her before she was jerked roughly to her feet.

Fear flooded her as she looked up to find a masked wizard holding her arm.

“Get off me!” she cried, trying to break free from his bruising grasp as he began to drag her from the street. “HARRY!”

There was smoke everywhere as the crowd of shoppers ran in all directions, bumping into them in their haste to find safety.

“Don’t move!”

Jerking her head around at the barked order, she found not Harry, but another Auror pushing through the crowd, his wand pointed at the wizard’s face. Spinning her out of the way, the dark wizard shot a hex in the Auror’s direction.

Ginny twisted harder against the wizard’s grasp as he tried to hold her and fight the Auror at the same time. After a second, she broke free and fell to the ground again, ripping her robes as she tripped over them.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Harry was pushing through the crowd, looking around frantically for Ginny’s red hair.

Where is she?

“Ginny!”

As he shoved a young couple out of the way, a wizard materialized in front of him and threw a curse. In response, Harry raised his wand and deflected it before throwing one of his own. It took him only a few seconds to stun the wizard and he quickly bound him.

“Ginny!” Harry called again as he ran in the direction she’d disappeared.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Fred looked up as he heard the commotion outside. He called George’s name as he began to move to the front of the shop. His hand went instinctively to his wand when the door burst open and someone barreled in.

“Hey! What’re you…Harry?! What…”

“Is Ginny here?” Harry demanded as he looked around.

“Ginny?” George asked, coming out of the back carrying a box.

“Is your sister here?!” Harry barked again when they gave him confused looks.

“No, why…”

Harry didn’t wait for Fred to finish as he turned and ran back out the door.

Fred and George looked at each other for a second before pulling their wands out and running after him.

They stumbled to a stop outside, just barely avoiding Harry where he’d stopped on the sidewalk. They took a quick glance around at the chaotic streets before turning their attention back to Harry.

His body was rigid, his eyes squeezed shut and his wand held tightly in his hand.

Fred and George exchanged wary glances as he took a deep breath, his body seeming to hum slightly.

A second later Harry’s eyes opened, dark and intense as his head snapped to the left.

“This way,” he said, taking off at run with the twins only a step behind him.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Disoriented by the smoke and chaos, Ginny ran blindly. Plunging her hand into her robe she reached for her wand as she searched the crowd for Harry’s familiar face. With a gasp she looked down, her hand traveling right through a hole in the fabric where it had ripped.

Slowing her steps, she blinked back a rush of tears as she realized her wand had fallen out somewhere as she ran. Instinctively she looked behind her, only to see the wizard she’d run from push his way through a huddled group of teenagers. Her insides twisted violently when he spotted her.

When he raised his wand she lunged off to her right. The heat of his curse whizzed past her and she heard someone scream as it hit them instead. Despite her automatic urge to look back, she continued running through the crowd to get away, searching for someone she recognized. There wasn’t anyone, of course, and she felt a moment of intense rage at the fact that as soon as she actually needed them, all of the Aurors had disappeared.

Bloody Aurors!

The moment passed quickly though and was replaced by the sudden urge to cry.

Skidding to a stop when she saw another hooded figure approaching from the direction she was heading, she ducked into the alley to her left. It was a narrow passage leading to a dead end. The high buildings on either side blocked most of the light and the farther she ran, the darker it got. Her fear intensified with each step as she neared the wall in front of her.

Hearing the heavy footfalls of someone running up behind her, she looked around frantically for a door or somewhere to go, but there was nothing. Out of options, she ducked behind a dumpster just as a curse flew past her, barely missing her.

There was nowhere left to run so she sank down to the ground. The thought of what awaited her if she was taken surged inside of her, increasing her panic.

Her body was shaking and for the first time in her life, she understood what it felt like to be truly and completely afraid. Her mind was calling desperately for Harry and she screamed his name aloud when the wizard came around the dumpster.

“’Ello, sweet,” he leered, a triumphant smile twisting his winded face. “I don’t think he’s gonna make it, do you?”

Glaring at him, Ginny curled her hands into fists at her sides. She kept her thumb tight against her fingers the way Bill had taught her. If she was going to be taken it wasn’t going to be without a fight.

Laughing, he reached down to grab her, only to stumble to the side when she punched him hard in the jaw.

“Bitch!” he growled, swinging his arm and backhanding her across the face.

The blow knocked Ginny back against the dumpster with a clang. Her vision spun and her cheek throbbed as he grabbed her hair and yanked her forward.

Ginny screamed as she fought him, her hands going to her hair where he had a hold of her. Closing her eyes, she dug her fingernails into his hands and tried to break away from him as he tried to pull her up.

Her eyes flew open when she heard someone yell a stunning spell. The wizard’s grip on her hair released and he flew away from her. She scrambled back behind the dumpster, pressing her back against the wall as she heard more footsteps running and then suddenly Harry was there, in front of her, saying her name and pulling her up.

She let out a sob and threw her arms around him, clinging to him.

Harry pulled her close for a second as he breathed a sigh of relief. Releasing her, he was just grabbing her hand to lead her back to the entrance of the alley when the twins and a couple of Aurors skidded to a halt in front of them.

“They’re right behind us,” George panted as Fred turned to face the entrance, his wand drawn.

“Get her out of here,” Harry ordered, thrusting Ginny to the Auror nearest him, but she didn’t let go. One hand clamped on his and the other grabbed onto his forearm. He looked over at her to find her shaking her head, her eyes filled with fear.

“I’m staying with you,” she said as she moved back toward him.

“Ginny, this is no time to argue,” Fred said over his shoulder, but she ignored him.

A curse shot towards them and Harry spun her back behind the dumpster while the others formed a wall of defense.

“Tom,” Harry called as he pulled Ginny close, blocking her with his body as he leaned his head down close to hers. “Tom’s going to take you to my flat,” he said as the Auror stepped up behind him. “You’ll be safe there.”

“I want to stay with you,” Ginny said firmly continuing to shake her head.

“Ginny, you have to go,” he told her, cupping her cheek. “I’ll be there in a few minutes, ok? You’ll be fine. I promise.”

“No arguments, Gin. He knows what’s best,” George called and she shot a glare at him while Fred nodded his agreement.

Another curse hit the wall near them and Harry thrust her into Tom’s arms before she could argue. He pulled a coin from his pocket and tossed it to Tom as he met her angry, frightened eyes. She said his name and disappeared with the Portkey as it took her to safety.

When they were gone, Harry narrowed his eyes and stepped out from behind the dumpster. The fear in her eyes filled his senses. It mixed with his fury and his pupils dilated in an instant, erasing the green in them for a second before returning to normal.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Ginny sat on Harry’s sofa, her knees pulled under her chin with her arms wrapped around them. She rocked back and forth slowly until Harry appeared with a pop. Her body relaxed instantly as she watched him speak softly with Tom, but she stayed where she was until the other man left.

Running a hand through his hair, Harry turned toward her. He watched warily as she got up and moved swiftly toward him. Her hand shot out and she shoved his shoulder as her eyes flashed.

“I can’t believe you did that!”

“Ginny…”

“I said I wanted to stay with you!” she exclaimed shoving him again. “I don’t even know that Auror! What if it was a trick and Malfoy was here?!”

Harry hesitated for a second as he studied her. Her usually rosy cheek was marred by a purple bruise and he reached out, cupping her chin gently as he moved forward.

“My job is to keep you safe, Ginny,” he said softly. “Not make sure you aren’t mad at me.” He turned her face to the side so he could see the spot better. “When did this happen?” he asked as he brushed his thumb across the lower part of her cheek.

Ginny bit her lip. She knew her face had been aching since the wizard had hit her, but she didn’t realize it had left a mark.

“In the alley,” she answered with a shrug. “I don’t think he appreciated me hitting him very much, so he hit me back.”

She watched his eyes flash angrily as he brought his wand up to perform a healing spell.

“I’m sorry,” he murmured, running his fingers over the spot as it faded away.

Ginny’s eyes filled unexpectedly with tears at his tender touch and she blinked them back. He could have been killed because of her and he was apologizing? She’d just walked off, ignoring him when he warned her not to. None of this would have happened if she had just done as he asked. She turned back toward him and took in the cut on his cheek where a spell had obviously grazed him.

“Are you hurt?” she asked, hearing her voice wobble as she spoke.

“I’m fine,” he smiled down at her as he ran the backs of his fingers over her cheek. “Everything is fine. You’re safe and that’s all that matters.”

The tears that had rushed into her eyes began to fall and she reached up, cupping his face and running her thumb lightly over the cut.

“I’m so sorry. It’s my fault. I should never have…”

Harry shook his head, cutting her off.

“It’s fine, Gin. It’s -”

Ginny rose up onto her toes, cutting him off with a kiss.

She didn’t know what made her do it. She was just scared, and emotional, and afraid for him and she pushed her lips against his.

Harry froze momentarily in surprise.

Ginny pulled away, but just barely. No more than a second had passed before she kissed him again more firmly, catching his bottom lip in hers as she tasted him.

Harry kept his body still, but it only took about half a second for him to start kissing her back. Moving his lips with hers in a series of short, open mouthed kisses, their tongues flicked out as their lips came together harder and with more intensity each time.

Ginny slid her hand into his hair and pulled him closer, moving her other hand to his face as she slipped her tongue completely into his mouth.

Harry didn’t know why she was kissing him, but he was enjoying it much more than he probably should have been as he met her tongue with his own. His hand came up to cup her neck, pulling her face closer as he began to take control of the kiss. Her lips opened wider for him as he invaded her mouth, tasting her tears.

Harry felt heat and emotion surge through him as she whimpered slightly and pressed against him. God he wanted this. He wanted her and he was a little surprised at the intensity of it. He felt like he’d been waiting forever to do this and their mouths moved together perfectly – as though they’d done it a thousand times before.

Ginny came to her senses a few moments later and pulled back. Harry almost stumbled forward, following her lips as they left his and he opened his eyes, his breathing heavy. He watched as embarrassed horror filled her face.

“I’m…I’m sorry,” she murmured, pulling her hands quickly from his face and backing up. She brought a hand to her mouth and turned, walking swiftly to her room and closing the door.

Oh my God, she kept thinking, what was that? She’d just thrown herself at him. What’s wrong with me?

Her body was reeling from him and she brought her fingers to her lips as she leaned against the door. Kissing him had been brilliant. It had been perfect and familiar and she wanted to do it again…right now. She brought her other hand to her head as it began to ache…or maybe she would lie down for a second.

Harry stood frozen and watched her leave, not really sure what to do. At the moment he didn’t think going after her would be a very good plan because the odds were good that he wouldn’t talk to her, he would simply throw her down and continue what she had started – and stopped, unfortunately.

He had felt a pure and overwhelming panic today when he hadn’t been able to find her and an even more startling surge of rage when he’d reached the alley and found the wizard trying to hurt her.

He had protected people before and saved people before but he’d never felt such an intense reaction. He shook his head at himself, pretty sure that if he’d gone straight to the wizard and not stopped to help her up he would have killed him for touching her.

He rubbed the bridge of his nose under his glasses, trying to push down the desire that had shot through him at her touch.

Not good.

As if on cue to give him a distraction, his fireplace surged green.

Harry flew to his feet, his hand going for his wand as a wizard stepped out of the flames. Recognizing his superior, Harry dropped his hand.

“Lupin,” he greeted with a nod.

“How is she?” the older wizard asked, glancing around.

“Ok,” Harry answered, gesturing to the hall. “She’s in her room.”

“And how are you?” Remus asked, eyeing him closely.

“Me? I’m fine,” Harry replied with a shrug. “Just…frustrated that they got so close.”

Remus considered him for another moment before nodding, apparently satisfied with what he found in Harry’s expression.

“Tell me what happened,” he said, crossing to the sofa as Harry began to talk.

~..~..~..~..~..~..~

It was almost an hour before Ginny came out of her room. She did not want to face him but it wasn’t in her nature to hide.

Harry was sitting on the sofa, staring into space, a butterbeer forgotten in his hand.

Ginny pushed down the urge to turn around and head back to her room. Instead she walked past him and settled onto the other end of the sofa.

Harry was pulled out of his thoughts when she moved past his vision and he shifted, turning as he watched her.

“Hey,” he said as she pulled her knees up, wrapping her arms around them and leaning against the cushions as she looked at him.

It took all of his control to keep his eyes on hers when they seemed determined to drop to her mouth.

“Harry,” she began. She’d been rehearsing this in her room, but now that she was actually out here everything she’d come up with to say flew straight out the window. “I…I don’t know what to say…I…”

Well this is going well, she thought wishing she’d stayed in her room.

“Don’t worry about it,” Harry told her shaking his head. “You were scared. You just…I think it’s better if we just forget about it. It doesn’t matter.”

Yeah right, his mind responded instantly to his words, like you’ll ever forget that.

It was quite possibly the best kiss he could remember…but that wasn’t the point. Whatever his body felt, his mind kept reminding him, this was a job. He was here to protect her, not seduce her. Being attracted to her was one thing, but actually acting on that attraction was something very different; something he wouldn’t do, especially considering who she was. It didn’t really occur to him that she’d been the one who started it.

Ginny studied him for a second before nodding and relaxing her position a little; pretty sure that forgetting about it was not really an option for her.

“So…was it Malfoy?”

Harry took a drink of his butterbeer and set it on the table before lounging back and meeting her gaze.

“He wasn’t there, but it was him. He was testing us; seeing how many Aurors were with you. I don’t think they were actually trying to take you, he isn’t ready for you yet.”

“How do you know that?”

He ran a hand through his hair before rubbing his neck. “Well, it’s complicated. The ingredients he needs, some of them are very rare. He can only get them at certain times and in certain places. The things he has to do to prepare the potion and for the ritual, take time.”

Ginny nodded, but it didn’t really make her feel any better.

“I’m sorry, I walked off…this was my fault.”

He shook his head. “They didn’t come because you left, they were coming anyway. You just scared me.”

“Me too,” she added quietly and Harry suddenly felt the overwhelming urge to comfort her; to make her feel safe, but he wasn’t sure how to do that without pulling her into his arms. He knew that was a bad idea now, so he just watched her, their gazes locked.

Ginny was the first to move.

Glancing away she rubbed her forehead until her gaze fell on his butterbeer sitting on the table. Leaning over, she picked it up and took a drink before she settled back against the cushions. Stretching her feet out to the middle of the sofa she met Harry’s gaze again only to find him looking at her with an unreadable expression.

“What?”

His eyebrow rose before he looked from her innocent stare to the bottle.

“That…is not yours,” he pointed out.

Hearing the amusement in his voice, she smiled.

“Oh, didn’t you give it to me?” she asked sweetly.

“No, I don’t believe I did,” he said, watching her throat move as she took another drink, finishing the bottle.

“Well it was very good,” she said, her eyes following him as he got up.

“I’m so glad you enjoyed it,” he said dryly and she smirked at him.

He took the bottle from her as he passed and ran his other hand absently over her hair as he headed to the kitchen. He came back a second later carrying two new bottles. He handed one to her as he walked back to his spot on the sofa.

They sat together in silence for a few more minutes; Harry staring at the wall again as he went over what had happened in the alley and Ginny staring at the fireplace until she spoke.

“Will I get to go to work tomorrow?”

“I think so,” he said after a second. “I doubt they would try anything else so soon, but that’s the only place we’ll be going for awhile. I’ll set it up so that we can Apparate straight into an empty room and back.”

“Ok,” she agreed before she turned to look at him. “But I have to go to the banquet this weekend.”

Harry frowned and took a drink. “I don’t know. It’s going to be a lot of work to secure something like that. After what happened today, it might be better if…”

“I’m going, Harry,” she interrupted in a tone that made him look over at her. “I helped plan it, I have to be there. You’re just going to have to make it work.”

Harry watched her face for a minute, seeing her clenched jaw and flashing eyes. After a second he ran a hand through his hair. “Fine, but no wandering off…and if I say we’re leaving, we leave; no arguments.”

“Absolutely,” Ginny nodded, stretching her legs out until her feet were resting against his leg.

They sat in a comfortable silence for awhile before Ginny spoke again.

“So, how is it going to work with my date?”

Harry’s head shot around to look at her.

“What date?”

“My date to the banquet, Neal is taking me.”

Harry blinked. She has a date? Who the hell is Neal? His mind railed against the idea; a strange pressure beginning to build on his chest as he pictured it.

“No.”

“No?” Ginny asked, raising her brow at him.

“You’re going with me. I’m not going to be responsible for him too and we certainly aren’t going to all go together.”

“And just what am I supposed to tell him?”

“I don’t care,” Harry shrugged. “Tell him I’m a family friend or something. Tell him I’m Harry Potterand I feel like going. What’s he going to do? And don’t even try to argue this one…a date makes it too difficult, too many loose ends and it would be too hard to keep you close without it becoming a circus.”

Ginny narrowed her eyes but his gaze was steady, his jaw set. After a second she huffed and crossed her arms, causing Harry to break into a grin.

“What?” Ginny demanded.

His grin widened, “Nothing. It’s just such a great feeling to actually win an argument so quickly,” he said and Ginny kicked his leg, her lips twitching.

“When did you manage to get a date?” he asked after a second, unable to keep the words inside despite his best efforts. “I’m always around.”

Ginny’s lip curled up and she shrugged. “I had a couple of people ask me actually. I guess you just didn’t notice.”

“But…but I was always there,” he countered as he crossed his arms. Some bodyguard I make, he thought with a frown. He couldn’t imagine how he could possibly have missed this. If anything, he was hyper aware when men spoke to her at work, although he pointedly ignored the reason why that was. He looked over when he heard her laugh. “What?”

“I do get mail, Harry,” she said with a smirk, “after the Aurors go through it, of course.”

That made him feel a bit better at first until his mood plummeted.

Who did she write to? Who was writing to her?

She could be talking to just about anyone, having an entire relationship that he didn’t even know about. He tried not to scowl at the thought and had the sudden urge to floo Ron. He would certainly want to know if some wanker was trying to seduce her with love letters...

Ginny watched the emotions play across his face and she furrowed her brow before biting back a smile. It seemed a lot like jealousy to her. A thrill went through her, but she shoved it aside, not completely sure if she was right.

When they went to bed later, Harry was an internal wreck. He sat cross legged on the floor as he centered, controlling his emotions before going to sleep. Even after he was in bed, he continued to stare at the ceiling.

She was much too popular for her own good he decided. He didn’t want her accepting dates from other guys and he really wanted to kiss her again but that, unfortunately, wasn’t an option.

He finally fell asleep, trying to figure out how he was going to get through the next couple of weeks without making a complete git out of himself.

~..~..~..~..~..~..~

“What is going onhere,” Hermione asked Ginny softly, her eyebrow raised and her lip curling as they carried the empty plates into the kitchen.

“What do you mean?”

Hermione watched the telltale blush rise on Ginny’s cheeks as she avoided her eyes and the older girl’s lip curled farther into a grin.

They had come over for dinner to break up the monotony of Harry and Ginny’s days together. After Diagon Alley, Harry had basically restricted their activity to going to work; something she knew wouldn’t sit well with Ginny. Hermione had assumed that they would welcome the company since they barely knew each other, but it had become increasingly clear throughout dinner that they probably would have been more than fine on their own.

Or perhaps not, if the way that Harry kept looking at Ginny was any indication of what he would rather be doing. Hermione could really only describe it as hungry – and yet slightly guilty. It was as though he felt like he shouldn’t want her.

Leave it to Harry to come up with some crazy reason not to go after something he wants, she thought as she followed Ginny to the sink.

“You know exactly what I mean,” she said, glancing at Ginny as she handed her the dishes before looking back toward the door to make sure the guys weren’t following. “Now what is going on?”

Nothing is going on, Hermione,” Ginny insisted, shaking her head.

Hermione didn’t buy it. She crossed her arms as she leaned her hip into the counter and studied Ginny’s profile carefully.

“Liar,” she announced finally. “You two can’t keep your eyes off each other and Harry looks positively ready to pounce.”

Ginny eyes snapped up to meet hers in surprise before she looked back down at the sink. Her blush deepened and she bit her lip for a second before she mumbled something under her breath.

“Pardon?”

“I…well, I sort of kissed him,” she hissed out before glancing toward the door.

Hermione’s eyes widened and she grabbed Ginny’s shoulder, turning her toward her.

“You did what?”

Ginny reddened further and ran a hand through her hair distractedly. “I… ”

“Yes, I heard you,” Hermione responded quickly, gesturing with her hands. “What happened? How did it happen? How was it?”

“It was nothing,” Ginny insisted, moving back to the dishes and wishing she hadn’t said anything.

Hermione’s fist went to her hip as her other hand spread out flat on the counter. “Ginny Weasley, this is the best gossip I’ve heard all year and you are not getting away with just saying it happened. You better tell me right now or I’ll march right into that room and ask Harry about it myself.”

“You would not,” Ginny said shaking her head.

“Try me,” Hermione said archly as she turned, heading to the door. A second later, Ginny’s hand shot to her arm and she turned back around with a smile. “So…how was it?”

Ginny scowled at her briefly before accepting defeat. She had opened her big mouth and started the conversation, so she figured she might as well get it over with quickly.

“It was…” she bit her lip, suddenly trying not to grin as memories of it flooded her brain. “It was brilliant, ok?”

Hermione grinned. This was certainly a nice development. Harry needed someone like Ginny and she found herself wondering why they hadn’t ever thought to try to set them up before. Ginny was much more his type than Cho Chang ever was.

“So, how did it happen?”

Ginny ran a hand over her face at that and groaned.

“Oh, God, Hermione, it was horrible.”

Hermione’s grin slid to a frown as she furrowed her brow. That certainly wasn’t what she was expecting.

“It was the other day after the thing in Diagon Alley. I was angry that he sent me back here. When he got back he was scratched and I…well I basically threw myself at him if you really want to know.”

Hermione laughed and Ginny shook her head as she chuckled.

“It’s not funny! It was so embarrassing…I could barely face him later.”

“Well, what happened? What did he say?”

Ginny leaned back against the counter with a sigh.

“That he understood that I was upset and not thinking and that we should just forget about it.”

“What?”

Ginny shrugged.

“He said we should forget about it,” she repeated before groaning and dropping her face into her hands. “But I swear Hermione; I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t stop thinking about him…and I definitely want to do it again.”

“Do what again?” Ron asked as he appeared in the doorway.

Ginny’s head shot up and Hermione turned casually toward him, leaving Ginny frozen at the sink, her eyes moving automatically to Harry who was staring at her from over Ron’s shoulder.

“Nothing,” Hermione said with a smile as she gave Ron a light kiss. “Just have us over for dinner again.”

Ron seemed to accept her statement without question but Ginny was pretty positive that Harry didn’t buy it. It seemed like he could read her expression and she had the sinking feeling that he knew exactly what they’d been talking about.

By the end of the evening, she was positive he knew and was feeling rather moody because apparently he didn’t want to do it again. After they left the kitchen he kept his distance and barely talked to her at all.

It didn’t occur to her that he would be avoiding her because he did feel the same way.

Whenever Harry got within five feet of her he pictured them kissing. Kissing after Diagon Alley, kissing in the kitchen, kissing on the sofa, kissing in the hall, kissing at the burrow…even kissing at Hogwarts and he was moody and headachy by the end of the night, cursing his raging hormones and out of control imagination.

~..~..~..~..~..~..~

When Ron and Hermione left, Ginny headed to her room and Harry didn’t try to stop her. She got ready for bed and even lay down, but she didn’t feel like sleeping. She turned on her side and stared out the window, letting her mind wander.

Soon she was frowning because all she could think about were Harry’s lips. His lips that hadn’t said two words to her all night. Throwing her blankets off with a scowl she picked up her wand from the bedside table and left her room.

Unable to come up with anything better to do she wandered around his flat looking for something to read. She knew there wasn’t anything in the front room or the kitchen so she headed down the hall, opening the door to the only room she’d never been in. She lit her wand and went into what seemed like an office.

Like every other room in his flat, it was unfinished. There was a desk that was piled high with files, paper and books. There was also a large wingback chair in front of the fireplace, but the details were missing. There was nothing on the walls, no rug on the floor and the mantle was bare.

As she walked farther in, her wand throwing light around as she moved, she noticed it all seemed a little dusty except for the chair and the desk, as though he bypassed everything else whenever he used it.

The room wasn’t completely empty though and her eyes widened a bit as she came to stop in front of the far wall. The entire wall was a case filled with books from floor to ceiling and Ginny ran her hand through her hair. She certainly wouldn’t have pegged Harry as heavy reader.

They were all shapes and sizes and they didn’t seem to be in any particular order so she pulled one out at random and flipped it open. Her eyes widened a bit and then narrowed in disgust as she skimmed the page before her. It seemed to be a spell or something but she couldn’t imagine why anyone would ever want to turn the skin of their enemy inside out. She snapped the book closed and put it back, pulling out another one instead.

The outside seemed innocent enough, with a deep burgundy cover made out of dragon skin and a gold crest on the front that she didn’t recognize. But when she flipped it open, it was worse than the last one. It was illustrated and talked in detail about some sort of dark theory and after a second she snapped it shut, too. She was just reaching up to put it back onto the shelf when she jumped about a foot into the air and spun around at the sound of her name.

“Merlin, Harry!”

“What are you doing?” he asked tightly as he came into the room, crossing to her and taking the book out of her hand. He glanced down at it for a second before he put it back on the shelf.

“I was looking for something to read,” she said crossing her arms over her chest. “But they all seem to be…” here she floundered for a second, not sure how to put it. “Well…”

“Not bedtime reading?” he offered lightly as he looked at her and she shifted, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear.

“Why do you have these? Have you read them all?” she asked, turning and looking at the books again as she took a step forward, trailing her fingers across the bindings of the ones in front of her.

He took her hand and moved her back before he stepped forward. He reached up to a high shelf, pulled down a book and turned back around to face her. “Here’s a good one,” he said as he handed it to her.

“Hogwarts; A History,” she read out loud before looking back up at him. “I’m sure this is thrilling, Harry, but you didn’t answer the question.”

“I like to know what I’m dealing with,” he said as he moved past her to leave but she caught his arm and turned him back.

“Are they all about the dark arts?”

He looked over at the wall again. “Pretty much.”

“And you’ve read them all? Don’t you think that’s going a little overboard? Why would you…”

“You can’t fight what you don’t understand,” he said curtly as his eyes became hard.

Ginny removed her hand from his arm, studying his face for a second before holding his book out to him. He took it from her and she left without looking back.

She didn’t understand his moods sometimes; the way he could go from open and funny to completely closed off and mysterious in an instant. She was just climbing into bed when there was knock on her door. She paused for a second before walking back over and throwing it open to find Harry leaning on the doorframe.

His initial annoyance at finding her looking at his books had quickly faded as he watched her leave, her thin nightgown flowing around her and her hair tumbling over her shoulders.

“I found you a book,” he said, holding a small paperback out to her. She took it from him and broke into a smile as she looked down at it. It was a brief history of the Chudley Cannons.

“Thanks,” she said as she looked up to find him staring down at her with an unreadable expression. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “What?”

He blinked. “Nothing,” he lied, trying to ignore the urge to lean down so he could figure out if she tasted as great as he remembered.

“Ok, well…goodnight then,” she said and he nodded, his eyes locking on her lips as she spoke.

He started to back up when her hand shot out, fisting into his shirt and pulling him up against her as she rose up on her toes. Her lips found his and his hand shot to her waist, holding her against him as he kissed her back. She was warm and soft and when her mouth opened, urging him in he took advantage of it in an instant. It was over too soon though in his opinion, when she pulled back slightly.

“Why didn’t you talk to me after dinner?” she breathed against his lips and he dragged his eyes open as she leaned her head back enough to see him.

Warning bells had started going off in his head the second their lips had met but he couldn’t bring himself to move away. Not yet. He didn’t want to move yet and he tried to think of an answer besides the truth; that he was afraid that speaking to her would lead to this exact situation.

“I…well I…”

She cut him off with another kiss and he sank into her gratefully.

“You don’t have to try to stay away from me Harry,” she said softly when she pulled back again.

This time he moved forward trying to follow her but he stopped and looked up as she continued speaking.

“I like when you kiss me,” she murmured as her eyes searched his.

That did it. Reality came crashing back into his brain and he took a step back, trying desperately not to groan at the loss of contact. He schooled his features into what he hoped was a neutral expression and ran a hand through his hair.

“Ginny, it’s not that you’re not…that I’m not…that this isn’t…” he trailed off for a second in frustration.

Apparently his self control and ability to speak didn’t feel the need to function when she was so close to him.

He wasn’t sure how to say it…although the fact that he really didn’t want to say it was probably helping to tie his tongue into knots, but he knew he had to do. He had been assigned to protect her. This was a job and nothing more and his head was filled with images of Remus’s lectures on professionalism, followed quickly by images of her brothers hexing him into oblivion for what he wanted to do to her.

“I…think it’s better if we stay professional here,” he managed, glancing up at her expression but it was unreadable.

After a second she stepped back, running a hand through her hair and crossing her arms over her chest.

“Right,” she said softly. “Of course, thanks for the book,” she said before she shut the door in his face.

Harry stared at the door for a second, trying to convince himself that professionalism was really the way to go and dreading what she had just done to his dreams.

On the other side of the door Ginny had a hand on her forehead as she walked back to her bed and fell onto it face-first. Apparently her self control and grasp of reality refused to function around him.

Crawling under her covers, she burrowed into them, trying not to think about what would happen tomorrow when she had to face him. Even so, she went to bed feeling rather nice; he had definitely kissed her back.



Chapter 5: Making Mistakes
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The evening of the banquet, Harry stood in the kitchen waiting for Ginny to finish getting ready. He pulled on the collar of his dress robes. He’d only had them on for about ten minutes and he was already uncomfortable.

Cursing Remus for giving him this assignment for the hundredth time since putting on his robes, Harry boosted himself up on the counter and picked up his butterbeer. He took a large gulp, but almost didn’t get it down. At that moment Ginny appeared in the doorway and his body jerked to attention.

Bloody hell.

She was looking down at her dress as she pulled at the side distractedly.

Harry took a deep breath and forced his face into what he hoped was a neutral expression before she looked up. She was a vision in a long emerald green gown. The fabric hung on her body, enhancing her curves and showing off her slender frame to perfection. It was a halter at the top with two pieces of fabric that came up to clasp behind her neck, creating a deep V and leaving her freckled shoulders bare.

Harry swallowed reflexively as he eyed them. The urge to count each tiny fleck on her skin automatically popped into his head. In fact, that initial thought, quickly led to an urge to find and count the freckles on her entire body.

Dropping his gaze to the floor, he stifled a groan. Attempting to force his mind away from her, he began repeating the latest Quidditch stats in his head.

He'd been repeating those stats in his head a lot over the last week.

Although they'd chosen to simply not speak about the kiss, pretending instead that nothing had happened, Harry found forgetting about it to be much more difficult. He was a bit worried actually because he wanted to kiss her constantly and his imagination didn’t seem to care about the particulars. Every time he turned around, he pictured himself kissing her or holding her in some random place or another. His mind seemed determined to torture him with scenes of them together and it was driving him crazy.

Most days he went to bed with a bad mood and a headache. The way she looked tonight, he was sure to end the evening with a splitting migraine and a mood foul enough to rival any Hungarian Horntail.

Ginny had left her hair down and it fell in loose waves around her face as she looked up at him.

“Ready?” she asked, still fidgeting with her dress.

Harry nodded, jumped off the counter and walked towards her.

Ginny’s eyes ran over him and her breath quickened. Spinning on her heel as she felt a flush rising to her cheeks, she walked back out of the room

Harry sucked in a quick breath as she left. The cut of the dress showed off the gentle curve of her back, the fabric gathering low at the base of her spine. His eyes ran over her skin as he followed her out of the kitchen.

He pulled at his collar again, suddenly feeling much hotter than before and repeating his new mantra of only a job in his head as he walked.

When they arrived at the banquet, Harry looked for the Aurors assigned to the perimeter and nodded to them as they passed.

“Stop fidgeting,” he said, noticing Ginny pulling at her dress again, as if looking for lint that he knew wasn’t there. “You look brilliant. Let’s get this over with.”

He put a hand on her lower back and guided her into the room where they were quickly surrounded by her friends from work.

Ginny talked and laughed; introducing Harry to anyone he hadn’t already met through the weeks, but Ginny was a little distracted. Despite her best efforts, she was just unable to truly focus with Harry’s hand on her skin.

Neal turned out to be a rather normal looking bloke in Harry’s opinion. He tried to keep his face neutral as they were introduced; although the scowl inside was doing its best to get out.

If there was an opposite of Harry, Neal was it. He had light brown hair that was smooth and sleek and probably never out of place. He seemed so polished and refined in fact, that he verged on stiff in Harry’s eyes. He had a hard time picturing Neal as someone Ginny would be attracted too.

“Good evening, Ginny,” Neal smiled at her, holding out his hand. He glanced at Harry for a second as she replied before turning his attention back to her and raising her hand to his lips. “You’re looking particularly lovely this evening.”

Harry’s eyes narrowed automatically.

Neal was all politeness and manners and Harry found himself getting more and more bored by the second as they made small talk.

Eventually they found their table near the front and sat down. Neal ended up at a table across the room and Harry felt his face twist into a smug smirk at the fact that he was the one who got to be at Ginny’s table.

“What is it?” Ginny questioned, breaking into his thoughts.

He glanced over to find her giving him a probing look as if trying to figure out what he was thinking. Harry ran a hand through his hair and shifted in his seat.

“Nothing,” he shrugged.

She continued to watch him but he schooled his features into an impassive expression and after a few seconds she turned away.

Harry tried not to tell her what he was thinking, but after only a few seconds the urge to say what was on his mind got the best of him.

Ginny felt him shift as he leaned in and turned back toward him. She leaned in a bit too when she saw his position.

“I can’t believe you were going to go out with that guy.”

Amusement flash across her face before she shook her head.

“What’s wrong with him,” she asked, looking over toward Neal’s table.

“He’s boring,” Harry insisted, causing her to look back over at him.

He sounded so much like Ron at that moment that it was suddenly obvious that they were best friends. His expression even looked a bit like Ron and she laughed.

“I think they call it stable, Harry,” she smirked at him, but he just shook his head and moved a bit closer.

“No…they call it boring. You would run right over him in a second,” he said.

“It wasn’t even a real date, Harry,” she clarified with a laugh, her eyes sparkling. “It’s not like I’m marrying him.”

Harry knew she meant it as a joke, but something roared to life inside of him anyway. Suddenly he felt sick to his stomach and he was filled with an intense need to get Neal kicked out of the banquet.

Damn right she’s not marrying him.

The ferocity of his reaction to the concept of her married startled him a bit and left him with a bad taste in his mouth. He straightened up quickly and stared at his plate with a frown.

He was thankful when their dinner appeared on their plates, interrupting them and he gave his insides a firm shake. What was he thinking? He shook his head at himself. Shoving his thoughts to the side, he focused on his food instead.

~..~..~..~..~..~

When dinner and the initial presentations were over, the hall expanded, creating a dance floor that was soon crowded with couples.

“Should we dance?” Ginny asked after awhile, looking over at him.

“I don’t dance,” he said his eyes moving over the crowd.

Ginny cocked her head for a second before shrugging and turning back to the dance floor.

“That’s fine. I’m sure someone else will ask me.”

Harry's eyes moved to her as she turned away. After a minute he gave a pitiful groan as he stood up and moved in front of her holding out his hand.

Ginny looked up at him and smiled. “It’s really ok, Harry. I can dance with someone else.”

“Ginny,” he said in a warning voice.

Fighting a smile Ginny took his hand and let him pull her up from her seat.

“You owe me for this,” he said.

Ginny rolled her eyes as he led her out onto the floor.

Harry pulled her to him as they began to dance, her skin smooth under his palm as he slid it down to rest on her lower back. Clasping her hand in his, he tilted it toward him when he felt the warmth of the stone pressed against his fingers.

“Where did you get that?” he asked as he looked at the ring she was wearing. It was gold with a large emerald in the center, surrounded by tiny diamonds. He ran his finger over the stone as he studied it. He felt like he’d seen something like it before but couldn’t remember where.

“It was a Christmas present,” she said, gazing at it. She loved this ring. Her parents had given it to her and it always made her feel safe and beautiful when she put it on. She knew it was silly, but it had always been that way. They'd surprised her with it five years ago and she didn’t like to think about how much it must have cost them.

“It’s beautiful,” Harry murmured.

Ginny looked up at him to find his emerald eyes staring at her. She felt her face flush a little as she looked away.

Ever since they'd kissed again in her doorway, their relationship had been strictly platonic and she vaguely tried to remind herself of that as she sank into him.

She didn’t try very hard.

Truthfully, she didn’t want to as they moved back and forth, slowly turning in a circle, his nearness filling her senses.

“You know how to dance,” she said suddenly looking up at him. The heat in his eyes shot straight through her, causing the longing inside of her to flare up with a vengeance.

How did he expect her to stick to the professional approach when he kept looking at her like that?

“I said that I don’t dance, not that I don’t know how,” he replied, holding her gaze as they turned. “I’ll have you know I was quite the dancer at the Yule ball during fourth year.”

“Yeah right,” Ginny replied with a smirk. “That was Neville. You and Ron sulked at the table all night.”

Harry laughed for a second before he blinked and furrowed his brow. “You know Neville? Wait, what did you say? Were you there?”

Ginny opened her mouth and shut it, her confused expression matching his.

“I…well…no, of course not. Ron told me about it,” she said before she winced and shook her head.

“Are you ok?”

She blinked and looked up at him as she brought her hand to her temple for a second. “I’m fine…just…a headache. I guess Ron told me about the dance.”

Harry studied her for a second longer before shaking his head vaguely. “Why he would tell you about that I have no idea. It wasn’t our finest moment,” he said, beginning to smile. “We had girl problems that night.”

“Really? Who were you pining after?”

Harry’s smile faltered a bit and he adjusted his grip on her. “No one important.”

Ginny cocked her head to the side.

“Liar. Who was it?”

Harry grimaced and mumbled under his breath.

Ginny leaned closer.

“I can’t hear you,” she whispered and Harry shut his eyes.

“Cho Chang,” he ground out.

Ginny threw back her head with a laugh.

“Are you serious?”

She laughed again but clamped her mouth shut, trying to muffle it at his expression.

“It’s not funny.”

She nodded but couldn’t help it as a giggle slipped out.

“Whatever, Harry," she said giving up her attempt to keep her expression serious. "I think it’s bloody hilarious. How long did you date anyway?”

“Not as long as you would think," he defended. "We got together years later. I met her again after I graduated.”

Ginny’s eyes twinkled as she struggled not to laugh. Harry rolled his eyes.

“Stop giggling, Ginny. People are staring.”

“I’m sorry…I just can’t…it’s just…” she broke into a fit of giggles but quickly trailed off as he pulled her up against him, coming to a stop on the dance floor.

Her mind went quite blank, forgetting about everything except his body pressed to hers and his breath on her neck as he moved his head down, his cheek grazing hers as he moved his mouth to her ear.

“Stop laughing, please,” he breathed.

She shivered slightly and let out a soft, “ok.”

Harry held her to him for a second longer and Ginny could have sworn that his lips brushed against her skin before he pulled back; resuming their movement as though they'd never stopped.

Looking up at him, Ginny let her eyes move over his features.

She fiddled with his collar, running her finger back and forth lightly over his skin as her eyes moved back up to his. Ginny felt the room getting warmer as they looked at each other; tension building slowly between them.

Harry stared down at her and after a few moments he pulled her a little closer.

“It’s a nice party,” she said softly and he swallowed, feeling her fingers graze his skin above his collar, still reeling a bit from the feeling of her pulled up against him.

“Yeah,” he said, watching the way the candles reflected in her eyes, making them sparkle. He moved his hand, running his fingers over her back and he felt goose bumps erupt on her skin.

“Cold?” he asked softly, but she shook her head no and his stomach tightened. Harry’s eyes dropped to her lips as he moved her hand to his shoulder. He ran his hand down her arm and then down her side before bringing it to rest on her back, drawing her closer again.

Their bodies were touching now and the rest of the room seemed to fade away as they moved, staring at each other. Harry’s stomach tightened again and he began to feel overwhelmed by her. He couldn’t seem to fight down the longing, the feelings coursing through him. Feelings that were racing quickly towards something he didn’t understand.

His whole world, his whole existence was built on control and every feeling and thought that was racing around inside of him was anything but controlled. He didn’t understand it and it scared him a little – she scared him. He'd never felt so strongly, so quickly about anyone.

He'd never been in love.

He'd tried to love Cho and couldn’t, and the fact that he seemed so willing and able to go there with Ginny frightened him.

Finally he dragged his eyes away from hers, looking over her shoulder; looking for a distraction. He found a big one in Ron who was walking around the edge of the dance floor. When his eyes caught Harry’s, he nodded hello. Harry shifted back a little automatically and Ginny looked over her shoulder, following his gaze to her brother.

Harry looked back down at her when he felt her fingers begin to run back and forth on the back of his neck, playing with his hair.

She brought her eyes back to his before pulling him close again, laying her head on his chest and closing her eyes. They fit together and Ginny was pretty sure she could just stay like this forever. Stay with him forever.

Her eyes shot open at her thoughts but somehow it didn’t scare her, it seemed right. They seemed right.

When the dance ended, they stayed together for a second before Harry backed up, running a hand through his hair. He hadn’t been able to think of anything other than how amazing she was, and how amazing she felt for at least the last two minutes and he kept picturing them dancing outside. He shook his head at his ramped imagination as he took her hand and led her from the floor, ignoring his headache and making his way to Ron.

When they got to his side Harry dropped her hand as Ron looked his sister up and down with a frown.

“What are you wearing?” he asked, crossing his arms.

“A dress, Ron. What are you wearing?”

“It’s practically indecent!” he said with a huff.

“It is not!" she replied, her hands flying to her hips. "And you wouldn’t say that if Hermione was wearing it. I think it looks nice. What do you think, Harry?” she asked, doing a little turn.

Harry was immediately distracted by the way the fabric pulled against her and the light played on her hair.

“Umm…”

“Don’t answer that, Harry,” Ron warned and Harry shoved his hands into his pockets.

Ginny shot Harry a look of contempt and he shrugged with a small smile.

“He said not to answer.”

Ginny crossed her arms over her chest.

"Well then you can stay here with my idiot brother doing everything he says. I’m going to get a drink,” she said turning and walking off.

Ron and Harry watched her leave, her back straight and her hair flowing behind her. They had a surprisingly similar reaction as they noticed several male heads turn towards her as she passed them.

“See you later then,” Harry said as he followed her with his eyes.

“I’ll send Nick to find you if we see anything suspicious,” Ron replied.

Harry nodded, walking in the direction Ginny had gone.

He found her standing by the drink table holding two glasses of champagne.

“Going a little fast don’t you think?” he asked when he reached her.

She made a face at him, handing one of the glasses to him. When she headed to a table he reached out and stopped her.

“Don’t walk off again,” he said.

Looking over at him, she arched her brow at him.

“Stick up for me next time and maybe I won’t,” she replied, taking a drink of champagne and pulling away from him.

Harry set the drink she'd given him back on the table before he walked after her.

“Ginny, I was not going to get drawn into a debate about how great you do or do not look with your brother,” he said to her as he sank into the chair beside her. “It’s a little hard to protect you if I’m dead.”

Ginny didn’t look at him, but after a second she started smiling. He'd only be dead if he disagreed with Ron’s opinion.

~..~..~..~..~..~

They were sitting at the table later when a man approached them. Ginny had just pointed out an unfortunate witch across the room wearing a hideous dress and they were laughing, their heads close together.

Harry reached out and pushed a piece of hair out of her face and her laughter began to fade as his hand lingered on her cheek. As soon as he touched her he knew it was a mistake. Harry couldn’t seem to bring himself to pull his hand away and his eyes dropped to her lips.

“Hey, Harry. Hello, Ginny,” the man said, drawing their attention to him.

Harry dropped his hand and straightened up.

“Oh hi, Dean,” Ginny said, smiling up at him. “Do you know Harry?” she asked, looking between them.

“We went to Hogwarts together,” Harry said, holding out his hand to say hello to him. “How did you end up at this thing?” Harry asked as Dean shook his hand.

“I work at the hospital With Ginny sometimes. Actually,” he said, looking over at her, “do you mind if I steal her from you…for a dance?”

Ginny glanced at Harry and he paused for a second before shrugging with a smile.

“Just bring her back in one piece,” he said meeting her eyes.

Dean drew Ginny up from the chair and she looked back at Harry for a second as Dean led her away. Harry gave her a small nod of assurance as Dean led her onto the dance floor.

As Ginny danced with Dean she looked around, searching for Harry. He was lounging back lazily in his chair, watching them as he fiddled with her empty champagne glass. His body appeared relaxed, but Ginny could see the predatory look in his eyes when they met hers. She looked away feeling butterflies in her stomach.

“You look beautiful tonight, Gin,” Dean murmured as he moved her hand up to his shoulder and wrapped his arms around her, drawing her a little closer.

Ginny suddenly felt a little uncomfortable, as though she was doing something wrong and her eyes went back to Harry. He was still watching them, but he was farther away now as she realized that they'd moved to the other side of the dance floor.

Harry watched the dancing couple from his chair. Although he was lounging back in it, he was not relaxed. He couldn’t help feeling that Dean’s hands were way too low on her back and he shoved down the jealously that decided to flood through him when he saw Dean pull her closer.

Harry’s eyes narrowed instinctively and the headache that had been threatening began to pound as his imagination ran wild. He suddenly had no problem picturing Dean and Ginny locked together in furious kiss and his stomach turned over. Harry cursed and shook his head at the image. He felt like an immature teenager.

She's just dancing with him for merlin’s sake, he reminded himself. She's not even mine...I have no right to be jealous.

Unfortunately, reminding himself of the facts didn't make his feelings go away.

Harry knew he needed to take a step back. He was getting too attached...She was distracting him.

He hadn’t even noticed Dean walk up earlier because he'd been too focused on her. If it had been an attack he would have been caught completely off guard.

In fact, if Malfoy himself had walked into the room during the last two minutes he wouldn’t have noticed because he wasn’t watching. He was too busy looking at Dean’s hands and Ginny’s hair and the way her dress clung to her as she moved…

This is a job, he reminded himself firmly again.

He knew he would never be able to face her family or himself if anything happened to her because he made a mistake. If keeping her safe meant he couldn’t have her that was how it would be. How it had to be.

He looked up as Nick, one of the Aurors assigned to the party, walked up in front of him.

~..~..~..~..~..~

“Come on, I want to show you something,” Dean urged with a smile. He took her hand and started to pull her off of the dance floor even though the song wasn’t finished.

“Oh, well, I think I’d rather stay here actually,” Ginny said, turning to look at Harry but he wasn’t watching them, he was talking to someone.

“Come on Gin, it’ll just take a second. I thought of you when I saw it and I know you’ll appreciate it.”

~..~..~..~..~..~

“We found a bloke unconscious in the loo, but we think he’s just had too much to drink,” Nick said.

Harry nodded and looked past him. He was searching for Ginny but he didn’t see her. Leaning in his chair, he tried to get a better view as Nick continued talking.

“Who was the unconscious guy?” Harry asked, standing up and searching the crowd. He still couldn’t see her.

Something didn’t feel right and he began to walk towards the dance floor, looking for her red hair.

“Um, Thompson something or something Thompson maybe…Dean Thompson I think it was,” Nick answered as he followed him.

“Dean Thomas,” Harry corrected automatically as his stomach dropped.

Nick snapped his fingers.

“That’s it, hey how did you - ”

“Get everyone in here,” Harry ordered as he started pushing people out of his way to get through the dance floor.

~..~..~..~..~..~

“Dean, I said I want to go back, let go of me,” Ginny said, beginning to pull against him as he led her down a long hall. “Dean, I said let me go,” she said when he didn't stop.

Yanking her arm out of his grip she began to walk quickly back to the ballroom.

“Oh, don’t worry, Gin,” he said as he grabbed her arm. Pulling her back to him, he suddenly pushed her hard against the wall. “I’m sure Potter will be here any second.”

Fear flooded her body; the wall cold against her bare back as he leaned into her. He smiled and his black hair became blonde as his skin lightened.

“Surprise,” Malfoy said softly, relishing the panic he saw fill her eyes.

Ginny opened her mouth to scream but he crushed his mouth to hers, muffling the sound.

He pushed against her, molding their bodies together as Ginny struggled to push him away. He released her lips only long enough to clamp his hand over her mouth and turn her head to the side.

“This is a very nice dress, Ginny,” he murmured in her ear as he trailed his hand down the exposed skin of her side. “Did you wear this just for me?”

Ginny narrowed her eyes as they filled with tears. Her response was muffled by his hand, but he didn’t miss her knee when she brought it up between his legs as hard as she could. She shoved him away as he doubled over.

She moved unsteadily away from the wall and whipped her wand out of the side of her dress. It was shaking slightly as she pointed it at him but she just narrowed her eyes as she began to back away, walking backwards down the hall. She knew he would catch her or stun her before she got anywhere in these heels so she shot a stunning spell at him.

Malfoy was still doubled over but he flicked his wand, deflecting it into the wall. He rose up with a grimace but it shifted to a smirk as he began to follow her retreat.

He brought his wand up in a flash, throwing a stunning spell of his own at her.

“Protego!” she blurted out without thinking and a rather impressive shield charm erupted from her wand, bouncing his spell back toward him. He deflected it as she threw a hex at him but he just turned on his heel and Disapparated a second before it hit him.

Ginny let out shaky breath when he was gone. She felt like sinking to the floor and crying with relief but first she wanted to get to Harry.

She hiked up her skirt with her free hand and spun around only to run straight into Malfoy, who had reappeared behind her without a sound. She cried out in surprise as he caught her arms and shoved her back into the wall, ripping her wand out of her hand and throwing it down the hall.

“Where were we,” he sneered at her before he slammed his lips back down onto hers to muffle her cries. He pressed his leg in between hers so that she couldn’t hit him again as she struggled to break away from him.

Harry came through the doors at the end of the hall an instant later. Rage erupted within him as he saw Ginny pinned against the wall by Malfoy at the other end. He ran towards them, raising his wand. As he approached them he started to throw a curse but Malfoy pulled away from the wall at the last second. He thrust Ginny in front of him, holding her against him as he pushed his wand into her neck.

“Not too close,” he warned, pushing his wand harder into Ginny’s throat until she winced. “Nice of you to join us, Potter, he sneered, spitting out Harry’s name. “Although I thought you’d get here just a bit sooner. Not slacking off are we?”

Harry’s heart was pounding, but his wand was steady as he narrowed his eyes. Ginny said his name and his eyes flicked to hers. The need to protect her flooded his brain even more than before as he saw her fear.

“Let her go, Malfoy,” he said bringing his eyes back up.

“Oh, don’t worry, Potter. I’m not going to take her with me today,” Malfoy said, as he began to run his hand over her. “I just want us to all be clear that she belongs to me.”

Ginny tensed, feeling like she might be sick on the spot as revulsion flooded her body.

Harry’s blood began to boil as Malfoy’s hand found her breast and Ginny cried out, trying to jerk away as he slipped his hand inside of her dress to her skin.

“When I’m ready for her, I’m going to take her and you won’t be able to stop me.”

“I’ll stop you,” Harry said through clenched teeth, but Malfoy just smiled cruelly and moved his head down to her neck, keeping his eyes on Harry.

“I’m going to take her innocence, Potter,” he said kissing her neck. “I’m going to make her scream and beg for more, and I’m going to do things to her that she's never even dreamed about.”

Ginny’s body was shaking with fear and she couldn’t help it. She began to cry, sobbing Harry’s name softly, trying to block out Malfoy’s lips and his hand on her skin as he continued talking.

“When she makes me the most powerful wizard in the world, I’m going to kill you. But hell, Potter, I may let you watch me take her again before I do, since you want her so badly.”

“You’re never going to be the most powerful wizard in the world,” Harry said, his eyes flashing with silent fury.

Malfoy arched his brow but Aurors began streaming into the hall before he could respond.

“I guess that’s my cue,” he said. “I’ll see you soon,” he whispered into Ginny’s ear, flicking it with his tongue. He buried his face in her hair and murmured something Ginny couldn’t understand.

She cried out a second later and Harry took an automatic step forward as the tip of Malfoy’s wand glowed red, burning her neck.

“So you’ll remember you’re mine,” he told her before he thrust her forward and spun, disappearing without a sound.

Ginny’s hand went to her neck as she stumbled forward and fell to her knees, tripping on her dress as Harry came towards her. He dropped down in front of her and pulled her hand away from her neck.

“It hurts,” she choked out.

Harry nodded, tilting her head to the side and pushing her hair over her shoulder so he could see. A dark brand of the letter M was quickly appearing on her skin, burning deeper by the second.

“What did he say?” Harry demanded as he touched the mark. Ginny cried out and tried to jerk away but he held her in place.

“Ginny, what did he say?” he repeated forcefully but she just shook her head as she whimpered.

“I don’t know! But it hurts! Get it off!”

Harry gritted his teeth as she whimpered; her eyes full of pain as her tears ran down her cheeks. “GET IT - ”

“Ok, I’m getting it off,” Harry soothed, running a hand over her cheek. “Hold still I’m getting it off.” He brought his wand up and murmured an incantation under his breath. The mark, that was dark and bleeding slightly now, began to fade almost immediately as Ginny’s skin healed itself.

The bleeding stopped but the mark remained faintly on her skin like a scar.

Harry narrowed his eyes. He wasn't going to let it be permanent. He refused to let her have it as a reminder and he murmured another incantation, pointing his wand at the mark. It glowed blue for a second but didn’t fade and his anger mounted. He knew he was more powerful than Mafloy. He knew he could counter whatever charm had been used so he shut his eyes and cupped his hand over her neck. He gritted his teeth and focused his energy and after a second Ginny cried out as her neck began to burn. She tried to jerk away but he held her in place as he breathed out words she didn’t understand.

As quickly as the pain came, it faded and Harry removed his hand as he opened his eyes. He took an unsteady breath as his pupils returned to normal. He ran his fingers over her skin, the mark fading away completely now, and Ginny let out a sob as he pulled her against him. He ran his hand through her hair, kissing her temple as she cried.

“Is it…is it gone?”

“Yeah, it’s gone,” he assured her softly.

“Bloody…bloody hell, H-Harry…he’s…”

Ginny trailed off with a sob as Malfoy’s words kept repeating in her mind. She kept her face against his chest as he held her, running his hand up and down her back as she tried to bring her tears under control.

“It’s ok, Gin,” he said to her, lowering his head and talking softly. “It’s not going to happen. I won’t let it happen. You’re fine. You’re safe. He isn’t taking you anywhere; ever. I promise.”

The words rang false in his ears even as he said them, but he hoped she would believe him. He felt nauseous, as the sight of Malfoy touching her refused to leave his mind. Malfoy could have taken her right then and he wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it.

Harry looked over her head at Ron who was at the front of the group running towards them. “We’re leaving. Find Dumbledore now and meet us at Headquarters,” he said before he stood up, pulling Ginny up with him and disappearing with a small pop.

~..~..~..~..~..~

“He just walked right in!” Harry bellowed before he stormed away, going back to his pacing and ignoring the men around him. “What's the point of having Aurors at every door if they aren’t going to do their job?!”

“Look Harry, we aren’t sure yet how he got in but we’re going to find out. We are going to find him,” Remus said, leaning against the table as he watched Harry swing back around.

“Find him? When?! When he feels like being found? It's been three weeks and where are you? Right where you were when you bloody started!”

“He's well hidden, Harry," Ron replied tightly. "You know that."

“Well, you should be trying harder, Ron! He's not so hidden that he can’t just waltz into any Auror guarded situation that he wants to. She's your sister,” Harry spat as he turned to glare at him.

“What does that mean?" Ron demanded, crossing his arms. "That I’m not trying hard enough? That I’m…that everyone’s not here every bloody second trying to figure it out?! Because if that’s what you are implying, Harry, then...”

“I’m implying that I would have found him by now!”

“Oh, fabulous, Harry! Do tell us how you would have done that because we would just love to hear it!”

Harry’s eyes blazed and he opened his mouth but Dumbledore spoke first from his seat.

“I think that’s quite enough for the moment,” he said mildly from his seat. He felt Harry’s power rippling through the room as he fumed. Rising, he walked around to the other side of the table, forcing Harry’s attention back to him and away from Ron. “Everyone here is doing their job.”

“Really? Doesn’t seem like it.”

“Everyone is doing their job, Harry," Dumbledore repeated, giving him a pointed look. "I’m sure when you've taken a step back from your anger you will apologize to Mr. Weasley. I'm sorry this happened, but Miss Weasley is unharmed and I’m confident we will find Malfoy.”

~..~..~..~..~..~

Ginny sat at Harry’s desk, a blanket around her shoulders and a cold cup of coffee in her hands. Harry was in the room behind her with Ron, Dumbledore and Remus. There was another Auror as well, but she didn’t know who he was.

She stared at the cup, swirling the liquid around as she waited. She could hear Harry yelling but she couldn’t understand what he was saying.

A few minutes later the door opened. She looked back, but it was the Auror she didn’t know who was leaving. He left the door partially open and she watched the men inside. She saw Dumbledore speaking to Harry who was pacing back and forth. Her view was blocked by Ron as he began to shut the door. He met her eyes and gave her a small reassuring smile as he closed the door again.

Ginny spun back around as her eyes narrowed. They’re talking about me so why can’t I hear? Why am I stuck sitting by myself in the middle of an empty office while the grownups figure out what to do with me?

Her thoughts trailed off and she tensed as she looked around at the empty room. He'd just left her out here by herself and images of Malfoy shoving her into the wall in the empty hall shot into her head. Malfoy had gotten to her twice when she was supposedly secure. What was to stop him now? She was completely exposed here.

Shooting out of her chair she whirled around only to run straight into a wall of male.

She let out a very un-Ginny-like squeal and scrambled backwards, trying to get away. She ran into Harry’s desk and his lamp went crashing to the floor. Flinging out her wand, she threw the first spell that shot into her head.

“Levicorpus!”

Ginny didn’t even recognize the spell that came out of her mouth but it seemed to work just fine as the door flew open and Harry came running out with his wand drawn.

Ginny was practically on top of his desk as she shook, her wand thrown out to hold off…Sam?

Sam Mullinsky, one of the younger Aurors was hanging upside down by his ankle as he struggled to get his robes out of his face, an empty mug in his hand and coffee all over the floor below him.

Harry didn’t bother to try to figure it out as he flicked his wand. Sam fell to the floor in a heap but before he could stand up, Harry grabbed him by the collar and hauled him to his feet. Harry jerked him away from the desk, pulling his face up to his and jamming his wand into his neck.

“What did you do to her?” he demanded.

Sam sputtered as he dropped the coffee cup. The handle snapped off as it hit the floor with a clang.

“Nothing, I…honest, Harry…I didn’t do anything! I just thought she would want some coffee…she ran into me and then freaked out!”

Harry glared at him for a second more before he eased his grip a bit and looked over at Ginny. She was staring guiltily at Sam as her cheeks blazed scarlet. His grip eased some more as her gaze moved to him.

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled sheepishly, and Harry moved to her, shoving Sam away from him.

“Did he scare you?” he asked softly. Ginny didn’t respond as she began to melt under his gaze...until she remembered she was upset with him. This was really all his fault anyway for leaving her out here.

She tucked a piece of hair behind her ear and she cocked her head at him.

Harry furrowed his brow a little, not understanding the look she gave him before she pulled herself up and turned to Sam. She flashed him a smile and put her hand on Harry’s stomach, pushing him back slightly as she moved forward.

“Sam, is it? I’m so sorry. I’m a little jumpy I guess, but I would really love a cup if you’re still offering.”

“Are you sure you’re alright?" Harry asked, catching her arm and turning her back toward him. "Will you be ok out here with him?”

Ginny arched her brow as she considered him.

“You didn’t have any problem leaving me out here alone before,” she said, surprised a little at the coldness of tone as she spread her arms. “Alone in an empty room where anyone could get to me.”

He frowned at her. "Malfoy can’t get to you in here, Ginny. It’s protected.”

“Like the banquet was protected?” she shot back.

Harry's grip tightened on her elbow reflexively. It didn’t help his composure to have her spouting all of his thoughts to him in that tone…with those eyes.

“I'm right in the other room,” he assured her but she just scoffed.

“Well that makes me feel loads better since you were in the same room last time,” she countered sarcastically as she pulled her arm free and crossed them over her chest. “Whatever. I’ll be fine here, Harry. Just go back in; no need to stop talking about my problem without me on my account.”

She watched his jaw clench as he studied her before he turned his head to look at Sam.

“You stay with her until we’re finished. Get her whatever she needs.”

Sam nodded and turned, heading out of the room to get another coffee.

Ginny’s eyes widened when Harry turned to go back in without another word. She gaped at him for a second before she moved to catch his arm.

“Wait, that’s it?" she demanded. "You’re just going to go back in and leave me alone? I want to go in there with you,” she said as she pointed at the door.

“I won’t be long and then...”

“Bullocks! I'm not a child! You're in there talking about me and I want to know what's going on!”

Her eyes were flashing and they practically ignited when he simply tucked a piece of hair behind her ear and went back in without replying.

She spun on her heel with a huff and her murderous gaze fell onto Sam who was coming back in with a fresh drink for her.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Harry shut the door behind him and sank into one of the chairs at the table. He felt horrible. She was angry at him as she should be. Her jabs about their lack of protection churned in his stomach.

“I want to know what you know, Ron. Where you think he is, where you know he isn’t, how close he is to being ready…”

~..~..~..~..~..~

Harry tried not to flinch as Ginny's door slammed. Hiis hand went automatically to the wall to steady the painting as he headed down the hall after her. Ginny had been horrible to him since he'd finished in the conference room.

At first he hadn’t minded the treatment, even felt like he deserved it somewhat. Now he was getting a little annoyed despite himself.

She's safe. She's still alive, isn't she?

He hadn’t failed her completely, yet she acted like he'd dropped her into Malfoy’s lap and said ‘here she is, do what you want.’

But you kind of did, didn’t you, his mind reminded him.

He hadn’t been on his guard and he'd just handed her right over for that dance.

Coming to a stop in front of her door, he ran a hand through his hair before knocking. He waited a few seconds and when he didn’t get a response he went in. He found her sitting on the end of the bed as if she was waiting for him with her arms crossed.

“How did I know you'd just come right on in,” she mused sarcastically as he shut the door.

Turning to face her, he lounged back against the door with his thumbs hooked in his pockets. He looked a little like he did at the banquet; his body curled in a tense knot despite his relaxed pose.

“I don’t want you in here, Harry.”

“What do you want me to say, Ginny?” he asked.

“There's nothing to say," she replied, standing up jerkily. "I want you to get out.”

“Look, I know you’re upset with me and I know I messed up, but I got there, didn’t I?” he said as he pushed off the door and walked toward her.

“I want you to get…out,” she repeated in a low voice.

Harry just kept coming and everything that had been simmering below the surface, every feeling and fear that she'd been ignoring since the banquet came raging to the surface.

“Not until you get over this,” he said as he got close.

“GET OUT!” she screamed at him as she slapped him across the face and stormed away.

For a second Harry was too surprised to move.

When she came to a stop at the window he walked over to her and turned her around.

“Ginny,” he soothed. “I know you are upset but...”

“UPSET?!” she screamed as she yanked her arm out of his grasp and swung at him again but he caught her wrist. “UPSET?! YOU’RE BLOODY RIGHT I’M UPSET! YOU WON’T EVEN TELL ME WHAT IS GOING ON! HE’S GOING TO TAKE ME AND KILL ME AND YOU CAN’T STOP HIM!!”

She dissolved into tears as soon as the words came out. She let him pull her into his arms, clinging to his shirt as she sobbed into his chest.

Harry rubbed her back silently as he got it. He felt like a right prat for not figuring it out sooner, but at least now he knew. She wasn’t angry, she was terrified and he pulled her closer.

“You heard h-him,” she choked out. “He’s going to…to take me, and…and…make you w-watch when he...” she trailed off with a fresh round of sobs.

Harry shut his eyes and rested his cheek on the top of her head for a minute as she trembled.

“Do you trust me?” he asked softly, running his hand down her hair and she sniffed. “Do you trust me, Ginny?” he repeated and she nodded her head against his shirt.

“Yes.”

“He was just talking. He was just trying to scare you, but I swear to you, it isn’t going to happen,” he said as he shifted back and rested his forehead against hers. “I want you to believe me when I say that it is not going to happen. He's never going to touch you again.”

She nodded again and let out another sniff as he cupped her neck tenderly.

“I will always protect you,” he promised softly. “I screwed up, but it won’t happen again. I swear.”

Ginny brought her hand up, placing it over the one he had on her neck as he moved his lips down to her ear.

“He'd have to take you from me to hurt you and I don’t feel the need to give you up at the moment,” he whispered.

Ginny felt him smile against her before he kissed her cheek a couple of times, lingering on her skin before pulling away.

“Get some rest, ok?” he suggested when she met his gaze.

Nodding, Ginny blinked back a fresh set of tears. Harry wiped them off with his thumb as they began to fall and she shook her head, moving her own hands up to wipe them off as well.

“I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” she said with a sniff as her shaking fingers brushed quickly across her cheeks. “I’m sure you won’t believe this,” she said a little sarcastically as she thought about all of the times she'd fallen apart in front of him already. “But I’ve never been a crier before. I mean…you don’t grow up with six brothers and survive as a crybaby…you know?”

He smiled at her and leaned in a little. “It’s ok. I promise not to tell them what a softy you’ve become,” he said, and she choked out a laugh.

“Do you want anything,” he asked as he kissed her forehead.

“Some tea,” she suggested after a second and he nodded.

“Why don’t you get in bed and I’ll bring it to you.”

~..~..~..~..~..~

Harry looked up a few minutes later when Ginny entered the kitchen. She'd changed into a pair of pajamas and had pulled her hair into a pony. He watched her closely as she crossed to him.

“I was going to bring it to you,” he said as she reached him.

“I know,” Ginny replied. “I didn’t feel like sleeping.”

He reached out without thinking and cupped her cheek in his hand. She tilted into it automatically, shutting her eyes briefly.

“Are you ok?” he asked softly and she looked up at him.

“Yeah. Just don’t feel like sleeping.”

He nodded and let his hand trail off of her cheek.

“To the sofa then?” he suggested and she nodded with a grin.

She picked up her cup and began to leave the kitchen when Harry moved to catch her.

“I’ll carry that,” he offered, cupping her elbow and reaching for her tea

Ginny bit back a chuckle as she looked up at him.

“What,” Harry asked at her expression and she shook her head.

“I may be a bit of a watering pot at the moment, but I’m not completely useless, Harry,” she said and he broke into a smile, opening the kitchen door and gesturing her out.

~..~..~..~..~..~..~..~..~..~


A huge hug and thanks to Sugarquills23 for her help with this one...you are a genius... ;)

Chapter 6: Shadows of the Heart
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Harry sat silently on the sofa, watching the golden flames dance in the grate. Ginny sat in her usual position next to him with her back against the armrest and her feet propped against his thigh.

They hadn’t spoken much since they had sat down, which was fine with Harry. His jaw set, he’d replayed the events of the banquet over and over in his mind, each time growing more frustrated with his mistakes.

I should have known it wasn’t Dean, he thought, his fingers absently caressing Ginny’s ankle as he pictured his old friend leading her away. I should have seen it.

He knew Ginny was unintentionally the reason he hadn’t paid enough attention. His infatuation with her had made him sloppy…had put her in danger.

Looking over at her, he watched as she took a sip of her tea. Her eyes were trained on the fire and she looked tired, still unsettled from the evening’s events.

His thoughts went to when she’d broken down in her room. His guilt over allowing her to be so afraid surged to the surface and his grip tightened on her ankle.

Feeling the pressure of his touch, Ginny’s eyes slid to where his hand was wrapped around her leg.

With a jolt, Harry realized where his hand was and pulled it away with a silent curse. Ripping his eyes from her face, he stared into the fire, avoiding her gaze when she looked up at him.

Shite.

Suddenly, someone began pounding on the door, throwing Harry’s heart into his throat. He shot up from the sofa, his body tense and his wand flying into his hand.

Gesturing for Ginny to stay where she was, he crossed the room to see who it was. Peering through the eyehole he found Ron and Hermione standing in the hall.

While he watched Ron reached up and knocked again.

“Harry, open up!”

“Go to your room, Ginny,” Harry ordered looking over as he felt her approach.

“But it’s…”

“Go to your room,” he barked in a tone that made her stop.

She saw the fire in his eyes, the way his body was alert with tension. The impulse to protest faded quickly, overridden by trust in him.

“Ok,” she nodded before she headed down the hall, glancing back at him when she reached her door.

Harry watched her disappear inside before he turned back to the door. After the banquet he wasn’t assuming anyone was who they appeared and he certainly wasn’t going to let Ginny stay in the room when he was potentially outnumbered.

“Harry?!” Ron pounded again. “Come on!”

“What’s your Patronus Ron?” Harry called, watching the pair’s reaction through the eye hole.

“Oh, come on, Harry,” Hermione said in exasperation.

Harry watched her step forward and glare at the eyehole with her hands on her hips.

“Malfoy would know the answer to that! Ask something else!”

Harry’s lip curled up as she continued.

“Honestly, Harry! Ask us something only you would know not something all of Hogwarts would…”

“Hermione,” Ron interrupted, pulling her back. “He knows how it works, let him think! And who would remember my Patronus anyway? It’s not a terrible question. Malfoy wouldn’t remember surely…it’s really not that…”

“Don’t you dare say that it isn’t impressive, Ronald,” Hermione interrupted, rounding on him. “Most wizards can’t even produce one! A Jack Russell Terrier is nothing to…”

“Do you two want to hear my question?” Harry called through the door and they immediately fell silent and spun around. “It’s for Hermione.”

“Well go on then, we’re here to see Ginny not you.”

Harry smirked despite himself. If she wanted a question that only he knew the answer to, he could certainly provide her with one.

“What did you tell me, Hermione, that night in London last year about Ron? About how…” He trailed off as he watched her eyes widen and she took a quick step forward.

“I am not…” she shot a glance at Ron before glaring at the peephole once more. She rose up on her toes so that all he could see was her face. “I am not answering that. Harry,” she hissed.

“What did you say?” Ron asked, watching with growing interest as Hermione’s cheeks turn scarlet.

“That was between you and me, Harry! I can’t believe…” Hermione just about stomped her food and Harry laughed out loud. “Oh, I’m going to hex you into next week when you open this…”

She snapped her mouth shut when the door swung open. Harry was grinning at her and she swatted his shoulder as she moved past him.

“What did she say?” Ron asked as Harry shut the door behind him and put the wards back into place.

“Where’s Ginny?” Hermione asked quickly, cutting off Harry’s response.

Ron looked around at the question before his gaze went back to Harry.

“In her room,” Harry answered, gesturing down the hall.

“Is she ok?” Hermione asked him softly as they followed Ron to her door.

Harry nodded and pushed his hands into his pockets. “Just frightened…as she should be.”

Hermione looked over at him sharply as Ron opened the door to her room and went in without bothering to knock.

Ginny shot up from her bed and took an automatic step back, but relaxed when Harry appeared behind them in the doorway.

Harry stayed back, leaning against the doorframe as he watched them. They both gave her a hug and spoke with her, making sure she was ok. Harry’s chest tightened as he watched her melt into her brother’s arms.

Pulling her down next to him on the bed, Ron draped his arm around her shoulder as he spoke to her. He had her shaking her head and smiling in no time.

For the first time in a long time Harry felt the guilty coils of jealousy begin to churn inside of him as he watched them. He wanted to be the one who was able to make her feel better.

Shoving down his feelings quickly, he dragged his eyes away from them and staring out the window instead.

After a few minutes Hermione stood and pulled Harry out of the room. Shutting the door behind her, she dragged him back to the kitchen where she rounded on him immediately.

“Are you ok?” she asked as she crossed her arms.

Harry nodded, shoving his hands into his pockets again. “I’m fine. It’s Ginny who…”

“Harry,” Hermione chided knowingly. “I know she means something to you, and I know how you get. It wasn’t your fault.”

Harry looked away from her.

“I just handed her over to him,” he admitted after a second. He shut his eyes and rubbed his face quickly in frustration as the image of Malfoy with his hand in her dress erupted in his mind for the thousandth time. The urge to rip him apart for touching her followed quickly behind it.

“You didn’t know it was him,” Hermione reminded him.

“I should have,” he countered harshly as he dropped his hands. Crossing to the refrigerator, he yanked it open. “Want something?” he asked as he pulled out a butterbeer, wishing for the first time in years that he had some Ogden’s.

“No thank you,” she answered.

Twisting off the cap, he took a quick drink as he pulled himself up onto the counter.

Hermione crossed to him and stood between his knees, resting her hands on his thighs as Harry stared at the bottle in his hands. She waited a few seconds for him to look up at her, but when he didn’t she started talking anyway.

“I know you won’t let anything happen to her, Harry. And she knows it, too. She trusts you.”

Harry just stared at the bottle in his hands and shook his head.

~..~..~..~..~

“So, how are you, really?” Ron asked.

“I’m fine,” Ginny shrugged.

Ron nodded, watching her closely for a second before he pulled her into another hug. Ginny stayed stiff for a second before she melted into him, wrapping her arms around him and hugging him back tightly.

“We’re going to find him, Gin,” he assured her as he stroked her hair.

Ginny nodded feeling the tears begin to threaten at his words. Resolutely, she blinked them back determined not to cry again.

“I was just…really frightened,” she said after a second. “The things he said…he’s mad, Ron.”

“I know,” Ron grimaced and pulled her closer for a second. “I’m so sorry, Ginny.”

“For what?”

Ron shifted back, holding her away with his hands on her shoulders as he looked down.

“Malfoy. He hates me. I just…” he shook his head and looked up. “If he didn’t know this would hurt me, he might have chosen…someone else,” he said quietly.

Ginny saw the guilt in his eyes and she wrapped her arms around his neck quickly, pulling him close.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Ron. This isn’t your fault. We don’t know why he chose me, but even if that was the reason, I know you'll work even harder to make sure nothing happens…because it’s me. I was scared tonight but I trust you.”

Ron gave her a squeeze before moving her away again.

“I want you to trust Harry, too.”

“I do trust him.”

Ron searched her eyes for a second before squeezing her shoulders and dropping his hands.

“He may be a bit off for a few days, extra protective; probably a bit short with you. Just let him do his thing, Ginny, until he gets over it.”

“Gets over it,” Ginny repeated softly.

“I know him. He’s going to blame himself for this. He let you down.”

“But he got there,” Ginny replied and Ron nodded.

“Still…he’s going to blame himself…trust me.”

~..~..~..~..~

“So, about this kiss,” Hermione said, changing the subject with a hint of smile.

Harry’s head shot up.

“What are you going to do about it?” Hermione asked, ignoring the expression on his face.

“Um, nothing. I…there’s nothing to…” he trailed off at her expression and took another drink for his bottle.

How does she know about that?

“She cares for you, Harry,” Hermione said, squeezing his thigh. “This could be something good for you.”

Harry’s eyes narrowed as he stiffened. “Good for me and deadly for her,” he said in a hard voice.

“What does that…”

“Getting involved with her puts her in danger,” Harry insisted.

"Harry, don't be ridicu..."

"I'm not," Harry cut her off harshly. “I’m completely serious. Do you know why I handed her over tonight? Why I didn’t notice anything was off with Dean?”

Hermione shook her head in confusion. “No.”

“Because I wasn’t paying attention,” he bit out, slamming his bottle onto the counter next to him. “I was too bloody distracted by how she felt and how much I wanted to…to…” he trailed off as he shook his head. “I can’t get attached. If I get attached I can’t do my job.”

“Harry,” Hermione soothed, “you’re already attached.”

“Exactly! And look what happened! I need to take a step back. I need to stop.”

Harry.”

“I can stop,” he insisted as he glared at the floor.

“You don’t have to stop your feelings to do your job. Tonight was a mistake. He wasn’t supposed to be there. He wasn’t supposed to be able to get in, let alone attack Dean and get near her without anyone noticing,” Hermione insisted. “It wasn’t your fault. You can do your job without…”

“Without what?” Harry demanded, pushing off the counter and crossing to the other side of the kitchen. He didn’t want to talk about this. He didn’t want to hear Hermione’s argument. He knew what had to be done. “Without staying professional? Without being at my best? What do you want me to do, Hermione? She comes first!”

“Yes, she does! And pushing her away when it’s obvious you care about each other isn’t putting her first!”

Harry gaped at her in disbelief for a second.

Did she miss the part about my emotional involvement hindering my judgment and putting her in danger?

“Shite, Hermione!” he exclaimed throwing a silencing charm over the kitchen. “What's wrong with you? You’re acting like this is some sort of bloody courtship! I'm doing what needs to be done to protect her!”

Hermione just raised her eyebrow, holding his gaze as his green eyes flashed angrily at her. She hadn’t been frightened by his temper in years.

“Harry," she said firmly, holding her ground. "You’re doing what needs to be done for yourself because you’re afraid of her.”

“I am not afraid of her,” Harry scoffed.

“You're afraid of your feelings,” she insisted. “You care about her and she cares about you! Why are you fighting that?”

Harry gestured with his hands in frustration for a second before he found his voice.

“Because it’s my job to protect her! I can’t do that if my feelings are in the way! What am I supposed to tell her family or Ron or myself if my mistakes get her killed? Do you have any idea what happened tonight?!”

He ran a hand though his hair as once again the image of Malfoy’s hand on her flashed through his mind.

“You have no idea what it felt like to see him touching her!”

His words hung in the air as he squeezed his eyes shut, his hands curling into fists as he tried to bring his insides under control. He ran both hands through his hair. When he spoke again his voice was tight, his jaw clenched.

“He could have taken her right then and I couldn’t stop him. It was my fault.”

“Harry,” Hermione began, but she stopped as he advanced on her until she had to look up to keep his gaze. His eyes were dark and intense with emotion. She knew he cared for Ginny but the depth of what she saw startled her.

“It can’t happen again, Hermione! I couldn’t think! I couldn’t see straight! I will NOT GET HER KILLED BECAUSE I’M DISTRACTED! I LOVE HER TOO…”

Hermione’s eyes widened as Harry snapped his mouth shut. She watched the rage on his face replaced by confusion and panic in an instant before he spun away from her.

Oh my God, he thought as he ran his hands through his hair.

“Shite. I…I didn’t mean…I meant…” he trailed off and took an unsteady breath. He was in love with her. The realization hit him like a bludger to the stomach and for a second he felt like he couldn’t breathe.

I’m in love with Ginny.

He rolled the words around in his head as her face flashed in his mind.

Obviously, you’re in love with her, his mind seemed to taunt him. How could you not be? She’s everything you want.

Harry bit back a groan as he covered his face with his hands. He tensed when he felt Hermione’s hand on his back.

“Harry…”

“Don’t, Hermione,” he managed, shaking his head. “Bugger. What am I going to do?” he mumbled into his hands.

How am I supposed to keep from being distracted by her now?

He took another breath to steady his insides.

I’ll ignore it, he thought. He felt Hermione rubbing his back and he turned around. “Don’t tell Ron.”

Hermione nodded her head.

“I mean it. No one hears anything about this. I didn’t say it and I don’t mean it. This is a job.”

Hermione could see the panic in his eyes and took hold of his forearm.

“You did mean it, Harry, but it isn’t the horrible situation you're thinking. This is not like your parents…not like Sirius. Loving her protects her. It doesn’t hurt her.”

She pursed her lips in frustration when Harry merely shook his head.

“Have you ever considered that trying to ignore your feelings…trying to stay away from her is an even larger distraction than being with her?” she asked shrewdly.

Harry blinked at her, trying to untangle what she had said through the fog that was his brain. He shook his head vaguely.

“She’ll distract me. I…” he ran a hand over his face covering his eyes as he continued. “If I allow myself to be with her, I won’t be paying attention. I doubt I’ll see anything even if I come up for air,” he managed.

Hermione brought her hand to his now red cheek.

“You’re wrong, Harry,” she insisted gently. “She isn’t distracting you. You’re distracting yourself. You can’t just turn off your feelings. If you want to try to ignore what you feel, fine. Try that. But it isn’t going to work and the harder you try, the more distracted you’re going to be.”

Harry’s eyes snapped open and he stared at her.

More distracted? Is that even possible?

“Ginny’s going to see straight through you,” Hermione said, jerking him out of his thoughts. “She’s smart. My guess is she already knows. Trying to hide it or fight it is only going to hurt her. You need to work this out before you really are distracted. One way or another, trying to ignore your feelings is only going to end with her being hurt.”

~..~..~..~..~..~

Harry felt sick. He was going to see Ginny any minute. The very idea caused his stomach to tighten in knots. Hermione had left him in the kitchen a few minutes before to think about what she had said.

Now he sat on the sofa, his hands clamped tightly onto the cushions as he waited for them to join him.

They’ll be in here any second. Then what?

He shut his eyes and leaned his head against the cushions.

I love Ginny.

He almost laughed out loud at the thought.

How had I let this happen? What am I going to say? How am I supposed to act? What if she can see it?

Hermione’s words rolled around in his head. He tried to shove them away, but they seemed to be stuck on repeat.

You can’t just turn off your feelings…She’s going to see straight through you…You’re wrong, Harry…

He opened his eyes reluctantly when he heard Ginny’s door open. All too soon, his friends were making their way down the hall toward him. Ron and Hermione seemed to have decided to go ahead and leave. Harry wasn’t sure whether to be happy that he didn’t have to talk to Hermione anymore or upset that they were leaving him alone with Ginny. He avoided both Ginny and Hermione’s eyes as he got up and headed to the door. He lowered the wards and opened the door for them.

“Take care of her,” Ron said as he shook his hand and Harry nodded but remained silent.

Hermione gave him a hug and kissed him on the cheek as she passed. “I know you’ll work it out,” she said softly in his ear, giving him a look before squeezing his hand and following Ron out.

When the wards were back in place, Harry turned around. He eyed Ginny warily. She had settled onto the sofa again with her back to him. He shoved his hands into his pockets and crossed to her slowly. She looked up at him with a smile when he came around the side of the sofa.

“Where’s your wand,” he asked, looking away from her eyes quickly, afraid she would be able see into him.

“Um…in my room I think,” she answered, furrowing her brow. She watched as he turned away and headed down the hall. Picking up her tea, she took a sip before grimacing at the cold temperature. She swirled the liquid around, looking up when Harry came back in holding her wand.

“I want you to keep it with you at all times,” he ordered as he handed it to her.

Flicking his wand at her tea to heat it, he sank down next to her on the sofa. Suppressing a sigh, he stretched out his legs and leaned his head back on the cushions. He was a little surprised by how easily he settled into their normal position. Since Ron and Hermione had walked out the door, the urge to hide in his room had been in the forefront of his thoughts.

He heard her chuckle as she shifted beside him. Curiously, he rolled his head over to the side so that he could see her.

She was mirroring his position as she gazed at him, her cheek on the cushions. “At all times,” she repeated, mimicking his serious tone with a smirk. “Should I sleep with it, Harry?” she suggested with a laugh. “Shower with it, obviously, I suppose…”

She continued to rattle off random situations where she might need it, but Harry had stopped listening as soon as she conjured the image of her showering in his brain.

Bare and wet and…damn…

He swallowed and dropped his eyes to her lips, shutting off his thoughts and watching them as they moved instead. It didn’t help. He forced his throat to swallow as he watched the way they curled up on the right side, creating a tiny dimple on her cheek whenever she thought of another scenario.

When the urge to lean over and silence her with a kiss became too strong he dragged his eyes back up to hers. He watched them sparkle at him as she talked. By this time she was rambling happily about something Ron had said concerning their mum. He could still sense the earlier uneasiness lurking in the background though and she trailed off when he said her name.

“Yes?”

“You should be sleeping,” he said, watching the levity slip from her eyes a bit.

“I told you, I don’t…”

“…feel like sleeping,” he finished for her with a nod. “I know.”

As if watching someone else, he saw his hand reach out and finger her neck before he cupped her cheek in his palm. He was positive his hand had a mind of its own because he certainly knew that touching her was the last thing he needed to be doing. Even so, he didn’t pull away and neither did she.

“But you should sleep anyway,” he insisted, knowing he needed to get her out of the room before it was too late. “Rough day…”

She tilted her cheek into his hand as she closed her eyes. “Yeah…”

Opening her eyes slowly, she held his gaze as she turned her head and kissed his palm.

Harry felt the tingles shoot up his wrist at the contact before he snatched his hand away.

Ginny saw the difference in him, the affection that had been present, and so clear in his eyes during their moments at the banquet was hidden now, held back and replaced with something else. She suddenly realized Ron was right.

When Harry started to stand up she caught his wrist.

“Harry…”

He tensed, but sank back onto the sofa. He didn’t look at her. Instead he stared down at her hand as her thumb caressed his wrist.

“I don’t want you to blame yourself for what happened,” she said.

Harry looked over at her in surprise before looking back down at their hands.

“I know I was awful to you before,” she said as she shook her head. “But I don’t blame you. I was just frightened…”

Harry nodded and after a second she turned his head with her hand so that he was looking at her. Their gazes locked and they stared at each other. Her fingers were soft on his skin as she held him in place. She didn’t really need to hold him, though, because he couldn’t bring himself to move anyway.

“I’m serious,” she insisted softly.

“I know,” he said simply, forcing a smile. “I don’t blame myself,” he lied and she dropped her hand.

“Liar,” she breathed, tucking her legs under her as she shifted closer. “You’re different. You’re distant now. You think it was your fault.”

Harry dropped his eyes, unable to look at her, unnerved by how well she read him.

“It was my fault, Ginny.”

She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and leaned into him, resting her chin on his shoulder. Harry kept his body still, trying not to betray any emotion, but at the same time, reluctant to push her away. She was just so damn sweet and comforting and warm as she pressed against him. His hands itched to touch her but he held them in place.

“This was Malfoy’s fault,” she said into his ear and he took a deep breath, letting her flowery scent envelop him. “This was, and is, all Malfoy’s fault. You got there. You got there and I’m fine. I know you won’t let anything happen to me.”

“He should never have gotten that close to you. He scared you…and touched you,” Harry said as he looked over at her, his voice raw as he forced out the last part.

This time it was Ginny who looked away, dropping her gaze as she nodded slightly.

“Still,” she said softly. “Still,” she repeated more forcefully as she pushed the memory of Malfoy’s hands on her away. “It doesn’t matter, Harry. What happened wasn’t because of you. I need you to trust yourself. You need to know that it wasn’t your fault. I trust you.”

She kissed his cheek and ran her hand down his neck before she stood up and headed down the hall to bed. He watched her disappear into her room before he dropped his head back onto the cushions and closed his eyes.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Acting normal around Ginny ended up being much easier than Harry anticipated. He’d been walking around in love with her for weeks, so having a name to put with his feelings didn’t really change them.

If anything, he only became more paranoid. He never allowed her any slack at work or anywhere else on the rare occasions they actually went somewhere. The only time he let his guard down was when they got back to the flat. It was only here that he allowed her out of his sight.

At the moment he was in the kitchen while Ginny sat on the sofa in the other room. She was reading her book, but she wasn’t absorbing much of what was on the page. Instead, she was staring blankly at the words in front of her as her mind traveled back to earlier in the day.

She was leading the way down a hall in St. Mungo’s on the way to see one of her patients. As they approached a set of double doors, Harry grabbed her arm and pulled her to a stop. Before Ginny could ask what was going on, the doors burst open.

She tried to see who was coming through, but Harry thrust her into the wall, shielding her with his body. Her hands clamped onto his sides as he pressed his back into her. He blocked her from the on-coming group of wizards as they streamed noisily through the doors.

It turned out to be an emergency unit, rushing an older wizard in on a stretcher. They called for help, but Harry kept her backed into the wall. In case it was a diversion, his wand remained ready. He didn’t relax until the group had disappeared around the corner.

Ginny didn’t move even after the hall was deserted. Her hands caressed his sides absently and she reveled in the feeling of him pressing into her. When Harry finally moved, he didn’t go far. He simply turned around to face her. He was close, distractingly close. Ginny tilted her head back to see him as her hands moved impulsively to his hips.

“Can’t be too careful,” he said softly and she nodded. She watched his eyes cloud and her body tensed with anticipation as he moved closer, invading her space…


“Want anything?” Harry called from the kitchen, jerking Ginny out of her thoughts.

“No, thanks,” she called back.

Seconds later, Harry entered the room and plopped down next to her on the sofa. She watched him as he pulled the top off his butterbeer and took a drink.

He was confusing her. This was just the latest of moments when they seemed to be on the verge of something, only for Harry to pull away. She was sure he’d been about to kiss her in the hospital. But as quickly as he began, he pulled back. Instead of following through, he took her hand and led her down the hall instead. He didn’t speak for nearly an hour afterward.

Now, once more they sat in silence as they read. Ginny’s feet were against Harry’s thigh. His hand felt large and warm where it rested casually on her ankle. The weight of his touch was comforting. It made her feel safe. He made her feel safe.
It wasn’t long before Ginny abandoned her book, leaned her head against the arm of the sofa and closed her eyes instead. Her frustration with Harry’s behavior and the situation in general were starting to get to her.

It was laughable, really; all this trouble because she was a virgin. She bit her lip to suppress a giggle that bubbled up unexpectedly. After all, it really wasn’t funny.

Feeling Harry massage her ankle, she opened her eyes. He was still reading. She doubted he even realized his hand was moving, but she did. She felt it. Every caress, every pressure, even through her jeans it was like fire. She shut her eyes again as the sensation filled her, bringing with it familiar memories.

Suddenly she was back in her common room with Julien. He had caressed her like this. She frowned slightly unsure where the comparison came from.

Why am I thinking of him?

After a moment she figured it was inevitable. Why wouldn’t her thoughts move to the one person who could make this whole situation disappear? Willingly she gave in to the memories, letting Harry’s touch take her back…

Ginny let her eyes close at the feeling of Julien’s hand moving on her leg. She didn’t even think he realized what he was doing, but she felt it. His hand was large and warm on her skin as he traced his fingers absently along her ankle and up onto her calf. His touch always affected her. It warmed her and filled her with a strange combination of security and want that only he could give her.

She bit her lip, rolling her head to the side as he squeezed her calf before going back to lazily massaging her ankle. Her skin erupted with goose bumps when he trailed his fingers down her skin. She almost smiled when his hand slowed to a stop, knowing he’d noticed her body’s reaction to him. Instead of an outward response, she laid still, keeping her eyes closed.

She knew what was coming. She felt him shift and really did smile when he leaned over her and begin kissing her neck.

“Cold?” he asked against her skin. The amused smugness in his voice was apparent.

Ginny opened her eyes briefly and stole a glance at him, her features schooled into an aloof expression as she took in his satisfied grin. “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean by that.”

Her eyebrow rose playfully as she closed her eyes once more. His grin only widened as she feigned indifference to his touch. Her lip twitched as she turned her head to the side.

Ignoring her attempts to disregard his advances he nuzzled her neck with his nose.

“You know exactly what I mean, Ginevra,” he murmured in her ear. He ran his hand up and down her thigh. “You’re body always betrays you.”

Ginny’s eyes snapped open. “That is so not…” she began but he caught her smart remark with his kiss.

They were in the middle of the common room. They couldn’t really do more than kiss, but it didn’t matter. The feeling of his lips on hers was heaven and she moaned softly as he moved back down to her neck.

She breathed his name and he bit her skin lightly. “H-”


“What are you thinking about?” Harry asked, giving her ankle a squeeze.

Ginny’s eyes flew open to find him gazing at her, his book abandoned in his lap.

Flushing automatically at the question, she shut her eyes again. She sighed when he repeated his question, amusement and slight confusion lacing his tone.

“Just…just about how stupid this whole thing is really,” she answered, feeling his hand begin to caress her ankle again. “And Julien.”

Harry perked up at the name and he furrowed his brow. “Who?”

Ginny shook her head and opened her eyes. “No one, really. Just…” she trailed off with a huff and shifted. She was beginning to get a headache and she certainly didn’t want to talk about this with Harry.

Ginny’s hand found her hair and she looked into the fire. “I just…it’s just so stupid. All this trouble because I’ve never…”

“Never what?” Harry asked sitting straighter now.

“Never had sex,” she admitted. “I mean, if I knew this was going to happen, I would have just gotten it over with…”

She met his eyes when she heard him choke back a laugh. He squeezed her ankle again and smiled before he returned to rubbing his hand in lazy circles, trailing his fingers over her skin.

“And this…Julien,” Harry suggested. “He’s who you would have ‘gotten it over with’, with?” He tried to keep his tone light but just saying it made Harry feel slightly ill. His stomach turned over and his jealousy flared at the thought of her doing anything with anyone other than him.

Ginny rolled her eyes, moving her feet up onto his lap as she shifted down into the cushions. “Yeah,” she admitted blushing slightly. “I mean, I guess so. He’s the only one I would ever have…I mean, I’ve dated other people obviously and…I mean… it’s just that Julien was…it’s not like I’ve never done anything but…” Harry’s hand twitched and her blush deepened.

She knew she was rambling, but she couldn’t seem to stop and she felt the blood rushing up her neck to her face. She clamped her mouth shut and covered her face with her hands. “Never mind…it’s weird…”

“What’s weird?”

“This conversation. I just…I don’t want to talk about this with you,” she mumbled into her hands.

Harry squeezed her leg. “I told you about Cho,” he reminded her. For reasons he refused to contemplate, he really wanted to hear about this Julien. “Were you together at school?”

Ginny nodded before lowering her hands. “Yeah, towards the end,” she said, beginning to smile reluctantly at the memories. “I think I liked him forever though. He was older than me and I had such a crush on him. He barely knew I existed, of course.”

“I highly doubt that,” Harry replied, but she just shook her head with a laugh.

“No, I’m serious. I was just a clumsy, shy little girl to him.”

Harry listened as she told him how they slowly became friends. Then as the years passed they eventually became more.

Harry had a hard time picturing her as the shy, awkward girl she claimed to have been around this guy. He also couldn’t help the jealousy he felt as he watched her mouth curling into a smile as she thought back. Maybe he didn’t want to know about this Julien fellow.

“So, what happened?” he interrupted her a few minutes later, his voice tight.

“Sorry?” she blinked at him.

He was suddenly feeling rather grumpy. The litany of Julien’s exceptional qualities and the snippets of her tender moments with him had given him a headache. “If he was so marvelous, why aren’t you still with him?”

“Oh,” Ginny answered. She heard the sarcasm in his voice and watched as his eyes seemed to flash at her before he looked away. His hand was roaming higher now, running up and around her calf before sliding back to her ankle.

He really needs to stop doing that if he expects me to focus.

“We…we had a giant row about something and that was it really…” she trailed off for a second as unexpected emotion rushed into her. Her throat tightened as she realized she didn’t even remember what the fight had been about. “We lost touch after that.”

“Ah,” Harry said softly. She had obviously loved him. He could tell by the way she talked about him. Great, he thought sourly. She loved him and she didn’t have closure. “What was the row about?”

When she didn’t answer he looked over at her but she wasn’t looking at him. She was frowning into the fire, furrowing her brow. “You know…I don’t even remember,” she said with a soft laugh. “It was something very important at the time, I’m sure…”

“Do you miss him?” he asked, and she looked over at him. His heart was suddenly pounding as he held her gaze, waiting for her answer.

“No. Not really. I guess I miss some things, but I don’t want to be with him now, if that’s what you mean,” she answered. There was something in her eyes, something Harry didn’t quite understand. He felt like she was trying to tell him something but he didn’t know what so he dragged his eyes away from hers.

The conversation died quickly after that. Ginny closed her eyes again as Harry went back to his book. He slid his hand down to Ginny’s foot, rolling his fingers over her ankle before sliding his hand inside of her jeans.

Ginny turned her head to the side and stared into the fire, her thoughts still back at Beauxbatons as she felt Harry’s hand on her skin. She bit her lip and shut her eyes as memories flooded her.

“Ginny!” Julien called. She didn’t look around but she heard him running up behind her. She was standing by the lake, watching the sun turn the water into a fiery rainbow as it set. When he reached her, he slipped his arms around her waist. “Where have you been? I was looking for you.”

“I was here.”

He turned her around, keeping his arms draped around her waist. “You know I don’t like it when you disappear. It’s dangerous.”

Ginny didn’t respond. His hair was windswept, his cheeks flushed from running. She rose up and wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing him lazily. Julien pulled her closer as he took control of the kiss. He stroked her tongue with his until she moaned softly, pushing closer. Part of her still didn’t quite believe this was happening, that she was with him. She felt like she’d been waiting for this forever.

After a few minutes more, she pulled back, a small smile playing on her lips.

“I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I knew you’d find me though, and I didn’t feel like listening to Maurice’s prattling anymore.”

“Was he bothering you again?” Julien asked, his grip tightening slightly.

“No more than usual. Nothing he hasn’t said before…it’s not a big deal. I just didn’t feel like getting another detention and I knew that was where it was heading if I didn’t leave,” she said with a smirk and he kissed her again.

“A well-placed bat-bogey hex would have been nice though,” she mused between kisses and he chuckled against her lips.

She knew that in a few seconds he would take her hand and they’d walk around the lake like they always did, but today she didn’t feel like it. She didn’t want to talk for hours; she just wanted to kiss him and not think so she pulled him closer.

“I love you,” she said against his lips and she felt him smile before he pulled back.

He brought his hand to her cheek as he gazed down at her and then, all at once, everything changed. His brown eyes shifted to a deep emerald as his face transformed into Harry’s. Their cloaks were black now and her eyes flicked to the large gothic castle behind them.

“I love you too, Gin,” Harry said softly, bringing her focus back to him before catching her lips in a hungry kiss…


Ginny blinked quickly as the memory faded and she brought her hands to her now pounding head.

Just Brilliant, she thought.

Harry had barged into her life and stolen her heart in one fell swoop and now he was taking over her memories too. She couldn’t even think of an ex-boyfriend without subconsciously wishing it was Harry and she let out a groan without thinking.

Harry looked over at her and found her with her eyes shut as she rubbed her temples.

“Are you ok?”

She nodded but kept her eyes shut.

“Bloody headache,” she mumbled.

Harry frowned as he looked at her. She’d been complaining of headaches more and more recently. Come to think of it, he got a headache at least once a day now. He knew the stress of this whole thing had started to wear on her and he moved to shift her legs, only to find that his hand was trapped by her pants.

When had it gotten there?

He felt his face flushing as he quickly pulled it out.

As soon as he let go of her leg Ginny shifted off the sofa and stood up.

“I think I’m going to go lie down,” she said distractedly as she began to leave, but Harry caught her just before she reached the door.

“Are you ok? Do you want me to do a relief charm or something?” he asked.

Ginny shook her head. His closeness flooded her senses and the scene by the lake popped back into her head. She pulled out of his grasp quickly and it faded.

“I can do it,” she replied as she headed down the hall. She was used to her mind making up random scenes with them together but she didn’t like this. She didn’t like that her lust filled brain was starting to turn real memories into moments with Harry.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Several mornings later, Harry came to a stop in the doorway of the kitchen. He’d followed the smell of bacon from his room and crossed his arms over his chest as he took in the disaster zone that used to be his kitchen. It looked like a bunch of pixies had been let loose. Along with the rather staggering amount of bacon, sausage, eggs, pancakes and other breakfast foods piled on the table in front of him, there were cartons and boxes, used bowls and spoons and what looked like flour thrown haphazardly around the counters and table.

Ginny stood in the center of the chaos with her back to him as she hummed softly. She was wrapped in her robe and had her hair piled on top of her head in a messy knot. She was in front of a skillet, making what Harry could only assume was an omelet, based on the chopped ingredients still piled around her.

The domesticity of the scene, of Ginny cooking breakfast in her pajamas flooded Harry with a feeling of intense comfort. It suddenly occurred to him how much he wanted this. He wanted desperately to wake up and find her cooking everyday and he leaned his head against the doorframe.

He felt more at home in this kitchen, at this moment, than he had since he’d moved in over a year ago. He probably felt more at home than he had felt anywhere ever, outside of Hogwarts or the Burrow.

The intense feeling of being home as he watched her enveloped him. It was almost like he could see her in her mother’s kitchen; almost like they were standing in the Burrow instead of his flat.

Before he knew it, his body was humming with want. His senses had focused solely on her and the room around him began to fade away.

He crossed the kitchen slowly, letting the sound of her voice envelop him. He smiled as he watched the way she bobbed her head slightly with the song she was humming.

God, I love her, he thought. I love everything about her.

Moving silently, he came to a stop behind her. She jumped with surprise when he slid his arms around her waist.

“Good morning,” he murmured in her ear and she smiled as she looked back at him.

“Morning.”

He kissed her cheek before he dipped his head. She tilted her head instinctively as he began to kiss her neck.

“This smells wonderful,” he murmured against her skin as her flowery scent surrounded him. He took the skillet and slipped it off of the burner before turning her around in his arms.

“Well I am the one making it,” she replied with a smirk as he raked his eyes over her, trailing his hands down her sides to her hips. “So obviously it would smell, and taste absolutely…”

Harry cut her off with a kiss, taking advantage of her open lips to slip his tongue inside. She moaned into his mouth as he drew her against him. They kissed hungrily as Ginny’s hands found his hair, pulling him closer.

“Can you cook for me everyday?” he asked breathlessly and she chuckled.

“Only if you always thank me like this,” she replied and he captured her lips again with a grin.

Ginny stroked his cheek before dropping her head back as he moved to her neck, kissing and nipping until he found her pulse-point. He could feel her heart pounding for him as he cupped her neck, titling her head farther back as he feasted on her. God, he loved her so much he could barely stand it.

“You’re my home. You know that, right?” he breathed when he suddenly pulled back. “This is home…”

The urge to have her consumed him as she mumbled her agreement, her eyes dazed with desire as she dragged them open. She was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen and he completely forgot that they were in the kitchen. He forgot about everything except how she felt as his hand found its way to the tie of her robe and his lips found hers again.

He groaned into her mouth as he pushed her robe off of her shoulders, eager to get rid of the barriers between them.

With a gasp Ginny broke away.

“Harry,” she moaned as his hand found her breast. “Harry, stop…”

“Why?” he grinned against her lips and she grinned back as she kissed him.

“We’re in my parent’s kitchen…”

Harry’s eyes flew open and his hand shot to his forehead. His head was pounding and he groaned as he sat up in his bed. He shut his eyes and pressed the palms of his hands against his eyes. His body was battling with the power that was churning inside of him; awoken by the dream. He gritted his teeth and forced it back. When he felt relatively normal again he yanked off his covers and threw his legs off the side of the bed. He rested his elbows on his knees and held his head in his hands.

This is just bloody brilliant, he thought with a groan.

For the past week his mind had tortured him endlessly with dreams of them together. It seemed even his own subconscious disagreed with his decision to stay away from her and it was punishing him severely for it.

By the week’s end, he was exhausted and drained from lack of sleep. He needed to get his mind and power under control or it wouldn’t matter whether he was distracted by her or not. He would either be too worn out, or too out of control to protect her, anyway.

Knowing it was useless to try to go back to sleep, he dragged himself off of the bed and over to the window to center.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Ginny woke much earlier than normal and stared at the ceiling. She felt restless as soon as she woke, but knew she would feel better when she wasn’t alone. It wasn’t that she was still frightened; not really. She knew nothing could happen to her in Harry’s flat but she wanted to find him anyway and she assumed he was up.

He was always up before her, sitting on his floor doing his meditation thing. She’d asked him about it once but he’d shrugged the question off, explaining vaguely that he’d picked it up in Auror training.

Wrapping her robe around her, she tied the sash loosely as she walked down the hall. She paused in Harry’s doorway and found him right where she expected. He was sitting on the floor facing the window, his legs crossed and his hands resting lightly on his knees. She watched him for a few moments, watching the way his back expanded with each breath, his muscles rolling slightly under smooth skin. His tattoo wagged its tale at her and she smiled despite herself.

She rested her temple against the doorframe, watching him for a second longer. The longing she’d grown so accustomed to over the last several weeks began to churn once again in her stomach.

Finally pulling herself away, she headed down the hall to the kitchen with a frown and put on some coffee. As she waited for it to brew she walked around the kitchen, trailing her fingers along the counter as she went. Without really thinking about it she crossed to the refrigerator and pulled out some eggs and butter before going to the cabinets and got out everything else she needed for a typical Weasley breakfast.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Harry’s heart stopped as his body tensed in panic when he reached the kitchen ten minutes later, the scene before him a disturbingly close recreation of his dream. There wasn’t half as much food or mess but the feelings that shot through him, the automatic comfort and want from before were there instantly.

His first instinct was to run from the room but he couldn’t seem to make his feet move. He stood frozen to the spot while he watched Ginny’s head bob as she hummed a tune.

It was like he fell into a trance or something. His brain shut down, his body moving on instinct as his dream began to become a reality, all thoughts of protection and professionalism lost in the haze as he began to make his way slowly across the room to her. He swallowed, raking his eyes over her as his heart thudded in his chest.

He came to a stop behind her and breathed in her scent. He wasn’t even sure how he could smell her over the food but he could. He started to slip his arms around her but he didn’t get the chance. Ginny spun around suddenly with a spoon and cried out in surprise at his close proximity.

Harry jumped at her sudden movement, his mind and body jerking back to the present as she lurched away instinctively. Her elbow hit the skillet behind her and she let out a curse as she jerked forward again.

She pushed Harry back as she grabbed her elbow, biting her lip.

“What are you doing?” she winced, trying to twist her arm up to see it.

Harry cursed under his breath and shifted her away from the stove.

“Hold still,” he said as he pulled her arm up, bending it at the elbow so he could see it. He shook his head at the red splotch on her skin.

Ginny stuck out her hand and her wand flew into it. She pulled out of his grasp and started to point her wand at her elbow but Harry just pushed her hand away.

“Harry, I’m the healer. I can fix this.”

“You can’t even see it,” he replied as he brought up his own wand and healed it quickly.

“I didn’t hear you come in,” Ginny said as she rubbed her elbow.

Harry looked up to reply but found himself unable to speak.

Her hair was messy, with a couple of strands that had escaped hanging around her face. She had a smudge of flour on her cheek. He brought his hand up, wiping it off with his thumb.

“Sorry,” he finally managed as he brought his eyes back to hers.

“It’s ok. I hope you’re hungry,” she said lightly as she turned back to the stove, taking the skillet off of the burner. She turned back around and moved past him to the table. “I may have gotten a bit carried away,” she added as she eyed the amount of food on the table, her hands on her hips.

Harry glanced at the piles of sausage, bacon and pancakes and grinned. He picked up the two plates that were out and handed her one.

“Are you going to cook for me everyday from now on?” he asked with a wink.

She laughed as she loaded up her plate.

“Only if you find another way to thank me,” she smirked, gesturing to her elbow as she took a step closer to him.

Her smile slipped a little as she saw his expression change.

“What is it?”

Harry blinked, trying to force his mind away from the image of how he’d been thanking her in his dream.

“Nothing,” he said quickly, piling eggs onto his plate and feeling his face begin to flush, “just dejavu or something.”

“Of this?” Ginny laughed, taking a step closer. “Have you burned me lately, Harry?”

“No,” he mumbled, keeping he eyes on the table as she invaded his space. The urge to show her what he had been imagining was suddenly overwhelming and his grip on the serving spoon tightened.

“Then what’s familiar?” she asked, her brow furrowed at the abrupt change in him. His body was tense, his jaw working as his eyes fell shut. “Harry?”

She touched his arm and he jerked, dropping the spoon. It hit the bowl with a clang as he set the plate on the table. His arm shot around her and he pulled her against him as he kissed her.

Ginny let out a squeak of surprise before she melted into him, dropping her plate onto the table. Her arms went around his neck as her body erupted into fire. They groaned together in relief at the contact as the kiss became hungrier.

Harry pushed her back until she hit the counter with a gasp. He lifted her up onto it in an instant, moving in between her legs as she pulled him closer. He grabbed her thighs and pulled her against him, wrapping her legs around him before moving his hands up her body.

Ginny moaned softly into his mouth as their tongues met each other, dancing together as they gave in to their attraction. Moving one hand to the counter behind her, she held herself up as he pressed against her.

Harry couldn’t think. She felt so great as he kissed her, felt her. After a minute he dragged his mouth away, his body protesting and his breathing shallow.

“We, we shouldn’t be doing this,” he managed even as he brought their lips back together. Ginny groaned in response and he kissed her harder, molding her to him.

“Why not?” she panted as he moved to kiss her neck and she dropped her head back.

“I…I can’t…I have to protect…” he managed between kisses. Inside Harry was fighting a losing battle as his thoughts raced around in his head.

Ginny was on fire, her skin burning where he touched her and she tried to pull him closer.

“Oh God,” he groaned into her throat, “we…we need to stop…I can’t do this…this isn’t good.”

“It’s not?” she asked breathlessly, pushing her hips against his and he pulled her more firmly against him with a groan.

“No…I mean yes…I mean…” he brought his head up and kissed her. “It’s a job…It’s just a job,” he managed. As soon as the words came out he wanted to take them back. He felt her stiffen and a second later she shoved him away.

“It’s just a job?”

He saw the hurt flash in her eyes as she slid off the counter.

“Wait, Ginny, no, I didn’t…” Harry moved forward but she pushed him off.

“Don’t touch me,” she said in a low voice as she walked stiffly out of the kitchen. She ran a hand through her hair. It’s just a job? She wasn’t even sure if she completely understood what he meant by that but she knew she was insulted by it. Bloody Aurors. Bloody Harry.

Harry ran a hand through his hair and cursed as he followed her. “Ginny,” he said catching her arm and spinning her.

“It’s just a job?” she demanded instantly. “I’m just a job?”

Not waiting for an answer she yanked her arm free and tried to walk away again.

Harry caught her, pulling her back to him. “No, Ginny,” he said, cupping her face, “no, I didn’t mean -”

“I’m not just some object you have to protect,” she bit out, hating the hurt that rang in her voice.

“I know, just let me…”

“Just stop ok?” she said trying to push his hands away.

“Ginny, let me explain…”

She pulled away, not listening and he grabbed her arms, dragging her back to him and kissing her, holding her to him as she struggled.

“You’re not just a job,” he said when he raised his head and pulled her against him, ignoring her attempts to break away. “You know you’re not just a job. I meant…ugh, Gin I meant that it should be just a job. It has to be just a job,” he said as he moved her away from him and cupped her cheek. “I can’t. I can’t get attached…”

He watched her eyes change and he realized Hermione was right; he was going to hurt her. He wanted to be wrong. He wanted to be reckless and be with her but he couldn’t. He had to put her first.

“I’m sorry,” he breathed, his chest beginning to ache. He ran his thumb over her cheek. “I want…if I could I…”

Ginny put her fingers over his lips as she stared at him.

“You can’t get attached?”

He opened his mouth to respond but nothing came out. After a second he shut his eyes and nodded, gritting his teeth.

“What happens if you get attached?” Ginny asked, furrowing her brow.”

“I make mistakes. I don’t pay attention…like the banquet.”

Ginny sucked in a breath.

We’re not together because of the banquet?

She thought he’d gotten over that.

Remaining silent for a moment, she searched his face before finally taking his hand. She led him across the room and pushed him down onto the sofa. Quickly sitting down next to him she tucked her legs under her as she studied his profile.

Harry sat like a statue, his body tense as he stared at the fire.

Ginny wasn’t sure how he’d made this all his fault but she sure wasn’t going to just wait for him to get over it like Ron suggested.

“You didn’t know it was Malfoy, Harry.”

Harry looked over at her, hearing the irritation in her tone. Her eyes were flashing at him.

“I should have known it was him,” he countered. “I should have noticed a difference and I didn’t. I was distracted.”

Her eyebrow rose at his statement and his stomach plummeted.

I shouldn’t have said that.

“You were distracted so you didn’t notice Malfoy?” she repeated.

He could see her mind working and he felt the sudden urge to flee the room.

“I…I know Dean, from Hogwarts. I should have seen, or heard, or felt the difference…I didn’t. It was my mistake and my fault.”

“Malfoy went to Hogwarts.”

“So?”

“He knew Dean too. He got into the banquet without anyone noticing, Harry. This was a calculated and planned attack, not a whim. He chose Dean for a reason. He knew how to talk and act to be him for those two seconds. You’re not a mind reader, Harry.”

He shook his head, trying to hold onto the guilt he knew was right, trying to fight the logic of her words.

“It doesn’t matter, Ginny. I knew Dean. I lived with him. If I’d been focused I’d have felt something was off!”

Ginny made a frustrated noise in her throat as she crossed her arms over her chest.

“Well then, what was distracting you?”

Harry opened his mouth automatically to respond before snapping it shut again. Looking away from her quickly, he shifted uncomfortably as his face flushed.

“Well?” Ginny prompted when he didn’t answer.

Clearing his throat uncomfortably, Harry mumbled out an incoherent response as he avoided her eyes.

Ginny stared at him, her eyes narrowing as she tried to make sense of his reaction. Her mind whirled as she watched a muscle twitch in his jaw until understanding slowly dawned.

Ginny let out a surprised laugh, she leaned in, resting her hand on his thigh.

“Was I distracting you?” she asked, feeling his body go rigid beneath her touch.

Her annoyance was suddenly gone, replaced by anticipation, her body tingling as her heart sped up. She watched him swallow, his jaw clenched. Sensing his mounting desire to run, she shifted on the sofa quickly, slipping her knee over him so that she was facing him on his lap. She smiled when she saw the panic leap into his eyes.

“Ginny,” he croaked before she silenced him with a kiss.

Scooting forward on his lap, she wrapped her arms around his neck as they kissed. It only took a second for him to kiss her back, opening his mouth instinctively when she ran her tongue over his lip.

Harry groaned when she broke the kiss and moved her mouth to his ear, but he wasn’t sure if it was a groan of relief or disappointment. It was probably both.

“I’m going to explain this to you, Harry,” she murmured into his ear. “Are you ready?”

He shook his head and she smiled.

“You weren’t distracted by me at the banquet,” she said softly as she began to trail kisses along his jaw.

“Yes, I was,” he managed, his entire body coiled into a massive knot of tension as he fought to keep his hands to himself.

“Were you? What was distracting then?” she asked as she trailed kisses down his throat.

“How you…how you looked, and felt…and…and…” Harry couldn’t think, he could barely talk as she kissed him harder, shifting on his lap as she ran her teeth and tongue over his skin. His hands had found their way to her thighs and he pulled her closer. “How much I…I wanted to kiss you…”

“But you couldn’t,” she said against his skin. “Because it’s a job right? No getting attached.”

He nodded, a sound very close to a whimper escaping when she sucked lightly on the nape of his neck.

“And you’re Ron’s sister,” he said breathlessly causing her to freeze.

He dragged his eyes open when her lips left his skin. She moved her face up to his, their gazes locking. He bit back a groan as her lips tilted into a small smile.

“You seriously didn’t use Ron as a reason,” she demanded softly, shaking her head. “What am I going to do with you,” she murmured, leaning forward and teasing his lips with hers for a few seconds. When he began to kiss her back she pulled away causing him to groan slightly.

“So you wanted me, but thought you couldn’t have me,” she mused feeling his body tense at her words. His eyes flashed at her. “Poor Harry,” she murmured as she went back to his neck, speaking in between kisses as she began running her hands over his chest. “Stuck at that banquet, wanting me but thinking you couldn’t have me. Doing everything you could to ignore it, or talk yourself out of it…”

Harry was positive she was trying to kill him. His breath was getting labored; his heart was slamming in his chest as his head began to pound. Her hands and her lips seemed to burn him. But it was her words that were really killing him as everything he’d been feeling at the banquet rushed through him.

“Trying not to notice my dress, or the way I shivered when you touched me,” she said as she kissed her way around his throat.

He shifted automatically, tilting his head to give her more room, his mind unable to make his body cooperate.

“It must have been quite the battle to keep from giving in.”

“You have no idea,” he admitted and he groaned in relief when she brought her lips back to his. He kissed her hungrily, his tongue plunging into her mouth as his hands found her face, holding her against him.

“So when Dean came up,” she murmured against his lips, pulling back a little with a smile as he tried to bring their mouths back together. “You were distracted by trying not to kiss me?”

Harry nodded, his hand tangling into her hair and tilting her head back.

“So if you think about it, Harry,” Ginny gasped when he moved to her neck. “I wasn’t distracting you. You were distracting yourself…by trying to stay away from me.”

Harry froze for a second, absorbing her words before he laughed into her skin.

“What?”

“Nothing,” he said, shaking his head as he looked up at her. “It’s just that…it occurs to me that Hermione tried to tell me this.”

“Smart girl, Hermione,” Ginny smirked at him.

“Yeah, but you gave a much better explanation,” he replied, capturing her lips again.

~..~..~..~..~..~

On the other side of the country a lone man stood at a table. He was leaning over, resting his weight on his arms as he watched the scene in a mirror laying flat on the table below him. His eyes glinted as he watched the couple below, feeling antsy to get a move on. He wanted this finished. It was taking too long. If he wasn’t careful, he’d have to start looking for another virgin, and that was unacceptable. He wanted her.

“Malfoy?”

“What is it Nott,” Malfoy snapped, not raising his eyes from the mirror. It was large and round, with an ornate gold frame. The room was dark and it reflected the flickering of the two torches that were mounted on opposite walls of the room. After a second Malfoy pulled himself up and turned away from it, facing his friend. “What is it?” he demanded when Nott didn’t answer fast enough.

“Well, it seems we were incorrect about…” his voice faltered a bit as Malfoy’s face darkened and he began to move toward him. “About the potion,” he pressed on.

“What about it?” Malfoy demanded, his grip tightening on his wand.

“Well, we thought all we needed was a piece of you, but now it looks like it’s everyone. We need something from each…”

Nott crumpled to the ground with a cry as Malfoy hit him with a Cruciatus curse as he passed.

“No more mistakes. Get what you need,” he ordered before he slammed the door behind him, leaving his friend twitching on the floor.




Chapter 7: Going Home
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“Gin,” Su called down the hall at St. Mungo’s. “Patient in number four!”

The elderly nurse was leaning precariously over her desk, waving a chart in the air as she tried to catch Ginny’s attention.

For the third time, Ginny was attempting to leave. When she heard Su’s voice, she dropped her head back with a groan and then looked over at Harry, who was walking beside her.

He knew exactly how she felt and he hadn’t even been the one doing the work. It seemed like they’d been at the hospital forever today, going from room to room and patient to patient without a break.

If I see one more child with boils on their face, I’ll probably be able to heal them myself, he thought, having watched her do it at least fifteen times today.

“We were so close,” he murmured, gazing longingly at the door as they came to a stop. He looked over, meeting her weary gaze with his own. His hand slipped into her hair and began massaging her neck. Tingles shot down her spine as she dropped her head forward with an appreciative moan to give him better access.

“How horrible would it be if I just left?”

“I didn’t hear anything, did you?” he replied with a smirk and she chuckled, only to have Su call her name again.

Ginny sighed and spun around as Harry dropped his hand. Reluctantly, she headed back to the medi-witch station with Harry on her heels, his hands shoved in his pockets.

“I’m sorry, dear. I know you were trying to leave,” Su apologized as she handed Ginny the chart. “It’s not serious though; just another older brother prank gone wrong or something.” She gave Ginny a pitying expression before turning and hurrying off in the other direction.

Ginny glanced at the chart, skimming over the notes before tucking it under her arm and walking back down the hall. Her steps were brisk but lacked their usual bounce as she rolled her head from side to side.

“This shouldn’t take long,” she said.

Harry could tell she was trying to sound cheerful but it came out mostly as drained.

When they reached the curtain Ginny straightened, seemed to collect herself, and then went in and began talking to the mother and child. Harry’s mouth curled into a smile as she transformed from the worn-out person she’d been in the hall to the cheery and alert woman in the exam room. Adjusting his baseball cap, he lounged against the wall, watching her through the gap.

His gaze remained focused on her while she spoke to the mother, miming directions with her hands. After a few more seconds, the mother nodded and left, passing him without a glance as she walked down the hall.

Harry’s skin tingled as the woman passed him. Turning his head, he watched her closely until she disappeared around the corner. When she was gone, he looked back to Ginny. He narrowed his eyes as he stared at the boy on the bed.

Something was off.

Shutting his eyes he reached out with his senses. When he found what it was, he shoved off the wall and drew his wand.

He came through the curtain just as the boy was reaching for Ginny’s hair. Without giving it a second thought, Harry shot a spell him. It hit the boy squarely in the chest, sending him flying off the bed as Ginny looked up in surprise. She cried out in alarm as the boy hit the wall with a loud smack and crumpled to the ground.

“Harry! What…”

Ginny began to move around the bed to check on him, but Harry grabbed her arm and jerked her back.

Expelliarmus!

The unexpected spell sent Harry’s wand flying out of his hand. He and Ginny spun to find the mother pointing her wand at his chest.

“No!” Ginny cried as the witch sent a series of hexes straight at Harry. As she reached for her wand, Harry grabbed her arm and thrust her behind him. At the same time, a wandless defensive shield erupted in front of him, shimmering as it deflected the magic into the wall.

Harry threw his arm out, his eyes blazing. A bolt of power shot out from his hand and the witch was thrown back through the curtain. She hit the wall with a crunch and crumpled to the ground unconscious.

“Don’t move,” Harry said, squeezing Ginny’s shaking hand. His shield dropped as he crossed to the witch. Crouching beside her, he quickly bound her and pressed a small round coin into her hand.

Ginny watched his wand fly from the floor to his hand as he rose up. His back was to her as he gazed down at the unconscious witch. She saw his back stiffen suddenly before he spun back around.

With a flick of his free hand, he sent Ginny flying to the floor while he used his wand to shoot a stunning spell where she’d just been standing.

Ginny rolled onto her back in time to see a wizard standing behind her with his wand out. As if in slow motion, he fell backwards and landed on the floor with a thump. Rising up on her elbows, she stared at the fallen wizard for a second.

Where did he come from?

Her eyes widened as she realized he’d been the little boy.

Ginny sat up as Harry passed her.

Incarcerous,” he muttered and magical rope appeared, winding around the wizard’s hands and feet to bind him like the witch. Harry leaned down, pulling a coin from his pocket. He slipped it into the wizard’s hand, curling the man’s fingers around it. Harry pointed his wand at it for a second before the wizard disappeared.

“Where did you send them?” Ginny asked, following him with his eyes as he stood up and turned toward her.

“A cell at headquarters; Ron will question them,” he explained as he came toward her. “But I’m sure Malfoy obliviated anything useful from their memories. You ok?”

She nodded, taking the hand he offered. He pulled her to her feet, catching her lips in a kiss. She could feel the adrenaline still pumping through him as he kissed her, the energy flowing from his skin as his hand slid into her hair.

“I’m surprisingly fine,” she murmured against his lips after a second and he pulled back.

“Sorry I had to…”

“It’s ok,” she assured him, running her eyes over his face as he looked at her. “Nice wandless magic,” she grinned and he smirked.

“Like that?”

“Mhmm,” she replied, closing the distance between them and grazing his lips with hers. “Very impressive protective skills today,” she murmured against his mouth.

“I have my moments,” he replied before catching her lower lip in his.

She kissed him back, rising on her toes as she wrapped her arms around his waist and pulled their bodies together.

“I just have to point out,” she said a few moments later, “that you didn’t seem at all distracted.”

Harry grinned and kissed her quickly.

“Are you trying to imply that you were right?” he asked as he took her hand and led her through the curtain and into the hall.

“Maybe.”

~..~..~..~..~..~

Malfoy was livid.

“Why am I always surrounded by incompetent idiots?!” he raged, heaving his snifter of red currant brandy at the wall. The glass shattered and he watched the burgundy liquid run down the wall as he seethed. Not only had Davis and Baddock failed, they’d gotten themselves bloody captured in the process.

“Must I do everything, myself?!”

“It depends,” a smooth voice purred from the doorway.

Spinning around, Malfoy’s flashing eyes landed on Pansy as she leaned against the doorway.

“I’m sure there’s something I could do for you.”

He didn’t bother saying hello; he just crossed to her, yanked her inside and shut the door. She moved almost lazily to the bed, unzipping her dress as he locked the door and followed her. She turned just in time for his hand to find her neck, crushing her willing mouth to his.

~..~..~..~..~..~

“Are you sure they were going for her hair?”

“Positive.”

Ginny sat on the sofa, watching Harry’s back as he crouched in front of the fire talking to Ron.

At least the view isn’t bad, she mused, her lip quirking as her eyes moved over his shoulders, admiring the way his muscles rolled slightly as he shifted on his knees. He’d been in front of the fire for the last ten minutes.

Stretching out on the sofa, she propped her head on her arm as she listened to him talk to Ron about the disguised witch and wizard from the hospital.

Five minutes later, she was on her back with her arms stretched over her head, staring at the ceiling as the conversation droned on. With a huff, she flipped onto her stomach, her eyes going back to Harry.

She wanted to shake him. They didn’t know anything. Both he and Ron had made that clear about a hundred times now, but they still insisted on talking about it.

Is this what all of their meetings are like? Maybe he was doing me a favor by leaving me out, she thought with a sigh as she rolled her eyes.

Another five minutes went by and the conversation still didn’t show any signs of stopping.

I guess I’ll just have to stop it myself, she grinned, sliding silently off the sofa.

She crawled over to Harry and for a second, she simply sat back on her knees behind him. With a mischievous grin, she gently pulled his shirt from the back of his trousers.

The effect was immediate. Harry’s body tensed, his voice faltered.

“Hold on, Ron.”

Pulling his head out of the fire, Harry twisted around as Ginny traced the outline of his tattoo softly with her fingertips.

“What are you doing?” he asked suspiciously.

“Oh, hi, Harry,” she said sweetly. She gave him a conspiratorial smile and curled her finger, beckoning him closer.

“I don’t think they know anything,” she whispered when he leaned in.

His brow furrowed in confusion for a second before he gave her an annoyed look. Pushing her hands away he then turned back around and stuck his head back into the flames.

Undeterred, Ginny tucked her hair behind her ears and lifted his shirt again. His tattoo was sleeping as she ran her fingers over it lightly once more. She grinned impishly as she ran her hands under his shirt, caressing his back and shoulders.

Trying to not be completely horrid, she waited until Ron was speaking to rake her nails down his skin. She was rewarded with a shiver and she grinned as she pictured his expression. She bit her lip to stifle a giggle when she heard Ron ask if something was wrong.

By the time she slipped her hands around to his stomach, Harry had all but dropped out of the conversation. When she began tracing the edge of his trousers with her fingers, he made a rather flimsy excuse, ended the conversation and jerked out of the flames.

Ginny snatched her hands away and sat back. She was the picture of innocence as he spun around on his knees.

“What are you? Five-years-old, Gin?” he demanded crossly.

She didn’t buy it for a second.

His eyes were hungry and dark…and glued on her mouth as he spoke. He didn’t even bother to wait until he was finished speaking to reach for her.

She giggled as he pulled her against him, but her laughter faded into moan as his lips covered hers in a hungry kiss. His arms wrapped around her, drawing her closer as their tongues tangled together. After a few moments he pulled away, smiling as she moaned again, this time in protest.

She’s not the only one who can tease, he thought as he stood, leaving her on the floor.

“I was trying to talk to him,” he said, letting his irritation resurface as he plopped onto the sofa. “You couldn’t amuse yourself for five minutes?”

“It was twenty minutes, Harry,” she replied lightly, watching him glance at the clock in surprise. “But your conversation should have been over in five.”

“It was important, Ginny,” Harry tried to argue.

She rolled her eyes and he crossed his arms as he continued to grumble. “It is important. I don’t see why you would…would think…”

His ability to speak abandoned his body as she began to slink toward him on all fours. She kept her eyes on him, her gaze hungry as her lip curled into a smirk. He forced his throat to swallow as she moved closer.

“Oh, I know it’s important,” she purred. “But he told you everything…”

For half a second, Harry tried to remember what he’d been saying but he couldn’t think. All he could do was sit there, frozen as he watched her crawl toward him like a cat stalking a mouse. When she reached him, she rose onto her knees and ran her hands up his thighs, curling her nails into his skin.

Harry let a groan slip and her brow arched at the sound. There was no time for her to react further as he grabbed her arms, hauling her up onto his lap.

Harry’s hand slipped into her hair, pulling her against him as he kissed her deeply. When she dragged her mouth away a few seconds later, he was the one now moaning in tortured protest.

“Impatient, aren’t we,” she teased in a raspy voice.

“Yes,” he admitted, ducking his head to kiss her neck, “we are.”

In response, she twisted away.

“Ginevra,” Harry warned. “I know you didn’t just interrupt an important conversation to talk…”

She laughed, kissing him lightly. She brushed a wayward strand of hair off his face with her fingers. “Who’s Padfoot?”

Harry blinked at her as he sobered. “What?”

Ginny slipped her hand behind him, fingering his lower back. “Your tattoo. Who’s Padfoot?”

“Oh.” He looked away from her, his eyes going to the fire as his hand massaged her neck absently. “My Godfather.”

Ginny’s eyes narrowed for a second as she tried to make sense of his answer. “Your godfather…was a dog,” she said slowly as her lip twitched.

He chuckled softly and his eyes flicked back to hers. “An Animagus,” he clarified.

“Ah,” she replied. “So…did he…”

“He was killed by a Death Eater,” he said softly and she nodded. She felt the emotion rippling off of him and leaned in, resting her cheek against his shoulder as she ran her hand down his cheek.

“That must have been horrible,” she said softly, kissing his neck. She traced her finger along his collar before moving her hand to his chest. She hadn’t realized asking would affect him like this. She rubbed his chest gently until she felt him relax a bit. “Tell me about him?”

Harry was amazed at how easily the words came when he began to talk to her. He barely even paused, beginning to tell her about him almost as soon as she asked.

He never talked about Sirius; everyone around him knew that. And yet with her it was easy. She was just…so easy to talk to that he couldn’t seem to stop himself.

Ginny listened silently as he spoke; about when he’d met Sirius during his third year. He went on to fill in the details from that point until he lost him in the Department of Mysteries in his fifth.

It was strange though. As he talked, she shut her eyes, resting her cheek on his shoulder. Images evolved in her mind of the moments he was describing and she was a bit surprised by how clearly she saw them. She winced when her head began to pound.

“You ok?” he asked, noticing when she brought her fingers up to massage her temple

“Yeah, just a…” She shook her head. She didn’t want to turn the focus to her. “I’m fine. I’m sorry you lost him,” she murmured into his neck.

She couldn’t imagine losing one of her family like that. She couldn’t imagine life without them and she ached at the thought that Harry had no family. His family had been taken from him and she wanted to be able to fix it. She wanted to be his family.

She squeezed her eyes shut as her chest tightened painfully. The pounding in her head increased briefly and then faded.

“It was a long time ago,” he replied.

She nodded as her eyes filled with tears. She pulled him closer, kissing his neck. He shifted her, pulling her up so he could kiss her. Her hands found his hair as she opened for him, kissing him with all of the emotion inside of her. She poured every ounce of love and passion into the kiss, wanting to show him, wanting him to feel what she did.

Harry pulled back when he tasted her tears.

“Why are you crying?” he asked with a small smile as she sniffed.

“I… I don’t know,” she replied, choking out a laugh as he wiped her tears away with the pad of his thumb. “It’s just so unfair. You’ve just…you’ve lost so much. Your family…”

Harry shook his head and kissed her softly. She pulled him closer and he shifted, pushing her back onto the sofa as he moved over her. She sniffled, pressing her lips against his, cupping his cheek as she moved her lips over his.

Harry kissed her deeply as his body woke up, trembling under her touch. Her reaction to his words overwhelmed him. She was crying. She was crying for him. His heart swelled and then clenched as he felt her beneath him.

“I have family,” he whispered against her lips and she stilled, resting her forehead against his. “Family doesn’t have to be blood, Gin. Don’t worry about me, I’m fine.”

He kissed her again, longer this time. The kiss was deep and searching; almost lazy as they relished the feel and taste of each other.

Ginny moaned into his mouth as he settled against her, his hips cradled between her thighs. He felt amazing. She didn’t think she ever wanted to move from this position, his heat flowing into her and his weight pressing her down. He made her feel safe and secure and yet out of control at the same time. She slipped her hands under his shirt, caressing the warm skin of his back. Harry groaned and pushed instinctively against her.

Her skin was warm and silky under his fingers as he cupped her face in his hands. His fingers caressed her cheeks as he trailed kisses down to her throat.

“You are so beautiful,” he breathed against her skin.

Harry was completely overwhelmed as she arched beneath him. She was perfect. She was more than anything he had ever wanted and he knew as they kissed that he wouldn’t be able to let her go when this was all over.

“God, I love you,” he mumbled as he kissed her neck and they both froze.

“W – what?”

He rested his lips against her neck, squeezing his eyes shut for a second. He certainly hadn’t planned to tell her that yet. Knowing there wasn’t much he could do about it now he raised his head to look at her and swallowed. His palms were suddenly clammy and he sucked in a breath.

“I think…I think I’m falling in love with you,” he admitted softly as he watched her eyes.

Something burst to life inside of Ginny at his words and she bit her lip before bringing his head down to her and kissing him.

Harry kissed her back but part of him felt oddly empty that she hadn’t returned his words, hadn’t said anything.

After a few seconds, Ginny broke the kiss with a gasp and looked up at him, running her fingers over his cheek.

“I think we’ve already fallen,” she said softly, waiting for him.

Emotion roared through him and he came back to her swiftly.

“You think so?” he asked with a smile as he kissed her. She moaned her agreement as he urged her mouth open. He slipped his tongue into her mouth and his hands into her shirt.

His fingers burned a path across her skin where he touched her. He moved his head down her neck, kissing and nipping as he moved his hands over her.

“I love you, too,” she breathed before she found his lips again.

The kiss was intense and Ginny groaned into his mouth as she felt the effects shooting all through her body.

They continued kissing for several minutes, their mouths fused in hungry abandon as their tongues danced together, knowing instinctually just what they wanted and needed. Harry’s body was aching for her, begging for more as they kissed harder, more urgently… as they tried to get closer…

“Merlin, Ginny,” he panted a few minutes later, her hands in his hair as he devoured her and she whimpered in response. She tasted like something…something he couldn’t place but he knew he recognized it so he kissed her harder, trying to figure it out and causing her to arch up against him. Harry cried out automatically into her mouth as pure pleasure shot through him.

Oh shite, he groaned silently as Ginny whimpered her agreement.

He moved quickly, slipping his hands to her thighs and pulling her legs up as he rocked his body into hers, desperate to feel it again.

The emotions and heat built between them, intensifying with every touch, every kiss until it surged into something else. It was suddenly too hot, the emotions too strong and the feelings too intense.

Ginny’s head began to throb as images she couldn’t understand flashed through her mind.

A castle…flying…fighting…kissing…Harry…heat…

Her hands clamped onto Harry’s shoulders, fingers digging into his skin as she squeezed her eyes shut. Even so, she couldn’t stop kissing him, her body a strange combination of pain and desire, each one battling for dominance.

Harry wasn’t faring much better above her, except it wasn’t just pain and strange images that rose in him, it was his power. He ripped his mouth away from her and buried his head against her neck as his hands clamped down on her hips to hold her still. He cried out, the sound muffled in her skin as his body began to shake for several seconds before he got himself under control.

Taking an unsteady breath, he pulled up and looked down at her. He was expecting to find her eyes full of fear or confusion; ready to ask him what was wrong but he was surprised to find that her eyes were shut tight.

She had her lip in her teeth, her forehead furrowed in pain as her head rolled to the side.

Taking her chin in his hand, he turned her face back to his.

“Gin? Look at me, Ginny,” he ordered gently. “What’s wrong?” he asked when her eyes fluttered open, reflecting the pain they were both feeling.

“Nothing,” she said, blinking quickly. “Just a…”

“…headache,” he finished for her. He smoothed her hair off of her forehead and kissed her skin. “How often do you have them, really?” he asked softly.

Ginny turned her head away with a shrug.

Ginny,” he persisted as he took her chin lightly in his hand and turned her face back to him.

As she met his gaze, she was not sure why, but she felt annoyed by the question.

“How many times did your head hurt as we talked, just now?” he asked.

Unwilling to scare her unnecessarily, Harry attempted to keep his expression calm and mask the worried tone of his voice. He wanted her to know he was serious, but he didn’t want to frighten her by making it seem like a bigger deal than it probably was.

“A couple,” she mumbled uneasily.

She could see the worry he was trying to hide. The fact that he’d noticed how often her head hurt scared her. It made it real - instead of something she was just overreacting about it.

“Do you think…do you think something’s wrong with me?” she breathed. Her throat tightened at the thought and her eyes began to burn. “Do you think it’s Malfoy?”

“I don’t know,” he answered truthfully as he shifted off of her, pulling her onto her side so they were lying together on the sofa. “But you keep having them. I think we should probably talk to Dumbledore, just in case.”

Ginny nodded, settling against him with her hand on his chest and her leg draped over his. The comfort provided by Harry’s arms around her allowed Ginny to slip off to sleep with surprising speed. Harry, however, stayed awake long after she had dropped off.

He knew she wasn’t the only ones having headaches. Although he wouldn’t really describe his as a headache; more of a shooting, pounding pain once his power was in order. He stared at the ceiling as he continued to bring his insides under control before he finally nodded off.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Harry was flying. The wind whipped his hair as he zoomed around the Quidditch pitch, his eyes searching the air intently. It was still early, the colors dull around him. A haze covered the ground below him, causing him to squint as he searched. Suddenly he dove, sure his prey was hiding in the fog.

He flew across the pitch, his eyes darting back and forth. He was low enough to the ground now that he could practically drag his feet on the grass if he wanted.

For a second he thought he saw something and with a shift of his hand, he shot to the right. A second later, he heard her laughter coming from above him. He looked up and grinned when he saw the blur of red streak past. Pulling up he headed after her, leaning over to increase his speed. He knew his broom was faster but after a few seconds he lost her again as she faded into the haze.

He slowed, knowing she wasn’t going to let him catch her. She had eyes like a cat and was always able to lose him in the fog. He still hadn’t been able to figure out how she always seemed to know where he was. He shut his eyes, stretching out his senses. He heard her laugh to his left and turned his broom, gliding in the direction of her voice.

“Come on, Harry…”

He felt the air whoosh by him as she looped around him. Pressing down on his handle he shot forward, picking up speed. He knew she would follow. He flew faster and faster, counting to ten before he swung around and came to a stop.

He let his body become still, blocking out everything else as he shut his eyes and listened for her. After a few moments, he launched himself off his broom as she passed on his right. She let out a cry of surprise as he hit her, knocking her off her own broom. He twisted with her, absorbing most of the impact with his body as they hit the ground with a thud.

“Cheater,” she gasped in mock outrage but he just laughed, flipped her over and caught her lips with his. He let out a groan of contentment when she wrapped her arms around him, pulling him more fully against her. He couldn’t think of anything else but her as he pressed her into the ground.

After a few long moments, he sighed into her neck, running his hand down her cheek and kissing her quickly before he stood. He pulled her up with him and wrapped an arm around her waist.

“We were supposed to be practicing you know,” he said, although he wasn’t upset that they hadn’t.

With a laugh, she wrapped her arms around his neck. “We did a lot of practicing,” she teased, nipping his lower lip with her teeth.

He smirked at her, even as his eyes darkened.

“Practicing Quidditch, Gin,” he clarified.

She giggled before forcing her expression into one of innocent surprise. Her eyes grew wide and her lips formed a silent “oh.”

“Is that what we were supposed to be doing?” she asked sweetly before kissing him. “You should have clarified, love,” she murmured against his lips.

“My mistake,” he managed before he deepened the kiss. He ran his hand up and down her back, pressing her against him as his other hand tangled into her hair.

Their lips moved together, their tongues stroking and exploring with an ease and familiarity that made Harry’s body flare and his grip on her tighten. Just when he was about to drag her back down to the ground she pulled away.

He protested, trying to pull her back to him but she just laughed, taking his hand and leading him quickly through the fog.

They were running. He called her name when her hand slipped out of his. “Ginny…” Her laughter guided him, echoing around him as she called for him.

“Come on, Harry…”

The temperature dropped as he ran and the scene around him began to fade to grey. He stumbled, doubling over and falling to his knees as his power erupted inside of him and the scene around him disintegrated.

Suddenly he was in darkness but he heard her laughter shift to screams. The pleasure that shot through him at the sound was immediate and intense. He opened his eyes and stood as the room came into focus.

Raising his wand, he hit her with the Cruciatus again. A thrill shot through him as he watched her convulse on the floor in front of him. She was bloodied, her hair tangled and her jeans ripped. She curled into a ball, trying to stop her body from twitching. He narrowed his eyes, focusing harder on the curse and relishing every moment of pain as her screams increased…


Power rippled through the flat as Harry’s eyes flew open, his body convulsing. His hands went to his head. He ripped off his glasses, pressing his palms against his eyes. He gritted his teeth, trying to keep from crying out. Ginny shifted as he shook beneath her.

He could feel her beginning to wake up and he moved his hand to her head, running his fingers through her hair and holding her in place. His hand was shaking but he clamped down on his body, forcing it to become still.

Oh God, please…please don’t wake up, he thought.

He needed time. He squeezed his eyes shut and took in a deep breath, forcing his power back.

“Shh,” he soothed, stroking her hair.

Ginny shifted against him and then nestled into him before becoming still again.

Harry didn’t dare move for several more seconds. Finally, he opened his eyes, staring at the ceiling as his pupils returned to normal.

He felt shaky, both physically and mentally.

What’s going on?

Dreams of them together weren’t new. The effect on his power wasn’t new either, but it had never been anything like this. He’d never wanted to hurt her.

His chest ached and he shut his eyes briefly as the sound of her screams echoed in his mind. A faint urge to throw up churned in his stomach for a few seconds before he was able to suppress it. He could still feel his power bubbling just below the surface. He squeezed his eyes tightly, forcing the power surge within him to be squelched.

He pulled Ginny higher on his chest and buried his face in her hair as he took several deep breaths. Her flowery scent surrounded him. Her warmth and touch slowly soothed him, erasing the destructive urge that inevitably came with a power surge. He felt connected to her and that closeness seemed to give him peace. In her arms, he felt safe and his body calmed until he felt drained but almost normal again.

He stroked her hair absently, staring at the ceiling until he drifted back to sleep.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Ginny woke slowly. She felt content and safe and she snuggled instinctively into the warmth beneath her as her eyes flicked open. She frowned when she found herself staring at the fireplace. She tensed at the realization that she wasn’t in her bed, but rather lying on the sofa. More specifically, on top of Harry. Her cheeks flushed slightly at the thought.

She shifted carefully, lifting her head from where she had burrowed into his neck. She bit her lip when she found him already awake beneath her. Their eyes met in a warm gaze and her body relaxed as his mouth slid into a lopsided grin.

“Morning,” he said in a sleepy voice.

“How long have you been awake?” she asked.

“Not long…”

“You should have…” her hand went to her mouth as she yawned. “…woken me,” she finished as she settled back against him. She stretched her body out over him as he chuckled softly.

“You seemed peaceful,” he replied as his hand slid into her hair pulling her up so he could kiss her forehead. She smiled at the feel of his lips on her skin. He was firm and warm beneath her and she let out a sigh of contentment as she shifted more fully against him.

“Not to mention,” he added, “the left side of my body seems to have gone completely numb and refuses to function…”

There was a slight pause before she giggled and pushed herself up onto her arms. She kissed him quickly on the lips before crawling off of him.

The loss of her weight on Harry’s body caused an onslaught of sensations as he tried to move. The numb areas began to tingle painfully as the blood came rushing back. He groaned as he sat up, shaking out his left arm and stretching his side. He glanced up to find her leaving the room. He had wanted to talk to her when she woke up, to ask her how she was feeling. He shot up awkwardly from the sofa before he lost the chance.

“Hey,” he called, moving to catch her as she headed down the hall.

Ginny turned back at his voice. She bit her lip to suppress her laughter. He was limping as he moved toward her, shaking his leg and trying to make the feeling return. She brought her gaze back to his face when he came to a stop.

“Something to say, Ginny?” he smirked.

“Nope,” she replied as her lips twitched and her eyes twinkled.

“I thought not,” he teased with a smile. He brought his palm to her face and then ran his hand down her cheek to her neck. His thumb glided lightly back and forth on her skin. As he gazed at her, his smiled slipped and his expression turned serious.

“How are you feeling?” he asked, remembering the pain in her eyes last night. “Did you sleep ok? Do you have a headache or anything?”

Ginny pulled his hand from her neck, lacing her fingers through his and kissing his knuckles softly.

“I feel fine,” she replied, her lip curling into a smile. “But thanks for asking.”

~..~..~..~..~..~

Several mornings later, Harry sat crouched in front of the fireplace.

“Thanks, Hermione,” he smiled, taking the copy of the Daily Prophet from her.

She passed him one by floo each morning. She had done this for weeks because Harry didn’t trust the post. The risk of interception by Malfoy was just too great.

Aurors inspected Ginny’s letters and packages on a daily basis. Everything was thoroughly checked for curses, charms and jinxes. They eventually got them to her, but getting the paper had proven to be more of a hassle.

First the paper was sent to headquarters. It received the same treatment her regular mail did before finally being sent on to Harry’s flat. By the time the Aurors finished, it invariably arrived after they’d left for the hospital, if not the next day. If it were just for Harry, he could easily have lived without it, but Ginny had refused. This had been the compromise.

“You might want to skip this one today, Harry,” Hermione said, making a face.

Harry paused, glanced at the paper and asked, “About me again, I suppose?”

Hermione nodded. “Let’s just say Rita would be very proud.”

Harry rolled his eyes and tucked the paper under his arm. “Got it. Thanks for the warning.”

“Anytime,” she smiled at him. “So, we’ll see you later?” she asked and his smile slipped a bit as he nodded.

“Yeah, we’ll be there.”

“Don’t look so glum, Harry! You know Molly complains constantly that she doesn’t see you enough,” she said with a knowing smile before she became serious. “You are going to be there right?” she implored. “I really want you to come.”

“Relax, Hermione,” Harry replied with a smile. “You know we’ll be there. No one says no to Mrs. Weasley, right?”

Hermione laughed as she shook her head. They said their goodbyes quickly and Harry pulled out of the fire.

Harry ran a hand through his hair as he stood and made his way back to the kitchen. He removed the whistling kettle from the stove and then glanced down the hall.

No movement yet, he thought.

Ginny liked to sleep late on Saturdays. While he didn’t blame her, he hadn’t been having much luck sleeping more than a couple of hours a night.

Bloody dreams, he frowned, trying once again not to think about the one that had woken him this morning. Despite his efforts all morning, he’d been unable to keep the image of Ginny broken and sobbing at his feet out of his mind completely.

His dreams continued to get stranger and continued to wreak havoc on his power. The added stress of worrying about Ginny’s headaches hadn’t helped matters.

He’d woken up early as usual, although it was more than just dreams that woke him today. It was Saturday and they’d been invited, or ordered rather, to attend the monthly Weasley get-together. Although he hated to admit it, he was nervous. He hadn’t gone to very many Weasley events in several years and though he loved them like his family, he wasn’t sure what he was going to do when he saw them today.

What am I going to say? he wondered for the hundredth time since waking up.

He pursed his lips as he poured himself some coffee. The asinine response that had been running through his mind all morning repeated once again.

Mr. Weasley, as you know, I’m protecting your daughter. It’s going pretty well so far…and oh yeah, I accidentally fell in love with her, I can’t seem to keep my hands off of her and we’re living together.

Somehow, he just wasn’t sure that would go over very well with her father or her brothers. Ginny told him he was just being dumb about it. She assured him that everyone would be thrilled, but he just couldn’t get rid of the churning in his stomach. He shook his head as his mind wandered back to yesterday.

Harry was lounging on the sofa, much like he had a thousand times before. But this time, Ginny was draped across his lap reading a book.

“Um, Gin?” he asked cautiously.

“Hmm?” she responded as she continued to read.

“Can we talk about something?”

“Sure,” she replied, closing her book and breaking into a grin. She shifted her body and sat up in his lap. Before he could say anything, she began kissing his neck.

Harry shut his eyes with an appreciative moan. Her touch sent the wonderful sensations he’d grown so accustomed to over the last week shooting through his body. He turned his head, urging her to move up to his mouth. He could have sat forever kissing her, but after a few seconds, he reluctantly pushed her away and shifted her back to her original position.

“I mean actually talk,” he clarified, although he couldn’t keep the disappointment from his voice at having to stop her.

She sighed dramatically and lounged back, getting comfortable again. “Ok.”

“What are we…” he trailed off, unsure what he wanted to ask. “How are we going to handle…well… us…at your parents’ tomorrow?”

“How do you want to handle it?”

Harry looked down with a frown as he shrugged. “I’m not sure. I mean, I don’t want to lie to them obviously…but I’m not sure if we should tell people.”

Ginny was silent for a second and she arched her brow when he glanced over at her.

“Right now,” he added hastily. “With Malfoy I mean…it’s just that…if you were a target just for being Ron’s sister…” He shook his head as fear gripped his stomach tightly for a few seconds. “If he knew we were together…” he trailed off, taking a deep breath. “Malfoy would stop at nothing to hurt me,” he said, meeting her eyes.

Ginny slid her fingers to the hand that was on her stomach, caressing his wrist for a second. She stopped when he suddenly leaned over and kissed her. It was filled with urgency as his hand found her face, pulling her closer for a second before he pulled back a bit. He caressed her cheek as he stared at her. “I can’t let him hurt you. I don’t want you in more danger because of this.”

Ginny turned her head, kissing the inside of his palm lightly. “I won’t be,” she assured him.

“I don’t know, Ginny,” he responded uncertainly. “Besides, what will your family think of this? It doesn’t really scream professionalism on my part,” he added with a small smile. “What if they decide I’ve lost my perspective and want me removed from your case?”

“That’s not going to happen, Harry. They trust you. I trust you.”

Her lips curled into a grin. “Honestly, Harry, I know you’re worried, but don’t be. They’re going to be thrilled. You know they will be. And you also know you won’t let anything happen to me.”

He remained silent, still unconvinced.

“Ok, how about this?” she asked as she sat up again. She brought a hand to his cheek and kissed him softly before pulling back and meeting his gaze. “If it worries you, maybe we could just wait to see how it goes. You know, sort of…tell them if it feels right,” she suggested. “We don’t have to announce it in the Daily Prophet, but they’re my family, Harry.”

He stared at her for a second as he considered it before nodding.

“Ok…maybe…But I still think it’s safer to wait until this is all over…”


Harry knew she was right in a way. They were her family. They were practically his family. He thought they would be happy for them, but at the same time he was still nervous. There were some parts of their situation that wouldn’t go over so well. First of all, there was no way it was ok that they were living under the same roof.

When it was strictly business between us it wasn’t an issue, but now, well… he seriously doubted they’d approve.

Truthfully, Harry knew they were old enough that her parents didn’t really have a say in the matter. The issue wasn’t so much if they would grant them permission, but whether they would they accept it. The last thing he wanted was for whatever was developing between them to lead to a giant Weasley row.

Shaking his head and picking up his coffee, Harry walked to the table and sank into the chair. He pushed his apprehensions about the visit to the Burrow away as he unfolded the paper. He took a drink of coffee as he glanced over the front page.

During slow news weeks the Daily Prophet was infamous for pulling out stories about the “Boy Who Lived” when they had nothing else to say. Much to his annoyance, the popularity of stories about him had refused to decrease with time.

The Real Thing? Or Harry Potter’s Latest Fling?

He snorted at the headline but frowned slightly as he looked at the picture. Apparently someone had snapped a picture of Ginny and him on one of their trips to Diagon Alley. They hadn’t gone since the banquet so the paper must have held onto it until they could come up with a story to go along with it.

He took another drink from his mug as he began to skim the story. He didn’t really like reading about himself. Sometimes he glanced at the articles, just for a laugh at what ridiculous information they’d chosen to make up about him. Since Ginny was surely involved with the story today, he wanted to know how.

He shook his head as he read the beginning of the article, not sure why the number of people he’d dated was relevant or important to anyone. He took another drink and continued on, a frown forming and deepening the farther he got.

Merlin, this makes me sound completely…

“Something interesting today?”

Harry’s head shot up. Ginny was leaning on the doorframe in her robe, one hand on her hip as she regarded him.

“Uh…no,” he replied lamely, folding the paper quickly to hide the article.

Ginny’s eyebrow arched.

Harry’s mind began to race to come up with a way to get rid of the paper before she could read it. He started to stand but she crossed the kitchen with surprising speed. He didn’t make it out of the chair before she arrived at his side. She plucked the paper out of his hand and plopped gracefully into his lap.

He reached around her, trying to grab the paper back but she leaned away as she held it out of his reach.

“Ah, ah, ah,” she scolded with a smile.

She smiled in triumph when he stopped fighting, allowing her to shift around and spread the paper out on the table in front of her. Harry groaned softly and rested his forehead in between her shoulder blades.

“Just remember they exaggerate,” he mumbled into her back. He could feel his face getting hot and he blanched when she began to read the article aloud.

“Merlin, Gin, if you have to read it, at least do it silently,” he pleaded as he pulled his head up and rested his chin on her shoulder instead. He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her flush against him as she laughed but she didn’t stop reading.

“…Potter has been spotted several times over the last month in the company of Miss Ginevra Weasley,” she read, giving dramatic emphasis to her name, “…daughter of Ministry official Arthur Weasley. It’s no secret that the Chosen One has yet to be able to make a relationship last…”

Harry had untied the knot of Ginny’s robe by this point and he slipped a hand under the fabric.

If I can’t get her to stop, maybe I can at least distract her, he thought, turning his head and kissing her neck lightly as he ran his hand over her stomach and side.

Ginny tilted her head to give him better access but her voice didn’t falter as she continued to read aloud, her tone laced with amusement.

“Potter has had a string of girlfriends since defeating You Know Who. None have appeared serious and none have lasted more than a month or two…”

Harry shook his head into her neck, put off that the paper would keep a running tab on who he dated and that even after the dark wizard was gone, they still refused to just say Voldemort’s name…even in writing.

Ginny broke off for a second and twisted around to see him. “I didn’t realize you were such a ladies’ man, Potter,” she teased, kissing him lightly on the lips.

He grimaced slightly. “Yeah, neither did I,” he said as she turned back around and continued reading.

He continued moving his hand over her. He used the other to tug her robe down, trapping her arms and baring her shoulders to him.

“…Never having had a real family,” she read as he began kissing her skin, “one has to wonder if Potter’s trend of jumping from relationship to relationship is a sign of his youth, or a deeper problem with commitment and intimacy. Perhaps Potter doesn’t know how to make a relationship work, having never witnessed one…”

Harry’s mouth stilled on her shoulder as Ginny continued to read. Her tone had become laced with sarcasm and exaggerated rapture, as though she was reading about her favorite celebrity. Harry didn’t really think it was that funny.

“Are we finished yet?” he groaned. “I think we get the point…”

She shook her head. “No way,” she said as she laughed. She shifted quickly on his lap until she was facing him, one leg draped on either side of the chair. She folded the paper and continued reading as Harry groaned and slouched back in the chair. “Apparently they have quotes,” she announced with a grin as her eyes flashed at him. Harry straightened.

“Quotes? Who did they quote?” he asked, leaning forward and trying to bend the paper back so he could see.

“Several sources close to Potter were willing to share their thoughts,” she began reading again. “The prevailing opinion supported the idea that Potter is afraid of commitment. ‘Harry was wonderful at first’, Laurie Pingleton said, ‘but he backed off as soon as things began to get too physical’,” she read, quirking a brow at him.

“What!?” Harry exclaimed as Ginny continued to read, placing her fingers over his mouth to silence him.

“’He always was a bit strange’, Rachael Florington commented when asked about why her relationship with Potter had ended. ‘He backed off just when things were moving to the next level, if you know what I mean.’”

Ginny collapsed into a fit of giggles as Harry blubbered in front of her in outrage.

“It isn’t funny, Ginny! The whole world is going to read that!”

She forced her face into a serious expression.

“You’re right, Harry. This is…well, this isn’t going to do much for your social life is it,” she commiserated, patting his arm before collapsing into laughter again.

Harry made a grab for the paper but she shot away from him, holding it out of his reach.

“I’m not finished!” she gasped as he shot up from the chair after her.

“Oh yeah, you’re definitely finished,” he replied as she tried to dart away.

He caught her around the waist. She held the paper above her head, bending backwards to keep it away from him. She squealed when he picked her up, tumbled her onto the table and pinned her down. He reached across her as she passed the article from one hand to the other. He grabbed a corner of the paper as he held her in place, trying to pull it away from her.

Ginny twisted her head back with a gasp when the paper ripped soundly down the middle.

“You killed it!” she cried, her eyes dancing as she looked back up at him.

“Oops,” he murmured with a grin as his eyes dropped to her lips. He brought his mouth to hers, teasing her lips with his lightly. “Maybe I’ll let you read the next story about me,” he said before dropping his head to her neck and kissing her skin.

She sighed, arching underneath him as she titled her head back.

“Preferably one that doesn’t paint me as someone who goes through women like…”

Ginny placed her fingers to his lips, cutting off the rest of his thought. They stared at each other for a few seconds before she slid her hands up and tangled them into his hair. She watched his eyes shut as she brought his face down to hers and grazed his lips with hers. She felt him inhale deeply, his chest pressing down on hers as it expanded.

“I love you,” she murmured against his mouth. She felt his lips curl into a smile against hers and she smiled too before he deepened the kiss again.

All too soon, he pulled away.

“It’s really too bad we have to leave soon,” he sighed huskily, glancing up at the clock.

Ginny casually shifted beneath him, arching her neck to check the time behind her. With a yelp, she pushed him off and jumped off the table.

“Why didn’t you tell me?! Bollocks, we’re going to be late…”

Harry watched her rush from the kitchen to take a shower. He picked up the pieces of the paper, crumpled it up and dropped it into the dustbin as he headed back to his room.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Harry and Ginny arrived in the gardens behind the Burrow with a small pop.

“I hate side apparition,” Ginny mumbled, pulling out of his arms.

Harry rolled his eyes. “We’ve been over this, Gin…if I were to go first…”

“Yes I know,” she said, waving her hand dismissively at him. “I’d be left alone…and I can’t go first because I would arrive alone,” she finished sarcastically for him. “Can’t go first, can’t go last…can’t be left alone like the child I am,” she grumbled as she straightened her sundress and ran a hand through her hair.

Harry caught her hand and pulled her closer to him. “Don’t…You know it’s just for safety. A lot could happen in those few seconds. It’s not…”

Ginny sighed, bringing her hands up to rest upon his chest.

“I know,” she said, meeting his gaze as she smoothed his buttons. “I’m sorry,” she apologized as she shook her head. “It just occurred to me while I was getting ready that you didn’t come with me as Harry. You’re here as my bodyguard,” she added with a shrug. “Everyone knows why you’re with me…”

Harry sighed, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. He trailed his fingers down her neck and nodded. “Next time I’ll come as just Harry.” He bent down quickly, giving her a soft kiss. “I promise.”

Ginny rose on her toes, following him as he moved away. She caught his lips in another kiss before pulling back. “Ready?” she asked, turning toward her house.

Harry paused, suddenly remembering why they were here. He swallowed, shifting on his feet as his hands began to feel clammy. He didn’t remember feeling nervous about going to the Burrow since he was about eleven.

“Yeah, ready as I’ll ever be,” he said finally. He shoved his hands into his pockets and let her lead the way to the familiar house.

They headed toward the side of the house where they could hear laughter and loud voices.

“Ginny! Harry!” Ron called when they rounded the corner.

Bill and Hermione were sitting at a long table that was set up in the yard while Ron and the twins were playing a game on their broomsticks.

There was also a little girl with long blond hair and freckles sitting in the grass as she watched them. Her arms were clasped around her knees as her head moved back and forth following the brooms above her.

Ron was too busy waving at them to pay attention to his brothers and Harry grimaced when a well aimed Quaffle knocked him handily off of his broom.

Hermione let out an irritated shout about being more careful as she went to check on him. Ginny just laughed and waved back, yelling an appreciative comment to Fred for his hit. She received a salute in response before he flew back into the mix.

Bill rose from the table as they walked up. His gaze focused on her closely, as though confirming that she was ok before he seemed to relax and break into a smile.

Smiling back, Ginny ran the last couple of steps to meet him.

“Bill!” she squealed as she launched herself at him.

He caught her with a laugh, holding her up as she wrapped her arms around his shoulders.

“How’s my girl?” he greeted her fondly, pulling her close before setting her back down.

Glancing over her shoulder, his eyes met Harry’s. Straightening, Bill pulled Ginny behind him as he stepped forward.

“Harry,” he nodded as they shook hands.

The stiffness of Bill’s greeting was not lost on Harry. He hadn’t seen Bill for several years but the eldest Weasley was usually warm and welcoming like the rest of his family. Today his eyes were guarded as they assessed him closely.

Does he know we’re together already? he thought nervously as Bill asked him how things were going.

Ginny headed to the house to find her mother. As she approached the back door, it opened to reveal a tall blonde woman levitating a trey of drinks in front of her. She was uncommonly beautiful, her hair long and silky as it flowed behind her. Her face lit up when she saw Ginny in front of her.

“Ginny!” she exclaimed. With a flick of her wand the drinks sailed to the table, landing lightly in the center. Fleur enveloped Ginny in a warm hug. “Ça faisait longtemps, comment vas-tu?”

“Je vais bien,” Ginny replied, slipping easily into French. “Et toi?”

“Oh, enceinte jusqu'aux yeux,” Fleur laughed, gesturing to her bulging stomach as she pulled back. Her expression brightened further when she noticed Harry walking up behind Ginny.

“‘Arry!” she gushed as she wrapped him into a hug. “You remember my sister, Gabrielle, oui?” she added, stepping to the side to reveal a younger version of herself coming out of the house.

Gabrielle came forward, giving Ginny a quick hug as they exchanged greetings. They’d gone to school together, but Gabrielle was five years younger so they hadn’t known each other well.

Stepping back, Ginny watched Gabrielle turn and give Harry a hug as well. Her eyes were bright with poorly disguised interest as she smiled up at him. Ginny’s brow furrowed when Gabrielle made a comment about saving, to which Harry shook his head with a chuckle as his cheeks flushed.

What does that mean? Ginny thought as she watched. When did Harry save her?

Her gaze flicked down to where Gabrielle’s hands lingered a bit too long on his sides. A strange and unexpected twinge of annoyance sparked to life inside of her at Gabrielle’s obvious interest.

Her mood lightened a second later as she watched Harry casually move himself out of Gabrielle’s grasp and over to Ginny’s side.

“Want to find your parents, Gin?” he asked, looking down at her.

She nodded and led the way to the back door.

They found Ginny’s parents in the kitchen as Molly bustled around putting finishing touches on the meal.

Looking up, she faltered when she saw them, spilling a bowl of gravy as they walked through the back door.

Harry flicked his wand automatically, redirecting the liquid back into the bowl before it hit the ground.

Fussing over her clumsiness, she came forward and pulled Ginny into a tight hug, asking her how she was doing. Arthur shook Harry’s hand before Molly pulled him away and enveloped him in a hug of his own. Ginny smiled at him over her mother’s shoulder and after a few minutes Molly shooed them back outside to the table.

Ginny headed to the table while Harry walked over to Ron and the twins.

When Harry got back to the table, he found Ginny and Hermione sitting across from each other as they talked. Sitting down next to Ginny on the bench, he glanced over, watching her fold her napkin in her lap as she laughed.

She continued to chuckle as she turned toward him, her eyes dancing as she met his gaze. He started to ask what they’d been talking about but his attention was pulled away when someone placed their hand on his shoulder.

He turned his head to find Gabrielle using him as a balance as she stepped over the bench. Her hand trailed lightly down his arm, her nails grazing his skin as she sank down next to him.

“Hi, Harry,” she smiled at him. “I hope you don’t mind if I sit next to you.”

“It’s fine,” he shrugged before turning back to Ginny.

He saw the coolness overtake the warmth in her face as she eyed Gabrielle. When she met his gaze, her eyebrow rose.

Harry could tell she was trying to figure out whether to be amused or annoyed by Gabrielle’s attention. He didn’t want her to decide upon annoyance, so he leaned in to whisper in her ear. Knowing the table wasn’t completely full yet he slipped his hand to her thigh, squeezing gently as he said, “Did I tell you how amazing you look today?”

When he straightened he found Hermione smirking smugly at him from across the table. He gave her an innocent smile but she just raised her eyebrow and he dropped his gaze promptly to the table, his cheeks burning.

Why does she always seem to know what’s going on?

Thankfully, Ron dropped down next to Hermione a moment later, distracting them all with a recount of the Quidditch game. The rest of the table was soon filled with Weasleys and conversation as the meal began.

Harry reached across the table, piling more potatoes onto his plate. When he sat back down he shifted slightly to his left away from Gabrielle. His thigh brushed Ginny’s as he began to eat. Slipping his foot out of his sandal, he felt Ginny jump a bit in surprise as he wrapped his ankle around hers. He felt her glance and turned his head meeting her gaze. He gave her a smile before going back to his food.

Danielle, Fleur and Bill’s daughter, insisted on sitting across from Aunt Ginny and “Harry Potter,” during lunch. Whenever she said “Harry Potter”, she did so in a hushed whisper before breaking into giggles. Harry could see the Veela side of her coming out as she smiled and easily charmed the entire table.

Unfortunately, not all of the Veelas at the table were as charming. Despite his lack of interest, Gabrielle kept shifting closer and closer as she spoke to him, almost exclusively.

Gabrielle’s subtle flirtations became more and more obvious when Harry responded only with polite indifference and made no attempt to flirt back. Apparently she wasn’t used to blokes not falling all over themselves around her and doubled her efforts to attract his attention.

Although most of the table remained oblivious to what was happening on Harry’s right, he could feel the tension mounting on his left. Ginny had obviously noticed.

The way Gabrielle batted her lashes at him and spoke in a coy, soft voice made Ginny want to vomit. An image of her ripping Gabrielle away from Harry and hexing her soundly flew into her mind and Ginny blinked in surprise before giving herself a shake. Jealousy was certainly not something she was used to. Then again, she wasn’t used to a half-Veela fawning all over her boyfriend either. Gabrielle was young and beautiful and more than willing. The fact that she had no idea he was taken certainly didn’t seem relevant at the moment.

Things came to a head as dessert was passed around.

“Perhaps later, Harry,” Gabrielle murmured in a seductive tone as she leaned in, “you could give me a ride on your…broomstick.”

Harry froze in shock as her hand slipped to his thigh. Swinging his head around, he gaped at her as she batted her eyelashes innocently at him.

Is she crazy? he thought wildly as his eyes shot around the table. We’re at a picnic at the Burrow.

Everyone seemed to be engaged in their own conversations and unaware of Gabrielle’s actions, everyone except Ginny, whose fork hit her plate with a clang when she heard the other girl’s suggestion.

She choked on the bite of food she was eating and Harry spun around to find her eyes livid and her face red as she coughed. He patted her on the back but she smacked his hands away as she shot him a furious look.

“Are you alright, dear?” Molly asked with concern from across the table.

Ginny nodded, her eyes watering slightly. She coughed again before pulling herself up from the bench.

“I’m going to go inside for a second,” she announced as she climbed over the bench, pointedly not looking at Harry as he watched her leave.

He stood up as she disappeared through the back door.

“Where are you going?” Gabrielle asked, laying her hand on his arm.

Harry didn’t answer; he just pulled away and headed inside after Ginny. No one else questioned it when he left. They knew why he was here with her and knew he wouldn’t let her wander anywhere alone.

He found her standing in the kitchen at the sink. She had her arms folded as she leaned back against the counter, waiting for him.

“Well, if you were looking for you next fling, I think you’ve found it,” she said sarcastically as he approached. “Presumptuous cow,” she added under her breath.

“Having a good time today?” he asked, ignoring her question as he came to a stop in front of her.

“Fantastic,” she said with a sickly sweet smile. “You?”

Harry smiled at her and took a step closer. “Brilliant.”

“Yes, I’m sure giving Gabrielle a ride on your broomstick is very brilliant,” she drawled irritably.

Harry laughed and reached out, running a hand through her hair.

“Why, Ginevra, are you jealous?” he joked softly. He ran his thumb over her bottom lip as his eyes sparkled at her. “Because you shouldn’t be,” he murmured. His eyes darkened and dropped to her lips.

“Of course I’m not,” she lied with a flick of her hair. She tried to come off as indifferent but she knew he didn’t buy it. “How would you like it if someone was fawning all over me all day?”

“Ginny,” he said softly as he leaned his body into her, bringing his mouth to her ear. “Exactly what part of ‘I love you’ do you not understand,” he murmured, his breath tickling her skin and his words sending a spark of heat through her. Her eyes fluttered shut as she breathed him in. An intense and familiar feeling of warmth shot through her as he pressed her into the kitchen counter.

“Hmm?” he breathed when she didn’t respond. Her cheeks flushed with want as she mumbled an incoherent response. His hands slid up and down her waist as he pressed their bodies together.

She responded almost dazedly when he began to kiss her. Her mind kept repeating his words, I love you as her mouth opened for him instinctively. She couldn’t shake the familiar feeling that was growing stronger with each kiss. She felt like she’d done this before. They kissed gently for a few moments before Harry began to pull back.

“We should go back outside,” he whispered huskily.

Ginny’s body protested immediately as he began to pull away. Grabbing his arms she spun him quickly so that he was against the counter. She glanced out the window behind him and then took a step closer, invading his space.

“Ginny, what…”

She placed her finger on his lips, silencing him as she ran her hand up his chest. She licked her lips quickly as she ran her eyes over him.

“I’m not ready to go out yet,” she murmured. She wanted to figure out the feelings inside of her; she wanted to know what made it so familiar.

Harry’s eyes flew to the kitchen doorway.

“Your family,” he began, but she pressed her finger to his lips to silence him as her other hand moved back to his stomach. She moved her mouth to his ear and wrapped her fingers around his belt, pulling him against her.

“Want you,” she murmured against his skin and he bit back a groan.

“This is not a…a good idea…your family is right out…brothers…”

He trailed off with a shiver as she bit his skin gently and then laid a line of kisses across his jaw. When she reached his mouth, he responded immediately, giving over to the moment and the delicious sensations of her touch. He took control of the kiss and turned them, pressing her body into the counter with his own.

What are we doing? Harry thought vaguely before all coherent thought flew from his brain.

This was crazy, but Harry couldn’t help himself. She felt too amazing, she tasted too good. Their location faded away and it just became them again as they lost themselves in each other.

Ginny moaned softly into his mouth before she kissed down his neck. Her fingers made quick work of the top few buttons of his shirt and Harry bit back a groan as her lips moved over the newly exposed skin.

Harry’s hand tangled into her hair, tugging gently.

She raised her head and he caught her lips in another searing kiss as he molded their bodies together. He pressed a knee between her legs, unable to get enough of her as she linked her arms around his neck, pulling him closer. His free hand grabbed the back of her leg, pulling it up so he could settle more fully against her.

“Gin…” he panted as his hand found its way under her skirt to her thigh. “This is…”

“Don’t stop,” she gasped. “Please…”

With a groan Harry moved to her neck, kissing and nipping until he found her pulse-point. Her heart was pounding as he cupped her neck, titling her head farther back as he feasted on her.

Neither one registered the sound of the screen door opening across the room. They were too caught up in each other to notice the twins stop in the doorway, their mouths falling open before shifting into identical smirks.

“Shall we, George?”

“By all means, Fred.”

Ginny was on fire. She loved him so much…wanted him so much she could barely stand it. She pulled his head back up quickly, capturing his mouth with hers as she pressed against him.

You’re my home. You know that, right? This is home…

Ginny gasped as she heard his voice in her head. Squeezing her eyes shut in pain, an image of them kissing in the kitchen of the Burrow erupted into her mind. Ginny’s head was suddenly pounding and she whimpered into Harry’s mouth. She was about to pull back, to tell him to stop but she didn’t get a chance.

A catcall and an accompanying whistle sounded from the doorway, bringing them to a screeching halt.

Harry and Ginny froze for a second before Harry ripped his mouth away from her and his head swung toward the door. In the split second before he moved he said a silent prayer that it would at least not be the entire family in the doorway. That prayer went unanswered.

Fred and George were smirking at him from a few steps inside the door. Ron and Fleur looked stunned. Gabrielle looked a bit like her favorite toy had just been stolen while Hermione was beaming at them.

Harry felt his face flush as his eyes moved to Bill, Molly and Arthur. Their faces were filled with identical looks of shock. He watched as they all seemed to pale at the same time. His heart dropped as he took an automatic step back. He looked down at Ginny. Her eyes were shut tightly, her hand on her temple.

“I guess we’re telling them,” he breathed.

She forced a weak smile and her eyes fluttered open.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, frowning at the pain in her eyes. He laid a soothing hand gently to her head.

“What is going on here?” Arthur asked tightly, pushing past his family as they moved into the room.

Fred and George reached Harry’s side first and pulled him away from Ginny. He let himself be moved, but kept his questioning eyes locked with hers until she broke his gaze. Her eyes flicked to her father as he approached her.

As the twins clapped him on the shoulders and goaded him, Harry shot a glance at Molly and Arthur. Their expressions were guarded, but their displeasure was obvious.

Hermione followed his gaze. She gasped at their disapproving reaction and then came forward in support, beaming at them. She threw her arms around Harry.

“I knew you would work it out,” she whispered in his ear before kissing him on the cheek.

He gave her a small grin before his eyes went to Bill’s face and he sobered.

“Um, right. Well, so…I guess it’s a bit obvious now but…Ginny and I…” his voice faded, confused as Molly’s face paled further.

“I know you’re all very happy for us, right?” Ginny picked up for him in a tone that dared anyone to disagree. She crossed to him and slipped her hand into his, squeezing it gently.

The twins, Ron, Hermione and Fleur couldn’t have been happier for them, but her parents and Bill’s reactions confused her. Her mother seemed to be struggling to speak as she stared at them before she shot a glance at her father. His face seemed void of any emotion at all as he stared at the couple’s clasped hands.

The cacophony of sound that filled the kitchen as everyone else began asking questions and congratulating them was interrupted by Charlie’s voice calling from the den.

“MUM? DAD? ANYBODY THERE?”

Everyone trooped into the other room to say hello to him through the floo. As usual he’d been unable to come to the picnic. Several years before, he’d married a witch who traveled with him, sharing his thirst for adventure and exotic places. This had made the situation a bit more bearable for Molly, although she still often complained they didn’t see him as often as they should.

He had promised to floo at some point throughout the day and Harry couldn’t help feeling relieved that he’d chosen this moment to do so.

Ginny began to follow her family but Harry held her back. His thumb rolled over her knuckles and his free hand found her waist when she turned back to him. He glanced over her head as she rested her forehead against his chest, waiting until everyone was in the other room before he spoke.

“That went…”

“…not as well as we would have hoped?” she finished into his shirt.

He chuckled with a nod before tilting her chin up with his finger so that she was looking at him. His chest tightened in frustration as he saw the effects of another headache still swimming in her eyes. “What happened? What caused the headache this time?”

“Ginny, Harry, are you coming in to say hello?” Hermione asked as she walked back into the room. Ginny turned to look at her while Harry gritted his teeth at the interruption. He sighed, realizing that he would have to wait until they got home to be able to sit down and talk to her about it.

“Yeah, we’re coming,” he said, leading Ginny out of the kitchen.

Ginny continued to feel unsteady, her headache refusing to dissipate completely as she spoke to her brother and eventually headed to the sofa. She was rubbing her temple and ran into Fred on the way across the room.

He caught her as she stumbled back, mumbling an apology.

“Hey, you ok?” he asked. He cocked his head to the side and studied her face.

“Headache,” she grimaced, meeting his gaze as she sank down onto the sofa.

Fred leaned over her with a smirk. “Harry getting to you already then?” he asked and she laughed. He ruffled her hair as he rose up, causing her to slap his hand away. He winked at her before his eyes went behind her and he grinned widely and turned away.

“Hey,” Harry said softly, leaning over the back of the sofa. Ginny tilted her head back against the cushions so she could see him. He watched Fred leave as he combed his fingers through her hair. “Do you want to stay in here, or go outside?”

Ginny shut her eyes with a sigh. “Here…but you go,” she murmured. “I’ll be fine in here…”

Harry nodded after a second. “Stay with your mum…don’t wander off, ok?”

She nodded and he leaned down. He hesitated for a second, feeling several pairs of eyes trained on them from across the room. Ginny’s brow arched when he paused. He shook his head with a smirk and closed the distance between them, kissing her softly before standing up.

Ginny watched him leave with Ron before stretching out on the sofa and tucking her arm under her head.

Several minutes later Molly draped a blanket over her daughter’s now sleeping form. She watched the gentle rise and fall of her chest for a few seconds before glancing across the room to where Bill and Arthur were still arguing quietly. She sighed, trying to convince herself not to worry as she headed back into the kitchen to finish tidying up.

Fred headed toward the kitchen to find some left-overs a few minutes later. He paused on his way past the sofa where Ginny slept. He glanced around at his family, watching George playing a loud game of exploding snap with Danielle while Hermione and Fleur laughed on the other side of the room. Bill and his father were huddled in a corner, talking heatedly. He looked down as Ginny shifted, her brow furrowed and her lips turned down in a slight frown.

He leaned down and scooped her into his arms. Settling her against him he carried her up to her room so they wouldn’t wake her. He knew that the Burrow was secure and that she would be fine as long as she was in the house. With one last glance at her, he turned out the lights and shut the door quietly behind him, leaving her asleep on her bed.

Ginny slept quietly for about fifteen minutes as the room continued to dim. Thunder clouds began to roll closer, making the horizon darken faster than normal as the sun sank.

Breaking the silence, Malfoy appeared in the bedroom with a small pop. His eyes roved her bodily hungrily before he sank down on the bed. Combing his fingers gently through her hair, a sneer curled his lips.

"I'm going to enjoy this, Ginny," he whispered, sealing the room with a flick of his wand.

~..~..~..~..~..~



Chapter 8: Fears Within
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]




Harry and Ron sat on the picnic table, their feet resting on the bench below. With their elbows propped on their knees, they stared out at the pond in silence.

“So,” Ron said finally, not bothering to look over.

“So,” Harry echoed.

“You and Ginny, huh?”

Harry looked over at Ron’s profile for a second before dropping his gaze to the ground.

“Yeah,” he said, running a hand through his hair. “Me and Ginny.”

Ron was silent for a few more seconds before he sighed. “Malfoy’s not going to like that.”

“I know,” Harry replied softly.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Ginny’s eyes flew open.

Rising up on her elbows, she glanced around in confusion, unsure of where she was. Her body relaxed as her eyes adjusted to the darkness and she recognized the familiar surroundings of her room.

The feeling of relief was short lived, her tension returning full force with the realization that she was alone.

How did I get up here?

Ginny started to sit up but froze when a shadow glided past the window, temporarily blocking the moonlight.

Looking around for the source, she gasped when an ominous black figure materialized in front of her.

Instinctively, Ginny moved as it approached, rolling toward the far side of the bed to get away. A hand grabbed the back of her dress, jerking her back to the center. She began to scream but a hand clamped over her mouth, muffling the sound. Her struggles were futile as her head was shoved back down onto the mattress.

Whimpering as she struggled, Ginny twisted and arched her back as she tried to rip the hand away from her face. She froze, her heart pounding against her ribs when she felt a wand pressing against her throat.

“I’ll have to remember you’re a light sleeper,” Malfoy purred as he came into focus above her. Smirking, he watched her eyes widen in horror as he kneeled next to her.

Ginny snatched her hands away from his arm, fisting them into the sheets instead. Slowly, he trailed his wand down her neck. She squeezed her eyes shut as he traced the spot where his mark had been.

“I see he got rid of that for you,” he mused. “Impressive. Want me to put it back?”

Ginny opened her eyes and glared at him, but he just continued to smirk.

“No? No matter,” he said softly as he leaned over her. “What I need is still here anyway,” he whispered as he replaced the tip of his wand with his fingers, caressing her throat gently.

The feel of his fingers upon her sent shivers down her spine. In response, Ginny bit down hard on the hand covering her mouth, digging her teeth into his skin until she tasted blood.

Malfoy ripped his hand away with a curse.

Ginny screamed Harry’s name as loud as she could, but received only a sharp slap across the face in response. Her head snapped to the side and she squeezed her eyes shut for a second before glaring back up at him. When she opened her mouth to scream again, Malfoy shoved his wand back against her throat, pressing it into her skin.

“Scream all you want, Ginny,” he taunted, increasing the pressure of his wand tip on her neck until she grimaced. “No one can hear you. But on second thought,” he reconsidered after a brief pause, “your bellowing would annoy me… and I don’t think you’d like that.”

“What do you want?” she ground out.

“You,” he smirked, his eyes roaming her body before he leaned down and captured her lips in a demanding kiss.

Ginny stiffened, whimpering reflexively at the contact. In an instant, his words at the banquet flooded into her mind.

I’m going to make her scream…I’m going to do things to her she’s never even dreamed about…

Beginning to shake with fear, she tried to turn her head away to break the kiss, but he moved with her, keeping their mouths together until he chose to end it.

“I want you, and I will have you,” he promised, keeping his face close to hers. “Not today…but soon, Ginevra. He won’t be able to stop me. No matter how…”

“Go to hell, Malfoy,” she spat.

“Funny, that’s just where I’m going to send Potter after I take yo…”

With a cry, Ginny knocked his wand away from her neck and then shoved him up as hard as she could.

Her heart was pounding with adrenaline and fear as she fought to scramble away. Malfoy caught her legs, dragging her back to him and shoving her back onto the mattress. Pressing his wand into her throat again, he eyed her legs where her dress had ridden up.

Ginny’s stomach turned over and she jerked her skirt down over her knees. Refusing to allow her tears to take over, she chose anger instead.

“Why are you here if you aren’t taking me?” she demanded. “Why the games?”

“Games are fun,” he sneered back. “They pass the time…but mostly they piss off Potter.”

Dragging his eyes down her body, he moved his hand to her stomach, seeming to relish her trembling as he caressed her.

“Do you know…At first I could barely stomach the thought of doing a Weasley,” he told her his eyes flicking briefly to hers before moving to her hair. “…but lately…” He brought a hand up, running his fingers gently through her crimson waves.

Sickened, Ginny tried to turn her head away from him, but he grabbed her hair and twisted her back, forcing her to look at him. His eyes were icy as he raked them back down her body. The lust in his gaze made Ginny’s skin crawl as though he was actually touching her with his hands.

“Merlin, I can hardly wait to have you now that I know Potter wants you,” he breathed.

Ginny’s eyes narrowed to slits as he wrapped a clump of her hair around his hand and ripped it out.

Ginny cried out in pain before snapping her mouth shut as she watched him tuck the lock of hair into his robes. Taking advantage of his occupied hand, Ginny moved quickly. She swung her fist, punching him hard in the face and knocking him sideways.

The moment his wand slid from her throat, she scrambled away.

Furious, Malfoy lunged at her, letting out a string of curses as he grabbed for her. When Ginny felt his hands grasping for her ankles, she looked over her shoulder. Twisting onto her back as she moved, she pulled herself with her arms as she kicked furiously.

With a satisfying crunch, her heel connected soundly with his nose.

Letting out a wail, Malfoy’s his hand flew to his face while Ginny tumbled backwards off the bed.

Accio wand!” she yelled as she pulled herself up.

When nothing happened, her eyes shot to her nightstand. Realizing her wand wasn’t there, she let out a strangled groan of panic and frustration. Harry’s order to keep it with her at all times shot through her head and for a split-second, a ridiculous urge to laugh bubbled inside of her.

It died quickly as Malfoy rose from the bed, blood dripping from the hand that was covering his nose. Cocking his head, he watched with murderous eyes as she backed away. He sniffed with a grimace, wiping the blood off of his face with the back of his hand.

“That was a mistake, love,” he told her darkly. Advancing on her quickly, he backed her into the wall as he aimed his wand at her.

Out of options, Ginny threw her hands out instinctively in defense.

Instantly, Malfoy flew backwards as her wandless magic erupted from her hands, startling them both as he slammed into the far wall with a thud.

Ginny looked down at her hands, her eyes wide.

Where did that come from?

She didn’t do wandless magic. She certainly didn’t know how to do it again, so she ran for the door.

CRUCIO!”

Ginny cried out as pain exploded within her. The impact of Malfoy’s curse knocked her sideways and she slammed into the dresser, her head hitting the corner hard before she collapsed onto the floor.

It felt like her body was being ripped apart, as white hot agony tore through her flesh. It was too much to handle…it hurt too much and she couldn’t suppress her scream. It was as if the pain ripped it from her along with any possibility of conscious thought.

~..~..~..~..~..~

“Well, so long, my friends,” Fred called, interrupting Harry and Ron’s conversation as he, George and Hermione walked up to the picnic table.

“And humble baby brother,” George added for good measure.

“Where are you two off to?” Harry asked, fighting a smile as he glanced at Ron to find him rolling his eyes.

“Oh, you know…places to go, money to make,” Fred grinned. “As much as we’d love to stay…”

“….And beat Ron’s arse some more at Quidditch,” George added with a wink to Harry.

“Whatever, I was winning!” Ron contended, straightening.

Wisely, Harry remained silent, meeting Hermione’s amused gaze as the twins grinned at the ease they could push Ron's buttons.

“You keep telling yourself that, Ron,” Fred smiled, “but for now, we’re off.”

“Yeah alright…see you later boys,” Hermione said quickly before Ron could reply.

“Ah, Hermione, you know you miss us already,” George, sighed, wrapping his arm around her waist and kissing her on the cheek.

As Fred did the same, Hermione failed to suppress a grin before pushing them away.

With a final goodbye and salute, the twins Apparated away with two small pops.

When the twins were gone, Hermione climbed up to sit on the table next to Ron. Leaning over, she whispered something into his ear.

Harry turned to watch them, noting the blush that began creeping up Ron’s neck.

Taking Hermione’s hand, Ron leaned in and whispered something back. She gave him a secret grin and he shook his head slightly before she nodded back. A second later Ron leaned forward, kissing her quickly before murmuring something else to her.

Harry raised an eyebrow when they both looked over at him.

“Should I leave you two alone?”

Hermione laughed, pulling Ron off the table so that they were standing in front of Harry. He watched them with curious interest as Ron moved behind Hermione, slipping his arms around her. His hands linked loosely in front of her stomach as he gave Harry a small smile.

“We wanted to tell you something,” he said as Hermione moved her hands on top of his.

“First,” Hermione added softly, her eyes beginning to tear up. “We wanted to tell you first.”

Harry looked back and forth between them for a moment. Suddenly reminded of a day several years ago, he broke into a small smile. It had happened right here at the table after they’d pulled him outside to talk.

“You’re what?!” Harry exclaimed, his eyes widening before he broke into a grin.

Ron’s ears were blazing as he fought the smile that was twitching at the corner of his lips.

“We’re getting married,” he repeated, squeezing Hermione’s hand and shooting a glance at her beaming face.

“We wanted to tell you first,” Hermione added.

Harry looked back and forth between them. They were standing in front of him, holding hands while he sat on the picnic table. Letting out a joyful laugh, Harry jumped to the ground and scooped Hermione into his arms for hug.

“That’s brilliant!” he proclaimed as he swung her around and then set her back down.

Laughing, Hermione nodded her agreement as she brushed her fingers quickly under her eyes.

“I can’t believe you actually said yes to this prat!” Harry joked.

Hermione simply laughed in reply before offering a shrug.

“What could I do?” she sighed. “I just can’t seem to make him go away.”

“Hey,” Ron said in a hurt voice, even as he lip twitched.

With a giggle, Hermione threw her arms around him, rising up on her toes to give him a kiss.

“It’s ok, you can’t get rid of me either,” she murmured.

“Ha! Like I’d let you get away,” Ron quipped, grinning triumphantly before showing his agreement with a kiss. Simultaneously, he stuck his hand out for Harry to shake.

Chuckling, Harry took his hand and pumped it up and down, watching them in amusement as they continued to kiss playfully.

When they broke apart, Ron slipped his hand back into hers, meeting Harry’s gaze and looking a bit like he’d just won the Quidditch World Cup.

“Now we just need to find you a girl, Harry…”


Ron cleared his throat, bringing Harry back to the present.

“I’m listening,” Harry said, trying to force his expression into one of casual interest as he looked back and forth between them.

“Well,” Ron began, his lips twitching…

A second later Harry’s heart was in his throat. The house alarms were wailing loudly, interrupting their conversation and alerting them that Dark magic was being used.

The trio’s heads snapped toward the house and Harry forgot about everything else as the sound plunged his body into a tense panic. It only took a second for him to launch off of the table. He tore across the yard and through the back door, drawing his wand as he ran through the kitchen.

“GINNY?!”

Oh God, he thought as his insides twisted in panic. Please be a false alarm.

He collided with Bill who was rushing out of the den.

“Where is she?” Harry demanded as Bill stumbled back a step.

The oldest Weasley’s face changed from determination to confusion and then panic in a second.

“She’s not with you?” Bill asked frantically as Ron and Hermione appeared over Harry’s shoulder.

“I left her with you!” Harry shot back angrily.

Harry’s eyes snapped to Molly and Arthur. They were right behind Bill with their wands drawn, their expressions stricken. His body was suddenly rippling with desperate fury and he shoved past Bill to enter the room.

Where the hell is she? She’s supposed to be with her mother! I left her in the den with half of her family, why would she leave?

Danielle was crying on the floor, her hands over her ears as the alarms continued to wail.

“Get her out of the house,” Harry ordered, scooping Danielle up and passing her to Fleur.

Fleur nodded and then ran from the room with Gabrielle behind her.

“You too,” Ron yelled at Hermione, leaning in so she could hear him over the alarms. He turned her quickly and pushed her towards the back door.

“What?!” she demanded as she spun around and marched back to him. “Ron, I’m not…”

Hermione,” he pleaded, his hand going to her stomach.

She trailed off at the worry in his eyes and her hand covered his. Kissing her quickly, he pushed her back a step. Her gaze flicked from him to the door of the den, debating on whether to do as he asked.

“Hermione!” he bellowed, gesturing to the door behind her.

With a groan of acceptance, she turned and left.

Inside the den, Harry shut his eyes, reaching out with his senses. Immediately, he felt the magic coming from above him. Tilting his head back, he searched for a second longer before he cursed. His eyes snapped open, his pupils dilating as he met Bill’s gaze.

Bill saw the change, watching the green overtaken by black as Harry clenched his jaw and his grip on his wand tightened.

“Her room,” Harry said darkly before he flew up the stairs with the Weasleys right behind him.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Malfoy watched Ginny jerk violently upon the floor at his feet, reveling in her screams. As the familiar thrill of being in control shot through him, his smirk widened into a cruel smile.

Hearing the sounds of shouts in the hall, Malfoy glanced at the door before looking back at Ginny.

“It looks like the Chosen One has finally decided to join us,” he sneered as something slammed against the door. “Too bad I don’t have time for a social call from Potter.”

Expecting it to take much longer for Harry to break the seal, Malfoy jerked around in surprise when the door suddenly blew apart.

Not waiting for the dust to clear, Malfoy disappeared with a flourish just as a bright green flash seared across the room.

The force of Harry’s spell shook the house, blowing a hole in the wall behind where Malfoy had been standing and spraying debris out into the garden below.

Harry took no notice of the destruction as he ran straight to Ginny.

Arthur and Bill were only a few steps behind him. They eyed the ruined wall warily as they moved, coming up on either side of him, their wands drawn.

Ginny’s screams lessened and then became strangled gasps as Harry reached her side, stumbling to a stop. Her breathing was quick and shallow as her body continued to shake. Her eyes were shut, as tears streamed down her face.

Harry’s heart twisted painfully as he watched her twitching below him. The similarity of her position to the images from his dreams crashed over him, bringing a nauseous feeling with it. A second later, he doubled over as pain and power shot unexpectedly through him.

Bill and Arthur came around in front of him as he dropped to his knees with a cry. His wand hand went to the floor, catching his weight. His other hand went to his head, curling into a fist as he pressed it against his temple. Bill cursed when he saw Harry’s eyes begin to turn black as his body trembled.

Groaning, Harry curled over, resting his forehead on the ground as he squeezed his eyes shut. He gritted his teeth as he forced back his power until the pain subsided. Shaking his head to clear it, he rose back up slowly before reaching for Ginny.

Before he could touch her, Bill’s charm blasted him away.

Ron shouted in surprise as he watched Harry fly across the room. His eyes shot to Bill, who was crossing quickly to where Harry had landed. Stunned, he watched Harry’s wand fly from where it lay on the floor into Bill’s outstretched hand.

Looking over at his parents, Ron expected to find them as startled as he was, but surprisingly, they didn’t seem concerned with what Bill was doing. Instead, their attention was focused solely on Ginny.

Harry lay facedown across the room and shook his head to clear it. Rolling over, he jerked up to find Bill towering over him, his wand in his face, his expression furious.

“Don’t go near her,” Bill ordered.

Harry furrowed his brow. What’s wrong with him? I’m not about to stay away from her right now, he thought as he began to pull himself to his feet.

“Bill, she’s…”

“Don’t make me hurt you, Harry,” Bill warned.

“You can’t hurt me, and you know it,” Harry shot back, his temper spiking as his power flared.

Throwing his hand up, he sent Bill crashing into Ginny’s bookshelf. Ignoring Mrs. Weasley’s cry of dismay, Harry muttered angrily under his breath as he climbed to his feet. His wand flew back into his hand as he began to cross the room.

On the floor next to Ginny, Arthur was trying to pull her into his arms as he kept his gaze locked worriedly on Harry. Ginny was whimpering, tears flowing freely down her cheeks as she tried to keep from being moved.

Speeding up, Harry reached her side and dropped down next to her. Ignoring Arthur’s protests, he scooped her up. Climbing back to his feet, he held her carefully as her arm slipped around his neck.

Ginny trembled against him, her body aching fiercely with every breath. She felt like she was dying and her hair was matted with blood from where she had struck the dresser. Curling her fingers into Harry’s shirt, she choked out his name.

“Ok,” Harry soothed as he peeled her hair away, cradling her in his arms. “It’s ok now, love. I’m here. I’ve got you.”

Molly ran to Ginny’s wardrobe. She disappeared inside for only a second before emerging with an old shirt. Her hands were shaking as she folded it, crossing back over to them.

“Give her to me,” Bill ordered, reaching for his sister as he appeared in front of Harry.

Harry protested instinctively, taking a step back and turning away from him.

“You don’t know what to do, Harry,” Arthur said anxiously, stepping into his path. “Give her to us so we can help her.”

“What are you talking about?” Harry demanded. “I know how this works.”

“You don’t understand,” Arthur replied his focus on Ginny as he slipped his arms quickly underneath her body. Simultaneously, Bill took hold of Harry’s bicep, attempting to pull him back as Arthur began to lift her out of Harry’s embrace and into his.

“Leave her alone,” Harry snapped when she cried out brokenly. Shoving away from them he cradled Ginny closer as she clung to his neck. “She just needs to be still,” he said, heading for the bed. “I know what this feels like.”

In the doorway, Ron watched silently as his father and brother cut Harry off, continuing to try to take Ginny. Ron could see Harry’s anger mounting as he evaded their grasps. Ron’s eyes narrowed in confusion as he watched Bill raise his wand.

“Give her to me,” Bill demanded again as he pointed his wand at Harry’s face. “If you hurt her I swear I’ll…”

Expelliarmus!

Bill’s wand flew out of his hand and into Ron’s as Harry let out a curse. Bill swung around, his eyes wide with surprise as he stared at his brother.

“Ron, give me my wand!” he ordered, sticking out his hand but Ron just shook his head.

“I’m not going to hurt her!” Harry exclaimed in exasperation. “What’s your…”

“You’re out of control, Harry,” Bill shot back, his face red with anger as he pointed at what used to be Ginny’s bedroom wall. “Ron, give me my wand.”

“No, I’m not!” Harry spoke over him. “Do I look out of control? And I would never hurt her! I…”

Molly stepped in front of Bill, forcing Harry’s attention to her.

“Harry, please… just give her to us,” she interrupted in a calming voice.

In a soothing gesture, Molly placed her hand on Harry’s shoulder and reached up to tend to Ginny’s head. Arthur stepped up behind his wife. Bill crossed to Ron and began arguing with him as he tried to get his wand back.

“Give her to me, Harry,” Arthur urged and Harry took a step back.

Ginny’s grip on Harry’s neck became iron as she seemed to try to crawl inside him.

“Come on, sweetheart…let me help you,” Arthur soothed as he reached for her, running a hand gently down her hair.

“No,” she growled and Harry winced, her fingers digging into him. Her body shook more violently and Harry felt her beginning to convulse. “I won’t leave him,” she choked out brokenly, her voice muffled in his neck. “I won’t…please don’t…take him…I need…need him…”

Harry’s face flushed a bit despite himself as his eyes flew to the man in front of him. Arthur’s face paled, and he stopped fighting, his eyes wide as he stared at his daughter. He dropped his hands to his sides and then met Harry’s gaze.

“You need to take her to the bathroom,” he said softly as his eyes went back to his daughter before moving to his wife.

Molly had frozen at her daughter's words. Her eyes were wide, her mouth forming silent words as she brought her gaze up to her husband.

“She’s going to get…” Arthur began, only to have Ginny finish for him.

“Gonna be sick,” Ginny interrupted with a moan; trying to fight the urge to vomit that had surged inside of her.

The Weasleys parted down the center as Harry ran with her to the toilet across the hall.

They watched silently from the doorway as Harry held her hair back.

“Is Aunt Ginny sick, Daddy?”

Bill jerked around at the sound of his daughter’s voice. He looked down and found Danielle slipping through the legs of her family to get into the bathroom. He leaned down and scooped her up as she passed.

“How did you get here, baby? Where’s your mum?”

Ginny whimpered at the sound of her niece’s voice. She didn’t want her to see this and her eyes flew to Harry. He understood her silent plea and shifted quickly, blocking her with his body. Molly moved as well, entering the room and sinking down behind her.

“Is she sick?” Danielle repeated, twisting in Bill’s arms and pointing to where Ginny was shaking over the toilet.

“Aunt Ginny has a tummy ache, but she’ll be ok. Go with your mama, pumpkin,” Bill said softly in Danielle’s ear before passing her quickly back to Fleur who had appeared at the back of the group, calling her name.

When his daughter was gone, Bill turned his attention back to his sister. Ginny’s hand was clamped tightly in Harry’s as he murmured in her ear. Molly held a towel against her head with one hand and rubbed Ginny’s back in gentle circles with the other as her muscles convulsed. Molly’s eyes filled with tears as she met Arthur’s worried gaze over Harry’s head.

Ginny felt like she was dying. Every time she moved, every time her stomach clenched to empty itself, it caused a ripple of fierce pain to shoot out through her body.

She couldn’t keep from crying as she shook over the toilet. Her knees and shins hurt where they were touching the floor. Her hand hurt where it was gripping Harry’s but she couldn’t let go. She knew the Cruciatus was horrible, but she never dreamed it would feel anything like this…

“No wonder that’s…Unforgivable,” she whimpered, her voice trembling and barely audible as her tears increased with the pain shooting from her jaw down her throat.

“Don’t talk, love,” Harry soothed in her ear, stroking her hair gently. He eyed her worriedly, blinking quickly as his eyes began to sting.

Hermione arrived at the top of the stairs to find the family huddled around the door to the bathroom. She approached cautiously, not sure what had happened.

As if sensing her, Ron turned when she was still a few steps away. He reached out his hand and she linked her fingers though his. Pulling her close, he told her what had happened quietly.

“Do you think we should get Dumbledore?” Hermione asked.

“Dad Apparated down to use the floo a minute ago,” he answered.

He gestured behind her and Hermione turned to find Arthur climbing the stairs toward them. When he reached them, they turned back to the door. Harry was still stroking Ginny’s hair gently as he spoke in her ear.

Even after there was nothing left in Ginny’s stomach, her body continued to try to empty itself as she sobbed. When she finally got her body under control, Harry pulled her back into his lap, cradling her against him. Casting a cleansing charm, he held her silently until her tears began to slow.

“Are you ready to move?” he asked eventually, his voice soft.

Ginny nodded slowly.

Carefully, he stood up and carried her back to her room. Holding the towel in place, he laid her down as gently as possible.

Sinking down next to her on the bed he lifted the cloth to check her wound.
His hand was shaking and he took a steadying breath, relieved to see that the bleeding had stopped. If the sick, desperate feelings inside of him were what happened when you got attached, he suddenly understood why Remus had always warned them not to let it happen.

“How bad are you hurting?” he asked gently. Having been hit with the Cruciatus curse before, he knew what the lingering effects felt like. He’d never seen a reaction as fierce as hers though and it scared him.

“I’m fine,” Ginny answered, her eyes fluttering open.

“Liar,” he breathed as he leaned down, giving her a soft kiss.

Her lips were warm and soft against his and Harry felt her body relax almost immediately. She didn’t seem to care that her whole family was watching as she kissed him back. Her hand fisted into his shirt, pulling him closer as though seeking his warmth and strength.

He hesitated when she parted her lips for him.

“Ginny,” he breathed uncertainly as he began to pull back.

He could practically feel her family’s gaze boring holes into his back. When he met her eyes though, his heart stumbled at the depth of pain and desperation in them.

The need to protect her, to make the pain go away rushed through him, pushing any reservations about their audience out of his mind. He couldn’t deny her, not when she looked at him like that. The only thing that mattered to him at that moment was Ginny – comforting Ginny.

Cupping her cheek gently; he caressed her skin as the room around them faded away.

Her grip tightened on his shirt before she pulled him down, pressing her lips firmly against his with a soft whimper. The sound was barely audible but Harry heard it loud and clear. His heart clenched painfully at the sound and he shut his eyes, breathing in deeply through his nose.

Slowly deepening the kiss, he swallowed her soft moan as he slipped his tongue into her mouth. Ginny’s hand moved to his cheek and he reached up, caressing her wrist with his thumb. He kissed her reverently and thoroughly for a few moments, oblivious to the room around him as she melted into him with a sigh of relief.

Eventually, Ron cleared his throat from the doorway.

Dragging his lips reluctantly from hers, Harry pulled away. For a second, he held her gaze before turning to find Dumbledore standing in the doorway. The man’s usually laughing eyes were hard and guarded behind their spectacles as they flicked between Harry and Ginny. He blinked and the look was gone, replaced with one of concern as he moved into the room.

Madame Pomfrey came in quickly behind him, passing him on her way to the bed. Harry moved automatically, rising from his position and stepping back to give her room. He watched silently as she began to tend to Ginny.

The nurse looked at her temple while asking her how she felt, how long the curse had been done and where the effects seemed to be lingering most.

Dragging her gaze reluctantly from Harry, Ginny began answering the questions softly.

“How is she?” Dumbledore asked Arthur as Harry walked over to them.

Molly shook her head and brought a handkerchief to her mouth with a sniffle. “Oh Albus, it was horrible. I think it was the worst I ever remem…” she faltered when Harry as he came to stop in front of them. Her eyes filled with tears and she shook her head as Arthur brought a hand to her shoulder. “…remember anyone being affected by it.”

“I’ve never seen it this bad either,” Harry added in a low voice as his eyes moved back to Ginny. “I’ve seen similar reactions…but with hostages - people who’d been tortured for days, weeks even. The effects increase with time, but it couldn’t have been on her for more than a minute.”

“Everyone reacts differently,” Dumbledore pointed out. “The stress of this situation no doubt had an effect on her body’s capacity to handle the pain.”

Harry nodded with a frown. He rested his hands on his hips and stared at the floor in thought for a few seconds before looking back up.

“I’m taking her back to the flat.”

“Oh, Harry, I’m not sure we should move her,” Molly said shakily, her eyes locked on Ginny.

“She’s staying here,” Bill announced from his place behind his father.

The harshness of his tone caused Dumbledore to glance over at him. His arms were crossed, his posture rigid as he watched Harry.

Harry’s back stiffened angrily as he met Bill’s glare with his own.

“I don’t remember you getting a say in the matter.”

“I’m her brother.”

“And I’m her guard,” Harry snapped. “We don’t know how Malfoy got in or if he’s going to try to come back. My flat is the only place he hasn’t been able to get to her, so I’m taking her there…now.”

“You can’t take her, Harry,” Bill argued when Harry turned and walked determinedly toward the bed.

“What are you doing?” Harry questioned worriedly, ignoring Bill when he saw Ginny trying to sit up.

“Aren’t we leaving?” she replied, meeting his gaze and ignoring Madame Pomfrey as she tried to get her to lie back down.

Madame Pomfrey straightened, folding her arms with a huff. Her indignation was obvious as Harry moved in front of her, sliding his arms under her body and scooping Ginny into his arms.

“Will she be ok?” Harry asked.

The matron’s face softened at his worried expression and protective tone.

“Yes, of course, Dear, but…”

“Thank you,” he told her sincerely before turning around. “We’re leaving,” he announced as he reached into his pocket for a coin.

“Harry,” Dumbledore said as he began to cross the room. “We’re not finished here.”

“Yes, we are,” he replied sharply.

Ignoring the chorus of protests, Harry pressed down firmly on the coin. He felt the familiar tug on his navel and disappeared without a sound.

The room froze in shock when they were gone. Bill was the first to move, when he rounded on Dumbledore.

“How could you let this happen?” he demanded.

When Dumbledore just held his gaze and didn’t respond, Bill gestured in frustration and turned away. He swung back around a second later, pointing towards the hole in the wall. “I warned you about this! I told you I thought it was a bad idea to assign…”

“Bill, calm down,” Arthur interrupted sternly, his eyes flicking to Ron and Hermione.

“Calm down?! Did you see his eyes?! Did you see him kissing her?! We need to get over there right now.”

“We can’t get in unless he lets us, Bill,” Dumbledore replied calmly. “His wards are…”

“We’ll force our way in!”

Ron shot off the wall, his hands curling into fists as he crossed the room. Hermione reached out to catch him, but he just shook her off.

Across the room, Bill didn’t notice his brother’s approach as he continued to rant.

“This is a disaster waiting to…”

“What’s your problem, Bill?” Ron interrupted him.

“Back off, Ron,” Bill responded instantly, keeping his eyes on Dumbledore.

“No you back off,” Ron replied, his back stiffening. “What are you so upset about? You’re the one who attacked Harry for no reason! He was comforting Ginny! Holding her and helping her and you think he’s what…dangerous?”

“You know he’s dangerous!” Bill shot back as he swung to face him.

Ron was his height and they stood nose to nose, their faces flushed with anger and their eyes flashing.

“He is not!”

“Shut it, Ron! You’re just saying that because he’s your friend!”

“I’m saying it because it’s true! And I just watched you attack him when he was trying to help her!” Ron accused, poking him in the chest. “Who do you think you are?”

“You don’t understand the situation, Ronald!”

“Then explain it to me, William!” Ron mimicked. “Harry can protect her! Bloody hell, Bill...he’s the most powerful wizard in the world, why wouldn’t you want him guarding her?”

“He’s out of control!”

“He hasn’t been out of control in years, you over-protective prick!” Ron lashed out. “You just don’t want him near Ginny because she’s your sister!”

“You’re damn right I don’t want him near her! He’s dangerous and you know it!”

“Why can’t you just be happy for them?! They’re obviously happy and the first thing you try to do is ruin it! She’s not ten years old anymore, Bill. You can’t keep every male away from her and if anything, the only person you should approve of and trust with her is Harry!”

“I wouldn’t trust Harry with anyone!” Bill shot back before he spun toward Dumbledore. “Something I made perfectly clear before this all started! I told you this would happen. I told you it wasn’t a good idea to put him with her!”

“This is ridiculous!” Ron exclaimed in frustration. “You act like he can’t have a relationship! He’s dated other people, Bill and he hasn’t hurt them, so why all the…”

“She’s different!”

“Why?!”

“Because she’s Ginny!”

“What the hell does that mean?!”

Bill opened his mouth to respond but choked on his words and nothing came out.

Ron arched his brow.

Snapping his mouth shut, Bill crossed his arms over his chest and glared at his little brother.

Hermione took advantage of the silence, crossing the room quickly and stepping in front of Ron.

“Drop it, Ron,” she soothed softly. “This isn’t helpful.”

~..~..~..~..~..~

Ginny groaned as they reappeared in the kitchen of Harry’s flat.

“A little warning would be nice.”

Harry kissed the top of her head, apologizing softly as he carried her down the hall. He carried her to her room, watching her carefully for any sign of discomfort.

Her expression remained stoic, her eyes shut. The only indication he had that everything wasn’t fine was the force in which her fingers were digging into his shoulder.

“What can I do?” he asked when he set her down in the center of her bed. “Do you want me to get you anything?”

“I’m fine,” Ginny shook her head, giving him a small smile.

“It’s ok to admit you’re still in pain, Ginny,” Harry told her as he sank down next to her on the bed.

She met his gaze, her lips quirking. “Would admitting it make it stop?”

Harry hesitated before brushing a piece of hair from her face.

“No,” he admitted, matching her grin, “probably not.”

Leaning in, he grazed her lips with his. His love for her rushed through him at the contact and he smiled appreciatively against her mouth.

“You know what, Gin?”

“What?”

“I think you would have been in Gryffindor,” he mused as he pulled back.

“Because I’m a Weasley?” she smiled.

He shook his head as his gaze locked with hers. “No,” he said as he traced his fingers over her lips, “because you’re brave and strong…and completely beautiful.”

“Mm,” she replied when he replaced his fingers with his lips. “Is that a house requirement? Being beautiful?”

“Mhm,” he smiled against her lips and she snickered as he kissed her.

Merlin, she’s brilliant, he thought as he rested his forehead against hers.

To have humor so quickly after what she’d just been through only increased his respect for her.

“I love you,” he breathed.

She threaded her fingers through his hair and he shut his eyes. Tingles shot down his neck at the sensation of her nails on his skin.

“I was really frightened,” he murmured and she chuckled softly.

You were frightened?”

He smiled, but it faded quickly as he brought his hands to her face. Gently, he brushed her hair away and cupped her cheeks in his palms. As he tilted his lips back to hers, he squeezed his eyes shut. Fear rushed back in as they kissed. He blinked quickly when he pulled away and searched her eyes.

“What were you doing up there, Ginny?” he demanded softly. “I told you to stay downstairs. Why did you…”

“I didn’t,” she whispered, cutting him off. The levity of the moment vanished and she gritted her teeth, blinking back a fresh round of tears. “I…I had a headache. I fell asleep on the sofa. I didn’t leave…I don’t know what…”

Her chin had begun to tremble and Harry pressed his lips together as he looked away.

“Ok,” he said distractedly. So, someone moved her. But how did Malfoy get past the wards?

“Ok,” he repeated louder when he looked back over at her. “It’s fine,” he assured her, brushing her tears off with his thumbs. “You’re fine. Did you see how he got in?”

Ginny shook her head. “No. I was sleeping, I…I’m sorry, I…”

“Don’t,” he soothed. “Don’t apologize, Ginny.”

“I’m sorry,” she replied automatically and he chuckled, kissing her softly.

Resting his forehead against hers, the humor in his expression quickly faded. Ginny brought her hands up and gripped his wrists lightly as she shut her eyes.

“How did he get to me again?”

“I don’t know,” Harry gritted his teeth in frustration.

He was missing something. He could feel it but he just couldn’t see it.

How did he know she was upstairs? How did he get in?

~..~..~..~..~..~

“But how did Malfoy get in?” Bill interrupted, crossing his arms over his chest. The group had moved to the kitchen and were filling Dumbledore in on what they’d found when they reached the room.

“The Burrow was secure,” Bill continued. “The Burrow is secure. The wards are strong. We strengthened the bloody things because she was going to be here. There was no way for him to get in without being detected.”

“Bill’s right,” Hermione acknowledged from her place at the counter. “The ward alarms went off eventually, so he didn’t disable them…he just…got around them.”

“But how could he do that?” Arthur questioned with a frown. “He couldn’t have snuck past us, and the wards should have detected it if he apparated in.”

“So he found another way in,” Ron said finally. “Something let him come in. Something we didn’t think of.”

“I think you’re right, Mr. Weasley,” Dumbledore said grimly. “I think we missed something.”

~..~..~..~..~..~

How do you get through wards without setting them off? Harry asked himself. There’s no way to do that. He’s not powerful enough to do that…unless…

Harry’s heart lurched as it suddenly hit him.

“Did Malfoy do anything else, besides the curse? Did he say anything?”

She took his hand in her lap and furrowed her brow. “Um, he talked a lot, but didn’t really say anything important,” she shrugged as Harry laced his fingers through hers.

“I need you to think back, Gin. Back when he was James. Did he ever give you something to drink when you had lunch? Did he ever do a spell? An incantation? Anything?”

Furrowing her brow, Ginny bit her lip as she thought back.

“No…I don’t think so,” she said finally. “Why?”

Harry shook his head and shifted back. “It’s probably nothing,” he lied, releasing her hand so he could pull out his wand. “Just be still, ok?”

“Harry,” she murmured worriedly.

“It’s fine,” he reassured her. “I just need to check for something. I promise, it won’t hurt.”

Ginny stretched out her legs, smoothing her skirt with shaking fingers. As he ran his wand tip over her skin, her skin began to tingle. Her stomach dropped when she realized he was searching for something on her, or in her…Something Malfoy had left.

Struggling to swallow, she was suddenly unable to breathe at the idea that he’d done something to her. Sucking in an unsteady breath, her mind began to race. Following the progress of Harry’s wand with her eyes, she eventually brought her hand to her neck.

“What about the brand?” she murmured.

He froze at her question and looked up.

“What?”

“At the banquet…remember? He…” Her voice faded as she frowned at the wall across from her. Her eyes narrowed as she thought back to earlier in her room. “He…he did say something kind of weird actually,” she said as she met his gaze. “About the mark being gone, he said what he needed was still here or something…I mean, I thought he meant me but…”

Harry’s hand flew to her neck, pushing her hand away and fingering the area. He hadn’t considered the mark since he’d gotten rid of it at the banquet. He’d thought it was just a brand – just Malfoy being Malfoy – but his heart began to pound in his ears at the idea that he’d missed something.

Oh God, he thought. What if it was a decoy? What if he left something else… something deeper...

His stomach filled with dread as he pressed his palm to her neck and shut his eyes. Focusing his energy, he searched for the magic. Only a few seconds later he let out a string of curses as he felt the tracer.

No wonder he got into the Burrow, he thought in frustration. If she was allowed through the wards, Malfoy would have been able to come through as well. He’s bloody connected to her. He’d have known where she was at all times…hell, he’s probably been watching us to know exactly when to try to get to her.

“Fuck,” he breathed as he pulled her toward him and kissed her, cupping her face with his free hand.

How could I have missed that?

They’d been so focused on how Malfoy had gotten into the banquet; they hadn’t even discussed the brand afterwards.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized against her lips before kissing her again, moving his lips over hers.

Ginny kissed him back, but whimpered slightly when he pulled away abruptly.

“I’m so sorry, Ginny,” he said, his voice laced with fury and shame. “Hold still,” he instructed softly as he pressed his wand into her throat. He murmured under his breath and Ginny felt her skin begin to tingle.

Pulling his wand away, Harry dragged a trail of orange light out of her neck. He flicked his wand watching it fade away while he brought his fingers up and stroked her neck. He turned his gaze to her throat, staring at her skin for a second before he lowered his head.

Ginny shut her eyes as he kissed her neck. She tilted her head to the side and he kissed it again before he raised his head to look at her, brushing her hair out of her face.

“It’s gone now, ok? He’s not connected anymore.”

Ginny began to tremble. She felt dirty, sullied and she curled her legs up to her chin as she rolled his words over in her mind.

“Not connected,” she repeated, her voice soft and as shaky as her body. “So he could…he was…” she forced herself to swallow. “Could he see me?”

If there was anything left in her stomach she was sure it would have come up when Harry nodded.

“Yeah,” he murmured, pulling her to him as her trembling increased, “but not anymore.”

Malfoy had scared her before, but today he’d hurt her. They had failed her again. He had failed her again and his self-loathing mixed with his hatred of Malfoy.

“Why don’t you change, ok?” he suggested as he pulled back. “Then I want you to try to sleep.”

Harry got off the bed and went to her dresser. He pulled out a pair of pajamas for her and turned back. Guilt slammed into him when he saw Ginny crying in the center of the bed, her arms wrapped around her legs. He crossed back to her quickly and climbed up on the bed.

“Ginny, what’s wrong?” he questioned worriedly. He brushed her hair back from her face so he could see her eyes. “Tell me where it hurts,” he said but she didn’t reply. He cringed when her tears only seemed to increase.

He shifted so that he was on his knees beside her he pulled her into his arms. Her body shook against him as she cried. “Ginny, let me help you,” he pleaded into her hair as he pulled her closer. “Let me fix it. I can’t fix it if you don’t tell me what’s wrong, love.”

“I don’t want to stay here,” she whispered and he frowned.

“In the flat?”

She shook her head quickly. “In here. He…he knows this is where I’d be, I…He’s seen me here…”

Harry ached, and he nodded. “Ok. We’ll go to my room. Will that be better?”

Ginny paused for a second before she nodded with a sniffle.

“Ok, come on,” he said as he began to gather her into his arms.

“No, I can walk,” she said as she tried to push him off.

“Ginny, you don’t have to do that,” he assured her gently as he pulled back but she just shook her head.

“I want to,” she said stubbornly.

Harry didn’t like it but the set in her jaw told him it would be a long argument so he relented. Taking her hands he helped her slip off the bed and stand up, watching her face closely for any signs of pain.

Ginny gripped his arm tightly as she stood. She looked down and let go of him, allowing her legs to support her full weight. She wavered slightly but shook her head when he went to steady her. She took only one step before she crumpled, her legs giving out as a fresh wave of nausea swept through her from being upright.

Harry caught her as she collapsed, scooping her back up as she whimpered.

“I’m…I’m sorry,” she apologized.

“Stop apologizing.”

“I’m sor…” she cut herself off and Harry kissed her temple. “It’s just…it’s just that I feel so…so strange,” she said, frustrated that her body wouldn’t do what she wanted. Despite the fact that it was a result of an Unforgivable, it still made her feel weak and she hated that. “I hurt,” she admitted softly and Harry nodded.

“I know,” Harry murmured against her hair. “It’ll go away, Ginny. You just need a bit more time…”

He was just heading down the hall with her when he heard Hermione’s voice calling him. Pulling Ginny closer as she tensed, he turned and headed back to the front room.

“Harry!” Hermione called from the fireplace as they entered the room. The relief was evident in her expression when she saw them. “There you are. Could you let us in?”

“Who’s with you?”

She gave him an irritated glare as she cocked her head to the side. “You know who. We need to…” she broke off and turned to look over her shoulder. “I’m telling them, Ron,” she snapped before looking back around. “Sorry, we think she might be marked, Harry.”

“I know,” he replied, “I already found it, so you don’t…”

“Just let them in, Harry,” Ginny suggested into his ear and he turned to look at her. “They want to know what happened, and they aren’t going to go away. The sooner they get in the sooner they’ll leave.”

He frowned as he considered her and she brought her hand to his neck, tracing his collar gently. He sighed and turned back to the fireplace. “You and Ron can come. And Dumbledore, I need to talk to him.”

“And my parents,” Ginny added softly. Harry glanced down at her. She gazed up at him expectantly, her head on his shoulder.

“And her parents,” he agreed grudgingly after a second.

“Bill will…”

No.”

“He’s worried, Harry…”

Huffing, Harry hoisted her up against him. “That’s not the word I would use,” he muttered as his mind instantly came up with about ten other things he thought Bill was at the moment.

“What?” Ginny asked as she shifted back so she could see his face.

“Nothing,” he said when he saw her confusion.

He kissed her quickly and then looked back at Hermione. He pressed his lips together for a second, weighing his options before he spoke.

“Fine,” he agreed sharply. “Everyone can come, but when I say leave, you leave.”

Ginny nestled closer, thanking him softly as she kissed his neck.

When Hermione disappeared from view, Harry waved his fingers at the fireplace, lowering the wards so that they could get through.

“Are you sure you feel up to this?” he asked. “You could talk to them tomorrow. You could go to my room and I could talk to them.”

Ginny shook her head as her grip tightened. “I want to stay with you.”

“Ok,” Harry said.

Carrying her to the sofa, he set her down, trying not to jostle her. Summoning a blanket, he draped it over her lap before kissing her softly. He turned back to the fireplace when the fire glowed green, flaring up and into the room.

Hermione arrived first, followed by Ron, Dumbledore, Molly, Arthur and finally, Bill.

Sighing, Ginny pulled her legs under her as she watched them arrive. She steeled herself for the questions and conversation that would inevitably come, wrapping the blanket more fully around her. When she saw the dark look that Bill cast in Harry’s direction, she furrowed her brow.

What is going on with them? she wondered, but her thoughts were interrupted as her mother reached the sofa and sank down beside her.

Harry put the wards back up and turned the floo off as Ginny’s family headed to the sofa to check on her. He stood back, waiting silently for them to finish their greetings.

“She seems to be doing better,” Dumbledore observed from beside him.

“Yeah, I think it’s beginning to fade,” Harry agreed with a nod. He folded his arms over his chest as he watched Ginny wince slightly from Molly’s embrace. “Not soon enough though.”

“I’m fine, Mum,” Ginny assured her softly but Molly just sniffled.

“You are not fine, Ginny,” she argued as she pulled away, smoothing Ginny’s hair away from her face as she looked her over. “Just because you’re too stubborn to admit it doesn’t mean you’re not hurting.”

Ginny sighed and glanced around, looking for Harry as her mother continued to explain that she needed to let them take care of her. She found him standing across the room, his arms folded as he watched her. Meeting her gaze, he raised his eyebrow with an expression that clearly stated “You’re the one who wanted them here.”

Her lips began to curve into a smile but it slipped when she felt her blanket leave her lap. She looked over at her mother in confusion.

“Mum, what…”

“Let’s get you changed,” Molly soothed as she stood up, bringing her hand to Ginny’s hair. “You have blood in your hair, sweetheart. It’s on your dress…you’ll feel better after a nice shower, I promise.”

Leave the room?

Ginny’s body tensed at the thought and she shrank away, beginning to shake her head. The logical part of her brain knew her mother was probably right. She probably would feel a bit better if she changed, but the fear that surged quickly inside of her at the prospect of being separated from Harry made it impossible for her to agree.

“Can you walk, dear?” Molly asked gently before straightening. “Bill, help me here.”

Harry wasn’t sure what Molly was saying but he saw Ginny’s distress and was halfway across the room before he even realized he was moving.

“Mrs. Weasley, what…”

Before Harry could reach them Bill stepped forward, scooping Ginny into his arms. Harry stopped. His body tensed and his eyes narrowed as Bill turned around to face him. Hermione must have seen his expression because she stepped in front of him, laying her hand on his arm and forcing his focus down to her.

“Let Molly do this for her,” she said softly. Squeezing his forearm, she watched his eyes flick back to Ginny. “She’ll be fine and back before you know it. They need to help her too. They’re just trying to help her and she’ll feel better once she’s changed.”

Harry’s posture relaxed a touch but he could hear Ginny trying to tell Bill to put her down. When she said his name, Harry’s hand shot out. He caught Bill’s arm as he passed on the way to the hall.

Bill paused and looked down at where Harry was gripping him before bringing his cool gaze back to his face.

“Let go of me.”

Harry released his arm only after he’d stepped in front of him, blocking his way. He kept his gaze on Ginny and he could see tears of frustration swimming in her eyes. Bringing his hand to her cheek, he ran his fingers over her skin as she gripped his wrist tightly.

“It’s ok, love,” he assured her. He ignored the way Bill’s body jerked at the endearment, focusing only on Ginny’s face. “They’re right. You’ll feel better and your mum will be with you the whole time. You won’t be alone.”

Ginny hesitated before pulling his hand away from her cheek. “You’ll stay close,” she instructed softly as she kissed his palm.

“Yeah,” he agreed, trying to assure her with his eyes.

After a second, she nodded and kissed his palm again. Harry glanced up at Bill, but he was staring at something over Harry’s shoulder. Harry glanced back and found Dumbledore standing by the fireplace as he watched them closely.

He turned back when he felt Ginny let go of his hand. He watched Bill carry her out of the room with Molly and Hermione following.

When they were gone, Harry crossed to the sofa and sank down on it to wait. Ron sat down next to him while Arthur took the armchair near the fireplace. Dumbledore stood with his back to them, staring silently into the fire.

Harry tried not to fidget. He tried to keep his expression neutral but his body refused to cooperate as the seconds began to inch by. All he could think about was that he was too far away from her. He knew she was hurting and probably frightened. He wanted to be there with her.

The air began to feel stuffy around him and he clamped his hands together. After a few minutes that felt like hours he stood up, intending to go check on her. He’d only taken a few steps when Ron called his name. Hesitating guiltily, Harry looked back.

“She’s fine, mate,” Ron told him gently. He seemed to understand Harry’s worry as he nodded to emphasize his words.

“I was just…” Harry began lamely before trailing off.

He shoved his hands into his pockets and stared down at the ground. He looked up quickly when someone entered the room, but frowned when it was only Bill. “How is she?”

“Fine,” Bill answered.

“Perhaps, now that Bill is back, Harry,” Dumbledore said, “you can fill us in on the tracer while we wait?”

Harry nodded and ran a hand through his hair. He began to pace as he told them how he’d found it and when she had gotten it. His frustration began to return as he was reminded of their mistake.

“Bloody hell,” Ron breathed from the sofa. “Since the banquet?”

“He’s playing with us,” Harry said. “He could have gotten to her whenever he wanted and who knows how often he’s been watching...”

“So let me get this straight,” Bill interrupted tightly, bringing Harry’s focus back to him. “She’s been walking around with a magical tracer that connected her to Malfoy since the banquet and you didn’t find it? He put it on her right in front of you and you didn’t notice? What kind of Auror…”

“Yeah, I already said we screwed up,” Harry snapped. “But in case you’ve forgotten he didn’t just do the tracer, he bloody branded her as a decoy! Until today there was no reason to think there was anything…” Harry trailed off and shook his head before rounding on Bill. “You know what, Bill,” he said angrily, letting his temper flair. “I’ve had just about enough of you, today! What is your problem?!”

“My problem is that you’re doing a pretty shoddy job protecting my sister!”

Harry’s eyes flashed and he opened his mouth but Ron answered first.

“No, Bill,” he declared as he rose from the sofa. “We’re doing a shoddy job of protecting her. No one found that tracer. It wasn’t just Harry who…”

“Oh, stop defending him!” Bill exclaimed as he rounded on Ron and the three of them were soon in an argument that was quickly escalating to an all out shouting match.

“That’s enough!” Arthur ordered. He grabbed Ron by the collar as he lunged for Bill and yanked him back.

“Dad, he’s completely out of line!” Ron argued, pointing at Bill.

“At least I’m not out of control,” Bill shot back, eliciting an exasperated laugh from Harry as he threw his arms out.

“How many times do I have to say I’m not out of control!?” Harry exclaimed. “I’m not the issue here, Bill. The issue is Malfoy. The person out of control is Malfoy,” he stated firmly.

“That’s right,” Ron agreed in support of Harry. “He shouldn’t have gotten anywhere near her. He shouldn’t have gotten into the house…”

“He’s been a step ahead of us since the moment this started. How is he beating us?” Harry demanded. “I mean, for Merlin’s sake, it’s Malfoy we’re talking about!”

“We knew he was ruthless, Harry,” Dumbledore reasoned, finally breaking his silence. “Being less powerful doesn’t make him less determined.”

“Well it’s unacceptable!” he exclaimed. “We’re supposed to be protecting her, not offering her up on a platter.”

Dumbledore watched as Harry’s eyes darkened for a split second, the air shaking slightly before it faded.

“Harry, I understand that you have become…attached,” Dumbledore said carefully. “But you need to control your emotions. It’s dangerous.”

Harry stopped pacing at his words and dropped his head. “I’m fine,” he said softly, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand. “I’m just…” He didn’t want to say angry as hell so he settled on, “I’m fine.”

“Were you fine when you blew a hole in that wall?” Bill asked with a glare.

Harry stilled, his body tensing slightly. “That was an accident. I was angry…it was nothing…not to mention it was aimed at Malfoy.”

“Are you doing your exercises?” Dumbledore asked, drawing Harry’s attention back to him before another fight began.

“Yeah,” Harry said with a nod.

He hesitated, debating on whether to bring up his dreams and power surges. He didn’t want to do that with Bill in the room because he knew it would only fuel his argument that he was out of control.

I’ll wait until he leaves and then pull Dumbledore aside, he decided.

Even if he didn’t want to do it in front of Bill, he did want to ask about them, especially after the last one when…

Harry froze as his heart suddenly lodged in his throat. His head began to pound and he brought his hand to his temple as he remembered.

“Oh, my God,” he mumbled. “I saw this.”

“I’m...Sorry?” Dumbledore asked in confusion.

“Saw what?” Ron asked.

Harry squeezed his eyes shut and ran his hand through his hair. “I…I dreamed this. I saw her being attacked.”

“What?” Arthur asked in confusion. “You saw Malfoy attacking her in a dream?”

Harry didn’t get a chance to respond as Bill let out a curse. Harry looked up when Bill was suddenly in his face.

“Why didn’t you tell anyone!?”

“It was a dream!” Harry shot back, “It was just a dream!”

“You don’t have just dreams, Harry!”

“I had no reason to think…” Harry shook his head, trying to hang onto his control. “I’m not connected to Malfoy,” he said through gritted teeth.

“Yeah, but she was!” Bill yelled and Harry shoved him away.

“Damn it, Bill!” Harry exclaimed in frustration. “I didn’t know that! You act like I let this happen on purpose. I wouldn’t put her in danger! If I’d thought for one second there was something to it, I would’ve said something!”

“Calm down,” Arthur tried to interject but they weren’t listening.

“You didn’t think it meant something when you saw Malfoy cursing her!?” Bill scoffed. “Is that a normal dream for you, Harry!?”

“That’s not what I saw!” Harry shouted angrily. He pointed his finger at his chest. “I was the one attacking her! I didn’t see Malfoy and I didn’t think it was related to him! I didn’t think I was seeing through his eyes or feeling his emotions!”

Harry snapped his mouth shut, his chest heaving. He narrowed his eyes at Bill, whose angry stance had deflated during his outburst.

Bill stared at him with an unreadable expression before he glanced behind him. Harry turned too. Ron was looking warily between him and Bill. Arthur was gaping at him and Dumbledore was standing behind him, his eyes narrowed slightly.

“What do you mean you were cursing her?”

Harry put his hands on his hips and dropped his head. He shut his eyes and took a calming breath before he shook his head and looked up.

“I mean that it was like I was Malfoy. I was doing the curse on her. I didn’t think it was real,” he explained, shooting a glare back at Bill. “I thought it was just another strange dream. I had no reason to think…I’m not connected to Malfoy, not like with Voldemort.”

Dumbledore’s body had gone very still, his eyes trained on Harry.

“What do you mean another strange dream?”

Harry stared at him, not quite sure how he’d gotten into this conversation so quickly.

So much for waiting for Bill to leave, he thought.

Pushing his glasses up onto his forehead, he rubbed the bridge of his nose.

“I keep…I keep dreaming of moments with her that aren’t real,” he said with a frown. “I thought it was a new effect or something because they really hurt, and they throw my magic out of whack…and the headaches when I’m awake, I…”

Dumbledore crossed the room until he was standing right in front of Harry. “How often are they happening?”

“Just, randomly…” he sighed as he settled his glasses back into place and met his gaze. “I was going to talk to you about them, but Bill might be right, actually.” He shot an irritated look at him. “I assumed it was my power, but maybe it was connected to the tracer.”

He dropped his gaze to the floor as he rested his hands on his hips. “That would actually explain why we’re both having them.”

“Both?” Arthur echoed faintly.

Harry nodded before shaking his head.

“Well, not the dreams. I don’t think she’s having those, but she’s been having a lot of headaches, more than me I think,” he said and Dumbledore’s eyes flicked to Arthur.

A faint rumble of thunder sounded outside and Harry’s head snapped toward the window. “Is it raining?”

Dumbledore looked over at the window, watching the water trickle lazily down the glass.

“I think it was going to shower tonight,” he said, “but I don’t really see why that’s relevant.”

Harry’s eyes narrowed and he walked to the window to look out. It was raining lightly but it didn’t seem to be getting worse.

Bill glanced at his father, whose eyes were on Harry’s back. He began to cross to Dumbledore but stopped when the older wizard shook his head, gesturing for him to stay back.

“I think that you might be right, Harry,” Dumbledore said, holding Bill’s gaze and giving a slight shake of the head when he opened his mouth to respond. He then glanced at Arthur before looking over at Harry. “Your dreams and her discomfort were probably linked to this tracer. It’s also not uncommon, given this situation and your feelings that you would dream of something horrible like this happening to her. I believe it is mostly coincidence.”

“Harry?”

Harry’s head shot around at the sound of Ginny’s voice in the doorway. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. She looked tiny and so young with her hair down around her shoulders and her feet bare. Harry’s entire body seemed to relax in relief at the sight of her and he crossed the room in an instant.

“Hey,” he sighed, his hand going to her hair as he looked her up and down. “You’re walking,” he acknowledged with a grin and she nodded. “That’s so good, Gin,” he murmured as he ran his thumb over her cheek as her lip curled up. He saw her lips trembling and he noticed that her shoulders seemed to be shivering slightly as well. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m fine, it’s just that…it’s raining,” she murmured and her eyes filled with tears as her cheeks flushed.

She did not want to cry and she bit her lip as she blinked quickly. She knew telling him it was raining wasn’t going to do anything. It’s not like he could stop it, but she didn’t think she could handle a storm tonight.

“I know,” Harry nodded, bringing his hand up so that he was cupping her face. “It’s just raining though. It’s not going to storm.”

Ginny took a deep, shaky breath and nodded. When she opened her eyes again, she glanced at her brothers.

“Were you fighting? I heard yelling…” She brought her eyes back to Harry’s but he shook his head.

“It’s fine.”

Dumbledore watched them together as Harry spoke to her softly, one hand moving to her elbow and the other tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. Harry had been at her side within a matter of seconds and the emotional connection between them was obvious. He watched Ginny closely as she talked to Harry, wishing he could see just what was going on in her mind.

“It’s good to see you up, Miss Weasley,” Dumbledore said, drawing her attention to him. He was watching her over his half-moon spectacles with a friendly smile when she glanced over. “That is a very good sign. I know you’re tired, but we have a few questions if you’re up for it. Then we’ll be on our way.”

Ginny nodded, letting her mother gently pull her away from Harry and over to the sofa. She glanced back, watching as Hermione stepped up and spoke to him softly.

“So, she was ok?” Harry asked softly.

Hermione nodded but her expression told him something was wrong.

“What is it?” Harry pressed. “What happened?”

Hermione glanced at Ginny, who was curling up on the sofa. “She just got a little dizzy and…and sick again,” she admitted softly.

“What?” he hissed as his eyes snapped to Ginny.

Harry’s eyes met Ginny’s and her expression became guilty as his eyes demanded to know why she hadn’t told him immediately. He continued to watch her as Hermione explained what happened.

“It wasn’t that bad, Harry,” Hermione assured him softly. “She just…you know, she was standing a lot. In the shower and with all the movement…pulling on her clothes…it just…she’s just still a bit weak.”

Ginny dropped her gaze after a second and shifted further under the blanket. He saw her blink quickly as she focused on answering Dumbledore’s questions.

Hermione squeezed his hand and cocked her head to the side as his gaze came back to her.

“I thought you would want to know…”

Harry pressed his lips together and nodded. “Thanks, Hermione.”

His eyes went back to Ginny as she explained what had happened. He could sense her discomfort and he began to cross the room to the sofa. He pulled up short when Molly sank down next to her and took her hand. Fighting the irritation that surfaced at being unable to sit next to her, he remained where he was.

Trying not to openly sulk, he crossed his arms and watched Ginny’s eyes as she explained how Malfoy had woken her up. She was staring into the fire as she spoke, but her eyes flicked to his after a few seconds when she trailed off.

“What did he do?” Dumbledore prompted gently. “Before the Cruciatus, what happened?”

“He ripped some of my hair out,” she replied with a frown.

Ron cursed softly as Dumbledore exchanged a look with Harry. They all knew he needed it for the potion. They knew he was getting close and this would only accelerate things.

“He mentioned the brand, but you already know that,” she said, bringing their focus back to her. She chewed on her lip as she thought back. “He…he talked to me, about how he would take me soon and…he said when he was ready to… to take me… that no one would be able to stop him…”

Ginny took a deep breath, pausing as the fear from before rushed back in. Malfoy’s smirking face flashed through her mind. Searching for comfort, her eyes flicked to Harry. He was standing across the room, his arms still folded and his eyes locked on her. She could see his eyes flashing angrily at what she had said and her vision began to swim as she stared at him, willing him to come closer.

“I um…I remember screaming,” she pressed on, her voice shaky. Her eyes stayed locked with Harry’s as though afraid to look anywhere else. “I screamed for you and he hit me for it…”

Harry’s eyes ignited and Ginny brushed at her cheek quickly when she felt her tears begin to fall. Her mother squeezed her hand and she looked down, squeezing her eyes shut and shaking her head in frustration. She didn’t want to cry over this.

Harry, who’d started moving when he saw her tears, arrived in front of her and she looked up gratefully. Sinking down in front of the sofa he ran his thumb lightly down her cheek. She took his hand in hers, clutching it tightly as she stared at him.

In response, Harry squeezed her hand, silently urging her to continue.

“He um, he had me pinned down,” she said. “He kissed me and he said that…that…”

Oh, God, she thought suddenly, trailing off quickly.

All of Harry’s words, all of his worries that she would be in more danger because of him came shooting into her head and her chest began to ache.

I can’t tell him, she thought as an intense fear of losing him surged inside of her. I can’t tell him this.

Pulling back she began to shake her head.

“What did he say, Ginny?” he asked gently. “It’s over, whatever he said doesn’t matter.”

He searched her eyes in confusion when he saw a different kind of fear grow swiftly inside of them.

What did Malfoy say to her?

Ginny shook her head. “No, I…I don’t want to tell you,” she said, panic beginning to creep into her tone. Looking up, her gaze went to her father. “I’ll tell you, but Harry has to leave.”

“What?” Harry demanded in surprise.

“You heard her,” Bill spoke up. “She doesn’t want you near her, so…”

“That’s not what she said,” Harry shot over his shoulder, keeping his eyes on Ginny’s face. He caught her chin and forced her to look at him. “I’m not leaving, Ginny. Tell me what he said.”

“No,” Ginny whispered desperately as she shook her head.

“Why not?”

“Because she doesn’t want to tell you,” Bill chimed in. “She wants you to leave…"

“No,” Ginny interrupted, shaking her head quickly. “I don’t…” she brought her hands to Harry’s face. “Don’t leave me…”

Her body began to shake as her logic was overridden by fear of losing him. If she told him, he would do something crazy and honorable…like push her away and let someone else guard her…and the mere idea threw her into a panic.

“But I can’t tell you,” she whispered as she caressed his cheek. “You’ll do something stupid.” Her eyes filled with tears as she began to pull away. “You’ll want to go. You’ll…you’ll try to protect me by leaving or…you won’t be with me to…”

“Ginny,” Harry interrupted, catching her face in his hands and brushing her hair out of her eyes. “What are you talking about? I’m not leaving. I’m not…I won’t leave you. You can tell me.”

Ginny continued to shake her head, sinking quickly into despair as she began to cry.

Dumbledore frowned as he watched them talking. He could see Ginny slipping quickly into hysterics, trying to pull away from Harry as she babbled something about leaving and being alone. His brow furrowed and he exchanged a look with Arthur when she cried out, grabbing her forehead and scrunching her face up in pain.

“Ginny?” Molly called to her worriedly as she placed a hand on her shoulder. “Harry, if she wants you to go…”

“No,” Harry shot back.

Molly blinked in surprise at his harsh tone and his face flushed. He mumbled an apology before turning his attention back to Ginny. He could feel Arthur and Bill moving towards them and he caught Ginny’s face. He had no idea what was going on, or why she was suddenly so upset. He didn’t understand why she looked so terrified.

“Look at me,” he ordered but she shook her head, keeping her eyes shut. “Ginny, look at me,” he repeated and she opened her eyes with a whimper. “Tell me what he said. Please, baby, I swear I’m not leaving. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. I swear…no matter what he threatened, I’m not leaving.”

“Promise me,” she whimpered after a second.

She brought her hand to his face, running her thumb over his lips.

He placed a light kiss on her fingers. “I promise, love. Just tell me.”

“He said that...he plays games to upset you. That he’s going to kill you and he can’t wait to…to…” her eyes flicked around the room, taking in the worried faces of her family.

She met Bill’s gaze for a second before dropping her eyes to the floor and forcing in a shaky breath. She heard Harry say her name and brought her gaze back to his. Her chin was trembling as she spoke softly.

“He said he can’t…he can’t wait to sleep with me now that he knows that…that…”

She clamped down on her lip as she trailed off. She watched the blood drain from Harry’s face and she held her breath, fighting back her panic.

“…that I want you,” Harry finished for her in a quiet voice.

She nodded miserably and he shut his eyes.


Chapter 9: A Tangled Web
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Any passing Muggle probably wouldn’t notice the small castle perched precariously on a hill in a forsaken corner of Scotland. It appeared to be nothing more than a crumbling ruin, forgotten and half hidden by large trees and thick ivy. The doors and windows were broken or missing and the roof looked to have buckled many years before. One wall had collapsed inward, throwing the entire structure off balance. If you didn’t know to look for it, you would probably miss it completely as you drove by on the small winding road below. The path leading up to the building was overgrown with twisted vines and tangled branches, making it almost impossible to reach on foot.

With a small pop, a lone wizard appeared in front of the building. He held his cloak closed against the wind as he stared at the ruins. What he saw, however, was not a pathetic pile of stones. Instead he saw the castle as it should have been, with its walls firm and sturdy, the doors and windows intact and lights flickering from several of the windows.

Approaching quickly, the wizard ran up the few steps to the door and rapped with his knuckles. He didn’t wait for a response; he simply pushed the door open and went inside.

A house elf met him in the entrance hall but he didn’t bother to remove his cloak. Heading straight to the study, he reached for the handle. The door was locked and the wizard frowned when he realized it was magically sealed as well.

His fist was poised to knock when a voice spoke behind him.

“I wouldn’t bother, Nott,” the wizard said, causing him to turn around.

“Goyle,” he greeted with a nod. “Did he get it?”

“We don’t know,” Goyle shrugged. “He just got back and he’s sealed himself in. Didn’t speak to anyone and won’t open the door. You’ll just have to wait.”

Nott turned back around, hesitating as he considered knocking for a moment before deciding against it. Instead he turned away again and headed down the hall after Goyle.

Inside the lavishly furnished study, Malfoy was draped across a black leather sofa. Having abandoned his robes, he was wearing only a pair of black trousers and a crimson stained shirt. He groaned miserably as his head rested against the arm of the sofa, his eyes swollen shut.

Carrying a bowl of warm water and a cloth, Pansy crossed the room toward him. At the sound of him in pain, she sped up and sank down on the sofa next to him. Leaning over him, she studied the damage to his face. Malfoy’s hand moved to grip her hip as she took in the odd angle of his nose and his black eyes with a frown.

Setting the bowl on the table next to her, she dipped the cloth into the water and wrung it out. Keeping her eyes on Malfoy as she moved, she tried to discern his mood. She wasn’t sure yet if he was angry, or simply injured. She didn’t dare ask if he had been successful.

Gingerly, she began to clean the blood from his face. Her free hand moved to cradle his cheek, caressing his skin before she trailed her fingers down his neck. Her gaze traveled down to his blood-soaked shirt for a moment before she inadvertently bumped his nose with the cloth.

“Ow!” Malfoy snapped as his eyes shot open. He squeezed her hip tightly as her gaze met his guiltily.

“I’m sorry, baby,” she purred, running her hand down his chest in a soothing gesture.

“Be careful,” he warned and she nodded quickly.

“It looks like you were hit by a Bludger,” she commented as she set the cloth down on the table. He remained silent, providing no clues about what had happened.

“Who did this, Draco?” she queried hesitantly, still uncertain what he was feeling. She knew better than to question him when he was angry. Over the years she’d learned to read his moods and was usually good at not upsetting him more. “What happened?”

“Nothing,” he gritted out, his jaw clenched in pain and anger.

Pansy knew that wasn’t true but she didn’t press him further. She’d heard that tone enough from him to know he wouldn’t tell her.

It better not have been Potter, she thought, filling with loyal indignation. The idea that he would have hurt the man she loved again caused her stomach to churn with anger. He’s not going to take away everything Draco’s worked so hard to achieve…he’s already taken too much.

Frowning, Pansy’s gaze flicked back to Draco, slightly disappointed that, once again, he wasn’t confiding in her.

When she was younger, she’d wanted him to sweep her off her feet, envisioning the fairytale romance she read about in books. For a while she had hoped he would be more open with his feelings as he grew older and they left school, but now she understood. Pansy wasn’t stupid; she realized that wasn’t going to happen.

Draco would never be romantic, or share his feelings easily. She didn’t expect flowers or yearn for words of love whispered in her ear. She’d gotten what she wanted and had worked hard over the years to keep him – that was enough for her.

Throughout the war, he’d kept her with him, allowing her to accompany him on his travels. When she found out she was to play a part in the ritual, her excitement had been nearly overwhelming. To know that he trusted her with this honor showed her the depth of his true feelings. He respected her and in his own way, she knew he loved her. It was more than she’d ever expected. She didn’t deserve him, and worked each day not to disappoint him.

She knew it was only a matter of time before they would marry. Then she would have more than she’d ever hoped to attain. She would have a powerful husband, beautiful things and a status few of her friends had managed to achieve.

Still, she thought, it would be nice if he talked to me a bit more.

Shaking her head slightly, she chided herself for her selfish thoughts. He had worries and pressures she couldn’t fathom, and it wasn’t her place to question him. If he wasn’t telling her something, it was obviously for a reason.

“Well,” she said, fighting back the shame of letting her own selfish wants rise above his needs, “it’s definitely broken.”

“I know that,” he drawled angrily. He swatted her hands away as she went back to cleaning his face off. “Just fix it.”

Picking up her wand, Pansy cast a quick healing charm, causing Malfoy’s nose to straighten with a snap.

“Be careful,” he whined with a wince.

Pansy bit her lower lip as she continued to heal his eyes, watching the bruising begin to fade. When she finished she stayed beside him, stroking his cheek. After a few seconds the pressure on her hip increased as he pushed her away.

“Find Nott,” he ordered.

“Why don’t you rest for a few…”

Now, Pansy,” he snapped.

“You don’t have to get angry,” she murmured as she reached up, fixing his hair back into place. She knew he wouldn’t want to see Nott with it mussed.

“I wouldn’t have to if you just did what I asked,” he replied irritably.

Nodding, Pansy drew her hand away. She kissed him lightly on the lips before standing up and heading to the door.

Malfoy watched her leave with cool detachment, his mind traveling to his favorite subject of late - Ginevra. Moving suddenly, he reached for his discarded robe. He searched inside the deep inner pocket and pulled out the lock of hair. Smiling smugly at his success, he waited for Nott to arrive.

Closing his eyes, he savored the feel of the lock of her silky ginger hair sliding through his fingers. Smirking, he pictured Ginny in his mind as he began to come up with different ways to punish her when he finally took her.

~..~..~..~..~..~

He promised…he promised, Ginny’s mind chanted anxiously as she stared at the top of Harry’s hair. She could feel it coming. When he raised his head he would take her in the other room and try to explain why she would be safer without him. They would have a horrible row and she would lose. He would leave her alone and she would perish.

She could see his jaw working and she ran her fingers into his hair. “You promised,” she murmured, “you can’t take it back.”

Shaking his head at her words, Harry finally looked up. When he met her gaze, he silently took in her fear as her eyes searched his. He knew she was trying to discern his reaction. Slipping his hands around her waist, he pulled her off the sofa and into his arms.
Inside he was furious at Malfoy but he held her protectively, pulling her closer as she linked her arms around his neck. Malfoy had done this. He’d made her frightened and clingy and Harry had to force his anger back. It was only by sheer force of will that he kept it in check.

“I’m not taking it back,” he reassured her softly.

Her sob was muffled in his neck as her grip tightened.

“Why are you so afraid?” he whispered in her ear.

“You’ll leave me to protect me,” she whispered back. “I’ll be alone.”

He shook his head as he stroked her hair. “Ginny, that doesn’t make sense. He already knows…leaving now won’t change that. I wouldn’t leave you. What’s going on? Why do you think I’d even consider it?”

“I don’t know,” she mumbled miserably as she clung to him.

Harry rubbed her back tenderly, hoping to ease the tension in her body. He murmured words of assurance and love into her ear, trying to convince her that he wasn’t leaving her; that he would protect her.

Molly began to cry as she observed them on the floor. Unable to watch the eerily familiar scene any longer she slipped from the sofa and moved to Arthur. He pulled her into his arms, keeping his eyes on the couple across the room as she wept into his shoulder.
Harry’s words of comfort echoed in Ginny’s head and she began to relax. She could feel the tight coil of panic quickly unraveling inside of her. As the panic slipped away, she was left with the growing embarrassment of how she must look to the room.

Feeling the change in her, Harry adjusted his hold.

The room remained silent as Harry picked Ginny up and moved to sit on the sofa, keeping her curled in his lap.

For a few more seconds, Ginny clung to him before trying to pull herself together. She wiped her cheeks with her hands as she mumbled an apology, suddenly feeling ridiculously self-conscious about her lack of control. Shifting in Harry’s arms, Ginny rested her hands on the arms wrapped securely around her stomach and faced the group.

Conscious of her blazing cheeks she glanced around the room, unsurprised to find everyone watching her closely. Her parents were standing by the fire, both looking pale as her mother dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief. Bill however, looked red and furious as he whispered into her father’s ear. Narrowing her eyes as she watched his lips move, she suddenly wished she had an Extendable Ear.

Noticing her eyes on them, Arthur stepped forward, cutting off whatever Bill had been saying.

“Are you ok?”

Nodding, Ginny felt the heat of her cheeks increase as she dragged her eyes from her brother to her father. He was giving her a reassuring smile. She could tell it was forced but she appreciated the effort and smiled back.

“Was there anything else, sweetheart? Did he do the Cruciatus after that?”

At the mention of Malfoy’s curse Ginny’s smile slipped and Harry’s grip tightened. Shaking her head, she tucked a piece of hair behind her ear.

“I think I broke his nose first,” she said.

Bill’s gaze shot to her while Ron let out an appreciative laugh.

“That’s my girl,” Harry breathed, nuzzling the back of her hair.

“I also…I also did wandless magic again, actually,” she added with a slight frown.

“You did?” Harry asked, tilting around her to see her face. She’d told him about the shield she produced at the banquet, but at the time he hadn’t thought much about it.

“Something defensive I guess,” she continued, thinking back. “It blew him across the room anyway, but I’m not sure how…”

Frowning, Harry stared at her profile.

You don’t just do wandless blasting spells. Accidental magic is random, not controlled.

His mind went back to the time when he’d inadvertently blown up his aunt before he glanced up at Dumbledore. The wizard was frowning at Ginny with uncharacteristically troubled eyes.

A silence had fallen over the room only to be broken by a faint roll of thunder.

Ginny jerked at the sound as her eyes flew to the window. Her body began to tremble almost immediately.

Thunder means there's lightning somewhere...It's storming somewhere...

Shutting her eyes, she took a deep breath, trying to slow down the rapid beating of her heart.

“Gin?” Harry murmured into her ear, causing her to jump again. He tightened his grip on her and she turned her head slightly. “It’s only rain, Ginny. It’s not getting closer.”

“You don’t know that,” she mumbled back.

Dumbledore watched their quiet conversation from across the room. Ginny shut her eyes, turning her head toward him as Harry spoke to her. His hand caressed her thigh and she nodded before he kissed her cheek.

“Is everything quite alright?” Dumbledore asked, drawing their attention back to him.

“Fine,” Harry said as he straightened. He left his hand in her lap as she laced her fingers through his.

“I…I just don’t like storms,” Ginny added. Her voice was casual, even as her gaze went back to the window.

“Really?” Arthur asked, looking startled. He glanced at Molly, Bill and Ron who also seemed confused by the announcement.

“Why ever not, my dear?” Dumbledore inquired, his face a mask of mild interest as he regarded her. “I’ve always found them to be fascinating displays of nature.”

Ginny smiled back at him despite the crimson spots that were blooming on her cheeks. “Fascinating is not the word I would use to describe them,” she replied.

“So, they frighten you?”

“More than frighten,” Harry interjected softly.

Dumbledore’s eyes flicked to him for a second before returning to Ginny.

“Ginny, what are you on about?” Ron asked. “You’re not afraid of storms.”

Ginny’s gaze shot to Ron’s but she remained uncharacteristically silent.

“Leave it, Ron,” Harry warned.

Meeting his friend’s confused gaze, Harry shook his head slightly.

Ron opened his mouth to respond but shut it again, remaining silent as he looked back over at his sister.

Harry could feel the tension in Ginny’s body continue to increase as she chewed on her bottom lip.

“Have they always frightened you?” Dumbledore asked.

Ginny shook her head. Her eyes flicked warily to her family as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.

Dumbledore could tell she was uncomfortable with the questions. Her blushing cheeks stood out sharply against her paling skin and she appeared as though she was trying to simply sink back into Harry.

“Well,” he said lightly, “we’re all afraid of something, right, Harry? I myself find Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavored Beans absolutely ghastly.”

Ginny smiled but visibly twitched when it thundered again.

“I think we’re done here,” Harry announced abruptly as he pulled her closer. “It’s late.”

“Yes,” Dumbledore agreed, standing up. “Perhaps it’s time for us to leave.”

Dumbledore began to head toward the fireplace but he stopped and turned, focusing his attention back on Ginny.

“Do you mind if I take a look at your memory of today before we go? It might help to see exactly what Malfoy said. He let the presence of the tracer slip…perhaps we’ll get lucky and he will have been doubly careless tonight.”

Ginny hesitated before she climbed out of Harry’s lap. “I’ve never…”

“It’s quite alright,” Dumbledore replied. Crossing to her, he rested his hands lightly on her shoulders. “All you need to do is look into my eyes. It is perfectly painless, I assure you,”

Harry watched from his seat as Dumbledore delved into her mind, searching for what happened in her room. He watched his old headmaster’s expression become grim, his frown deepen and the lines on his face suddenly seem much more pronounced.

It must have been really bad, Harry thought with a sinking feeling.

Having just listened to Ginny’s description of the attack, he knew it had been bad…but now he had the sudden urge to watch Malfoy’s visit himself. Part of him wanted to see exactly what Malfoy had done to her. Another part of him knew it would be a bad idea, since he already wanted to rip him to pieces. Seeing what happened first hand and being unable to do anything about it would probably not be a good plan; especially right before sleeping.

After a few more moments, Dumbledore’s face shifted into one of casual interest as he broke his gaze from Ginny.

“Thank you, Miss Weasley,” he said. His voice was light, but oddly forced in Harry’s opinion. “That was most helpful. I’ll take another look at the events when I get back to my office and let you know if anything comes of it.”

Standing up, Harry crossed to the fireplace. He wanted them gone and he quickly lowered the wards. Turning back, he hooked his thumbs into his pockets as he watched Ginny become surrounded by her family.

Molly embraced her first, stroking her hair and kissing her cheek before passing her to Arthur. After a few moments he released her, stepping back to give Ron and Hermione room. Ron cupped her cheek as he spoke to her and after a few seconds she was chuckling and shaking her head as he pulled her into a hug.

Finally, she turned to Bill. He stepped forward and enveloped her in his arms, lifting her off the ground. Holding her protectively, he lowered his head and spoke softly into her ear. She nodded into his shoulder and he pulled her tighter before reluctantly lowering her to the floor.

Harry was rather surprised by how quickly the group left after that. Soon he and Ginny were the only ones left in the flat. Turning off the Floo, he raised the wards before turning to face her.

Ginny’s arms were wrapped around her stomach as she stared at the window, but she brought her gaze to his as he crossed to her. When he came to a stop in front she went instantly into his arms. Leaning into him, she rested her cheek against his chest.

“I thought they would never leave,” she sighed. “Who let them in here?”

“That was all you,” he replied, smiling against her hair as she chuckled.

“Tired?” he asked softly and she nodded into his shirt.

“Ok,” he said as he bent down and scooped her into his arms. “Off to bed with you…”

“Harry, I can walk,” she tried to protest.

“And I’m very glad to hear that,” he smiled as he headed down the hall.

“Then let me down,” she huffed in his arms

“Just enjoy it, ok?” he said as he passed the door to her room. “Tomorrow you’ll be all on your own, I promise.”

“Swear?”

“Mhm,” he nodded.

“But what if I want you to carry me tomorrow?” she asked, her tone becoming instantly playful as she relaxed into him.

“Well, that’ll just be too bad, won’t it,” he replied with a smirk.

Leaning in, Ginny trailed kisses up his neck to his ear.

“What if I ask really nicely?” she purred in her sweetest voice.

Well,” he considered as he entered his room. “We may be able to work something out,” he admitted with a grin. Waving his fingers as he walked, his sheets folded back to create a neat triangle across his bed.

When he came to a stop beside it he lowered her down gently. Moving gingerly, she slipped under the covers and pulled them up. When they were settled in her lap, Harry sat down on the edge of the bed facing her. Pulling her knees up, Ginny wrapped her arms around her legs as she met his gaze.

Leaning in, Harry kissed her a few times, pressing his lips against hers before he pulled back. As he studied her, he ran his hand up her shin before bringing it to rest on her knee.

“Do you need anything?” he asked and she shook her head.

He nodded and began to stand but her hand shot out, catching his sleeve and pulling him back down. Harry glanced down at her hand before meeting her gaze. Finding her eyes anxious as she stared at him, he furrowed his brow.

“What is it?”

Ginny looked down at her hand, her eyes intent on his shirt as she released her hold.

“You’re…you’re going to bed now too, right?” she asked, smoothing the fabric with her fingers. “In here?”

Harry’s heart stumbled as her hand dropped to the bed and her uncertain eyes flicked back to his. Until now he’d been completely focused on doing whatever would help her, but the reality of the situation finally slammed into him. She was going to sleep in his room…in his bed. Suddenly, Harry didn’t have a clue what to do.

Bugger, where do I sleep?

An image of them together in his bed flashed vividly in his mind. He could practically feel her curled against him, her head on his shoulder and her body pressed to his as he held her.

Merlin, that would be….

He tried to clamp down on the image as it developed a mind of its own. Rapidly, it became less and less innocent, causing his cheeks to flush and his insides to flare. Cutting off his train of thought with a shake of his head, he firmly reminded himself that she’d just been attacked. She was exhausted, hurting and she needed to sleep.

This isn’t about me. I’m not taking advantage of her.

“I’ll be right here,” he assured her, conjuring a camp bed on the floor next to them with a flick of his wand.

He watched her eyes shoot to his makeshift bed, her expression oddly blank as she stared at it for a few seconds.

Ginny fought to keep her expression passive as her confusion and disappointment surged.

He’s sleeping down there?

Opening her mouth to speak, she then shut it without making a sound. She didn’t know what to say, she just knew she was upset. For whatever reason, she’d assumed he would just sleep with her. The pallet seemed unneeded, not to mention entirely too far away.

Harry remained silent, keeping his expression neutral when she brought her gaze back to his. Her eyes were murky, but he saw the nerves she was trying to hide.

“You don’t…I mean…we could both sleep in the bed,” she offered impulsively.

She felt the heat begin to creep up her neck as she watched his eyes flick to the empty side of bed. The ridiculousness of her suggestion began to hit her as she stumbled on.

“I mean, you know…it seems silly…the bed is so big and…it would be more comfortable…” she trailed off, watching his jaw work as his eyes came back to her. She suddenly felt a bit stupid and more than a little pathetic that she was afraid to be in a bed alone when he was only a few steps away.

Remaining silent, Harry tried to force back the image of them together that surged afresh at her offer. His throat refused to work as he tried to swallow.

“The floor’s fine,” he replied finally, denying every instinct that was yelling for him to accept. He had to do what was best for her, not him.

“But…”

“Ginny, the floor is fine,” he insisted gently. Moving his hand to her hair, he leaned in, resting his lips against hers for a second before moving to her ear. “I want you to go to sleep, love. You’re exhausted,” he murmured.

Moving hand to her shoulder, he gently pushed her back onto the bed.

Ginny didn’t fight as she settled into the pillow, determined not to seem even more like a child than she knew she already did. Curling over onto her side, she tucked her hand under the pillow.

Stop being ridiculous, she told herself, keeping her eyes on him, he’s going to be maybe four steps away, not in another room.

Slipping off the bed, Harry sank down in front of her. He glided his hand down her hair, cupping her cheek for a second.

“Go to sleep, Gin.”

“Yes, Mum,” she murmured and he smiled as the sparkle shot into her eyes for a second.

Leaning forward, Harry watched her eyes fall shut before kissing her forehead. He then shifted his face down, their noses brushing as he rubbed his thumb over her cheek.

“I’ll be right back,” he breathed before standing.

Ginny watched him turn away and head to his bureau. He pulled out a t-shirt and pajama bottoms and then headed into the bathroom. As he walked, he pointed his wand at the lamps, covering them in darkness. When he reached the door, he glanced over at her for a second before disappearing inside.

Left alone, Ginny pulled the covers up over her shoulder, breathing in the scent of his sheets. They smelled like Harry and she smiled as she burrowed further into them. Her comfort was short lived as her eyes moved to the window. The tree branches were swaying in the rain outside and her smile slowly faded as she watched. Closing her eyes, she willed herself to ignore it. She tried to block out the sound of the steady rainfall but soon her body began to tremble in the dark as she bit her lip.

Get a grip, she told her self sternly. It’s not storming. It’s not storming and Harry’s right in the other room. No one can get to you…

You don’t know that, her mind responded.

Her eyes snapped open and she glanced around the dark room. The shadows seemed to come to life on the walls as she watched. Shutting her eyes, she tried not to associate the shadows with Malfoy’s dark figure as he’d approached her bed. She took a deep breath, letting it out slowly as she tried to force her body to relax.

As the minutes ticked by, the bed seemed to become larger and colder and the room grew much too dark. Despite her efforts, she felt it churning – the tension and the fear that she’d been attempting to ignore.

Angry at herself and determined to get her mind under control, Ginny sat up.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Across the country at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Dumbledore was in his office staring intently into the shimmering contents swirling within his Pensieve. His eyes were narrowed as he watched the scene playing within.

“…That was a mistake, love,” Malfoy growled. He advanced on Ginny quickly, backing her into the wall as he aimed his wand at her. Ginny threw her arms out and a bolt of power erupted from her hands, sending Malfoy flying across the room. He hit the wall with a smack while Ginny looked down at her hands in shock.

A second later she ran for the door as he raised his wand.

The Cruciatus curse he threw knocked her sideways and she slammed into the dresser. Her head hit the corner hard and she collapsed to the floor, twitching as she began to scream…


Frowning as the image faded away, Dumbledore prodded the memories with the tip of his wand. He leaned closer as another image he’d pulled unnoticed from Ginny’s mind began to take shape. His expression darkened as he watched. Wanting to be closer, he leaned down until he felt himself drop into the memory.

An instant later, he found himself standing in Harry’s flat. The sun was streaming in the window behind him, making the air hazy as he rounded the sofa. He clasped his hands behind his back as he observed the couple before him.

Harry and Ginny were entwined on the sofa, kissing hungrily. Ginny’s fingers tangled into Harry’s hair, pulling him closer as he stretched out on top of her. His hands slipped inside her shirt as they moved together.

“Merlin, Ginny,” Harry panted and she whimpered her agreement.

They continued kissing as the intensity increased. When Ginny arched up against him, Harry cried out, grabbing her thighs and repeating the motion as they moaned together.

Dumbledore felt little remorse about invading their private moment; he was too focused on what he feared was coming. He’d seen this in Ginny’s mind earlier, but wanted to make sure he understood what had happened.

He watched them as they moved together, their kisses becoming more desperate as the passion built, but then suddenly it all changed. Dumbledore’s eyes narrowed as they cried out again, this time in pain. He could see Ginny’s knuckles turning white where she clung to Harry’s shoulders, her eyes squeezed shut.

Dumbledore moved to the end of the sofa, his eyes now glued on Harry. He watched as Harry ripped his mouth away from Ginny’s and buried his face in her neck. His shout was muffled against her skin as his body trembled almost violently.

Although Ginny still had her eyes shut, too consumed by her own pain to notice, Dumbledore saw the way the furniture around them trembled, the blinds whipping up from the windows. He also saw the blackness of Harry’s eyes when he opened them a few moments later. It only lasted a few seconds before fading quickly as Harry spoke.

“Gin? Look at me, Ginny…”

Dumbledore glanced around as the scene faded away. It was quickly replaced by one of the other memories he had taken from Ginny. He found himself outside, his robe billowing slightly in the breeze as he stared out across a large lake. He watched the colors reflected in the water as the sun set behind it. After a moment he turned to his right, finally focusing on the person next to him. Ginny was standing with him, her arms wrapped around her stomach as she watched the sunset. She was several years younger, and he turned when he heard someone call her name. He stepped back as a young man with light brown hair came running up behind her.

“Where have you been?” the young man asked as he slipped his arms around her waist. “I was looking for you.”

“I was here,” Ginny replied simply as she continued to watch the sunset.

Dumbledore walked around them in a slow circle as they spoke and kissed. They were a perfect example of a young couple in love. His attention was drawn to the boy, his eyes shrewd as he studied his features. The youth’s light brown hair was windblown, and his brown eyes were full of affection as he gazed down at Ginny’s face while they spoke.

Dumbledore froze in his observation when the scene began to tremble. Startled, he looked around as the memory started to dissolve. It was like it a painting that had gotten wet, the colors beginning to mesh as they ran down the canvas…

Dumbledore’s frown deepened and his mind began to race as he watched the scene splinter and change.

A few minutes later Dumbledore stood at his window, the Pensieve tucked neatly back onto its shelf. He stroked Fawkes’ feathers absently as he stared unseeing at the Quidditch pitch, the stands barely visible through the rain. His expression grim, he eventually left the window and crossed to his desk. When he took a seat behind it, his posture slumped as he continued to contemplate what he had seen.

When he’d been summoned to the Burrow this evening, nothing could have prepared him for what he’d found. What he had seen and heard tonight had completely thrown him. Initially trying to remain optimistic, he’d hoped the signs were wrong. He’d hoped that everything that seemed to be happening was just coincidence, but he couldn’t ignore what he’s seen.

Resolutely, he straightened. He knew he didn’t have much time. Opening a drawer, he withdrew four sheets of crisp parchment. Picking up his large scarlet quill, he dipped it into his silver ink pot and began to write.

First, he penned a note to Arthur, Molly and Bill, who had returned to the Burrow after leaving Harry’s flat. Knowing they would still be up and talking, he didn’t bother sending a message to Bill’s house. He folded the parchment and set it aside before writing three more notes, each short and identical. He folded them neatly before sealing each one with his wand. The notes glowed gold for a second as his charm ensured that only the person they were addressed to would be able to open them. When he was finished, he pushed back his chair and headed across the room to give the letters to Fawkes. A moment later, the phoenix disappeared in a burst of flames to deliver them.

~..~..~..~..~..~

When Harry finished his nighttime routine, he returned to his room to find the lights back on. Ginny was sitting in bed with her arms wrapped around her knees and a book on the Chudley Cannons hovering magically in front of her face.

“You’re supposed to be sleeping,” he said as he walked to the bed.

Ginny just shrugged as she continued to read.

“Did you know that the first Cannon Seeker caught the Snitch in every game that season, resulting in a World Cup win and a record setting point total? I mean really, when did we get so horrible? Our Seeker couldn’t catch the Snitch if it was the size of a Quaffle and hovering in front of his face…”

She glanced up as Harry plucked the book out of the air and snapped it shut.

“Fascinating,” he said mildly as he set it down on the side table.

“I thought so,” she replied.

Her eyes went to the window for a second as she smoothed the blanket over her legs before meeting his gaze.

“Can’t sleep?” he asked as he sank down on the edge of the bed. Despite her attempt to act like she was fine, he could see her fear.

“I’m fine,” she replied nonchalantly.

“Liar.”

She looked down at her knees, pressing her lips together and plucking absently at the blanket.

“I’m fine,” she insisted softly.

She was lying and she knew it. She wasn’t fine…she wanted him to hold her and stay with her but she didn’t want to admit it. She didn’t want to be weak. She didn’t want Malfoy and some rain to be able to affect her so much.

“Then why aren’t you sleeping?” Harry questioned as he brought his hand to her hair.

“I don’t know,” she snapped, jerking her head away from his hand. “Maybe I don’t feel like sleeping.”

Harry froze in surprise as her eyes flashed angrily at him.

“I’m not a child, Harry,” she declared, startling herself with the venom in her voice.

Harry stared at her for a second, stung by her outburst.

“I know you’re not,” he began slowly, trying to figure out why she was suddenly angry with him.

“If I don’t want to sleep, I don’t have to sleep! If I want to sit here all night, you can’t stop me!”

“Ok,” he replied, speaking carefully as he watched her eyes.

She glared at him, her chest rising and falling and her cheeks flushed with anger.

“Is that what you want? Do you want to stay up? We can stay up…” he offered. “Whatever you want, Gin.”

The change in her was instant. Her shoulders slumped as the anger slipped away to be replaced by despair and uncertainty. Resting her elbows on her knees, she rubbed her face. Shaking her head, she moaned softly in frustration against her hands.

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled. “I don’t know what…” She shook her head again before running her fingers through her hair and staring at her knees. “I’m not angry with you…”

Tentatively, Harry brought his hand to her face and this time she leaned into it as he cupped her cheek.

“I don’t want to stay up…” Her eyes flicked to his for a second before they dropped back to the bedspread. “I was just waiting…I thought…maybe…”

“You thought what?” he prompted when she seemed to hesitate, her cheeks flushing.

“Nothing, I…it’s stupid,” she mumbled. “I’m fine.”

She started to slide under the covers but Harry halted her.

“Stop it, Ginny,” he said sternly and her brow furrowed in surprise.

“Stop what?”

He cocked his head, sighing slightly in frustration.

“Stop…this,” he said he brought his hand to her hair. “Stop trying to be strong, ok? You don’t have to do that. It’s ok to be hurting, or scared, or angry…or whatever it is that you’re feeling.”

She tried to look down and he bent his head, keeping her gaze. He shifted his hands; running his fingers up into her hair and tilting her head back slightly so that she had to look at him.

“I shouldn’t have snapped at you,” she said, the apology evident in her tone.

“I can handle it,” he said, smiling reassuringly before he kissed her gently. “What he did was unforgivable,” he reminded her softly. He leaned in and kissed her before resting his forehead against hers. “Unforgivable, Ginny.”

“I know.”

“Do you? That curse would send him to Azkaban. There’s a reason for that, love. Stop thinking you have to be better in an hour, ok?”

She bit her lip and nodded.

“Why are you awake, Ginny? Tell me what you wanted.”

Ginny pulled away and looked down. She picked at her nail until he closed his hand over hers and she took a breath.

“I thought that…maybe you could stay with me,” she said, her eyes embarrassed as they met his. “Just until I fall asleep,” she added quietly.

Harry leaned over and kissed her temple.

“Whatever you want, Gin,” he said.

Ginny took a shaky breath and laced her fingers through his. She tugged him onto the bed as she shifted over to give him room. He climbed up after her and stretched out so that he was lying next to her.

“That wasn’t that hard, was it?” he asked, giving her a lopsided grin as he met her gaze.

She laughed weakly before trailing off. Shaking her head, she scrunched her face up, trying to fight off the tears that suddenly threatened. Her hand flew to her eyes as the first sob slipped out.

Harry moved quickly, pulling her into his arms.

Ginny curled against him, her hand trapped between her face and his chest as she choked on the sobs she was trying to suppress.

Reaching up, Harry pulled her hand from her face, linking their fingers together.

“Let it go, love,” he whispered in her ear as he drew her hand to his lips. He kissed it softly while Ginny buried her face in his chest.

Giving in, she fisted her hand into his shirt as she wept.

Harry turned the lamp off, holding her protectively while she cried.

Eventually her tears slowed and she tucked her head under his chin. He stroked her hair absently as they lay together in the dark.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Hermione stood in front of the mirror as she brushed her teeth. Running her eyes down her body, she turned to the side. She eyed her flat stomach critically as she ran her hand over it. There was still no change and she huffed in disappointment as she shifted the toothbrush to the other side of her mouth. The door to the bathroom opened and she spun back toward the mirror. She followed Ron’s reflection as he entered with his dirty clothes. Her lips curled into a smile as she watched him dump them dutifully into the hamper. It had taken months for him to finally get into a habit of doing that.

On his way out he met her eyes in the mirror and smiled. Detouring on his way to the door he came up behind her, slipped his hands to her hips and dipped his head.

Instinctively, Hermione tilted her head to the side, giving him better access to her neck. He kissed her skin lightly before shifting his head back up. As he wrapped his arms completely around her stomach he rested his chin on the top of her head.

Remaining silent, Ron simply watched her reflection for a few moments before giving her a squeeze and heading back to the bedroom.

Hermione joined him several minutes later, pulling a brush through her unruly hair. Ron was in bed, his back against the headboard as he stared out the window.

She crossed to the bed, keeping her eyes on him as she moved. After depositing her brush on the bedside table and slipping off her robe, she climbed up onto the bed and crawled over to him. Ron shifted automatically, wrapping his arms around her as she settled into his lap. She laid her head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat for a few minutes while he went back to staring out the window.

“Are you ok?” she asked after a few minutes.

“Yeah,” he nodded, kissing the top of her head. “Rough day.”

She nodded her agreement and he shifted them down so that they were lying together on their sides. Hermione’s back was against his chest and his arm was wrapped protectively around her middle. While Hermione shut her eyes and settled into the pillow, Ron remained restless. Instead of relaxing and drifting off to sleep, he stayed awake, staring out the window.

After several minutes of silence Ron slipped his hand under her shirt, caressing her skin as he shifted closer.

“Hermione,” he whispered.

“Hmm…”

“We didn’t get to tell them,” he sighed regretfully and she smiled softly.

“It’s ok,” she murmured as she placed her hand over his. “Harry knows.”

“Yeah,” Ron replied, kissing her hair, “he does.”

They lay in silence for a few more minutes before Ron spoke again.

“Hermione,” he whispered.

“She’s going to be alright, Ron,” she mumbled.

“I know,” he nodded. “It’s not that. Do you feel like… something was off tonight? Like everyone knew something we didn’t?”

“Like what?” she sighed sleepily.

“I don’t know…It’s just…”

He trailed off, not sure what to say. A few moments passed before Hermione turned over so that she was facing him. Bringing her hand to his face, she cupped his cheek in her palm as she shut her eyes again.

“It’s just…” she echoed softly.

“They weren’t happy for them,” he stated softly. He watched Hermione’s brow furrow before she opened her eyes.

“What?”

“In the kitchen…when we found Harry and Ginny together,” he explained. “Mum, Dad…Bill. They weren’t happy.”

Hermione frowned, blinking quickly as she remembered.

“No, they weren’t,” she admitted softly, replaying the scene in her head. “That was a bit odd.”

“And what about Bill,” Ron continued, his eyes flashing. “What was wrong with him?”

“He was just worried about Ginny,” Hermione assured him.

“No. You didn’t see him,” Ron insisted shaking his head. “When we were at the Burrow, he blew Harry across the room!”

Hermione furrowed her brow and shifted her body, propping her head on her hand.

“With magic?”

Of course with magic,” Ron huffed and then flopped onto his back. “How else would he blow Harry across the room?”

“Well…why would Harry let him do that?” she asked in confusion.

“He didn’t let him, he was…” Ron paused as he thought back. He remembered Harry kneeling over Ginny, but he had no idea why he wouldn’t have blocked Bill’s magic. He should have blocked it easily. “I don’t know…the whole thing is strange.”

“I’m sure everyone was just stressed, love,” Hermione said. “With Harry’s power, his past…maybe Bill just got a little overprotective.” she suggested moving her fingers to his lips. “Like you do.”

Ron kissed her fingers, causing her to smile. He turned his head toward her, watching her silently for a moment.

“Maybe,” he admitted softly. “But it still seemed different.”

The conversation lapsed into silence. Hermione lowered her head back to the pillow, snuggling into his body as he wrapped his arm around her.

“We’ll discuss it again if it’s still bothering you tomorrow, alright?” Hermione offered drowsily after a few moments of silence.

“Ok,” he murmured. “Love you…”

“I love you too.”

~..~..~..~..~..~

When Harry was confident that Ginny had fallen asleep, he carefully slipped his arm out from under her. She shifted, mumbling as she settled onto the pillow and he slipped from the bed. He readjusted the covers and then leaned forward, kissing her temple. After watching her sleep for a few more seconds, he rounded the bed and sank down to the floor in front of the window.

Ginny’s eyes opened and she rolled over, watching him silently from the bed.

As he did every other night, Harry sat cross legged for about ten minutes as he centered his mind. He’d considered skipping it and just remaining on the bed, but after what had happened today he knew it would be a bad idea. For several minutes he gave in to it all, letting his anger and frustration with himself and Malfoy roll around in his mind. He replayed the events of the evening, going over what had been done and said.

What was going on with Bill?

He’d acted like a completely different person, even before the attack. And the same was true with Ginny’s parents. Harry kept picturing their faces, pale and drawn. Understandably, they were all worried about Ginny, but it seemed off somehow.

Knowing he wouldn’t get any answers tonight, he pushed his unease away with a sigh and focused solely on stabilizing his insides. He categorically and systematically shut down his emotions until he felt his power begin to settle. When he felt the familiar blank sensation wash over him, he opened his eyes.

Standing up, he walked to the camp bed and sank down onto it. He glanced up at the bed briefly before lying down. He felt drained and as soon as his head hit the pillow, he shut his eyes, praying he wouldn’t have any dreams tonight.

Back in the bed, Ginny was tense. She felt exposed - too out in the open for comfort. Her disappointment and nerves had surged when Harry had headed for his blankets on the floor instead of just returning to the bed.

At the sound of another soft roll of thunder, she bit her lip to stifle a curse. Rolling back over, she stared at Harry, who was asleep on the floor. Although he was only a few steps away, it seemed much farther. She shut her eyes, trying to go to sleep but it was no use. Her body shivering instinctively, she seemed unable to hear anything beyond the rain outside.

After a few more minutes, she gave up and slipped out of her bed. The fact that this might not be a good idea flashed briefly in her mind, but was replaced almost instantly with the need to feel safe.

She padded over to where Harry was sleeping and sank to her knees beside him. His makeshift bed was really only big enough for one and she hesitated. Spurred on by another distant role of thunder, she lifted his blankets and slipped into the camp bed with him, trying not to wake him.

Harry, who had just barely drifted off to sleep, awoke when he felt a hand slide across his chest. He didn’t think - he just reacted, his eyes snapping open as he shoved the body away.

Ginny winced as she landed on her back, her elbow hitting the floor with a smack. Her eyes widened when she was suddenly staring at the end of Harry’s wand and she looked up at his face. She watched the recognition and surprise flash through his eyes as they focused on her.

“Hi,” she murmured sheepishly as she watched his body relax and his wand drop to his side.

“Hi,” he echoed as he sank back down onto the blankets.

She saw the question in his eyes and shifted toward him. Almost without thinking he wrapped his arm around her and pulled her up against him.

“Shite, I’m sorry, Ginny. What are you doing down here?” he asked softly. “Are you ok?”

She simply kissed him in response. Her lips shook slightly as they pushed against his.

“I missed you…”

“Did you?” he smiled and she nodded.

Beginning to run his hand up and down her trembling back, he watched her closely. He knew she’d really moved because she was frightened and he kissed her gently for a few seconds as she shifted closer.

“Ok,” he whispered and she looked up at him. He smiled at her uncertain expression and ran his thumb down her cheek. “I think we’ll fit much better on the bed, don’t you?”

Ginny smiled in relief as he pulled her up, linking his fingers through hers as he led her back to the bed. Climbing up she began to crawl to the far side but then hesitated. To worn out to care how needy she seemed, she looked back to make sure he was following. When he climbed in after her, she slipped under the covers.

When they were settled, they lay facing each other on their sides. Their heads were close on their pillows as they stared at each other. Wanting contact, Ginny’s hand slid to his where it rested between them and she linked their fingers together.

“I’m sorry, Gin,” he breathed, squeezing her hand.

He pulled her hand to him and she moved, shifting toward him. He released her hand and draped his arm around her waist, pulling her against him.

“We’re going to find him soon, ok?”

Ginny nodded before tucking her head into his neck and curling into him.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she mumbled sleepily. “I just want to sleep…”

“Ok,” he agreed, kissing her hair.

Slipping her arm under his, she wrapped around his back as she burrowed further into his body and breathed him in. He was warm and safe and she fell asleep quickly as she let her exhaustion finally take over.

Harry stayed awake for a while, watching the rain fall outside the window. Although it continued to rain steadily, it didn’t seem like it was going to get any worse and he finally drifted off to sleep as well.

~..~..~..~..~..~

The door to the Room of Requirement opened to reveal a man in his thirties. His messy red hair was streaked with natural highlights from the sun. It was obvious he spent most of his time outdoors, the freckles on his skin so densely packed they practically joined together to create a permanent tan.

He came in, shrugging his cloak off as he surveyed the room. Half of his family was huddled in front of the fire, talking quietly. Frowning at their stricken faces, he draped his cloak over the back of a chair and headed toward them.

“Is someone going to tell me why I came halfway around the world in the middle of the night?”

He watched their heads snap around. Under different circumstances he might have grinned at their expressions, but something in their eyes froze him in place.

“Oh, Charlie!” his mother cried as she pushed past Bill and crossed the room at a run.

She knocked him back a step as her arms went around him, pulling him into a tight hug. He embraced her, frowning as her body shook against him. He looked up at his dad and brother as they came up behind her.

“What’s happened?” he asked worriedly. “Dumbledore’s note didn’t say, it just…”

He trailed off as the door opened again and they all looked over. Molly pulled back, wiping her eyes as Charlie turned. His stomach filled with dread as he saw who was entering. It couldn’t be good if he was here too.

“Remus,” he nodded.

~..~..~..~..~..~..~..~..

The Hogwarts castle loomed large and dark as the wizard made his way through the gates. He ducked his head, scowling against the drizzle as he ascended the familiar front steps of his former school. He hadn’t been here for several years, and being summoned in the middle of the night did nothing to help his mood. The large oak doors opened automatically when he reached them and he slipped inside.

A house elf appeared at his elbow, bowing low as he held his hands up to receive the wet cloak. The man slipped it off, not bothering to look as he dropped it and headed resolutely up the large marble staircase. He’d just reached the landing of the first floor when Minerva McGonagall came striding around the corner.

“Oh good, you’re here,” she said, slowing to a stop when she saw him. She took in his sullen expression before she spun on her heel and headed back the way she came. “This way…”

Pulling his dark robe closer, the wizard glowered as he followed her through the corridors. They climbed the stairs in silence, traveling through the dark halls until they reached the tapestry of Barnabus the Barmy on the seventh floor. He watched the trolls in the tapestry rebel against their dancing lessons while Minerva passed the adjacent wall three times.

When the door to the Room of Requirement appeared, the man crossed to her. He nodded curtly as she pulled the door open and then he slipped inside.

Minerva pursed her lips and headed back down the hall, her hands clasped tightly in front of her.

Inside the room, the man remained unnoticed by the others for a few moments as he assessed the room.

The chamber had taken on the qualities of an intimate meeting room. There was an oval table in the center, complete with seven chairs spaced evenly around it. The walls were bare and there was a large fireplace on the far side of the room. There was a fire crackling in the grate, throwing light around the walls and causing shadows to flick across the faces of the other occupants.

His black eyes narrowed instinctively as his gaze fell on the Weasleys. The passing years had done nothing to erase his utter dislike for them.

Molly and Arthur were sitting at the table, speaking softly and looking pale and drawn. Behind them were their two eldest sons. Charlie was gesturing angrily as he spoke to Bill, who nodded his agreement to whatever was being said.

The wizard’s expression twisted into distaste as the final person in the room caught his attention. Remus Lupin was standing at a small table beside the fireplace. He poured himself a drink from the crystal decanter before crossing resolutely toward Charlie and Bill and joining the discussion.

Of course the werewolf is here, the wizard thought rolling his eyes as he crossed to the table.

The legs of the chair dragged loudly across the floor as he pulled it out, causing the room to fall silent as everyone looked over. He smirked as their faces fell when they saw it was him.

“Evening, Severus,” Remus greeted him stiffly.

“Lupin,” he sneered as he took a seat at the table.

~..~..~..~..~..~

A knock echoed through the silent office, breaking Dumbledore out of his thoughts. He looked up from the small envelope he’d been slowly twirling within his fingers. As the door opened, he stood up and tucked the letter into his robes.

“They’re all here, Albus,” Minerva McGonagall said as she regarded him from the doorway.

“Thank you, Minerva,” he nodded as he crossed the room.

She led the way along the corridor, her steps brisk and her back straight as her dark green robes rustled around her. Her beady eyes shot to Dumbledore’s face every few steps and she pursed her lips, trying to refrain from asking questions.

The wrinkles around her lips increased as she noticed the knowing smile flick across his face.

“Ask your question, Minerva,” he said simply.

She pulled up abruptly, crossing her arms over the chest as he turned toward her.

“Alright, is this Order business?” she asked suspiciously.

He regarded her silently for a few seconds before continuing down the hall.

“In a way,” he answered.

She huffed irritably as she followed.

“Well, are you going to tell me what it’s about?” she demanded incredulously, unused to being left out of things.

That, I’m afraid, I cannot do at the moment,” he replied as he came to a stop in front of the blank wall across from the Barnabus tapestry. Turning toward her, he took in her stiff posture and angry expression. He could see her mind working as she tried to figure out what was going on. “If it becomes necessary, or a problem develops I assure you, Minerva, you will be the first person I consult.”

Narrowing her eyes, she studied him for a second before nodding sharply. She knew better than to question his reasoning or demand answers, so she simply spun on her heel and headed back down the hall. In her experience, there were only two individuals the people in that room had in common, Voldemort and Harry Potter. She shook her head, hoping whatever had prompted the meeting didn’t have anything to do with Harry.

He’s been through enough.

The gathering of wizards fell silent when Dumbledore entered the Room of Requirement. Taking his place at the head of the table, he prompted the others to find seats with a wave of his hand.

Snape sat to Dumbledore’s left while Remus took the seat to his right. Charlie chose a spot next to his parents but Bill stubbornly chose to stand. He leaned back against the wall, his jaw clenched as he stared intently at Dumbledore.

“I’m sure most of you are anxious to know why you’re here,” Dumbledore said as he looked around the table. “Given the late hour, I won’t waste time with pleasantries.”

“Several weeks ago we made the decision to allow Mr. Potter to guard Miss Weasley. At the time it seemed warranted, despite the concerns that were expressed,” he said, looking pointedly at Bill who seemed to be struggling to hold his tongue. “Tonight I became aware of a potentially disastrous situation developing. As I’m sure you all know by now, there was an attack on Miss Weasley earlier this evening while she was visiting the Burrow.”

Remus’ stomach sank as Dumbledore explained what had happened at the Weasleys’ home. He ran his hand wearily over his face when he heard about the tracer they missed. As Dumbledore began to describe what he saw in Ginny’s memory of the event, Bill spoke up.

“Did Malfoy say anything?” Bill asked his eyes cautiously optimistic. Dumbledore shook his head and Bill sagged back against the wall.

“Unfortunately that particular memory was of little help to me,” Dumbledore sighed. “Bill, if you could explain what happened when you entered Ginny’s room please,” he added and Bill nodded, his eyes narrowing at the memory.

“Harry reached the door first and tried to get in,” he explained. “He couldn’t open it because of the seal Malfoy had cast on it…”

His eyes moved to the fire as he thought back.

“It all happened so fast…I don’t know exactly what Harry used, he just stepped back and threw a spell that blasted the door open. When we ran in Harry threw another spell but Malfoy disappeared and it hit the wall instead. Ginny was screaming…”

He trailed off as he pictured his sister shaking on the floor. His chest began to ache as he pictured her shaking over the toilet, and how weak she’d been in Harry’s flat. He hadn’t thought he would ever see her like that again.

“Damn it,” he muttered in frustration.

Shaking his head, he raked his fingers through his hair as he tried to get the sound of her cries out of his mind. With a huff of frustration he crossed his arms over his chest and brought his eyes to the group.

“Harry reached her first,” he continued, “but then seemed to falter. He collapsed in front of her…grabbing his head. He was shaking. His eyes were glued on her as they began to turn black…”

“What do you mean they turned black?” Charlie interrupted. He shot an insistent glance at his father, demanding clarification.

“I mean they turned black,” Bill replied. “Harry collapsed in front of her, grabbed his head and his eyes began to turn…”

“Shite,” Charlie exclaimed softly, running a hand through his hair.

“He blew a bloody hole in the wall,” Bill added ominously. “Accidentally.

“Although to be fair,” Molly spoke up, her face pale but her voice clear, “that spell was aimed at Malfoy.”

Dumbledore nodded and then took up where Bill had left off. He explained what had happened after Harry left the Burrow with Ginny. Briefly he touched on what had been discussed at Harry’s flat, namely Ginny’s curious aversion to storms and the apparent headaches she and Harry had been having.

While Dumbledore spoke, Remus rose from the table. He crossed to the fireplace, rested his arm on the mantle and stared silently into the flames as he listened.

Bill stayed against the wall with his arms folded over his chest. He seemed to become more and more agitated as Dumbledore spoke. For the moment though, he opted to remain silent, letting Charlie serve up the outraged responses.

“There was little else to be done at that point, so we left,” Dumbledore concluded.

“Are you kidding me?” Charlie demanded as he shot out of his chair. “You left her there!? She’s still with him, after…after what you’ve seen?” he sputtered furiously as his gaze swung to Bill.

Molly reached out and took hold of his wrist. Surprisingly, he obeyed her pull and sank back into his chair, glowering at his father as he did so.

“You left her there?” he muttered under his breath in disbelief and Arthur nodded silently.

“I assure you,” Dumbledore said, bringing Charlie’s attention to him, “we would not have left her had she been in any immediate danger. Although from what I’ve discovered, I do fear for her safety…”

The room looked expectantly at Dumbledore, waiting for him to elaborate. Remaining silent, he stood up and slipped his hand into the pocket of his robes. He drew out a dark blue bottle and a small bowl. After setting them on the table, he pointed his wand at the Pensieve and it grew instantly to its original size.

“Before we left, Miss Weasley granted me access to her mind to view the attack,” Dumbledore said as he uncorked the bottle and poured its shimmering contents into the bowl. “Although she is unaware, I took the liberty of searching out a few other recent events.”

“What?” Arthur asked in surprise. “You didn’t say…”

Dumbledore nodded and raised his hand. “I realize this was done without permission, but it was necessary. If you would all gather around, I believe it will be easier to show you what I found, rather than try to explain.”

Warily, the group moved to stand at the edge of the table, creating a tight semicircle around the shallow basin. On Dumbledore’s orders they pointed their wands into the bowl and traveled into Ginny’s memories.

They emerged several minutes later, confused and frightened by what they had seen. Bill and Charlie exchanged dark glances while Arthur led a shaking Molly back to her chair.

“What was that?” Remus asked as he returned to his seat.

“That, Lupin,” Snape replied as he sank into his chair, “was your Auror leaping right over the boundaries of professionalism. No wonder he …”

“That’s enough,” Dumbledore interrupted as he sat down, looking pointedly at Snape. Folding his hands on the table, Dumbledore suddenly looked much older and more tired than usual. “It seems obvious that something is going wrong. Harry’s power is surging…the protective magic is splintering…” he shook his head, as though trying to figure out how that could be possible.

Charlie pointed his finger at Dumbledore and leaned across the table. “Didn’t we say this whole thing was a bad idea? Didn’t we warn you about this?” He slammed his hands on the table and rocked his chair back. “Christ, we never should have let you talk us into assigning him to her.”

“We had no idea this would happen,” Dumbledore replied calmly, although it was apparent that his patience was beginning to fray.

“We knew it was an altered charm! We knew how powerful he was,” Charlie snapped angrily. “We should have known something could go wrong.”

“Memories do not come back,” Dumbledore replied. “The charm can’t be broken.”

“You know that’s not true!” Bill replied, shoving away from the wall.

“Pointing fingers, after you all agreed to this ridiculous plan in the first place,” Snape drawled from his seat, “is a waste of my time.”

“Well then, leave,” Bill snapped. He settled back against the wall, folding his arms over his chest. “You aren’t needed here anyway.”

“Aren’t I?” Snape replied, arching his brow.

“What’s done is done,” Dumbledore interrupted, bringing the argument to an abrupt end. “We need to deal with what’s happening. Tomorrow, Harry will be reassigned and they will be separated,” Dumbledore explained.

“Bollocks, let’s go now,” Charlie announced.

“No,” Dumbledore replied, shaking his head. “They won’t understand the urgency. I think it’s safe to say from what we experienced tonight, neither is going to be agreeable to the separation.”

Bill huffed knowingly from his place against the wall. “The honorable prick isn’t going to just leave her,” he noted.

“Potter never was good at doing what he was told,” Snape added. He received nasty looks from most of the table but just smirked, unaffected by the expected response.

“It shouldn’t be that hard,” Charlie argued. “He’s doing a job. If his orders change, he’ll leave.”

“I’m not so sure,” Molly replied, shaking her head slowly. “You weren’t there. You didn’t see them. Harry barely let us near her. And Ginny…” she trailed off as her eyes filled with tears. She could still hear her daughter’s words as she had clung to Harry.

“I won’t leave him…I won’t…please don’t…take him…I need…need him…”

“You didn’t see her, Charlie,” Molly whispered tremulously. “You didn’t hear her. I swear it was just like…” Falling silent, she shut her eyes as she remembered.

“We have to erase you.”

Ginny’s head shot up. “What?”

Dumbledore just looked back steadily at her although she saw the faint echo of pity behind his spectacles.

“Alter your memories so that it’s as if you never met. It’s the only way to protect you…to protect him.”

Molly’s eyes were glued on her daughter as Dumbledore spoke to her. She saw her body begin to tremble as she shook her head. She could see Ginny’s mind working, her skin flushing with mounting despair. When their eyes met, Molly didn’t know what to do. She didn’t know what to say to comfort her, so she just sat there, silent and frozen.

Ginny’s eyes filled with disbelief at her mother’s acceptance of the plan while Molly’s filled with tears. A second later, Ginny shot up from her chair.

“No.”

“He can’t control it,” Dumbledore tried to explain. “He doesn’t know how to control it. He will kill you… and anyone who tries to protect you. We can barely contain him now and that’s only because for the moment, he doesn’t know how to use it, but it won’t be long.”

“Sweetheart, it’s the only way,” Arthur said gently as he walked toward her.

“No, it’s not!” Ginny protested, her eyes furious and desperate as she glared at her father. Her eyes returned to Molly’s, searching for an ally. “There’s something else. There has to be something else…something we haven’t…”

“There’s nothing left to try,” Dumbledore interrupted.

Ginny shook her head as she headed for the door. Arthur’s arm shot out, catching her as she passed him.

“We can’t let you leave, sweetheart,” he said. He moved in front of her, blocking her way to the door. “We don’t have much time.”

Ginny gaped at him as her eyes filled with tears of anger.

“You wouldn’t do this to me,” she breathed incredulously as she searched his eyes. They were filled with remorse but also with determination. Choking on a sob as she realized he would, she tried to shove past him. His grip on her arm tightened and in a matter of seconds, Ginny was in a rage, demanding that he let her go as she tried to jerk away.

When he refused to release her, Ginny flew into hysterics. Her cries became screams as she struggled more desperately. Arthur fought to hold her, trying to catch her arm as she swung at him.

Molly had a hand over her mouth, tears streaming down her face as she watched.

Having heard Ginny’s cries from the corridor, Bill and Charlie ran into the room, passing their mother on their way to help.

Ginny saw them coming and struggled harder, pounding her fist against her father’s chest.

“LET ME GO!” Ginny screamed as she fought them, trying to get to the door. Bill caught her around the waist and hauled her away from their father.

Twisting and kicking as she sobbed, Ginny threw her arms out. Her wandless magic sent all three Weasley men flying away from her and she dropped to the ground. Scrambling up, she ran for the door as Dumbledore raised his wand.

“No!” Bill called as he raised his own wand. “
Accio, Ginny!”

With a cry, Ginny flew backwards into Bill’s arms. He spun her around and in an instant she was wrapped tightly in his embrace. She was pinned against his chest, unable to move.

Screeching in desperation, she tried futilely to kick at him as Charlie came up behind her. Placing one hand gently on her shoulder, he began to stroke her hair with the other, trying to soothe her.

“It’s ok, Ginny,” Charlie said softly into her ear.

“It is not…ok,” she sobbed, kicking her legs back, trying to hit him. “It’s not ok! It’s not…it’s…”

“Come on, Ginny,” he soothed, ignoring her heels when they connected with his shins. “We wouldn’t hurt you. We protect you…”

“I won’t leave him…I won’t,” she wailed into Bill’s shoulder. She tried to keep struggling but he was too strong and he held her in place easily.

Please,” she sobbed in defeat as she became still. “…please don’t take him.”

“He’ll kill you if we don’t,” Charlie murmured in her ear, his voice filled with sadness.

“I don’t care…”

We care, Ginny,” Charlie told her firmly. He stroked her hair while Bill kissed her forehead. “We care. And don’t you think…don’t you think Harry cares?”

Ginny whimpered at his name, her body beginning to shake.

“Don’t you think Harry needs you to stay alive?” he asked her softly. “What happens to him if he kills you?”

Ginny trembled, surrounded by the protective warmth of her brothers. They spoke to her softly, trying to reassure her, reminding her how much they all needed her alive…

“He would want you to be alive, Ginny…even if it meant you couldn’t be with him…”

Misery surged quickly within her, overwhelming her with its intensity as she thought of her future if they did this. She suddenly couldn’t breathe, her knees buckling as she wept into Bill’s chest.

Bill’s arms tightened as he felt her begin to collapse. Murmuring her name, he sank down to the floor with her. He looked to his parents for help and they crossed to them quickly. They knelt around her while Ginny curled over, clutching her stomach as her body shook with sobs. Arthur glided his hand over her hair while Molly rubbed circles on her back.

“Please,” Ginny pleaded softly. Her eyes were hollow as she looked up at her father. She reached for his hand, clutching it tightly. “We can try something else…we can try…”

Her face crumpled before she looked down, lowering her forehead to the floor as she broke down. “Daddy…” she choked out.

He reached down and pulled her into his arms.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, sweetheart,” he whispered brokenly into her ear as he rocked back and forth. Ginny turned her head, resting her cheek on her father’s chest as she met her mother’s gaze.

“Don’t do this,” she begged brokenly. “Please don’t take him…I…I need him…”


Arthur’s soothing hand on her arm brought Molly back to the present. She wiped her eyes quickly. Ginny had never accepted it. She had continued to plead before she began fighting again. She had fought them all the way up to the moment they performed the spell, trying to make them find something else.

Dumbledore was speaking and Molly blinked quickly as she tried to catch up.

“From what we’ve seen, the feelings between them seem to be rather…deep. I fear it may be the growing emotions that are causing the problem. We’ve seen what it’s doing to Harry. I’m afraid our only option right now is to separate them,” Dumbledore concluded with a sigh.

“Right, we’re getting her out of there before things get worse,” Charlie announced. “Before he hurts her.”

“Exactly,” Bill chimed in. “We couldn’t control him then, we would have no chance now that he’s even stronger.”

“Maybe, but like you say, he’s stronger” Remus pointed out testily. “It could be different…he’s different. He’s spent years learning to control it.”

“Yeah, because we erased her,” Bill reminded him in exasperation. “You know what he was like! If he gets his memories back, we could be right back where we started!”

“Yes, but…”

“Oh, come on, Remus!” Charlie exclaimed. “Do you honestly believe that if he got his memories back now that he could control it?”

Remus didn’t answer. He clenched his jaw and moved his gaze to the fire, considering.

“I don’t know,” he answered finally. “But the point is we don’t know what would happen.”

“No, the point is that we’re not going to find out,” Arthur interrupted, finally breaking his silence. His voice was hard, his expression unyielding as he stared at Remus. “I’m not taking that chance with her life.”

“And what about Harry’s life?” Remus asked angrily.

“What about it?” Snape replied.

Remus began to respond but Dumbledore spoke first.

“We don’t have time for arguments,” he declared sternly. “Our concern is everyone’s safety. We need to separate them and fix what is breaking.”

“What does that mean?” Molly asked. “Another charm?”

“If that’s what’s needed, then yes,” Dumbledore answered. “We’ll have to wait and see.”

“Separate them…fix what is…” Remus shook his head. He chuckled in disbelief before pushing his chair back and standing up. Resting his hands on the table he met Dumbledore’s gaze.

“We don’t need another charm. We need to stop playing with their lives,” he proclaimed. Pushing off of the table, his gaze swung to Arthur and Molly. “You know they were never the same after…we can’t do it again. We can’t just magic it away because it’s not working. What we need is a solution to the problem!”

“You know there isn’t one,” Dumbledore said, his voice betraying his frustration.

“Sure there is,” Snape commented dryly, causing all eyes to fly to him.

“Oh, brilliant, Remus snapped. “And what would you do, Severus…kill him?”

“I think I’ve made my opinion perfectly clear in the past,” Snape replied, his eyes narrowed as he held Remus’ gaze. “Evil is evil, no matter how heroic the packaging.”

“It would…solve the problem,” Bill noted grimly.

All eyes swung to Bill. For a moment no one spoke, stunned into silence that he would even consider it. Charlie narrowed his eyes, staring hard at his brother when Bill’s gaze met his.

“Are you mad!?” Remus exclaimed, breaking the silence.

“We have to…protect Ginny,” Charlie added slowly, as though testing the idea as he spoke.

“And what about Harry!?” Remus demanded as he swung toward him.

“He’s a danger to everyone, not just her,” Bill exclaimed, taking a step away from the wall.

“Well it’s good to see that everyone’s judgment isn’t clouded by devotion to the Golden Boy,” Snape said smugly.

“You shut up, Severus!” Remus yelled, pointing at him as he kept his eyes on Bill. “Harry is not dangerous!”

“He is when he loves her!” Bill bellowed back.

“Arthur, get your sons under control,” Remus ordered as he swung around.

Arthur remained silent, his eyes going back and forth between his sons and Remus. He had his arms around Molly who was shaking with tears against his shoulder.

Throwing up his arms, Remus turned back to face Bill.

As they continued to argue heatedly over how best to handle the situation, Dumbledore pulled the letter from his pocket. He frowned at it, allowing the bickering to continue for a few moments as he contemplated his options one last time. Finally, he stood up.

“Enough,” he commanded.

The angry voices tapered off as all eyes moved to him.

“We are not killing anyone.”

He glanced down at the letter for a few seconds before addressing Remus.

“You know we will always continue to try to help Harry. But you also know that with what we have seen here, they must be separated. It’s the only way to determine the damage. The only way to ensure that it doesn’t get worse before we decide how to fix it.”

Remus stared at him for a moment before he relented. Raking his fingers through his hair, he nodded with a sigh. He shook his head and then sank back into his chair. Resting his forehead in his hands, he stared at the table as Dumbledore spoke.

“We have never understood exactly what happened,” he said. “We couldn’t have foreseen this, but now that we’re here…the best we can do is stop it before things spiral out of control.”

~..~..~..~..~..~

Ginny was running.

Her heart was pounding as her steps echoed around her, bouncing off the dark rock walls. She glanced over her shoulder into the darkness. She couldn’t see him but she knew he was there. If she stopped, the monster would catch her.

Bounding around a corner, her hand hit the wall to steady herself as her bare feet slipped on the damp floor. Tears stung her eyes as she choked back a sob and she tried to run faster.

She felt like she was running in place, forever trying to move but unable to get anywhere. Finally she erupted from the tunnel and skidded to a stop. Her heart lurched when she realized she was back where she started. She stood panting and trembling as a cloaked figure materialized in front of her, pulling back his hood.

The wizard’s eyes were gleaming at her and she took a step back, looking around for a way out but finding nothing beyond the familiar dark stone walls.

“I’ve missed you,” he whispered, his voice a deceiving caress as he followed her retreat.

The light from the torches gleamed off of his hair as he moved forward. He raised his wand and Ginny ran, her nightgown flowing behind her. She heard him throw a spell as she stumbled, tripping over a rock and tumbling to the ground.

The world trembled around her. There was only darkness, fear and pain as her surroundings began to dissolve, twisting and distorting…she was in her bedroom and a classroom and a cavern all at once as she saw disjointed and mixed up images and people.

She couldn’t stop screaming…she was in pain, her body trembling as he came in and out of her vision.

He was laughing and casting curses, but she couldn’t get away because he kept shifting, his body blurring and his image continuously changing from person to person…

Distantly, she heard Harry call her name. Dragging her eyes open, she found him crouched over her. His eyes were wide with fear and pain as he held his arm and stared at something over her shoulder…


Harry woke up with a start.

He blinked quickly and glanced down to find Ginny shaking in his arms. Her face was streaked with tears as she mumbled, her body twitching. Glancing at the window, he expected to find it storming but instead he found that the rain had passed. The clouds had cleared considerably and he could see patches of stars peeking through. With a frown of confusion, he looked back down at her.

Realizing she must be having a nightmare, Harry shook her gently.

“Ginny,” he called softly. “Ginny, wake up.”

Ginny’s eyes flew open and she cried out as she jerked awake. She immediately tried to push him off, whimpering and fighting him as he attempted to hold her in place.

Rolling her quickly onto her back, Harry trapped her on the bed with his body as she struggled.

Calling her name, he waved his hand at the lamp. Light flooded the room in an instant and Ginny blinked rapidly.

“Hey,” Harry whispered as her eyes focused on him. Her eyes widened as she became still beneath him. Bringing his hand up, he wiped the tears from her cheeks. “Bad dream?” he asked.

“I…I guess,” she murmured, bringing her own hand up to wipe at her face.

Her breathing was still unsteady and her fingers were shaking. Harry slid off her and pulled her over so that she was facing him on her side.

“Shite, I…I don’t…God, what’s wrong with me?”

Harry’s hand slid into her hair, cupping the nape of her neck.

“Nothing,” he told her, his voice firm as he held her gaze. “Nothing is wrong with you, Ginny,” he repeated.

Rolling onto his back, Harry shifted her so that she had her cheek resting against his shoulder. She brought her hand to his chest, her fingers absently stroking his collarbone.

“Want to tell me about it?” he asked softly as he ran his fingers through her hair and she took in a shaky breath.

“I… I don’t really remember…I just…I know I was terrified. It was a dungeon or a cave or something…and a snake…and Malfoy…or…I don’t…” she trailed off as her head ached for a second.

Harry pulled her closer when he felt the shiver run through her body.

“I think you were there,” she continued shakily,” or…I don’t know…I remember thinking you were…you were going to die…” she trailed off as her chin began to tremble.

“No one’s going to die,” he said softly.

“Promise?”

Protectiveness surged within him at her whispered question. Slipping his fingers under her chin, Harry tilted her head up so that he could see her eyes. They were filled with tears and he kissed her forehead.

“I promise, Ginny. No one is going to die.”

Nestling back into the crook of his neck, Ginny shut her eyes and tried to erase the images of her dream. Eventually she drifted back to sleep, knowing that, for now, she was safe in his arms.


~..~..~..~..~..~..~..


Chapter 10: Protect Me
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]





…tap, tap, tap…

Hermione rolled over, burrowing further under the covers. Beside her, Ron continued to sleep soundly, his snores mixing with the persistent tapping on the window.

…tap, tap…tap, tap, tap…

Sighing, Hermione reluctantly dragged her eyes open. As Ron’s sleeping face came into focus, she huffed at the fact that he was, as always, completely unaffected by early owls. Knowing the message would be for him, she began pushing on his shoulder.

“Geroff,” he mumbled into his pillow, shifting away from her.

“Ron,” she urged, shoving his shoulder harder as the pecking continued. “Owl…”

When her fingers moved up to his face, pressing into his cheek and over his nose, Ron’s eyes finally flicked open. With a groan, he caught her hand and rolled toward her.

Flinging his arm over her stomach, he curled into her body.

“Early…” he mumbled as he buried his face into her neck.

“Owl, Ron,” Hermione repeated, shoving him off and rolling away.

As the repetitive tap, tap, tap, finally registered in his mind, Ron groaned again. Throwing off his covers, he dragged himself out of bed and stomped to the window.

“Bloody bird,” he grumbled as he shoved the window up.

Untying the parchment from the Ministry owl’s leg, he unrolled it with a yawn.

The owl fluttered its feathers, eyeing him haughtily before launching off of the windowsill and up into the sky.

Scratching his neck, Ron read the message and then smiled before heading back to the bed. When he reached it, he climbed up and crawled over to Hermione. Slipping under the covers, he buried his face into her neck with a sigh as he draped his arm and leg across her.

“Guess what?” he smiled against her skin.

“Hm,” she replied softly, placing her hand over his where it rested on her stomach.

“I don’t have to go to work this morning,” he whispered.

“Why not?”

“Meeting this afternoon,” he explained, slipping his hand under her shirt. “So I have nothing to do for hours,” he added, caressing her skin.

“Mm,” she smiled as he began to nibble her ear. “Not fair…”

“Floo in sick,” he suggested.

“Can’t,” she replied regretfully. “I have things to do…”

“What things?” he asked, his voice muffled as he burrowed his face into her neck.

“Important things…” she replied, sighing as she shifted her head to give him better access.

He smiled against her skin, knowing he could get her to give in.

“They can wait,” he said between kisses. “Especially since you’re very sick, luv.”

“Am I?”

“Oh, yes, dreadfully ill,” he explained gravely as he looked up at her, catching her lips curl into a small smile. Smoothing her sleep mussed hair away from her face, he kissed her lightly. “Your skin’s all flushed…I think you may have a fever,” he added against her mouth. “I have to take care of you.”

“That’s very nice of you,” she replied.

“I thought so,” he agreed with a grin.

Laughing softly, Hermione opened her eyes and gave up her attempt to sleep as Ron shifted on top of her.

~..~..~..~..~..~

As the morning dawned, Ginny slept peacefully on her back, her face turned toward Harry. During the night he’d rolled onto his stomach and was now sharing her pillow. His face was close to hers and he had one arm draped across her stomach, his hand wrapped protectively around her hip.

He was dreaming wonderful things, with a familiar flowery scent that permeated everything.

Harry stood in a field of wildflowers. He brushed his fingers over the tops of them as he glanced around. There were trees to his left, and rolling hills to his right. Turning slowly in a circle, he didn’t see anyone, a road or any buildings, but he wasn’t alarmed. The fear and tension from the day were gone, forgotten in the oasis of flowers. He felt calm, secure as the floral scent enveloped him. Shutting his eyes, he took a deep breath.

Opening them slowly, he smiled at the person suddenly standing before him.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” Ginny said. Her voice sounded far away, echoing slightly. A slight breeze caused her hair to wave behind her as her eyes twinkled at him.

“Have you?” he replied, taking a step forward.

She nodded, closing the distance between them. Reaching up, she smoothed her fingers over his forehead, running them down his face and across his cheeks before bringing them to rest on his lips. Rising up on her toes she replaced them with her lips.

Harry’s hands went to her waist, pulling her closer as he kissed her. It was gentle and slow, their lips lingering as their breath mingled.

Before he was ready, she pulled back. He reached for her as she took a step back but she just smiled and turned away.

“Wait!” he called as she began to run.

When she looked over her shoulder, she laughed and turned back toward him. She slowed to a walk, stepping backwards as she gestured for him to follow.

“Aren’t you coming?” she called before she turned away again.

Harry watched her run for a second before he took off after her. His legs were longer and he caught up to her quickly.

Laughing when he grabbed her arm, Ginny spun, sending them tumbling to the ground.


Harry shifted closer to the flowery scent beside him, unconsciously pulling Ginny toward him. In response, she rolled onto her side, bringing their faces nearly close enough to touch. Smiling slightly in his sleep, Harry relaxed, settling back into the dream.

Lying on his back, he watched the clouds roll slowly across the bright blue sky above him. A flash of red suddenly filled his vision as Ginny moved to lean over him.

She smiled down at him, one hand resting on the ground beside his head while the other came up to caress his cheek.

“Can we stay here?” he asked, pulling her down so that her upper body was resting on his.

“Always,” she breathed against his lips.

Shifting so that she was straddling his legs, she sat up, pulling him with her. She kissed him deeply as he wrapped securely in his arms.

Harry reveled in the taste of her, his senses on overload from the feeling of her body against his. Tilting his head back as she kissed down his neck, his gaze focused on the sky above them.

The white clouds were quickly being replaced by dark storm clouds. They rolled in, blocking out the sun, and Harry frowned as he felt the temperature plummet. Lightening shot across the sky, followed almost instantly by a crack of thunder.

While Ginny glanced up, watching the sky become dark, Harry gasped and clutched his stomach. His body began to tremble as his eyes dilated…


As his dreams darkened, Harry’s grip tightened on Ginny’s hip. It happened quickly, his body tensing and his brow furrowing while his fingers dug into her skin. Clenching his teeth, his body began to twitch, harder and more violently until finally, his eyes flew open as he let out a strangled cry.

Blinking, Ginny’s peaceful face came into focus before of him.

With a gasp, he jerked away from her, shifting so frantically that he tumbled off the side of the bed.

Ginny mumbled incoherently, tugging the twisted blankets back toward her and shifting onto her back as she continued sleeping.

Harry landed on the floor with a thud, his breathing shaky as his body trembled. His shirt was damp, his skin cold as the fabric clung to him. His heart was pounding in his chest and he squeezed his eyes shut. Pressing his hands against his face, he rolled onto his stomach and tried to control his breathing as his dream faded away.

“Shite,” he gritted out, attempting to force the sound of Ginny’s screams out of his head.

Resting his forehead against the cool floor, Harry took an unsteady breath. He felt nauseous when he finally tried to stand up and sank quickly back to the floor. Keeping his eyes shut, he forced back the power that was churning inside of him. When he was ready, he rose slowly to his hands and knees and crawled toward the window.

Eventually, Ginny awoke. Instinctively, she rolled toward Harry, seeking his warmth. She opened her eyes with a frown when she found his side of the bed empty and cold. Rising up onto her elbows, she glanced around in confusion.

She found him sitting with his back to her on the floor in front of the window. The morning sun was shining in, creating a hazy glow around his body. Slowly, she sank back down onto her stomach as her body relaxed. Tucking her hand under her pillow, she watched him silently for a few minutes before she rose from the bed and headed into the bathroom.

When she emerged, Harry was sitting on the edge of the bed waiting for her. He smiled and reached for her hands as she came to a stop in front of him.

“How are you feeling?” he asked.

“Ok,” she shrugged.

Standing up, he brought his hand to her temple, searching for the spot where she had struck the dresser. “Any dizziness? Does your head hurt?”

“No.” Ginny shook her head.

“Good.” He smiled. “If you start hurting, you’ll tell me, right?”

Ginny nodded.

“You were up early,” she noted, her eyes straying to where he’d been sitting by the window.

“Couldn’t sleep,” he explained nonchalantly.

Despite his casual tone, Ginny felt his body tense. Furrowing her brow, she glanced back up at him. She studied his face, but his expression was guarded. After a second he glanced away and she squeezed his hand.

“Why couldn’t you sleep?” she asked, unsure of what he would be hiding.

Harry didn’t respond as he considered his answer. He didn’t want to tell her he’d been dreaming of her.

…He smiled as he slammed her small frame into the ground. His hand gripped her neck tightly as he watched her fight to breathe. Fear was oozing from her, filling his senses and leaving him almost heady with pleasure…

His grip on her hand tightened as he pushed the memory aside. He didn’t understand why he was still dreaming of hurting her.

Now that the tracer’s gone, there was no reason for it.

For a moment he wondered if Malfoy had choked her, but he didn’t want to ask. He didn’t want to bring up the attack if he didn’t have to.

“I…I was worried about you,” he lied, finally. It’s partially true anyway, he reasoned. I am worried about her.

Seeming to accept his answer without question, the confusion in Ginny’s expression softened.

“I’m ok though,” she assured him and he nodded.

“So…what do we do now?” she asked, tracing her thumb over his knuckles.

Harry remained silent as he considered her. After a moment, he bent his head, catching her lips in a kiss as he pulled her to him.

“Now… we get dressed,” he said. Slowly he smiled as he attempted to lighten the mood. “And I seem to remember something about you making me breakfast everyday, yeah?”

Ginny smiled as she kissed him again. When she pulled back, she shook her head.

“No, I didn’t want you to burn me as a thank you, remember?” she teased as she slipped out of his arms and headed for the door. She heard his laughter behind her and smiled.

“That’s not how I would thank you,” he declared as he followed her.

“Oh? Well, how would you thank me then?” she laughed as she walked.

Catching up to her, Harry grabbed her waist and pulled her back against him as they came to a stop. One hand slid around to her stomach, holding her in place, while the other moved her hair off of her shoulder, exposing her neck to him.

“I’m sure I can think of something,” he grinned into her skin as he began kissing her neck.

“I’m sure you could,” she giggled as she shut her eyes and tilted her head.

Harry’s hand slipped under her shirt, caressing her skin as he kissed her. After a moment he turned her around, resting his hands on her lower back as she met his gaze.

Shite, Harry thought as he watched her eyes darken for him.

It was almost frightening how quickly his desire for her could flare up. Dipping his head to kiss her, his fingers skimmed under the hem of her shirt as she rose up on her toes.

The kiss became anything but playful as Ginny moaned softly, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him closer.

“I think this will work…as a thank you,” Ginny sighed against his lips after awhile.

Harry chuckled and kissed her again before pulling back.

“Who said this was my thank you?” he replied, arching his brow.

Ginny started to respond but nothing came out as he leaned his forehead against hers.

“You have to make breakfast to get your thank you,” he murmured.

“Will it be better than this?” she asked.

“Could be,” he answered, pulling back with a mischievous smirk.

A thrill shot through her as their eyes locked.

“Really?” she teased. “How much better?”

She could feel his heart beating, racing with hers as heat built slowly between them.

“Depends on how good the breakfast is,” he replied before catching her lower lip between his teeth for a playful bite.

She wasn’t sure if they were still joking but she suddenly wanted him to be serious…and she wanted his “thank you” to very closely resemble the image of them on the bed that was currently flashing through her mind.

“Hmm…now you’ve got my attention,” she grinned, pulling him back into a quick kiss.

“Have I?” he asked, trying to deepen it but she pushed him back.

Slipping away, she hoped he hadn’t noticed the blush she could feel growing on her cheeks.

“I guess I should go get dressed, then,” she said lightly as she left the room.

Harry watched her leave before heading into the bathroom to shower.

Ginny walked quickly down the hall and entered her room. For a few minutes, she remained calm, humming softly as she opened her closet and rifled through her clothes for something to wear. It wasn’t until she pulled out a jumper and turned around that she suddenly remembered where she was. Her eyes fell on her bed and she blinked as uncertainty slammed into her.

In an instant, everything from the day before flashed through her mind. Instinctively, she pulled the jumper to her chest, covering herself as she glanced around. She bit her lip, irritated that in a matter for seconds she could go from being fine to being frightened.

Squaring her shoulders, she crossed resolutely to her bed and sat down. Clenching her jaw almost defiantly, she crossed her legs and set her jumper on her knees.

Folding her arms, she sat there…determined to stay until she was fine.

A feeling of despair grew slowly within her, however, until her face fell. Shifting back toward the center of the bed, she pulled her legs up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them.

“Bollocks,” she whispered as she rested her forehead on her knees and squeezed her eyes shut.

She was so tired. As her mind traveled back to Malfoy and his attack, she shivered in revulsion. She knew Harry would protect her, would do anything to keep Malfoy from using her. She trusted him to keep her safe for as long as he needed to, but she just wanted it all to be over.

As long as he can use me, he’s not going to stop trying…

Turning her head, she rested her cheek on her knees as she stared at the wall beside her. Her thoughts wandered back and forth between Malfoy and Harry as her mind began to race.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Harry stood in front of his window, staring out at the street below as he pulled on his shirt. As he began to do up the buttons, his thoughts were occupied with possibilities of what might happen after breakfast. A grin grew slowly on his face before he shook his head with a chuckle.

Suddenly, the hairs on the back of his neck stood up as a feeling of being watched flooded his body. Glancing around, he found Ginny leaning against his doorframe, her hands playing with the tie of her robe as she considered him.

“Hey,” he said, turning to face her. His fingers continued buttoning his shirt as he eyed her questioningly. “Are you ok? Did you need something?” he asked as he began to cross toward her.

“No, I just…”

“Just what?” he asked, closing the distance between them.

“Well, I’ve been thinking,” she announced.

“Have you?”

She nodded in response and tucked a piece of hair behind her ear as she looked up at him.

“About what you’re going to cook me?” he teased with a wink.

Ginny laughed softly and shook her head. Reaching out, she stopped his hands that were still working on his buttons as she stepped closer. Rising up she kissed him softly for a moment, gathering courage from the fact that he kissed her back.

“No,” she said softly. “I was thinking about something better than breakfast.”

“Oh yeah?”

She nodded, fiddling with the buttons of his shirt absently as she watched his eyes begin to darken.

“Malfoy’s not going to go away,” she commented softly.

Harry tensed at Malfoy’s name, his lips pursed as he studied her face. They hadn’t discussed what had happened yesterday.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he assured her, running his hand down her arm.

“I know,” she replied.

Harry could see her throat working as she swallowed nervously and he furrowed his brow.

“Ginny, what is it?”

“Do you want to protect me from him?” she asked.

“Of course,” he answered, his face showing his confusion at her question. “You know I do…what…”

He fell silent as she rose up and kissed him. Placing her hands on his cheeks, she urged his lips open with her tongue. Harry complied instantly, moaning softly into her mouth. After a moment, she broke the kiss and rested her forehead against his.

“What would you do to keep me safe?” she murmured.

“Anything,” he answered softly.

Ginny kissed him again before pulling back. Her heart was pounding as she met his eyes.

“Then protect me.”

Harry furrowed his brow, her suggestion not registering as she began to kiss him again, pressing her body to his

“I am protecting you,” he mumbled against her lips. “What…”

He trailed off, sinking into the heat building between them as she fisted her hands into his shirt. His arm wrapped around her waist, holding her against him as the kiss deepened. When she moaned into his mouth, he brought his other hand to her face, caressing her cheek with his thumb.

“Make love to me,” she breathed finally before she slipped her tongue back into his mouth.

Her invitation sent Harry’s pulse through the roof and he groaned against her lips. Like liquid in his arms, her body molded to his as they kissed with rising intensity. Harry could feel her heart pounding with his as her hands slipped to his hips, holding their bodies together. Not willing to break the kiss, he barely noticed when she began pulling him toward the bed.

“He can’t hurt me if we do this,” she moaned against his lips.

What?

Harry’s eyes snapped open, the intensity of the moment screeching to a halt as he realized what she’d said…realized what she was suggesting.

“Wait,” he mumbled against her lips as he stopped walking. “What?” he asked, pulling his head back to see her. “Is that what this is about? Malfoy’s not a reason to…”

“No,” she interrupted quickly, bringing her fingers to his lips to silence him. “It’s about us…”

She pulled him back down into a kiss, but Harry’s mind was already whirling. As much as he wanted to, he couldn’t do this. He couldn’t sleep with her just to make sure Malfoy couldn’t use her. It wasn’t fair…to either of them. It wasn’t how he wanted it.

Wait,” he gasped, ripping his mouth from hers. “Wait, just…just let me think for a second.”

“Don’t think,” she replied cupping his face in her hands. “Just feel,” she breathed against his lips before kissing him thoroughly. Pressing her body against his, she moaned when she felt his warm hands slip to her waist.
When he only pushed her away again, she huffed in protest.

“Shite, Ginny, that’s… that’s not a reason to do this,” he stammered, shaking his head. “There are other ways to protect you.”

“Really?” she replied arching her brow. “Name one that would work better than this.”

When he just stared at her silently, she stepped back. Her hands trembling slightly, she quickly untied the sash of her robe. Not giving herself time to reconsider, she slipped it off of her shoulders. The fabric slid down her arms and pooled at her feet, leaving her standing in only her knickers.

Harry’s eyes widened as his mouth fell open. He seemed to be frozen in place as his eyes flew from her face to her body. A soft curse escaped as he simply stared at her for a moment.

Gin,” Harry breathed, his voice strained and his heart trying to break through his chest as he gaped at her. Her skin was pale and smooth, her body slim and perfect in his eyes.

“Don’t you want to protect me?”

Harry fought to suppress a groan. The innocence of her tone belied the nature of her suggestion and caused Harry’s desire to flare.

Shite…I have to stop looking at her.

Trying not to panic, he forced his eyes shut.

Harry could barely think, certain the image of her robe falling to the floor would be forever burned into the forefront of his mind. He had not expected this and he found himself unable to think clearly long enough to figure out what to do.

He felt her take a step forward and took a hurried step back. Unfortunately, Ginny was faster. She caught him quickly and grabbed his shirt.

One hand wrapped around his neck as she kissed him, keeping their lips together as he continued to stumble away from the bed. His weak protests were muffled by her mouth as she undid his buttons with shaking fingers. When his shirt fell open, she slid her hands around to his back. Bringing him to a stop, she pulled his body against hers.

Harry gasped at the contact, his eyes shut as his pulse pounded in his ears. For a split second he remained still, distracted by the feel of their skin pressed together before he frantically pushed her away.

“Ginny stop!”

She stumbled back a step, her skin flushed and her gaze frustrated.

Moving quickly, Harry yanked his shirt off his shoulders. Trying to keep his eyes away from her chest, he stepped toward her and threw it around her shoulders. It was much too large on her and he easily pulled it closed.

“There are other ways to protect you.” he managed, shaking his head and determinedly looking anywhere except at her. “This is a…a bad idea, Ginny. You have to see that.”

Ginny froze, his comment hitting her hard in the stomach.

“A bad idea,” she echoed softly.

She happened to think it was a brilliant idea and the possibility that he wouldn’t agree hadn’t even occurred to her. Embarrassment flooded through her as he finally met her eyes. She could feel her entire body flushing and she stepped back. Her movements were jerky as she pulled his shirt off and threw it toward him.

Harry caught it, pulling it on absently as he watched her cover her breasts and bend down.

“Right…” she said stiffly as she grabbed her robe from the floor. “I’m sorry. I thought…”

Fumbling to put it back on as she shook her head, she began to back away. “I mean, if I knew you didn’t want me I would never have…”

Harry followed quickly as she continued to back up, wrapping her robe around her body. She looked like she wanted to sink into the floor and he knew she was a second from fleeing the room.

“Stop,” he said as he caught her wrist. His hand closed over the loose bow she was tying with the sash of her robe. She stopped moving, but kept her gaze locked on the floor. “You know I want you…you know that’s not it.”

“Really?” she snapped as she met his gaze. “Do I? Then why do I have to keep trying to talk you into everything? Being with me…sleeping with me…I mean, Merlin, Harry, shouldn’t you want to do this?!”

Harry gritted his teeth as his eyes flashed.

“Of course I want to do this,” he replied in exasperation. “Christ, Ginny, I’m not going to sleep for a week after…” he gestured vaguely to her now covered body before raking his fingers through his hair with a curse.

Shutting his eyes for a second, Harry rubbed the bridge of his nose under his glasses before looking at her again. He could see the embarrassment and anger fighting for control in her eyes. Sighing, he brought a hand to her hair as he took in her hurt expression and flushed skin.

“Look,” he continued softly. “When we do this, it will be when we choose. When we’re both ready and we both want it.” He cupped her cheek in his palm. “Malfoy doesn’t get to dictate this,” he murmured.

“He’s not,” she insisted softly and he shook his head.

“Ginny, you just said you wanted me to do this to protect you,” he pointed out. “That’s not…”

“That’s not why I want to,” she said, searching his eyes. “It’s not,” she repeated quietly. Reaching out, she rested her fingers on his lips. “I want you…I love you so much, I…” her gaze dropped to his mouth for a second before she took a shaky breath and shook her head. Dropping her gaze, she wrapped her arms around her stomach protectively. “It scares me,” she whispered. “These feelings, it…I’ve never…I’ve never felt like…”

Harry’s mind went to the previous day and the sickening, overwhelming fear he’d felt for her. He thought about his panic and the absolute necessity of keeping her near him. He’d barely known her a month yet he felt like it had been forever…felt like she was a part of him.

Forcing himself to swallow, he moved his hand to her neck and tilted her head back so that she was forced to meet his gaze.

“I don’t want to scare you,” he murmured.

“You don’t,” she breathed. “It’s just I’ve…I’ve never felt like this.”

“It scares me too,” he admitted, watching her eyes fill with tears at his words. “But it’s a good scared,” he added, lowering his forehead to hers. “A good scared, right?”

Ginny smiled, blinking quickly as she nodded against him.

“Yeah,” she breathed, before she tilted her head back.

This time their kiss was gentle and slow and Harry lost himself in it. He couldn’t ignore the way they fit together, their bodies seeming to know instinctively just what to do. As always, the kiss was intoxicating and Harry groaned softly as she opened for him with a whimper. One hand lingered on the tie of her robe as he used the other to pull her closer.

“Make love to me, Harry,” she breathed eventually against his lips. Her mouth hovered in front of his as he let out a tortured breath.

Shifting away so she could see him, Ginny brought her hand to his cheek. “I want you,” she whispered. For a moment she simply held his gaze silently before her eyes began to sparkle. “The other thing, is just a…a fortunate side effect.”

Harry laughed in surprise at her words as she cocked her head to the side. Tenderly, he trailed his fingers down her throat, watching her eyes fall shut.

“This wouldn’t end anything,” he murmured, almost more to himself then her. Staring at her, he forced himself to keep breathing as his reasons for denying her quickly began to slip away. “Malfoy would be furious…he wouldn’t leave you alone, even if he couldn’t use you.”

“But he couldn’t use me,” she noted, keeping her eyes shut and matching his tone.

Harry’s hand left her throat, his fingers sliding slowly down her skin. They dipped into the slit of her robe, trailing between her breasts and on down to her stomach.

Ginny’s eyes opened at his touch, her body shivering instinctively. She watched his face as he seemed to debate with himself.

“How would I explain this,” he sighed, watching his fingers as they moved over her skin. He ran his fingers back up to her collarbones, tracing them lightly as he spoke. “I can’t…I can’t explain this to your family, to Ron…” His fingers moved to her neck, caressing her throat gently. “There is no way I could go to them and explain why Malfoy wouldn’t be able to use you…”

Ginny laughed softly as she pictured him standing in the Burrow, trying to find the words.

Harry could feel her pulse racing beneath his fingers. Instinctively, he lowered his mouth to her skin, kissing her throat lightly.

“Then we won’t explain it,” she reasoned and he kissed her harder in response, cupping her neck in his palm.

She guided him back to her mouth, kissing him slowly as the heat surged between them again. After a few moments, she left his mouth, trailing kisses along his jaw to his ear.

“I love you,” she whispered. “Protect me, Harry.”

Harry shuddered at her words.

“Ginny…”

His fingers had been playing absently with the tie of her robe and he tugged on it, looking down when the bow fell out. The fabric fell open baring her stomach and the valley beneath her breasts.

For a moment, they both remained still before Harry dropped to his knees in front of her, his hands going to her waist as he rested his forehead against her stomach.

His mind was whirling, trying to think clearly as a dense haze of arousal took over his senses. He wanted to do this. The notion that he needed to do this had taken root in his mind over the last few seconds and was blooming quickly.

“I love you too, Ginny. So much, I…”

Ginny stared at the top of his head, catching her bottom lip in her teeth as he began to kiss her stomach. She threaded her fingers into his hair and shut her eyes as he kissed and licked and nibbled the area around her bellybutton. She felt her body trembling in response and she moaned when he suddenly pulled away and stood up.

She dragged her eyes open when he cupped her cheeks in his palms.

“Are you sure?” he managed as he searched her eyes.

“Yes, please,” she replied softly.

Holding her breath, Ginny held his gaze steadily until he finally dropped his gaze back to her body. She trembled instinctively as his hands moved to her robe, slowly pushing the fabric back open. Her heart was pounding, but she no longer felt nervous when she saw the reverence in his eyes as he looked at her.

So beautiful,” he breathed. Sucking in a shaky breath, he trailed his hand down between her breasts and stepped closer. He felt her shiver under his touch and quickly hooked his fingers into her robe. Bringing his eyes back to hers, he smiled slightly before pushing it off her shoulders. The silky fabric slid down her body and landed back on the floor as he kissed her exposed skin.

From the moment his mouth touched her, Harry was utterly lost. His hands roamed freely as she stood before him but it wasn’t enough. Running his hands down the back of her thighs he picked her up, carrying her to the bed as she wrapped her arms and legs around him. Their kisses became hungrier as he crawled up on the bed with her and lowered her down beneath him.

Immediately, Ginny’s hands were in his shirt, peeling it down his arms. He released her just long enough to shrug it off. When it joined her robe on the floor he leaned back down, capturing her mouth in a deep kiss.

His heart was pounding as he ran his hands over her. He needed her so much he ached. Still, he knew he had to stay in control, that letting go of himself completely was dangerous. He could already feel the emotions rushing through him, trying to overwhelm him. His power was beginning to churn, fighting with the pleasure. Determinedly, he groaned into her mouth as he attempted to force himself to slow down.

Ginny didn’t make it easy for him as she echoed the sound and buried her hands in his hair. She pressed up against him, seeking purchase against him as they moved together.

With a curse, he slipped his hand between them, massaging circles down her stomach. He could feel her heart pounding wildly with his as his hand reached the edge of her knickers. Her body was trembling beneath him as she whimpered. Unable to tell if it was in pleasure or pain, he reluctantly dragged his mouth away.

“Are you ok?” he panted. He brushed her hair out of her face as she nodded.

“Yeah…”

She tried to bring their mouths back together but he shifted back.

“Are you sure about this?” he asked, swallowing hard. He could see the pain in her eyes and didn’t want to hurt her. “I mean…you’re trembling, Ginny. It’s ok if you’re hurting or if you’ve changed your mind....”

Before he could finish the room spun around him as she reversed their positions. Suddenly on his back, he blinked up at her in surprise as she settled against him.

Running her hands over his chest and down to his stomach, Ginny watched him shudder as his eyes moved over her body.

“You’re trembling too,” she pointed out and his eyes flicked up to hers.

She cocked an eyebrow at him as her fingers found the waistband of his trousers.

“Yeah but…”

Harry trailed off with a gasp, his stomach jerking automatically as she raked a nail over the skin just under the band of his pants.

“Trembling,” she repeated breathlessly as she worked on pulling open the buttons of his jeans.

The air in Harry’s lungs left in a rush as he watched her begin working his jeans past his hips. Sitting up quickly, he cupped her neck and kissed her hungrily as he shifted. He moved onto his knees and dipped her back onto the bed. Shoving his jeans down, he kept their mouths together as he kicked them off. When he was settled back between her legs he rose up on his elbows as they kissed.

Ginny felt like she was burning up as she clung to him, her body on fire as he pressed his hips into hers. A dull ache in her head had begun a few moments earlier and her grip on his shoulders tightened as it began to quickly increase. The combination of pleasure and pain began to overwhelm her and she squeezed her eyes shut, determined to ignore the discomfort. Moaning, she arched up as he began to kiss down her throat.

Harry’s head was pounding, his power churning inside of him, beginning to fight with the pleasure of his body. His grip on her hip tightened as he forced his body back under control. He didn’t want to stop…as much as his power seemed to be rebelling against the pleasure, his mind and body couldn’t stop.

“Ginny,” he groaned into her skin and she gasped out a response.

She dragged her eyes open when he pulled up. His eyes were dark as he met her gaze, his pupils dilating so much that the green began to disappear. His hands were reaching for the edge of her knickers just as everything fell apart.

There was a burst of flames behind his head and Ginny screamed. Harry cursed as he felt the heat behind him and threw himself back down on top of her.

Immediately rolling with her, they went tumbling off the bed. Even as they hit the ground his wand flew into his hand. Flinging his arm out, Harry looked up, only to falter.

“Bloody…Fawkes!”

The large red phoenix eyed his wand disapprovingly as it hovered above them, wings flapping. When Harry lowered his arm, it dropped the note it was carrying before disappearing in another burst of flames.

Sitting up, Harry grabbed the note irritably and ripped it open.

Ginny stayed on her back, using her arm to cover her body as she tried to force her breathing to slow down.

“Harry?” she asked eventually, looking over at his back. When he didn’t respond, she sat up. Shifting onto her knees, she leaned her chin on Harry’s shoulder and slid a hand up his back.

“What does it say?” she asked, idly threading her fingers into the hair at the base of his neck as he read the note. She felt his body tense a second before he swore loudly.

“What?”

He turned to look at her and she froze when she saw his expression. It was a strange combination of confusion and absolute fury.

“We have to go,” he said as he reached out for her robe. It flew into his hand and he thrust it toward her before he stood up.

“What?” she asked, clutching it to her chest. “Now? What does it say?”

He pulled her to her feet and then glanced down at the note again, as though making sure it was real. Ginny watched his expression worriedly as she dragged her robe on.

When he offered the parchment to her, she took it with a frown. After watching him turn away and grab his jeans from the floor, she looked down. Her eyes widened and she gasped as she read it.

“Can they do this?” she asked, glancing up.

“They can…but they’re not,” Harry replied, his eyes flashing as he pulled on his shirt. He watched her reread the note with a frown. Closing the buttons on his shirt, he crossed to her.

“I don’t want someone else,” she admitted, still staring at the paper.

“It’s not going to happen, Gin,” he promised.

Ginny looked up, her face determined.

“I’m going to fix it,” he assured her. “I’m not leaving you.”

A small smile flashed across her face before she looked away.

“I know,” she replied, running her thumb over his knuckles. “But I’m not a child, Harry,” she added as her face hardened. “I don’t have to do what they tell me. If they want me to accept their protection, it’ll be with you.”

They dressed quickly and soon they were heading out the door.

Harry stopped in surprise when someone began knocking right as they reached it. Gesturing for Ginny to stay back, he looked out the peephole.

Two identical redheads stood at the door, their faces uncharacteristically sober as they waited. While Harry watched, one of them reached out and knocked on the door again.

“It’s your brothers,” he said, glancing back at Ginny.

“All of them?” she asked, raising her eyebrows.

Harry shook his head and a second later Fred’s voice rang out.

“Oi! Open the door, Harry!”

Harry was fairly confident that they were really Fred and George. However, the events of the previous day had only increased Harry’s determination not to let anyone into the flat without being sure of their identity. After a few questions he was satisfied and began lowering the wards.

Fred didn’t take the interrogation well and as Harry pulled the door open, he pushed past him, intent on getting to Ginny.

“Hi,” she smiled as he headed towards her, but then squeaked in surprise when he pulled her into a tight hug.

“Are you ok?” he asked, his voice thick.

“I’m fine,” she assured him, confused by his intensity as she looked at George and Harry. Harry looked slightly confused as well, but George was watching somberly, his hands in his pockets. “Fred, I’m fine, really…”

“I’m so sorry,” he apologized, ignoring her statement. He smoothed her hair with his hands before kissing the top of her head. “I’m so sorry, Ginny, I didn’t know…”

Pushing him away, she looked up at his face. She began to get nervous as she saw his eyes. He seemed to be struggling not to cry and she furrowed her brow. The fact that they’d be concerned about her wasn’t surprising, but crying?

“What are you talking about?” she asked, struggling to understand why he was so upset.

Fred looked down and shook his head. “I took you,” he said regretfully before meeting her gaze. “I took you upstairs.”

Her eyes widened as he pulled her back against him.

“It’s my fault,” he continued. “You weren’t feeling well and…and it was loud, and I thought…bugger, I’m…” He looked at Harry over the top of her head. “I’m sorry, Harry, I never should have…”

Fred,” Ginny interrupted, her voice muffled against his chest. She pushed him away again and looked up at his face. “This wasn’t your fault,” she said firmly.

When he started to argue, she clamped her hand over his mouth to silence him. Her face softened and she took his hand in hers.

“This wasn’t your fault,” she repeated. “The Burrow was supposed to be safe; you had no reason to think it wasn’t.”

“That’s what I told him,” George piped up as he walked toward them. Ginny looked up at him when he reached her side and he leaned down, kissing her forehead. “But you know he never listens to me…”

Harry watched from the door as Ginny spoke with her brothers. Fred clutched her hand tightly, even as he and George eventually began trying to make her laugh. For a moment she smiled, shaking her head as she assured them she was ok.

“So, where are you off to?” George asked after a minute.

“Care for some company?” Fred asked, but then frowned when he saw Ginny’s smile falter and her eyes shoot toward Harry. “What?” he added quickly, picking up on the change in her demeanor. “What’s wrong? Has something happened?”

Ginny pulled the note from her pocket as Harry crossed to her side…

~..~..~..~..~..

Twenty minutes later, Harry and Ginny arrived at the Ministry. They stood silently in the lift, their fingers linked together as they headed up to the Auror office. Above them a small flock of Ministry memos were circling idly. Every few floors the lift would pause, allowing the memos to fly in and out. Harry’s grip on his wand tightened as he watched the level numbers slowly tick higher.

What are they thinking? he asked himself for the hundredth time. What are they thinking?

His mind was whirling in circles, trying to figure out why he would be reassigned, but he couldn’t seem to think clearly through his anger. All he knew was that it wasn’t going to happen.

After everything, Remus had to know he wouldn’t allow her to be guarded by someone else. The fact that no one beyond Ron, Hermione or the twins had seemed thrilled with their relationship hadn’t escaped his notice, but it shouldn’t matter now.

It didn’t matter to Fred and George, he reasoned, and they’re her brothers. They know I’m capable.

Ginny’s safety was the real issue and the rest was inconsequential. Their relationship, no matter who disliked the idea of it, certainly wasn’t a reason to disrupt everything.

Harry’s determination that he wouldn’t allow her to be guarded by anyone else had been strengthened by Fred and George’s reaction to the letter. It had been similar to his own, although perhaps less intense. They knew Harry was the best person for the job and quickly agreed that changing her guard was a bad idea.

Handing the responsibility of her protection over to someone else would only leave her more vulnerable while the new person got up to speed on the situation. It was an unnecessary risk, especially when they knew how close Malfoy was to being ready.

What Harry couldn’t understand was how Dumbledore or anyone else could feel differently. They all knew him just as well, if not better, than the twins. Fred and George had also shared his confusion. Even now they were headed to Bill’s to try to get some answers from him. Harry was convinced that Bill had had a hand in the decision and the twins were more than willing to find out if it was true.

As they rode the final levels of the lift, Harry could feel Ginny simmering silently beside him.

“Ok?” he asked, looking down at her.

She simply nodded.

He studied her for a second more before turning his gaze back to the numbers.

When the lift doors finally slid open with a ding, Harry led the way toward Remus’ office. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up and his eyes flicked around the room as the Aurors they passed fell silent.

Reaching Remus’ door, Harry rapped sharply with his knuckles. Without waiting for a response, he pushed the door open and led Ginny inside.

“…but the important th…”

Remus trailed off as the group of Aurors in the room turned to look over at the entrance.

Harry got the distinct impression that whatever they were interrupting was about them and his anger spiked.

Protectively pulling Ginny closer, he took in the room with a quick glance around.

The office was small, with a large cluttered bookcase on the left wall and a bank of windows on the right. Remus was behind his desk, in front of an ornate fireplace that dominated the back wall. Harry watched Dumbledore move from Remus’ side to the window, passing Alastor Moody, Tonks, Dawlish and Kinglsey Shacklebolt who were huddled to the right of the desk.

Tonks smiled at him, but it didn’t reach her eyes as she nodded hello. Harry didn’t return the silent greeting, looking instead at Arthur who stood with Bill on the other side of the desk. Their eyes were on Ginny, their faces grim. Seeing Bill caused Harry’s eyes to narrow. With Bill here, the twins wouldn’t get any answers from him, and Harry knew his presence would only heighten the tension in the room.

“Harry, if you could wait out…” Remus began but Harry cut him off.

“I need to speak with you, right now,” he said tightly.

Ginny gasped in surprise as Charlie stepped out from where he’d been hidden behind Bill and her father. Dropping Harry’s hand, Ginny crossed to her brother quickly.

“Charlie!” she cried as she launched herself at him. She flung her arms around his neck as he caught her around the waist and lifted her up.

“Hey, Gin,” he chuckled into her shoulder.

“Oh, Merlin, I’m glad you’re here,” she whispered in his ear. Her eyes began to sting and she squeezed them shut.

Charlie will help us.

Charlie pulled her closer for a few seconds before lowering her to the ground. “How are you feeling?” he asked softly as he glided his hand over her hair.

“Fine,” she replied, catching his hand as he lowered it. He nodded, his expression serious as he looked her over.

“Where do you hurt?” he asked, bringing his eyes back to hers.

“I said I’m fine,” she smirked.

“Yes, you did,” he agreed, leaning down and kissing her forehead. “But I know you’re a stubborn liar who would say that whether it’s true or not,” he grinned against her skin.

Ginny smiled, shaking her head at his ability to read her.

“Hi, Gin,” Bill said from over Charlie’s shoulder, his eyes concerned even as he smiled at her. When Ginny smiled back and reached for his hand, he took it gladly and pulled her into a quick hug.

Harry, who was still simmering near the door, watched her talk to her brothers for a moment before turning his focus toward the group gathered around the desk. Remus was speaking softly with Moody, Tonks and Shacklebolt who nodded and then headed towards him.

Ginny’s attention was caught by their passing and she followed them with her eyes, watching as they nodded a greeting to Harry as they left.

Harry’s eyes met hers and he strode forward.

Pulling away from her brothers, Ginny moved quickly to his side.

Drawing the note from his pocket, Harry tossed it onto Remus’ desk.

“What is this?” he demanded

Picking up Dumbledore’s note, Remus skimmed it quickly before meeting Harry’s gaze.

“It’s your new assignment,” he replied evenly, watching as Harry’s eyes flashed angrily.

“I know that,” Harry replied, crossing his arms over his chest. “But why do I have a new assignment?”

“Given the current situation,” Remus replied, glancing once more at the note before setting it back onto the desk. “We decided it would be better to have you actively searching for Malfoy.”

“And what about Ginny?” Harry asked tightly, trying to remain calm.

Remus glanced at Ginny and nodded slightly. “She will be protected like before. Dawlish has been given his orders.”

“Dawlish?!” Harry exclaimed, his eyes moving to the older Auror to his left.

The commanding wizard with graying hair stepped forward, his eyes on Ginny as he held out his hand.

“Miss Weasley, it’s nice to…”

Ginny backed away from him so quickly she ran into Harry, knocking him slightly off balance. Catching her shoulder to steady her, Harry shifted her behind him.

“Don’t,” Harry warned icily as he blocked her from Dawlish’s attempted introduction.

“Harry,” Remus began, causing Harry’s attention to fly to him.

“You would put her with him over me?” he asked in disbelief, pointing at Dawlish. “You trust him over me? He’s in the Ministry’s pocket!”

“Pardon me,” Dawlish interjected, clearly insulted.

“I’m not talking to you,” Harry snapped angrily, cutting Dawlish off even as he kept his eyes on Remus.

Crossing his arms over his chest, Dawlish watched the exchange with a raised eyebrow.

“You can’t be serious,” Harry said, his confusion beginning to battle his anger for control.

“I wouldn’t joke about this,” Remus replied neutrally.

“He’s practically retired!” Harry exclaimed.

“I can assure you,” Dumbledore interjected. “Dawlish is more than capable of…”

“More than Harry?” Ginny interrupted, causing Harry to look at her. “You assigned Harry because you said he was the best. I’m living in his flat, there’s no reason to disrupt everything.”

“The important thing is that we keep you safe,” Arthur reasoned as he moved to her side. “It’s not about who’s doing the protecting, Ginny.”

“It is to me,” she replied hotly, “and I want Harry. You told me he could protect me. There’s no reason to change that now.”

“On the contrary, Gin,” Remus began.

“Don’t call me Gin,” she snapped angrily. Her eyes narrowed to a piercing gaze as she regarded him. “My friends call me Gin, and you certainly aren’t that. You don’t even know me.”

The room fell silent. Ginny’s words hung in the air as Harry watched Remus frown. He could feel Ginny shaking with anger beside him and he reached for her, running his thumb up and down on her wrist. She deflated slightly, but continued to glare at Remus.

After a second Remus nodded, realizing he’d crossed a line.

“My apologies, Miss Weasley,” he corrected, his eyes flicked to Harry before he turned his attention back to Ginny. “I can assure you that you will be just as well protected without Harry. At this time, we feel that it will be better if Harry searches for Malfoy. He can find him…”

“That’s bollocks,” Harry shot back, breaking his silence. “If you thought I could find him so easily, or faster than anyone else I wouldn’t have been given this assignment in the first place. Tell us what’s going on.”

“Nothing’s going on,” Remus replied with a shake of his head.

Harry studied him for a moment, his eyes narrowed. His gaze then moved to Dumbledore, who was regarding him silently from beside the window. Folding his arms, Harry looked back at Remus.

“You’re lying. And this isn’t going to happen, so you can just forget it. I’m not leaving her.”

“Harry,” Remus said in exasperation. “You don’t have a say in the matter. You’ve become too attached. You’ve let this get personal and now you’re not thinking clearly.”

“Tell me what’s going on,” Harry repeated through clenched teeth. “You’re hiding something. There’s no reason to reassign me. And for Dawlish? Come on! That’s ridiculous!”

“He told you nothing is going on, Harry,” Dumbledore assured him. “We just feel that it will be better if you search for Malfoy. You can find him…”

“I can’t find him any faster than anyone else,” Harry shot back. “Stop lying. I want to know why and I want to know right now.”

“Damn it, Harry!” Bill snapped from his spot near the wall. “The reasoning doesn’t matter!”

Harry glared at him, but Ginny spoke first.

“It matters to me,” she said angrily, bringing Bill’s attention to her. “What about what I want?”

“Ginny,” he began but she threw up her hand.

“If you’re not going to support me, I don’t want to hear it.”

“We’re trying to protect you,” Charlie added.

“Really?!” she demanded, letting go of Harry’s hand and marching over to her brothers. “And exactly how are you doing that? By making decisions without me? By ignoring what I want? In case you hadn’t noticed…I’m not an infant...”

As Ginny argued with her brothers, Harry turned his attention back to Remus and Dumbledore.

“Why are you doing this?”

“We’re trying to catch…”

“Stop lying!” Harry exclaimed, slamming his hand down on the desk. For a second the air seemed to crackle with magic around him.

“For Merlin’s sake, Harry, calm down!” Remus replied. “I’m not lying! If you hadn’t gotten involved with her…if you hadn’t let this get personal it wouldn’t be a problem. She’s affecting your judgment!”

My judgment?” Harry exclaimed. “You’re reassigning me because I’ve become involved with her! Admit it!”

“I don’t need to admit it,” Remus shot back. “You know it’s unacceptable. You know you aren’t supposed to get involved!”

“So she’s going to be punished so you can teach me a lesson?! I’m not leaving her. I refuse.”

“You can’t refuse, Harry. This is a job. You’ll do as you’re told.”

“But this is ridiculous!” Harry argued. “There’s no reason for it!”

“Harry, it isn’t your decision,” Dumbledore explained. “You’re an Auror. Your job is to follow orders.”

Harry’s back straightened and he glared at him in disbelief. His eyes shifted to Remus before his expression filled with defiance.

“Fine,” he declared. “Then I quit.”

“Harry,” Remus began, as Harry turned and headed toward Ginny.

“I’m through talking, Moony,” he threw over his shoulder as he walked. “We’re leaving. If you’re concerned about Malfoy you don’t have to worry; I won’t let her be taken. I’ll do a Fidelius and hide us both.”

“That won’t work,” Dumbledore said from his place by the window.

Harry paused, his gaze moving back to his former headmaster as his eyes narrowed.

“He wants her. If we hide her where he has no chance of getting to her, there’s no way of catching him. There’s no way of knowing who he’ll use instead…because he will use someone else. You must realize that.”

“So she’s BAIT?!” Harry exclaimed, spinning around furiously before turning toward Arthur, Bill and Charlie. “Are you hearing this? Are you serious?”

Ginny moved quickly to his side, his hand grasping hers tightly.

“No fucking way will I leave her with someone else while you guys sit around on your arses hoping he shows up trying to take her! I swore I’d protect her! I’m not leaving her!!”

“Harry, you have to trust us.”

“Why should I trust you? Give me a reason! I made her a promise and I’m not going to just pass her off to someone else because you say so!” Harry argued. “My priority is her safety, and I’m not compromising that for you.”

“Searching for Malfoy is protecting her.”

“If you can’t find Malfoy...that’s your problem.”

“I’d say it’s her problem,” Dawlish interjected.

“Excuse me?!” Harry exclaimed. The glass in the windows shook as he spun toward the older Auror. “And just who the hell do you think…”

“Harry, please,” Remus interrupted pleadingly. “Calm down. Let’s just sit down and talk about this.’

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Harry spat over his shoulder. “I quit, remember?”

“What will make you feel better, Harry?” Remus asked, becoming desperate. “We’ve assigned Dawlish to guard her. Do you want to set up the wards? Do you want to choose her location?”

Harry blinked at him in surprise for a second before his face darkened. He stalked back to Remus’s desk, pulling Ginny with him.

“What I want,” he all but growled, “is for you to tell me what’s going on and let me do my job. I swore I’d be there for her. If you want me to even consider leaving her, you’re going to have to come up with a lot better reason than my lack of professionalism.”

“It’s a moot point, Harry,” Dumbledore interjected. “The decision has been made, and now we need you to go back to your desk and await your orders from Ron.”

Ron?!” Ginny exclaimed. “Ron knew about this too?” Crossing her arms, she glared at her family before turning her wrath on Remus. Her arms folded across her chest, she suddenly seeming much taller than her 5’4’’ height. “Thank you for your service,” she glared at him, “but I’ll no longer be requiring your protection,” she said angrily. “I don’t have to accept it and so I’m not.”

Grabbing Harry’s hand, she began pulling him toward the door. Before they reached it, it swung closed. Grabbing the knob, Ginny attempted to open it, only to find that it was locked. Her eyes widening angrily, she turned back around.

“Miss Weasley,” Dumbledore said as her brothers walked toward them. “We can’t allow you to…”

“Open the door,” Harry interrupted. “You can’t keep us here. She doesn’t want your protection and I no longer work here.”

Remus glanced helplessly at Dumbledore, unsure of how to continue. He knew they couldn’t let them leave, but he had desperately hoped to avoid using force to separate them.

Unsatisfied with the delay in response, Harry turned and pointed his wand at the door. A flash of red light shot out of the end. It hit the door with a bang, blowing it off of its hinges and down onto the floor. Quickly, he pocketed his wand and led Ginny out of the office.

As soon as they exited the room a spell shot toward them. Although cast silently from behind, Harry felt it a split second before it reached them. Unprepared for the sudden attack, Harry could do little beyond shove Ginny out of the way. A split second too slow, the spell hit him in the shoulder, and he went flying forward.

Colliding hard with the wall, Harry collapsed to the floor.

“Harry!” Ginny cried out.

Further down the hall, Moody, Tonks and several other Aurors stood blocking the exit. They raised their wands as they watched Ginny run toward Harry.

“Harry, oh God, are you ok?” she asked, dropping to her knees and trying to turn him over.

Charlie ran out of Remus’ office, coming up behind Ginny and reaching down for her. Before she could react he grabbed her around the waist and pulled her up from the ground.

“Let me go!” she cried as he wrapped her up in his arms, beginning to drag her in the other direction.

The fear of being separated from Harry that surged inside of Ginny was instant. Twisting in his arms she struggled against Charlie as he pulled her away.

“Harry, wake up!!”

Harry shook his head dazedly on the floor, and Ginny fought harder to get to him, kicking her legs wildly as she struggled.

“Don’t make us stun you, Ginny,” Bill pleaded, arriving at Charlie’s side. He took hold of one of Ginny’s arms in an attempt to help.

“HARRY!”

Clamping a hand over Ginny’s mouth, Charlie and Bill continued dragging her away. Arthur followed quickly, glancing over his shoulder as he walked.

Ginny could see Harry on the floor, shaking his head in an attempt to clear it. He tried to pull himself to his feet, glancing up when Remus reached a hand down to help him up.

Biting down on Charlie’s hand, she dug her fingernails into his forearm. Her fear increased with each step away from Harry. It seemed to press in on her from all sides, stealing her breath and causing her head to begin to pound. Flashes of white erupted in her vision as her panic overwhelmed her.

As Remus helped Harry up from the floor Ginny finally ripped Charlie’s hand from her mouth.

“HARRY!” she screamed.

Harry’s eyes flew to hers and widened when he saw her brothers pulling her away.

“Ginny!”

Remus caught him as he tried to push past, shoving him backwards into the arms of two waiting Aurors.

Ginny could see his anger mounting as he struggled against them, calling her name. Fighting harder, she screamed his name.

Charlie clamped a hand back over her mouth, silencing her again. The last thing she saw before she was dragged around the corner was Harry shoving one of the Aurors off and pulling his wand.

“It’s better this way,” Arthur said, walking behind her as they all but carried her down the hall.

With a muffled cry of anger, she kicked out, barely missing her father as he sidestepped her attack. Biting down on Charlie’s hand again, she tried to link her leg behind Bill’s.

When he went down, he pulled her and Charlie down with him. They landed in a heap, with Ginny on top. She immediately scrambled off, elbowing and kicking her brothers as she moved.

When Bill’s hand closed around her ankle she curled her hand into a fist. Turning quickly she punched him squarely in the face just like he’d taught her years ago.

Caught off guard, his head snapped back as his nose crumpled from the blow.

When his grip on her ankle loosened, Ginny shot away. Avoiding Charlie’s attempt to grab her, she drew her wand.

“Stay away from me!” she cried, swinging her wand between her brothers and her father as she backed up.

“Ginny, now…”

“Stop it!” she screamed at her father as he took a step closer.

She didn’t want to curse them, but they were scaring her. Not wanting Harry to guard her was already distressing, but the fact that they would physically try to keep her from him made her entire body ache.

Shaking her head to clear it, she began to back away, instinctively wanting to get to Harry. She could hear the blast of spells and shouts coming from around the corner.

“Ginny, please don’t fight us,” Arthur pleaded

Clutching her head, Ginny squeezed her eyes shut, trying to stop the jumble of pain and images that were flashing in her head.

….We can’t let you leave…we wouldn’t hurt you, we protect you, Ginny…LET ME GO!...

“You have to trust us,” Bill said, jerking her attention back to him. He was wiping his bleeding nose with the back of his hand as he stood up.

Ginny’s eyes filled instantly with tears at his words, her cheeks flushed with anger. Blinking quickly, she shook her head and started to turn away.

Arthur’s stunning spell shot toward her and she raised a shield as her eyes widened in shock. Without thinking she pointed her wand.

“Reducto!”

The force of her magic caught them off guard, and they went flying backwards. As they landed with a thud on the floor Ginny took off down the hall, ignoring their cries for her to stop. Hearing the blasts of spells coming from around the corner, she ran faster, desperate to get to Harry. Suddenly a burst of magic shook the building, causing her to stumble sideways as it rippled down the hall. Her eyes widened in fear, knowing it had come from around the corner.

“HARRY!”

Harry rounded the corner a second later, his eyes furious.

“Ginny!” he called, reaching out his arm and catching her around the waist as she collided with him. “Come on,” he said quickly, glancing down the hall to where Bill, Charlie and Arthur were rising to their feet. Grabbing her hand, they bolted.

“Ginny, stop!” Charlie yelled behind them but they didn’t pause, disappearing around the corner without a backward glance.

Pounding footsteps and angry shouts followed them as they twisted and turned through the maze of halls on their way to the lifts.

“Split up…cut them off…don’t let them leave…”

Determined to reach the lifts first, Harry ran faster, pulling Ginny with him.

Finally they rounded the last corner. Ginny cried out in alarm and Harry cursed as they skidded to a stop. Kingsley and a group of four Aurors stood blocking the lift. Their wands were drawn.

Harry was momentarily shocked to see them. He hadn’t fought them in front of Remus’ office, which meant they’d been waiting here. They’d been sent to guard the lifts.

They knew we’d run, he thought in surprise. Why would they…

A series of stunning spells shot toward them and Harry raised his wand, deflecting them into the wall. Keeping a hold of Ginny’s hand, he strode quickly forward, throwing a spell toward the group.

Quassorsum!

The group of Aurors split down the middle, crashing into opposite walls before crumpling to the floor. Within a matter of seconds, Harry had them bound and he and Ginny ran to the lift.

Ginny glanced over her shoulder as Harry jammed his finger into the button. Cursing when it didn’t open immediately, he kicked the door before looking up at the numbers.

“Harry,” Ginny murmured, hearing the shouts growing louder as her family and the Aurors approached.

Glancing down, he saw the alarm in her eyes and pulled her against him.

“We’re ok,” he said into her hair, jamming his finger into the button again.

Ginny shook her head, glancing back down the hall.

“GINNY!!”

Hearing Bill’s yell and the approaching footsteps Harry spun around. He shoved Ginny behind him just as Bill and Charlie came barging around the corner, their wands drawn. The rest of the Aurors and Arthur appeared behind them, their breathing harsh and their wands drawn.

A barrage of stunning and disarming spells flew toward Harry.

Harry narrowed his eyes, furious and confused by the attack. He deflected the approaching spells with a wave of his wand before he threw out his arm. A shimmering magical barrier erupted in front of him, spanning the hall.

Ginny jerked in surprise at the power of the spell, a loud boom echoing down the hall as the shield formed. She clutched his shirt, feeling his body begin to pulse with power.

“What are you doing!” Harry yelled, stepping toward the barrier. “Shooting stunners and spells…you could have hurt her!!”

We could have hurt her!?” Charlie shouted incredulously back as he slid to a stop behind the shield. “If you’re so concerned with her safety, you’d leave her here!”

“With Dawlish!?”

Stepping out from behind Harry as he continued to yell back and forth with Charlie, Ginny watched as Bill and her father stumbled to a stop, trapped on the other side of the shield. She could see Dumbledore and the Aurors trying to bring it down, but it didn’t waver.

“Stop it!!” she yelled at Charlie, moving in front of Harry. “Why are you doing this?!” she demanded angrily as she took two steps toward the barrier. She glanced back and forth between her brothers and father. “He’s trying to keep me safe!”

We’re trying to keep you safe, Ginevra!” her father called back, his face full of fear. “You have to trust us. We know what’s b…”

“What’s best is for me to be with him!” she cried, swinging her arm around to point at Harry. “That’s what you said! That’s what you’ve said this whole time…why, all of a sudden, is it so different?!”

With a ding, the lift doors slid open.

“Ginny, the shield won’t hold forever,” Harry warned from beside her.

Turning to him, she looked down as he reached his hand out to her.

“We have to go,” he urged.

The cries from her family and Remus echoed through the hall around her as she stared at Harry’s outstretched hand. Ginny didn’t understand what was happening. She didn’t understand the panic in the faces of her family and the almost desperate need to make her stay.

“…Ginny...Don’t you dare…Goddamn it, Harry…”

“Come with me,” Harry said. His voice was soft, but she heard it over the noise and looked up. “Trust me,” Harry entreated softly.

His gaze was unwavering, filled with love and determination. The effect of his look was instant as a sense of security flooded through her. Without another thought, she placed her hand in his.

As their fingers linked together, Bill’s voice rang out.

“Ginny! You have to trust us!” he called desperately, still unable to get through Harry’s shield. “We wouldn’t hurt you!”

“Neither would Harry!” she yelled back with a glare.

“YES HE…” Bill’s voice cut off as he began to choke on his words.

“HE WHAT!!” she screamed back, her entire body shaking with angry. “SPIT IT OUT, BILL!”

Bill’s face was red and furious as he glared at her, his hand going to his throat. His nose was still bleeding slightly from her punch. Briefly he looked away, seemingly struggling to speak before letting out a cry of frustration. Turning back to her he called out her name.

His voice was drowned out by Remus, Charlie and Bill as they all began yelling at Harry to lower the shield.

Shaking her head, Ginny began to back away, pulling Harry with her. Casting one final glance at their family, they ran into the lift. Harry blocked her from view as they doors slid shut.

As the lift began to move, Harry slammed his fist angrily into the door. Ginny remained still, her arms wrapped around her stomach. Harry moved suddenly, beginning to pace in front of her.

“What was that?” he demanded angrily, gesturing as he moved. Like a caged lion, he weaved back and forth, his eyes glinting and his hand clutching his wand. “They were waiting! I mean what the…I don’t know what they’re playing at but…when we get to the floor we run. Don’t look around, just run as fast as you can, ok?”

When she didn’t reply, he stopped walking and looked over at her. Her brow was furrowed as she stared intently at the ground in front of her. Her face was pale, her body tense with emotion.

“Ginny,” he said, crossing quickly to her.

Ginny looked up when he stopped right in front of her.

“Are you with me?” he asked, brushing the hair off of her face before cupping her cheeks in his palms. “Are you ok?”

Ginny could feel his hands trembling and she shook her head.

He bent down, kissing her swiftly as he wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling her up against him. Her arms slipped around his back, holding him tightly as she kissed him.

“We’re ok,” he said when he rested his forehead against hers. “We’re going to be ok.”

“What are we going to do?”

“We’re going to get out of here,” he replied. He kissed her again before shifting back to look at her. “We get away from here and then figure out what’s happening.”

Ginny nodded.

“You’re bleeding,” she noted worriedly, bringing her hand to his temple.

“Am I?” he asked, bringing his own hand up and then wincing when he touched the cut on his forehead. “I’m fine,” he said, rubbing the blood from his fingers and glancing up at the numbers. “We’re almost there.”

Ginny glanced at the numbers as Harry took her hand.

“When the doors open, we run, ok?” he said, and she nodded, squaring her shoulders.

A moment later the door slid open with a ding and they ran out. The hall was clear and they sprinted toward the atrium. They made it halfway across the large marble entrance before Aurors came running out of the halls on either side.

“Stop where you are!” one Auror yelled.

“Keep going,” Harry ordered, raising his wand. Ginny raised hers too and they both shot spells toward the oncoming wizards. A barrage of stunning and disarming spells shot toward them. “Don’t stop!” Harry yelled, producing a shield around them. The magic bounced harmlessly off as they ran toward the door.

Ginny could feel Harry’s hand begin tremble in hers from the force of his magic. It seeped into her skin, causing her arm to tingle and she glanced up at him. His eyes were dark, his face hard as he glanced behind them.

When he cursed, Ginny glanced back as well. Bill, Charlie, Arthur, Remus, Dumbledore and the rest of the group from upstairs were exiting the lifts behind him.

Their eyes widened when they saw Harry and Ginny reaching the door and they tore off after them.

Harry and Ginny burst out of the front doors of the Ministry, taking the steps two at a time to reach the street.

“GINNY!”

When Arthur’s voice rang out, Ginny looked back again. Bill and Charlie were barreling down the steps after them, with Arthur only steps behind.

“GINNY, STOP!” he yelled, his voice full of fear. “PLEASE!” His eyes were filled with panic as they met hers.

Setting her jaw, Ginny shook her head. Grabbing onto Harry, she watched her family run toward them before they Disapparated with a crack.

An instant later they arrived in the empty hall outside of Harry’s flat. For a second they merely stood, a bit stunned by everything that had just happened.

Harry moved first, taking her hand and leading her quickly to his front door. With a wave of his wand the wards dropped and the locks clicked open. Ginny passed him, slipping inside and moving to stand in the center of the room while he put the wards back into place.

When he finished, Harry turned to face her. She was pale, but her face was full of determination. He crossed to her quickly, coming to stop in front of her.

“We’re leaving here in thirty seconds,” he said.

“Where are we going?”

“I don’t know.”

His eyes lost some of their fire, becoming almost hesitant as he brought his hand up, catching a strand of her hair in his fingers. “I don’t think we’ll be coming back anytime soon, so get what you need, ok?”

Ginny nodded, catching his hand as he ran it down her hair. Bringing his knuckles to her mouth, she kissed his skin lightly as she held his gaze.

“Thirty seconds,” she said and he nodded as the resolve in his eyes returned.

A second later a spell hit the front door with a loud bang. The room shook around them, knocking them both off balance. Grabbing each other to steady themselves, they looked toward the door. It was still secure, the wards still in place. Harry could see the echo of a blasting spell however, causing the door to shake.

“Dumbledore’s here,” Harry said grimly. Dumbledore was the only one powerful enough to have had even that much success against his wards. “We have to hurry.”

Another spell hit the door as he grabbed Ginny’s hand and led her quickly down the hall. When they reached her room she flung the door open and disappeared inside. Harry continued on, breaking into a run as he neared his room.

Ginny’s earlier fears of being in the room were forgotten, replaced by the urgency of the situation.

Running to her closet, she flicked her wand at her bureau. While she was digging inside her closet for her bag, the drawers flew open and her things flew onto the bed, landing in a messy pile. She tugged several shirts off of their hangers before crossing back to her bed. It took her only a few seconds to thrust everything inside and hoist the bag over her shoulder.

Harry met her in the hall, carrying his own bag.

“Here,” he offered, reaching for the strap on her shoulder.

Ginny shrugged it off as he took it. Setting both bags on the floor he drew his wand from his back pocket and pointed it at them.

Decresco,” he muttered and the bags shrunk until they could easily fit into his hand. Scooping them up quickly, he slipped them into his pocket and then took Ginny’s hand. “Ready?” he asked as he pulled her against him.

She nodded as they wrapped their arms around each other.

“I’m going to have to lower the wards,” he explained and she nodded again. “Don’t let go of me.”

Ginny clutched his shirt tightly, closing her eyes and burying her forehead in his chest.

Harry listened to the echo of yelling and spells coming from the front room. Taking a breath, he flicked his wand. The wards dropped and as Harry began to turn on his heel he could hear a loud boom and splintering wood as his front door was blown off of its hinges.

Aurors streamed into the flat as Harry and Ginny Disapparated with a pop.

A second later they arrived in an underground garage.

“Where are we?” Ginny asked, glancing around.

“The garage,” Harry replied, crossing to an empty gray wall.

Furrowing her brow, Ginny followed him, not sure what he was doing. Her eyes widened when he pointed his wand at the wall, causing the gray paint to shimmer before shifting to reveal a door. He unlocked it quickly, holding it open so that she could go in first.

The room was dark and musty. A thin layer of dust curled up around her as she walked in, disrupting the stale air. When Harry moved past her she followed, coming to a stop beside him when he halted in front of a strange tan object. She tilted her head, eyeing it in confusion for a second.

“Harry, what are we…”

She trailed off when Harry grabbed the cover, pulling it off of the object beneath. Dust flew into the air and Ginny took an automatic step back, coughing slightly.

Ginny’s eyes widened as she found herself looking at a large Muggle motorcycle. Harry tossed the fabric into a corner and then crossed to the opposite wall.

“You expect me to ride on that?” she asked suddenly, glancing up at him as he pulled a helmet off a hook. “You’re not serious.”

The tenseness in his face faded for a moment and he smiled slightly. Pulling a second black helmet off a hook on the wall, he tossed it to her.

“You’ll love it,” he assured her as she caught it. She eyed him warily as he pointed his wand at himself, transfiguring his black robe into a black Muggle jacket. He then cast the same spell on her before climbing on the bike and slipping on his helmet. The black visor covered his face so she couldn’t see his expression when he held out his hand.

She eyed the bike again before reluctantly pulling on her own helmet.

“He’s going to kill me,” she muttered as she took his hand.

She jerked in surprise when his laugh echoed around her inside of the helmet.

“I’m not going to kill you,” his voice chuckled into her ear.

“How…”

“They’re charmed,” he explained. “So the people wearing them can talk…Get on please, we have to go.”

She frowned at his words but climbed quickly onto the bike behind him. Placing her hands on his sides, she curled her fingers into his jacket as the bike roared to life.

“Hold on,” he said, and the door to the room swung open.

Ginny let out a squeak of surprise, wrapping her arms quickly around Harry’s stomach when the bike suddenly shot forward. As they rode through the garage and up the ramp, exiting onto the street, Ginny held onto him tightly.

They weaved their way through the tight streets in silence.

“Are you ok?” Harry asked eventually. His voice was hesitant and Ginny tightened her hold on him, knowing what he was asking.

“No,” she replied softly, watching the buildings blur together as they passed. Her father’s face, full of fear and anger flashed through her mind and she shut her eyes.

“Me neither,” Harry replied wearily. He took her hand in his, linking their fingers together as they rode away from their family.





Chapter 11: An Echo of Fear
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Molly Weasley sat in her den in silence, her lips pursed together in worry as she waited for news of the meeting. Staring unseeingly into the crackling fire in front of her, she nervously tapped her finger on the worn armrest of her wingback chair.

Her dishes were washing themselves in the kitchen sink, the clinking sound drifting into the den as they scrubbed themselves over and over. She’d only managed to dry five plates before distractedly giving up and heading into the den.

How did it go? she wondered, her eyes still locked on the fireplace. How did they take it? What’s taking so bloody long?

Questions flew round and round in her head like a flock of pixies, desperate to be answered and unwilling to quiet for even a moment.

Eventually, a soft clicking sound drew her attention to the large family clock that adorned the wall. It was a special clock, each individual hand representing a member of her family. Her eyes widened in horror as the hand with Ginny’s smiling picture shifted down to “lost”. Molly’s hand flew to her mouth in a vain attempt to muffle her moan of dismay.

~..~..~..~..~..~

The buildings flew by in a blur as Harry and Ginny sped through the tight streets of London. Weaving in and out of traffic, they made their way out of the heart of the city.

At first Ginny held her breath, gripping Harry’s jacket tightly as he deftly steered the bike through the traffic. When he took a roundabout at breakneck speed she gasped, squeezing her eyes shut as she waited for the Muggle contraption to either fall over or collapse underneath them.

Surprisingly, it did neither and soon she began to feel comfortable. Relaxing slightly, she rested against Harry’s back and watched the cars and buildings pass.

It’s a bit like flying really, she noted as the familiar sensation soon had her heart racing with adrenaline instead of dread.

The buildings began to thin as they left the bustling metropolis behind. Eventually the streets stretched out straight in front of them, the buildings replaced by fields and trees. Even after they were out of London and alone on the road, Harry didn’t slow his pace.

Remaining silent as he drove, he tried to figure out the best plan of action.

There’s no one to turn to, he thought grimly. At least no one I can trust.

His eyes narrowed as his mind moved to Ron.

How can he be in on this? he wondered angrily.

The knowledge that Ron was aware of the plan to separate them hurt more than Harry could stand. For ten years, Ron had been his rock, one of the two people he could always count on.

He wasn’t even there, Harry thought furiously. He couldn’t even face me.

For a moment he wondered if Hermione knew.

There’s no way Ron could keep something this important from her, Harry thought spitefully as he mulled the situation over in his mind. She had to know!

Gritting his teeth, Harry tried to keep his emotions in check as his mind whirled.

After the way she kept urging me to admit my feelings for Ginny, she couldn’t possibly approve of what just happened. Yet she knew it was coming and she didn’t warn me.

The fact that Ron and Hermione could think so little of him…could side with Bill was almost too much.

How can they agree? his mind demanded. Although Ginny might not understand Bill and Charlie’s implications that he would hurt her, Harry did. He knew what they meant. I could hurt her, but God, he thought, shaking his head, how could they think I would?

It had taken him five years to get to this place, this level of control. He wasn’t dangerous anymore and they knew it. The entire concept that he could be dangerous to Ginny seemed ludicrous to him. She was precious. His hurt and feelings of betrayal swelled afresh at the idea that Ron and his family didn’t know that he’d die before letting himself hurt her.

Behind him, Ginny could feel Harry’s back tensing against her. When his sudden curse echoed in her helmet, she loosened her grip on his jacket. Running her free hand down the leather, she slipped it underneath the hem.

Harry’s mounting anger lessened slightly when he felt Ginny’s hand caressing his side through his shirt.

“What are you thinking?” she asked, her voice soft and clear inside of his helmet.

“Nothing,” he replied.

“Liar,” she contended, curling her fingers and running her nails along his side.

“Nothing good,” he said grimly, unwilling to elaborate.

“Right,” she replied, her voice suddenly weary. “Where are we going?”

“Away,” he replied.

He couldn’t be more specific because at the moment he didn’t know. He wasn’t sure where they would end up; he just knew they had to get as far away from London as possible.

“They’ll follow us,” she said.

It wasn’t a question but Harry nodded anyway.

‘’Yeah.”

“We should probably get off the main road,” she suggested, tightening her grip around his waist and leaning against him.

“Just a little farther,” he replied.

For a few more miles they rode in silence, before Harry began flipping several switches on the bike.

“Hold on,” he warned her as they sped up.

Harry knew what was coming. Despite his anger over what had led them there, he was suddenly filled with a familiar anticipation. He felt it every time he rode his bike.

Ginny stiffened when she felt him sit up a bit straighter. It was as though she could feel the adrenaline pulsing through him. Glancing around his shoulder; she frowned. There were no exits or side roads approaching.

“Harry,” she said in confusion. “Where are we…”

“We need to leave the road,” he explained, his tone lightening as he spoke.

His voice was almost teasing, confusing her further. She couldn’t see anything except wide open fields surrounding them.

“Yes, but…where are…oh!”

With a roar, the bike jerked suddenly off the ground and shot upwards. Ginny cried out in surprise, her grip on Harry tightening as they rose swiftly into the air. Soon they were flying over the open fields.

“Harry!” Ginny squealed as Harry made a quick left turn, causing the bike to dip to the side.

“What?” he laughed.

“This is a Muggle bike! This can’t possibly be safe!”

Harry merely chuckled as he pressed another button on the bike, causing it to shudder as the cloaking charm fell into place.

“Give me your helmet,” he said eventually as he reached up, pulling off his own. After shrinking it, he tucked it into the pocket of his jacket.

“Are you crazy?” Ginny asked, leaning slightly away from him. “This thing could stop working!”

“It’s not going to sto…”

“I’m serious, Harry!” she insisted. “I remember what happened to the car my dad bewitched…and you should too! You were with Ron when it ended up in that tree…”

“I remember,” Harry laughed. “Dumb thing chucked us out before disappearing into the forbidden forest.”

“See!!” she exclaimed. “I’ll keep the helmet, thank you very much.”

Dropping his hands from the handlebars, Harry let the bike fly straight ahead as he twisted around see her.

“Ginny,” Harry smiled indulgently at her, “It’s safe. And really…if it stops working, the helmet’s not going to help you.”

Ginny glanced down at the fields rushing by far beneath them.

“You’ll be more comfortable,” he urged.

Huffing, Ginny released his jacket as she reached up and fumbled with the clasp. After a second it snapped open and she pulled the helmet off, handing it to Harry.

Turning back around, Harry shrunk her helmet and slipped it into his pocket. Through the rearview mirror, he could see her shaking her hair out.

The fact that he almost lost her came rushing back to him as he ran his eyes over her face and hair. It was shimmering in the sunlight, beautiful and wild as the wind whipped it around her.

After pulling her hair into a pony, Ginny slipped her arms back around Harry’s waist.

Releasing the handle, Harry pulled her grip free of his jacket and threaded their fingers together, squeezing slightly before bringing her hand to his lips. He kissed her knuckles as she rested her chin on his shoulder.

Ginny shifted, kissing his neck lightly before nestling against him.

After flying for several minutes he turned the bike to the right, changing their direction.

~..~..~..~..~..~

A burst of green flames erupted within the Burrow fireplace. An instant later Arthur Weasley stepped out, his face drawn and pale as he straightened. He didn’t bother dusting off his robes as he immediately glanced around for his wife. A flash of red filled his vision a second before Molly collided with him.

“What happened?” Molly cried, clutching his shoulders. “Where is she? The clock it…it…Arthur what happened??”

Unable to find the words to tell her, Arthur ran his hands down her back, attempting to soothe her. However, his delay in answering her question only caused her to push him back so she could see his face.

“Where is my daughter?” she demanded shakily, her hands still fisted into his shirt. “Arthur…

“She…” Arthur shook his head before dropping his face into his hands.

“She what…she what!?” she wailed, shaking him slightly.

“I’m so sorry, I…” Arthur shook his head helplessly, still reeling from what had happened at the Ministry. “We…they…”

Molly gasped, shaking his shoulder and bringing his eyes back to hers.

“What happened, Arthur?”

“They left,” he said simply.

“What do you mean they left?!” she shrieked. “Why didn’t you stop them?”

“We tried!” Arthur burst out, his face flushing with despair as he threw his arms out. “Of course we tried! But it was Harry and…and we knew they wouldn’t like it but…but not…”

He trailed off as his wife burst suddenly into tears. When she buried her face into his chest, he wrapped his arm around her and led her to the sofa. He rocked back and forth with her as he told her what had happened, his voice unsteady as he thought back on Ginny’s face – the betrayal and fear filling her eyes before she’d left.

“We have to go to the Ministry,” he said finally. “Bill and Charlie…they’ve gone to get the boys.”

“We’re going to have to tell them,” Molly said shakily and he nodded his agreement grimly.

~..~..~..~..~..~

The small bathroom was filled with steam, the air swirling slightly as the heat mixed with the cool draft coming from the vent near the ceiling. The mirror was fogged and a slight sheen covered the tiled floor. The bustle of the outside world, the yells of street vendors and honking of horns was dulled by the sound of the shower.

“Isn’t this better than work?”

“Mmm,” Hermione hummed, smiling as Ron leisurely shampooed her hair.

Massaging his fingers in small circles, Ron grinned as his wife’s eyes fell shut with a groan of pleasure. It hadn’t taken Ron long to decide that sharing a shower with Hermione was a definite perk of being married. He’d been fooling around the first time he’d taken the shampoo from her, declaring that he would be much better at the task. What started as a joke, however, soon becoming a regular occurrence when they were together.

Without taking his hands out of her hair, he maneuvered her around, dipping her head back into the stream of water. The suds glided down her back, swirling into the drain as he ran his fingers through the thick strands. Hermione’s mouth opened as she sighed and he swooped in, kissing her softly as he rinsed her hair.

Her hands had been teasing his sides lightly for the last several minutes but, as he wiped the remaining suds from her hairline, she ran her palms around to his back. Pulling him against her, she turned them so that the water rained down on both of them.
“Mm, brilliant,” he murmured against her lips, releasing her hair as he ran his hands down her spine.

The water rushing past their ears was loud as they stood together, muffling their sounds as the kiss deepened. It wasn’t loud enough, however, to block out the sudden knock on the door. Hermione jumped in surprise as Ron’s head snapped around.

“What the…”

Ron stuck his head out of the curtain and reached for his wand. It flew instantly from the sink to his hand.

“Oi, Ron!” a voice called as another knock sounded on the door. “Get your ruddy arse out here!”

“Wha…Charlie!” Ron yelled back irritably, “What the hell…”

He snapped his mouth shut, when the door swung open, revealing his brother.

“What the bloody hell are you doing in my flat?!” Ron demanded, shifting the curtain in an attempt to block Hermione even though she was already completely covered. “Get out!”

“We need to go,” Charlie snapped impatiently, waving his hand in front of his face as the steam spilled out of the small room and into the hall, “so finish up.”

“Go where?” Ron asked frowning, “I don’t have to be anywhere until…”

“Damn it, Ron!” Charlie said tersely. “Just hurry up.”

Apparently feeling like he didn’t need to explain further, he shut the door, leaving Ron and Hermione alone.

Dropping his wand on the floor, Ron snapped the curtain closed as he grumbled about brothers and privacy.

“Hurry, my arse,” Ron said irritably, slipping his arms around Hermione’s waist and drawing her back to him. “He can just bloody wait…”

Hermione bit her lip, her expression worried as she shook her head.

“Ron, what if it’s Ginny?” she asked, rubbing her hand over his chest.

Ron sobered instantly at the mention of Ginny. After a second’s hesitation, he nodded firmly and released her.

They finished their shower quickly, pulling on their robes in silence before leaving the bathroom.

Charlie was leaning against the wall in the hall, his body tense as he waited. His eyes widened when he saw Hermione exit after Ron.

“Oh,” he said in surprise.

“Yeah, Oh,” Ron scowled at him as he crossed his arms over his chest.

“Sorry, Hermione,” Charlie said looking a bit sheepish. “Thought you’d be working.”

“It’s ok,” she replied, waving him off. “What’s going on?

“It’s good you’re here though,” Charlie said with a nod. “We were going to have to stop off and pick you up.”

“Really?” she asked, raising her eyebrows.

“What’s going on, Charlie?” Ron asked as he stepped forward, his insides suddenly churning uncomfortably. It couldn’t be good if they needed Hermione too. “Is it Ginny?”

Hermione’s hand slipped to his bicep, squeezing gently as Charlie nodded grimly, raking a hand through his hair as he pushed off the wall.

“What happened?” Ron demanded, his demeanor changing in an instant as he stared at Charlie, searching his face for answers. “Where is she? Is she hurting? Is Harry with her?”

Charlie’s face hardened at Harry’s name, his eyes narrowing slightly before he cursed under his breath and looked away. Meeting Ron’s eyes again a second later, he nodded.

“We’ll explain at the Ministry,” he said, “just get dressed.”

“Charlie,” Ron said, catching his older brother’s shoulder as he began to head down the hall to the front room. When their gazes locked, Ron hesitated, suddenly afraid to ask.

Hermione saw his pause and ran her hand down his arm, linking their fingers together.

“Is it Malfoy?” she asked for him. “Did he take her?”

Charlie’s eyes flicked to hers for a second before returning to Ron’s. Slowly he shook his head, watching as his brother’s posture deflated a touch.

“It’s worse than Malfoy,” he murmured, “Dumbledore will explain.”

“What?” Ron asked in surprise, watching as Charlie left to wait in the front room while they dressed. “What’s worse than Malfoy?” he called after him.

Twenty minutes later the elevator opened with a ding and Ron, Hermione and Charlie walked out.

“Damn it, Charlie, why all the secrecy?” Ron demanded softly as they headed down the hall.

“I can’t tell you,” Charlie replied.

“Why not?!”

“I just can’t!” he shot back exasperatedly. “Will you please just shut up for five more minutes, we’re here now.”

Hermione squeezed Ron’s hand and he huffed but stopped pushing. Following Charlie around the corner, he paused as his eyes widened in shock before shifting to alarm.

The Auror office looked like a tornado had hit it. Desks were overturned, papers scattered and scorch marks covered the walls.

Ron saw several Aurors working to repair the broken windows. He opened his mouth to demand to know what had happened when the voices of three of his other brothers sounded behind him.

“Damn it, Bill,” Fred declared, “I asked you a question!”

“Bugger!” George’s voice interrupted. “What happened here?”

Ron, Hermione and Charlie turned around to see Fred and George gaping at the destruction. Bill’s eyes were on Charlie as he strode forward.

“Looks like Harry didn’t take it well, did he?” Fred called after him. “I wouldn’t have either!”

“What?” Ron asked as he looked from Fred to Bill, whose back had stiffened at the comment.

“Bill!” Hermione gasped from beside him, taking a step forward, “What happened to your eye? Are you ok?”

“What?” Bill asked before comprehension flicked across his face. “Oh, I forgot,” he mumbled, bringing his hand to his swollen black eye. His gaze moved to Charlie for a second before returning to Hermione. “It’s nothing…”

“They’re waiting for you,” Moody barked as he emerged from Remus’ office a few doors down the hall. His magical eye was swirling in its socket as he looked at them. He jerked his head toward the room he’d just exited.

“Are you heading out?” Bill asked him and Moody nodded.

“Everyone’s out,” he growled, “except the ones in there, so hurry up so you can leave too.”

“What’s going on?” Ron demanded in frustration.

He didn’t get an answer as Bill and Charlie headed down the hall. Grumbling, he followed his brothers into Remus’ office.

When they got inside he stopped. The tension in the room was palpable, causing Ron’s insides to twist as he glanced around. Remus was behind his desk, his expression grave as he talked quietly with Dumbledore. His parents were on the right side of the desk, his mother pale as she stood in his father’s arms. Frowning, Ron started toward them but stopped when Hermione murmured his name.

Glancing down, he followed her gaze to the other side of the office. Percy was standing stiffly near the wall, his arms crossed in front of him as he examined his fingernails. Ron’s eyes widened as he regarded his brother. They rarely saw each other, as Percy didn’t often come to gatherings at the Burrow. Although he seemed outwardly bored by the gathering, Ron saw the underlying anxiety in Percy’s eyes when he looked up.

Charlie and Bill crossed to him, flanking him on either side as they spoke in whispers. Percy seemed to be filling them in on something as he spoke, nodding at their obvious questions.

Ron’s jaw tensed as he watched the exchange, angered by the fact that everyone here obviously already knew what was going on, everyone except him.

Even the twins, who were normally easy going about the most serious of circumstances, seemed unnerved by the situation because they remained uncharacteristically quiet as they entered.

Finally, Ron’s eyes fell on the wizard sitting in the corner. His greasy hair fell in his eyes as he slouched, obviously unhappy about being present. His face was dark as he scowled, his eyes trained on Dumbledore and Remus.

What's he doing here? Ron wondered, his eyes narrowing as Snape’s gaze suddenly flicked to his.

“Please have a seat,” Remus said, bringing Ron’s focus back to the center of the room.

There were four chairs arranged in front of his desk, creating a small semi-circle. The twins had already claimed the two on the left, leaving the remaining pair for Hermione and him.

Suddenly feeling nervous, Ron allowed Hermione to lead him forward as his eyes again went to his parents. His mother tried to smile at him before her expression faltered. Turning, she buried her face into his father’s chest.

Stiffening automatically at her distress, Ron turned towards them before his father’s voice stopped him.

“Sit down, Ron,” he ordered, causing his son’s eyes to snap up to his.

For a moment Ron hesitated, wanting to argue but something in his father’s eyes made him reconsider. His eyes dropped once more to his mother before he sank into the remaining chair.

“What’s going on?” he asked, shifting his gaze to Remus.

“I’ll tell you,” George spoke up suddenly, his eyes flashing as he leaned past Fred to meet Ron’s gaze. “They’ve reassigned Harry.”

“What?!” Ron replied, his gaze snapping to Fred when he nodded.

“Saw the note myself,” Fred added, “Ginny was furious.”

“Harry was too,” George chimed in.

“Why?” Hermione asked looking at Remus, “Harry’s the strongest of…”

“I told you something was off yesterday,” Ron said to her before looking at Bill. “I knew you didn’t like it. God, what the hell were you thinking? Harry’s…”

“Bugger off, Ron,” Bill snapped, taking a step forward. “You have no…”

Charlie caught his arm as Arthur called for silence.

“We don’t have time for this,” their father said sternly.

“Right,” Remus agreed.

Ron and Bill glared at each other for a second longer before turning back Remus.

“Please…just tell us what’s happening,” Hermione said as calmly as she could manage, taking Ron’s hand.

“As George has already told you, Harry was reassigned this morning,” Remus said. He raised his hand for silence when it looked like the Ron and the twins were going to speak up. “We felt it would be more effective, given Malfoy’s recent activity, for Harry to search for…”

“Oh just tell them, Lupin,” Snape drawled from his chair. “No need to waste time lying to them, they’ll know soon enough.”

Remus sent Snape a dark look before continuing.

“Very well,” he snapped before turning his attention to the four in front of him.

“I’m sure you can tell from the state of things outside that Harry and Ginny didn’t take the reassignment well. When they came here, things got a bit…out of hand,” he explained, glancing over at Arthur and Molly.

“Harry…destroyed the office,” Charlie noted grimly.

“Oh, Merlin,” Hermione murmured, bringing a hand to her temple.

“Why would he destroy the office?” Fred asked as Ron seethed silently. “What did you do to him?”

“We didn’t do anything,” Bill answered. “They just…refused to be separated.”

“Where are they now?” Ron asked.

“We don’t know.”

“Wha…how can you not know?”

“They left,” Remus said, “and now we have to find them as soon as possible…to get them apart.”

“Wait,” Hermione shook her head before glancing around. “But why do you have to separate them? They want to be together, so much so that they would leave. I mean, we know she’s safe with him so…” Hermione trailed off, her eyes going to the oldest Weasley brother’s reaction to her statement.

“The problem, sadly, is that she’s not safe with him,” Dumbledore spoke up, “at least, not anymore.”

“Why not?” Ron shot back, instinctively defensive for Harry.

“There are things you don’t know,” he answered, his gaze moving from Ron, to Hermione and finally to Fred and George.

“Yeah, obviously,” Ron snapped, folding his arms.

Ron,” Hermione said.

“What? I mean look what they’ve done!” he replied, gesturing vaguely at the room. “My sister and best friend are off somewhere, hiding from the people supposed to be helping them keep her safe. So now she’s scared and confused and having to worry about Malfoy!”

“Are you quite finished? I don’t have all day.”

Ron’s head snapped around to find that Snape was now leaning against the front of the desk, his arms folded as he gazed down his crooked nose at them.

“Why are you here?” Ron glared up at him.

“Your sister didn’t go to Beauxbatons,” Snape said.

“What?” Ron asked, his brow furrowing in confusion.

“Did I stutter?”

“Severus,” Dumbledore warned from behind him.

Snape sighed, shifting against the desk before clearing his throat.

“Ginevra Weasley went to Hogwarts,” he said clearly, his eyes moving slowly across the row of chairs as he met the confused gazes of Ron, Hermione, Fred and George. “Before Harry tried to kill her, of course,” he added almost offhandedly.

“What?” Hermione breathed.

Rolling his eyes at her, Snape pushed off from the desk and turned to Dumbledore.

Hermione didn’t listen to their conversation as she turned to look at Ron. He and the twins looked as confused as she felt. Looking around the room, she furrowed her brow as she saw everyone watching them expectantly. She didn’t understand why they weren’t gaping at Snape or laughing at the ridiculousness of his claim. They all knew Ginny went to Beauxbatons.

She started to remind them of that when Ron’s grip on her hand suddenly became iron. Gasping she turned to look at him. She began trying to pull out of his grasp, but froze, when she saw his expression.

Ron’s wide eyes were unfocused as he gazed at the desk in front of him. His expression was pained as he furrowed his brow with a low groan.

“Ron, what…” she trailed off, her mouth falling open as she squeezed her eyes shut. Bringing her hand to her temple she doubled over with a cry.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Ginny was flying. The wind was whipping past her face, her surroundings indistinguishable in the haze of the morning. She smiled almost in relief as the familiar feeling of weightlessness overtook her body.

Exhilarated by the familiar speed, she leaned forward, propelling her broom faster. Zooming toward the three large rings at the opposite end of the Quidditch pitch, she could see Beauxbatons in the distance. When she reached the goals she pressed down on the handle, looping below and then up through the middle cylinder as she headed back the way she came.

It seemed like she couldn’t go fast enough and she suddenly pressed down, causing her broom to dive suddenly toward the earth. Her breath caught as her stomach flew into her throat at the abrupt change in direction.

“Ginny!”

Pulling up and glancing around, Ginny smiled as Julien flew towards her. Following him with her eyes, she tilted her head back as he looped around her before coming to a stop in front of where she was hovering.

“Fancy meeting you here,” she smiled.

“I go where you go,” he shrugged with a teasing grin. “Didn’t you know?”

“Hm…” She smirked as she considered him.

Guiding her broom closer to him, she came to a stop beside him. Their thighs brushed as they sat facing each other and she leaned forward. He met her halfway, kissing her soundly for a moment before she pulled back.

“Well...Come on then,” she smiled before shooting away from him.

Hearing his laugh, she sped up, knowing he’d follow.


Harry glanced over his shoulder when Ginny shifted against him, murmuring slightly as she dozed. The wind had dragged a few strands loose from her ponytail and they swirled around face. Grateful that she was able to rest a bit, Harry glanced down at her hands where they rested against his stomach. Releasing one handle, he laced his fingers through hers, caressing her thumb lightly.

Leaning over on her broom, Ginny flew faster. She could feel him behind her and knew it wouldn’t be long before he caught up. His broom was faster than hers and so she began looping through the air, delaying the inevitable. Glancing behind her, she saw him following her patterns.

Suddenly the world around her began to shake. Startled she pulled her broom to a stop. Her eyes widened as a sudden fog washed over her, distorting her surroundings until all she could see was grey. Squeezing her eyes shut, Ginny furrowed her brow. A feeling of foreboding washed over her as the temperature seemed to drop.

“I don’t know why you try to out-fly me,” Julien’s voice called teasingly and she opened her eyes.

His brown eyes were sparkling at her as he came to a stop beside her.

“You know you can’t get away,” he murmured, his eyes intense.

“Ginny!” Bill’s voice came suddenly.

Ginny turned her head, her eyes widening when she saw Bill, Charlie and Ron hovering on brooms beside her. Their eyes were angry, their wands trained on Julien.

“Get away from him,” Charlie insisted.

“What are you doing!” she demanded, the wind whipping her hair around her face. Suddenly the world seemed to tremble again, the temperature plummeting so quickly that she shivered.

The sky darkened as thunderclouds rolled across the sky and the wind picked up. A flash of lightening shot through the sky, followed by a crack of thunder.

“He’ll hurt you.”

“Don’t listen to them, Gin,” a warm voice sounded in her ear. Looking back over she found not Julien, but Harry. His eyes were black, his face hard as power seemed to ripple off of his body. Slowly, his lips curled up into a mischievous smirk. “You know you can’t get away,” he murmured, a warning in his voice that caused her to tremble.

Transfixed, Ginny watched his hand as he reached for her face. His fingers ghosted over her cheek and she shut her eyes. Her heart was suddenly pounding, her fear instinctive and intense but she couldn’t seem to move as he touched her.

Her eyes flew open when he tangled his hand into her hair and jerked her forward into a bruising kiss. The angry shouts from her brothers barely registered. His tongue plunged into her mouth, demanding and intoxicating as he pulled her closer. Her heart racing, Ginny whimpered as she felt herself sinking into him.

After a moment his lips slowed, becoming achingly tender as they brushed against hers. Bringing a trembling hand to his face, Ginny trailed her fingers down his cheek.

“Harry,” she whispered, her voice shaking.

“I love you,” he breathed against her mouth before shoving her backwards off her broom.

Screaming, she plummeted toward the earth as Harry stared down at her, his face twisted in triumph.


With a strangled cry Ginny jerked awake. Her body was shaking and she instinctively pushed away from the warm body in front of her.

Startled by her sudden movement, Harry clamped down on her thigh to keep her from losing her balance.

“Ginny?” he asked worriedly, trying to twist around to see her. He could feel her quick breath shaking on his neck. “What is it?”

“I…” Ginny blinked quickly as she stared at his profile. Glancing down at the motorcycle and the hills rolling by beneath them she remembered where she was. “I…N-nothing…I’m fine.”

“You don’t sound fine,” he countered. “Hang on, I’m stopping,” he said, beginning to guide the bike to the ground.

“No, it’s fine, really,” she insisted shaking her head. Pain shot through her temples at the movement and she winced.

The bike landed on a field, bumping along the ground as it came to a stop.

Kicking the stand down with his foot, Harry climbed off quickly. Helping her down, he caught her cheeks in his hands.

“What happened?” he asked, studying her face.

“Nothing,” she insisted with a sigh. “Just a bad dream.”

Frowning, Harry pulled her into his arms.

“We didn’t need to stop,” she mumbled into his shirt, feeling ridiculous that he’d get this upset over her dream.

“We needed to stop anyway,” he assured her, “we’ve been riding for awhile.”

He could feel her body trembling and his mind instantly went to when she’d had a nightmare after Malfoy’s attack at the Burrow. Resting his cheek on the top of her head he pulled her tighter.

“What was the dream?” he asked gently, running his hand up and down her back. “Was it like last night?”

“No…it was…it was nothing,” Ginny replied in a small voice. She didn’t want to tell him.

Harry was silent for a moment before he guided her back enough to see her face. She kept her eyes on his shirt, her hands resting on his waist.

“Ginny…” he prompted. “You can tell me. I want to know.”

“I know you do,” she replied, reluctantly meeting his gaze. “I just…I don’t want to tell you.”

Harry heart dropped, surprised by her comment.

She doesn’t want to tell me? Hurt welled inside of him at the idea that she wouldn’t trust him.

“Please?” he urged but Ginny just shook her head.

What could be so bad that she wouldn’t want me to know? he wondered.

“Ok,” he said, trying to keep his voice neutral. Frustrated that she didn’t trust him he let go of her and stepped back. “Let’s go then.”

Ginny watched him walk back to the bike, his back straight and his body tense. She knew he was upset that she didn’t want to tell him. The thought of hurting him made her stomach churn and she took a breath.

“You pushed me off my broom,” she called, bringing him to a stop. Slowly he turned back toward her, his brow furrowed.

“What?”

“You kissed me and then pushed me off my broom,” she repeated. “I…I was flying with Julien but he turned into you. My brothers were there, like today…yelling at me to get away from you,” she explained, wrapping her arms around her stomach as she remembered their faces.

“They said you’d hurt me,” she said, watching his eyes flash angrily before he looked away and clenched his jaw, “like they kept saying today and…and you kissed me and told me you loved me and…and pushed me off my broom…I was falling…”

Her voice faded as she tried to read his expression. His lips curved into a frown, his hands balled into fists as he took a breath. Hesitantly, she began to walk toward him, unsure what his reaction would be. She knew it wasn’t real, that it was a dream born from her brothers’ ridiculous actions today as well as her confusion. She knew he’d never hurt her and she didn’t want him to think that she did.

“Harry,” she entreated softly as she came to a stop in front of him.

Looking down at her, Harry reached for her hand.

“Do you think I would hurt you?” he murmured, dropping his eyes to their clasped fingers.

“Of course not,” she assured him, her voice soft but firm. Bringing her hand to his cheek, she forced his gaze to hers. “I didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t want to upset you. I didn’t want you to even consider that.”

Sighing, Harry leaned down, resting his forehead against hers. “I’m sorry they scared you like this,” he breathed. For a few moments they stayed together, letting their eyes close at the comfort of the other.

“It was just dream,” she whispered. “It didn’t mean anything.”

A sudden thought occurred to Harry and his eyes popped open.

“You were flying with Julien?” he asked, making a face as he pulled back.

Ginny opened her eyes, her mood lightening instantly when she saw his expression.

“Just a little bit,” she shrugged, laughing softly. “Why… jealous?”

“Was he a better flyer than me?” he asked, ignoring her question and pulling her closer so their bodies were pressed together.

“I’ve never seen you fly,” she pointed out before cocking her head to the side. “But he was brilliant at school so...”

Harry made another face and took her hand, leading her back to the bike.

“I’m sure I was better,” he said, suddenly feeling grumpy.

“I’m sure you were too,” Ginny agreed, rolling her eyes.

“Hey,” he countered, hearing the sarcasm in her voice. “Youngest Seeker in a century here,” he contended, pointing at his chest as he slipped onto the bike.

For a second Ginny paused, her eyes widening in surprise. Suppressing a grin, she climbed on behind him. It didn’t seem like a good idea to point out that Julien had held the same honor at Beauxbatons. Slipping her arms around him, Ginny rested her chin on Harry’s shoulder as the bike roared to life again before shooting up into the sky.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Hermione was curled over in her chair, blinking quickly as her mind finally cleared. Rubbing her temple, she stared at her shoes in shock for a second before slowly straightening up.

“Oh my God,” she breathed.

Her eyes met Dumbledore’s before she looked over at Ron.

Ron and the twins still had their eyes shut, their hands clamped on their armrests. After a moment their eyes flicked open.

Ron took several gasping breaths, as though he hadn’t been breathing, before turning to look at Hermione.

“Are you ok?” he asked and she nodded. Satisfied with her response he turned his gaze back to Dumbledore. “How…could you?” he demanded, his voice low as he struggled to keep his fury in check. “How could you do this?”

“How could you not tell us!?” Fred snapped, glaring at his older brothers.

“Yeah,” George charged. “Percy got to know but we…”

“You’re too close to Harry,” Remus tried to interject. “You would never have been able to…”

His explanation was cut off by Ron’s curse.

“Why did you bloody do it at all?!”

“Ron,” Arthur said, “you know it was the…”

“Ginny didn’t want this!” he shot back, whirling on his father as he rose from his chair. “How could you do this to her?!” he roared. “I told you not to do it! I told you to let us keep looking!”

“There was no time and you know it,” Arthur responded, his own temper finally snapping as he let go of his wife and stepped forward. “I will not apologize for keeping her alive, Ron. I WON’T DO IT!”

The unexpected outburst from the calmest member of the Weasley clan was enough to silence the room. The Weasley brothers gaped at their father. His face was flushed with frustration as Molly took his hand, drawing him back.

Hermione, who had been shaking her head silently in her chair, suddenly shot to her feet her eyes trained on Dumbledore.

“That’s irrelevant now anyway, Ron,” she said, bringing Ron’s focus to her as she narrowed her eyes. “How could you put them together?!” she demanded of Dumbledore. “What were you thinking? How could you risk that?”

“Hermione,” Ron said but she shook off his hand as she looked around the room.

“It was untested!” she exclaimed. “And what…now what? What’s happening?”

“It seems to be breaking down,” Dumbledore replied. “But we couldn’t separate them to find out for sure…to fix what…”

Hermione’s face was pale as she shook her head, dropping back into her chair and resting her forehead in her hands.

Ron cursed before turning to Bill.

“We have to find them,” he said. “Who’s looking?”

“Everyone basically, except us.”

“Ok,” Ron nodded, his lips set in a firm line as he shut his eyes. For a moment he furrowed his brow in thought before his eyes snapped open. “I’m going to Hogwarts.”

“They won’t be at Hogwarts.”

“I know that,” Ron snapped, “but a way to contact him might be.”

“Oh,” Hermione breathed, raising her head and reaching for his hand as she realized what he meant. “Brilliant, Ron.”

~..~..~..~..~..~

By the time the sun began to set, Harry’s back was aching, his shoulders stiff from riding for so long. Trying to relieve some of the discomfort, he shifted slightly, attempting to not disturb Ginny in the process. Her cheek was pressed against his shoulder as she dozed. So far her dreams hadn’t woken her again and he’d been unwilling to wake her once he’d realized she’d fallen asleep again.

Watching the large storm clouds slowly roll toward them, Harry frowned when a flash of lightening suddenly illuminated the sky in the distance. Thankfully, they were still too far away to hear the roll of thunder that inevitably followed the flash. Wanting to get Ginny inside before the bad weather hit, Harry sped up.

It was nearly dark when Harry finally guided the bike back to the ground, having reached what appeared to be a small, remote Muggle village.

Feeling the change in direction, Ginny shifted, pulling back so that she could glance around. Harry straightened his back now that she wasn’t leaning against him.

“Are we stopping?” she asked sleepily, bringing a hand to her face to rub her eyes as the lights of a small village came into view and the bike touched down on the road.

“Yeah,” Harry said, relieved that the sky was too dark for her to notice the quickly approaching storm clouds.

They rode in silence as they approached the town, slowing to a stop on the outskirts. Harry parked in an alley and Ginny climbed gingerly off the bike. Her body protested to the movement, stiff after hours on the bike.

“Why’d we stop here?” she asked, wincing as she stretched.

“We need to change our appearance before finding a place to stay,” Harry replied, pulling his arms over his head as he rolled his neck.

Ginny nodded, pulling the tie out of her hair and running her fingers through it. It was tangled from the wind and she grimaced as she tried to smooth it down.

Running a hand through his own hair, Harry pulled his wand and pointed it at himself.

Dissimulo Imago,” he said, causing a blue light to shoot from the tip of his wand.

The energy encompassed him for a second before fading. An instant later, Harry’s appearance began to shift. His hair lightened to a light brown, falling neatly into place as his scar faded and his eyes became a dark brown. A light splattering of freckles appeared across his nose and cheeks.

Abstrudium,” he murmured, tapping his glasses with the end of his wand.

As the Disillusionment charm took effect and caused his glasses to disappear, Ginny’s breath caught.

For a moment she blinked in shock as the familiar image of Julien stood in front of her. She couldn’t help wondering if perhaps she’d fallen asleep on the bike and was having another dream. Her ability to breathe returned slightly as Harry shifted out of the shadow of the building, lessening the resemblance.

Not Julien , she corrected, trying to shake herself back to reality. It was just the darkness playing tricks on her. It just looks a bit like him.

The coloring was the same, if he’d been younger and smaller.

“What?” Harry asked, eyeing her with concern as he took a step forward. When Ginny took an automatic step back, he frowned slightly before grinning. “Hey, it’s just me,” he soothed. “It’s just a glamour.”

“I know,” she replied, feeling her face flushing. “You just look…” her voice faded.

There was no way she was going to admit that he looked uncomfortably like her ex-boyfriend…so much so that for a delusional instant she thought it was him. He would surely think she was losing it. The fact that she would even think that made her worry she was losing it. She needed sleep and her head was suddenly pounding.

“You look…different.”

“I think that’s the point,” he said, his voice teasing.

Eying her closely despite his casual tone, he took another step toward her.

This time she remained where she was, forcing a laugh as she pulled her own wand. Pointing it at her body, she cast the glamour charm almost absently as she watched Harry cross to her.

“Wait!” he said in alarm. “That’s dangerous!”

He reached out to stop her before trailing off. His steps faltered as he watched her appearance shift.

“What?” she asked, noticing the surprise fill his face. “You don’t like blondes?” she asked, striking a pose.

Her hair had shortened, barely brushing the tops of her shoulders, while her freckles had disappeared as a tan darkened her skin.

“No,” Harry said, closing the distance between them. “It’s just…where did you learn that?” he asked curiously, reaching out and catching a strand of her honey colored hair between his fingers. “It’s pretty advanced.”

Ginny paused, thinking back. She couldn’t remember where she’d learned it and she furrowed her brow, trying to recall when she’d even cast it before. Her mind was oddly blank.

“Where’d you learn it?” she countered finally, hoping to deflect the attention.

“Auror training,” he replied, searching her eyes. “Second year.”

Harry watched her struggle to remember for another moment, pressing his lips together when she began rubbing her temple.

Why can’t I remember? she wondered in frustration.

It seemed strange that she wouldn’t remember learning a spell complex enough to impress an Auror. She apparently knew it well enough to cast it on herself without even thinking about it and that scared her a bit. Sighing, she rubbed circles on her skin, trying to lessen the pounding.

Suddenly, there was a loud crash down the alley. Before Ginny could blink, Harry had grabbed her arm and yanked her behind him, his wand pointed into the darkness.

Lumos,” he said.

Ginny glanced under his arm as light filled the alley, illuminating the shadows.

For a moment the world was still before a cat shot out from behind a trash can and Ginny jumped in surprise. The metal lid rolled away, spinning down onto the ground as Harry followed the black animal with his wand. When it finally disappeared around a corner, he slowly lowered his arm.

“Come on,” he said softly, taking Ginny’s hand and leading her back to the bike.

Ginny remained silent, fisting her hands into the sides of his jacket when she climbed on behind him. Her heart was pounding at the unintentional reminder that it wasn’t safe for them…for her. Her heart ached as she thought of her family before her mind moved to Malfoy.

Narrowing her eyes, she stared, unseeing, at Harry’s back as they drove into town.

~..~..~..~..~..~

The narrow alley in the center of London was deserted. There was no movement or sound before three small pops filled the space, followed by the appearance of three cloaked wizards. Making their way quickly through the back door of the apartment building, they climbed the stairs to the fourth floor.

The door to Harry’s flat was back in place, seemingly undamaged.

Pulling back his hood, Malfoy pointed his wand at the lock.

Alohamora.”

The door clicked open and Malfoy raised his eyebrow before kicking it open. He hadn’t really believed the reports he’d gotten claiming that a fight had happened here earlier. The fact that there were no wards certainly seemed to support the claim that Harry and Ginny had disappeared. Keeping his wand raised he walked into the empty flat, flanked by the other two men.

The room was completely destroyed. Remnants of blasting spells marred the walls and the furniture was overturned. Whatever had happened here had been quick. The Aurors hadn’t even bothered to repair the room.

“Check their bedrooms,” he ordered and the men headed quickly down the hall.

Narrowing his eyes, Malfoy turned in a slow circle, his mind whirling. He hadn’t been prepared for this…he hadn’t been warned about a problem. He needed more information, but he feared his lack of warning meant his source wouldn’t be much help. His frustration mounted by the second as he considered the latest development. His plans seemed dangerously close to being derailed and he cursed under his breath at the thought

“Looks like they left in a hurry,” the wizard said, emerging with the other man from the back of the flat a moment later.

“And we’re sure it was Ministry who attacked?”

“That’s what they said…blew the door clean off trying to get in.”

Malfoy pursed his lips.

Why would Potter run from Aurors? he wondered.

It didn’t make any sense. If the Ministry didn’t know where they were, finding them in time would be a huge task. Furious by the unexpected turn, Malfoy jerked his hood up and stalked to the door.

“Find them,” he ordered. “Whatever it takes.”

Pulling their hoods up, the wizards followed him out.

“And get me Mullinsky. Now,” Malfoy threw over his shoulder.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Harry parked in the back of a small inn. Turning off the ignition, he and Ginny climbed off in silence as the roar of the engine suddenly ceased. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out their miniature bags. After quickly returning them to their original size, he hoisted them over his shoulder and cast a disillusionment charm on the motorcycle.

“How did we get here then?” Ginny asked, watching as the bike suddenly disappeared, blending seamlessly into the surroundings.

“Oh...well…not that anyone will bother to ask, but…um…taxi?” Harry replied with a shrug as he led the way around to the entrance.

“Good enough,” Ginny said, nodding as she took his hand.

It was a quaint building, the red brick dark as night descended around them. Two gas lamps on either side of the door illuminated the sign, creaking as it swung back and forth with the increasing wind.

Glenlaurel Inn, est. 1802, Ginny read silently a second before she froze.

A roll of thunder rumbled across the sky and she looked up.

Oh God, she thought, holding her breath.

As if on cue, a large burst of wind followed the thunder, whipping her hair around her face and sending a chill through her body.

“Let’s just get inside,” Harry said softly in her ear, causing her to jump. His hand settled onto her lower back and he pushed her forward as he kissed the top of her head. “And we’ve just gotten married,” he added as they reached the door.

Ginny nodded, allowing him to guide her inside. Her movements were sluggish, her mind now focused intently on the storm brewing outside. The door closed behind them, thankfully blocking out most of the sound of the weather. The room was cheery and warm, with light paint and country artwork decorating the walls. There was a large fire roaring in an oversized fireplace to their right.

It will pass, she thought frantically. It’s nothing…just wind. It won’t storm here; it’s just passing…

Ginny’s attention snapped back to the present when Harry was suddenly in front of her, blocking her way. His hands cupped her cheeks, as he searched her eyes.

“Are you with me?” he asked his voice soft yet firm.

She nodded, but her attention was already straying to the window and he took a small step closer, forcing her gaze back to his.

“I need you to focus, Ginny,” he said, pulling her eyes back to him. “Don’t listen to the storm. Stay with me...”

Ginny nodded again, more firmly this time.

“We just got married,” he said, stroking his thumb over her cheek. Leaning down he kissed her gently.

The wind picked up suddenly outside, whistling briefly and causing the rain to smack against the window.

Ginny jerked forward, whimpering slightly against Harry’s lips. Trying to soothe her, he caressed her cheek with his hand.

“We have to do this fast,” she admitted, pulling back just enough to speak. Her lips trembled slightly as they brushed against his. “I can’t…”

“Ok,” Harry said as she trailed off, kissing her quickly and taking her hand.

Crossing the entryway, they headed through the open French doors leading to the official reception area. Ginny’s eyes fell on the young woman perched at the desk across the room.

“Wait,” she whispered, pulling him to a stop as he tried to lead her forward.

“What?” Harry whispered back, allowing her to turn him so that he blocked her from view.

“We just got married,” she said in a low voice, pulling her bag toward her and unzipping it.

Harry watched her in confusion as she began rummaging through her things.

“What are you looking…”

His voice faded when she pulled her hand out of her bag and zipped it back up. At first he thought she hadn’t found what she wanted until he saw her slip the emerald ring she’d worn at the banquet onto her finger.

“Oh,” he breathed, his eyes widening as he realized what she was doing. “Do you really think that’s necessary?”

“She’s a girl, Harry,” she replied as though that explained everything. “Put your hand in your pocket,” she instructed before rising up on her toes and kissing him, “and pretend you like me.”

“I’ll try to manage,” Harry chuckled against her lips as she smiled.

Ginny tried to move toward the desk but Harry stopped her. He stared at her in amusement for a moment before glancing back down at her ring. Reaching out, he ran his finger over it before impulsively pulling her hair band off of her wrist.

Ginny furrowed her brow as he curled it up in his fist, squeezing tightly.

“What are you…”

Her eyes widened when Harry opened his hand to reveal a thick gold ring.

“Put your hand in your pocket,” he mimicked as he slipped the ring onto his finger. “Honestly, what kind of wizard do you think I am?”

Before she could respond, he took her hand and dragged her quickly toward the reception desk.

The woman behind the counter looked up, flipping open the ledger book in front of her as she watched them approach with increasing energy. By the time they reached her, they were practically at a run.

“Hello,” she said, her eyes lingering on Harry as she spoke. “Welcome to…”

“We need a room,” Ginny announced breathlessly.

Following her lead, Harry slipped his arm around her waist and pulled her against him.

“Your best room,” he added, nuzzling her neck.

Giggling, Ginny twisted around and caught his lips in hers, kissing him hungrily. Her hand slid to his cheek and he could feel the warm metal of her ring on his skin.

Opening his eyes as he pulled back, Harry noticed the woman’s eyes on Ginny’s hand and he smirked briefly.

“A room in the back,” Ginny said, her eyes locked on Harry’s as she spoke.

“Mm,” he agreed, leaning down and rubbing their noses together. “My wife and I would like some privacy,” he said softly.

Ginny’s eyes fell shut as Harry teased her lips with his. Slowly, the playfulness faded and the room around them was forgotten as they kissed tenderly. Harry’s hand gently cupped her face, pulling her closer for a moment before he shifted to rest his forehead against hers.

A second later a crack of thunder suddenly shook the room, breaking them out of their spell.

Ginny’s eyes flew open, her fingers digging fiercely into Harry’s arms.

“You know you just made it,” the woman said, looking out the window briefly. “It’s supposed to really storm tonight.”

“Really?” Harry asked casually even as he pulled Ginny closer. Leaning in he kissed her again, trying to keep her focus on him. “How much is it?”

“It’s £230 per night,” she said.

Ginny’s eyes opened, her lips pausing on Harry’s. Just as the alarm of not being able to pay began to rise inside of her, Harry ran his hand up and down her back in a soothing gesture.

“Fine,” he said, keeping Ginny against him with one arm while he dug into his pocket with the other.

“You can put down a deposit or we can hold a credit card until…”

“We’ll pay in advance,” Harry said, flashing a smile in her direction as he pulled out cash. “We won’t need anything else…right, luv?” he said, turning his attention back to Ginny.

When she smiled up at him, he leaned down, catching her lips with his. They were the picture of a young couple in love and the woman turned away, dealing with the cash Harry had laid on the table.

“Newlyweds?” she asked after a moment, glancing at them again with a knowing smile as she pulled open a drawer to get a key.

“Just today,” Harry replied softly before catching Ginny’s lips again.

Tracing his fingers down her cheek, he trailed his lips across her skin to her hairline. Breathing in the rose scent of her hair, he tightened his hold on her.

“Love you,” Ginny breathed.

“Always,” Harry murmured back, his voice just for her.

“Was it a big wedding?” the clerk replied, her gaze moving back and forth between them.

“No,” Harry replied. He felt Ginny take a shaky breath, her body shuttering as another roll of thunder shook the windows.

“Ah, just family,” the woman nodded knowingly.

Ginny went rigid in his arms. She made a strangled noise in the back of her throat but the woman didn’t hear it as she continued talking.

“I’m sure that was wonderful…the people who matter, yeah? That’s what I want…”

“Where’s the room?” Harry interrupted tersely. His hand shook slightly as he reached out and took the key from the counter.

“Oh, right, look at me rambling on when I’m sure you’d much rather be alone,” she laughed, indicating the stairs with her hand. “Up to the second floor, last room on your right.”

Thanking the woman, Harry leaned down and grabbed their bags. After swinging them over his shoulder, he pulled Ginny against him, leading her quickly toward the stairs.

Ginny wrapped her arms tightly around Harry’s waist as they walked. She pressed her cheek into his chest, keeping her eyes away from the window.

Harry brought his hand to her hair, pulling her closer as he pressed his lips against the top of her head.

“You’re fine,” he promised softly, leading her up the stairs.

The dull patter of rain against the roof became louder as they reached the second floor.

When they reached their room, Harry led Ginny inside before turning to lock the door. Turning back around, his eyes moved across the room searching for Ginny.

The space was small, a large ornate canopy bed dominating the wall opposite the door. Ginny was sitting on the floor, her back pressed against the side of the bed and her arms wrapped around her knees.

Crossing to her, Harry removed his glamour and sank down next to her on the floor.

Ginny moved instantly, slipping into his arms as she curled into his body.

“Where’s your wand?” he asked softly.

“Why?” she mumbled into his chest.

“To take off your glamour, love,” he reminded her gently, fingering her short blonde hair. “I want to be able to see you.”

Pulling away slightly, Ginny dug into her pocket, pulling out her wand a second later. Her hand was shaking as she pointed her wand at her chest. Narrowing her eyes, she attempted to focus on the spell, but a flash of light through the window made her jump, her eyes shutting instinctively.

“I…I can’t remember how,” she said, shoving her wand into his hand a second later and wrapping her arms back around him. Desperate not to fall apart completely, she tried to focus solely on him.

Frowning, Harry used her wand to remove the glamour charm before slipping his arms around her. Her hair lengthened, spilling over his arms as she shifted closer.

“Hey,” he soothed, stroking her hair with one hand as he held her close. “You’re ok. I’m right here.”

It was all Ginny could do to keep from crying. There was no way she could handle a storm on top of everything else. She was exhausted and afraid…she couldn’t even imagine what would happen if she lost control of herself with her emotions already all over the place.

The sound of the rain slapping against the side of the building seemed to be slowly increasing, filling the room around them and Ginny pulled him closer.

“I can’t do this tonight,” she whispered, her shaking voice muffled against his shirt.

“I’ll help you,” he promised. “Just try to stay with me, Ginny.”

“I’m t-trying,” she said, trying to keep her body from trembling.

“Tell me what you need, sweetheart,” Harry said, his voice worried as he felt her body shiver slightly.

“Nothing,” she answered, her voice so soft he could barely hear it. “Nothing makes it stop, I…”

A flash of lightening illuminated the room suddenly and Ginny jerked, squeezing her eyes shut and bracing for the thunder.

Harry’s head snapped to the window, watching the rain hit the glass and the branches of the nearby trees sway violently in the wind.

“I’m going to shut the curtains, ok?” he said and she nodded.

Giving Ginny a quick kiss on her hair, Harry let go of her and stood up. When he reached the window, he looked out, but could barely see the road because of the rain. Another flash of lightning shot across the clouds and Harry jerked the curtains closed.

“Are you still with me?” he asked as he walked and Ginny choked out a yes. The clap of thunder followed as he quickly rounded the bed.

At the sound of Ginny’s whimper, he glanced over, watching her lower her forehead to her knees. Harry jerked the curtains of the second window closed, covering the room in darkness.

Resolutely he turned back around, determined to help her remain in control. He approached her slowly, not wanting to startle her. He could see her body shaking and frowned when he heard her sniffle into her arms.

Hearing his approach Ginny looked up. Her eyes were slightly unfocused, as though she were looking through him rather than at him. He said her name gently, speeding up at the sight of her face. By the time he reached her, she was gone.

As he crouched down, she fled with a whimper of fear. Harry followed her as she crawled to the corner, surprised by how quickly she’d fallen apart. She fought him as he caught her, picking her up and carrying her swiftly to the bed.

“Get away from me,” she sobbed, struggling against him. “Get away!”

“Shh, it’s ok,” he soothed into her hair.

When he set her down on the bed, she immediately tried to scramble away. As Harry struggled to hold her she kicked him in the stomach. The wind was knocked out of him and he gasped as she shot across the bed. Scrambling over the covers she turned to face him, her eyes wide as she pressed her back into the ornate post.

Harry’s heart was pounding against his ribs as a feeling of helplessness struggled to take hold inside of him. He didn’t know how to help her. Placing his hands on the mattress, he watched her panicked breath as she frantically curled her legs up. Her hand went to the post above her head, her knuckles white with the pressure of her grip.

“Ginny,” he said tenderly, “come on, love. Don’t be afraid. Nothing's going to hurt you…”

Squeezing her eyes shut at his voice, Ginny pressed harder against the bed frame, as though afraid to let him near her but also afraid to leave the bed. A clap of thunder sounded around them and she cried out.

Taking advantage of her closed eyes, Harry’s hand shot out. Catching her ankle, he dragged her back across the bed before she could flee. Moving over her, he trapped her beneath him, watching the tears stream down her face as she cried. Sliding his shaking hands down her face, he murmured her name and kissed her softly.

The wind began to whistle, causing Harry to glare at the window while Ginny cried out, her body trembling almost violently.

“Ginny,” he murmured into her hair, kissing her hairline, “You’re ok…nothing’s going to hurt you…”

When her gaze flew back to his, her eyes were frantic as they moved over his face. Harry’s heart plummeted when her eyes widened in terror, her body going rigid in his arms.

A second later her scream filled the air and Harry waved his hand, throwing a silencing charm over the room. The last thing they needed was someone coming to check on them.

Ginny fought him, beginning to scream and cry incoherently as she struggled to get away. Finally, he caught her wrists, holding them down on the bed as he trapped her with his body.

“No!” he said, shaking her slightly. “No. Stay here, Ginny.”

“Don’t,” she whimpered, her eyes squeezed shut. “Don’t hurt, me…”

“I’m not going to hurt you,” Harry assured her. Dragging her hands above her head, he held her wrists in one hand while he caught her chin with the other, forcing her to look at him. “Ginny, listen to me,” he pleaded, even though he could tell she didn’t comprehend. “Please, baby, I’m right here with you…I’m right here.”

Her breathing got shallower and shallower until she was gasping, her tears leaking down onto his fingers. When a crack of thunder shook the windows she cried out, her eyes moving past him as they lost focus.

“Ginny calm down,” he ordered, but her eyes were locked over his shoulder, her chest heaving as she sobbed. “What do you see?” he asked suddenly. “What do you see?” he repeated forcing her gaze to his. “Where are you? Tell me what’s happening, love…”

Ginny gasped in response, her eyes desperate as she cried beneath him.

“Talk to me, just tell me what you…”

“Where are you?” she interrupted suddenly, her voice choked in her throat.

“I’m right here,” he replied, kissing her quickly as she whimpered. “I’m right…”

“Harry, where are you…I can’t find you,” she said, her voice rising in panic as her eyes lost focus again. “Harry!”

“Ginny…”

“W-where are…I…I can’t…Harry…” she moaned, thrashing her head from side to side before she threw her head back and screamed his name.

Harry cursed, holding her down as she began to struggle harder to break free from his hold.

What the hell is this about? he thought worriedly.

No one was this frightened of something without a reason. It frustrated and scared him that she didn’t know why this happened to her.

Clenching his jaw, he held her face still, locking his gaze with hers. He tried once more to reach her, to get her to tell him what she saw but she didn’t seem to register that he was there.

Legilimens,” he whispered finally, narrowing his eyes as he delved into her mind.

Ginny whimpered beneath him, choking on a sob as her body trembled.

At first there was nothing. Only darkness as Harry attempted to see her thoughts. He felt her fear and his body trembled in response, his breath rushing out of his body.

Forcing himself to focus, he pushed deeper, ignoring the memories of the lobby and the motorcycle ride as he searched for what she was seeing. He paused briefly, watching her punch Bill as she fought her brothers and father in the hall of the Ministry.
The deeper he pressed the harder it got and his head began to ache as he tried to stay focused. He went deeper and deeper until suddenly he met a wall. It was as if a bright white barrier erupted in her mind, keeping him out.

What the…

He’d never encountered anything like it and pressed against it. The barrier held firm and it angered him that whatever it was seemed to be stronger than him. Hissing out the incantation again, he attempted to see past it. He could hear Ginny whimper his name but he ignored her, pressing harder against the barrier.

He could feel his power rumbling and hers pulsing beneath him as she moaned. Slowly the air around them seemed to become charged with energy as Harry focused harder to get to what was behind the brightness.

“Hurts…” Ginny whimpered beneath him.

“Yeah, I know,” he gritted out. “It’s ok…it’s ok,” he breathed, stroking her hair, “I’m sorry, baby…just a bit longer…”

His head was pounding, seeming to pinpoint into his scar and he bit his lip. Forcing himself to breathe, he narrowed his eyes, dipping into his power as he again tried to pass the barrier. The white wall seemed to tremble slightly before brightening, forcing him back.

“It…it hurts…” Ginny panted, her voice rising as it filled with pain. “S-stop…h-hurts…it hurts…ah…”

Ginny cried out and for an instant the solid barrier began to splinter. Harry surged forward only to be bombarded by fragments of images. There was darkness, screams, flashes of light and blurred faces as her terror enveloped him.

Without warning, his power roared to life inside of him and he bit back a gasp, letting go of her wrists as his hand fisted into the sheets to hold himself steady. His eyes darkened and the bed began to shake, skittering across the floor as energy flowed out of his body, causing the lamp to flicker.

Groaning, he attempted to force his power back under control as his body trembled. The images were too distorted and jumbled for him to understand. It was chaotic, almost as if it were broken or incomplete…and he made a last attempt to make them come into focus as he tried to figure out what he was seeing.

Ginny screamed in terror and Harry cursed aloud when suddenly an enormous snake surged out of the darkness of her mind, hissing menacingly as it towered over him.

The image lasted barely a second before the barrier snapped back into place, brightening until it was blinding him.

Harry’s head felt like it was splitting in-two, Ginny’s screams echoing around him as he tried to pull out her mind. He could feel the magic building and he tried to get out but he wasn’t fast enough. A pulse of magic erupted between them, sending Harry flying across the room as they both cried out. Slamming into the wall, he crumpled unconscious to the floor while Ginny trembled on the bed.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Harry’s eyes flicked open and then shut, his mouth turning down into a frown as he brought a hand to his head, trying to ease the throbbing. For a moment he was confused, not remembering why he was on the floor before it all came back. His eyes snapped open and he sat up, wincing slightly. His heart dropped when he saw that the bed was empty, the rain still beating against the windows.

Oh God, please still be in the room.

Pushing himself to his knees, he stood up slowly as he looked around for Ginny. He found her curled into a ball in the corner. His mind returned instantly to the moment he’d found her in almost the exact same position in his flat. He hadn’t been able to protect her from this and his chest tightened as he began to cross the room.

Moving slowly, he tried not to startle her as he got closer. She was rocking back and forth, her forehead on her knees and her arms crossed over her head.

Harry squatted in front of her, studying her worriedly. Reaching out, he paused as the energy still flowing from his hand caused individual strands of her hair to spring up, clinging to his palm with static. Pulling back quickly, he took a breath and shook out his arms, siphoning off the energy.

When he reached up again, the static was gone and he tentatively glided his hand over her hair. When she merely twitched at his touch, he shifted forward. Scooping her up in his arms, he stood up and carried her back to the bed.

“I know,” he soothed at her muffled sob. “Shh…it’s ok, sweetheart, I’ve got you.”

With a flick of his fingers, the covers folded down.

Laying Ginny gently onto the bed, Harry focused on getting her as comfortable as possible. He pulled her shoes and socks off before going to work on the button of her jeans. Working her trousers off, he dropped them on the floor, watching her curl onto her side as he undid his belt. After getting rid of his own shoes, socks and jeans, Harry climbed back onto the bed with her.

Tucking them both under the covers, he dragged the blanket over their heads, creating a cocoon around them as he held her shaking body against his.

Ginny was muttering into his chest, her words jumbled as she twitched. Rain was pounding down on the roof as Harry stroked her hair worriedly. After a few moments she seemed to calm a bit in the darkness and Harry let out a slow breath of relief.

Brushing her hair out of her face, he shifted down so his eyes were level with hers. Blinking in the darkness, his eyes slowly adjusted until he was able to make out her face. Her eyes were squeezed shut, her hands curled into fists above her ears.

Tentatively, he moved forward, brushing his lips against hers. She whimpered against his mouth but didn’t try to flee. Bolstered by her response, he kissed her again, letting his lips linger on hers. When he pulled back he watched her face. Slowly, her eyes fluttered open, her gaze still unfocused.

He could tell she was still gone, trapped inside of her mind but he could also feel the tremors in her body begin to lessen. When she was practically still in his arms, her breathing almost back to normal he kissed her forehead.

“Ginny,” he whispered, waiting for her eyes to meet his. When they did, he moved forward again, invading her space and kissing her softly. “I love you,” he said. His hand slid into her hair, holding her against him as he pressed their lips together. “I love you,” he repeated in between kisses, teasing her lips with his until she eventually began to kiss him back.

“I love you,” he said one final time before nestling her into his shoulder.

Before long she was asleep, warm and protected in the shelter of blankets he had created around them.

Eventually the warmth became stuffy and hot. When Harry was confident she wouldn’t wake he pulled the covers down. He could still hear the rain outside, softer now. Shifting back so he could see her, he watched her curl instinctively into a ball. He tucked the blankets snugly around her shoulders, leaving only her head exposed.

Folding his arm under his head, he watched her sleep, his brow furrowed with worry as he tried to make sense of what had happened.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Ginny awoke slowly, her hand moving to rub her face as her eyes flicked open. Whimpering slightly, she rolled onto her back, arching her neck as she stretched.

She blinked in surprise when Harry’s worried face was suddenly above her.

“Are you ok?” he asked bringing a hand to her face.

“Yeah,” she said groggily, rubbing her eyes.

“You sounded like you were in pain,” he explained, his eyes searching her face closely.

“I am,” she replied with a grimace as her fingers moved to her temple. “My head…It feels like I was hit by a Bludger,” she groaned, trying to massage the ache away.

“I’m sorry,” he murmured, pressing his lips against her forehead.

“What happened?” she breathed after a moment.

“There was a storm,” Harry said against her skin before pulling back. He met her gaze worriedly, his hand moving to her face. “Do you remember anything?”

Ginny furrowed her brow, shutting her eyes as she thought back. She remembered getting to the inn and getting a room, but beyond that, there was nothing.

Harry watched her try to remember, frowning slightly when she shook her head. Leaning down, he kissed her forehead again before climbing off the bed.

Ginny opened her eyes watching him walk toward the bathroom, his shoulders slumped. Sitting up, she ran a hand through her hair.

“Harry,” she called, bringing him to a stop. When he turned around, she studied him silently, taking in the dark circles under his eyes and the worry etched across his features. “What happened?”

“Nothing, Gin,” he smiled slightly, “it just stormed.”

“Liar,” she replied, confused by his evasive behavior.

It made her nervous and she instinctively pulled her knees up to her chest as she stared at him.

Her change in demeanor wasn’t lost on him and he came back to the bed. For a moment he was silent, staring at the bedspread while he plucked at a loose string.

What should I tell her? he thought.

Somehow, telling her what had happened in her mind seemed like a horrible plan. It would only scare her and he didn’t want to do that; not when he didn’t know what was going on. He didn’t understand what he’d seen and until he figured it out he didn’t want to add to her worries.

Ginny said his name softly and he finally raised his head, meeting her gaze. Sinking down on the edge of the bed, he brought his hand to her hair, playing idly with a strand as he decided what to say.

“Have you ever seen a Basilisk?”

His quiet question surprised him, slipping out before he had decided what to tell her.

“What?” Ginny replied, furrowing her brow.

“A…a Basilisk,” he repeated. “It’s a giant snake that…”

“I know what it is,” she said, cutting him off. “And no, I’ve never seen one, have you?”

Harry nodded, studying her face before turning his head to gaze out the window in thought.

“Why are you asking?” she asked softly.

“I don’t know,” he replied shaking his head. “I…I tried to see what you saw last night and…”

“What I saw?”

“During storms,” he explained, meeting her gaze again. “I couldn’t help you. I couldn’t keep you from going wherever…wherever you go, so…so I tried to see…”

Ginny had tensed at his words, her heart beginning to pound.

“And did you see?” she asked, searching his eyes.

“Not really,” he said shaking his head. “Not enough to understand.”

“Oh,” she frowned looking down. “Well that’s ok.”

“Is it?” he asked lacing their fingers together. He wasn’t sure what she meant.

“Yeah,” she nodded, before pausing. “Although it would have been nice to know.”

Harry studied her face for a moment.

“Know what?”

“What I’m afraid of,” she admitted softly, meeting his gaze.

For a moment they remained silent as they sat together. Eventually Harry leaned in, kissing her neck softly before resting his head on her shoulder.

“What do we do now?” she whispered.

Harry shook his head with a sigh.

“Honestly?” he said into her skin, “I don’t know. We can’t stay here. We need to go somewhere…somewhere deserted. We need to find a house…something…a place no one will be looking.”

“Right,” she breathed.

Bringing her hand up, she threaded her fingers through his hair. Raking her nails down his scalp to his neck she felt him tremble under her touch. He remained silent, resting against her shoulder as she ran her hand up and down his back.

“Feels nice,” he murmured after a minute.

“Did you sleep at all?” she asked worriedly.

“Couldn’t,” he mumbled shaking his head before pulling back. He looked exhausted, but determined as he brought his hands to her face. “You needed me.”

“Harry…” she said, but he pressed his lips softly against hers.

“You needed me,” he breathed. “I’m fine…I just need a shower to wake up.”

Pulling back, he stood up and headed to the bathroom.

“Harry!” Ginny called, scrambling off the bed after him. Catching his arm, she turned him back around.

“I’m fi…”

“Thank you.”

“Oh…For what?” he asked, surprised by her words.

He’d assumed she wasn’t going to drop the fact that he hadn’t slept.

“For everything,” she answered, smiling sadly before shrugging.

Harry watched as her smile faded, her eyes dropping as she shifted.

“For staying with me,” she said softly, shaking her head.

“You don’t have to thank me for that,” he answered, his tone matching hers. Bringing his hand up, he caught a piece of her hair between his fingers as she met his gaze.

“You lost your job for me,” Ginny countered, her eyes earnest.

“Actually, I quit,” he reminded her, smiling slightly.

“It’s not a joke,” she insisted, her voice shaking slightly. “They’re going to be looking for us…and Malfoy too…” Shaking her head, she shut her eyes. “Who knows what’s going to happen, and my family…” Her brother’s furious expressions flashed in her mind and she covered her face. “God, they were so angry. They won’t forgive you…” she shook her head. “You walked away from your life for me…”

“Ginny,” Harry interrupted. Pulling her hands from her face he cupped her cheeks in his palms, forcing her gaze to his. “You are my life now. You’re worth more than my job, or my safety…”

For a moment he simply stared at her, watching the tears in her eyes.

“I love you,” he whispered fiercely. “I wouldn’t have left you even if you’d asked - even if you’d been ok with going with Dawlish. You’re too important.”

Ginny nodded, shutting her eyes as his thumbs ran back and forth across her cheeks. “Malfoy…”

“Not to Malfoy,” Harry whispered before pressing his lips against hers, “I mean to me.”

Slipping his arms around her waist, he pulled her to him, kissing her again.

“You’re too important to me,” he whispered firmly.

Wrapping her arms around his neck, Ginny kissed him back as she pressed against him. After a moment she rested her forehead against his, meeting his gaze again.

“I’m important to my family too,” Ginny said.

“I know.”

“And they really didn’t want me with you,” she whispered, her lip beginning to tremble suddenly. She felt Harry tense before he pulled her closer. “They’re lying to us…they tried to hurt you…” she managed tremulously. In an instant her anger and frustration came rushing back. “I don’t understand…”

“I know, baby,” Harry murmured, stroking her back as she began to tremble.

“Why would they do that? Why would they be so…so…”

“I don’t know,” he answered truthfully. “We’re going to work it out…but first we have to get somewhere safer. Somewhere we can think.”

“Ok,” she nodded. Tilting her head back she kissed him gently.

“Take a shower and get ready,” he suggested. “I’ll be right here…then when I’m done we’ll get out of here.”


Chapter 12: A Matter of Trust
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Harry sat in a cushioned chair by the window, waiting for Ginny to finish her shower.

Unwilling to sleep, he’d watched over her until the sun began to creep across the horizon. When he hadn’t been comforting her or soothing her back to sleep he’d been trying to make sense of everything that had happened.

Rubbing circles on his temples to soothe his aching head, Harry continued to turn the recent events over and over. His reassignment, the ministry, the storm…

So far, he’d been unsuccessful at figuring out what was going on. There were too many options…too many holes and what if’s to make sense of anything.

Closing his eyes, his thoughts moved to what he’d seen in Ginny’s mind. As an echo of the blinding wall of white, the jumbled images and the snake returned, Harry frowned in frustration.

What does it mean? He wondered, rubbing his hands over his face. If she hasn’t seen a basilisk, maybe it was a regular snake, just magnified…or a figment of her imagination…

But it was behind the barrier,
his mind pointed out and a deep line of worry stretched across his forehead.

He wasn't sure exactly what they were facing, but when he'd collided with it, the pain that had resulted was worse than anything he’d felt in the last few weeks.

His power had gone haywire, erupting inside of him faster than he’d been prepared to deal with it. The lack of control he’d had the night before still worried him, his insides feeling unsettled.

The strength of the magic worried him too. Absently, he rubbed the back of his head, sore where he’d hit the wall after being thrown from the bed.

Too strong for Malfoy, he knew. But if not him…who would put it there? And why? What’s the purpose? What’s it hiding…

There was only one wizard who came to mind with the skill and knowledge to create something so strong.

Dumbledore could do it, Harry acknowledged, but I don’t think he’d ever do anything so invasive.

Thoughts of Dumbledore inevitably reminded him of what had happened at the Ministry. The only thing Harry could come up with to describe the way his friends and Ginny’s family had acted was wrong. It was wrong.

They’d been furious and yet truly frightened for Ginny, but it hadn’t been rational fear.

Being concerned because of Malfoy I could understand…but to willingly put her in more danger just to get her away from me doesn’t make any sense.

Disappointment surged afresh and he squeezed his hands into fists. The idea they wouldn’t know him well enough to realize he’d never allow himself to hurt her was devastating.

It was almost like they knew something I didn’t, he thought. Or…or they weren’t themselves…

His thoughts turned darker and his heart began to pound at the possibility they’d been Imperiused.

“That’s impossible,” he muttered aloud.

No one would be capable of Imperiusing so many powerful witches and wizards at one time, he reminded himself firmly. Well, probably no one, he amended with a frown.

He didn’t have much doubt that if he ever wanted to try, he’d be able to do it. If I could manage it, maybe others could too, he thought, forcing himself to consider the possibility.

Harry was eventually drawn from his thoughts when he realized the water had stopped. Listening to the muted sounds of Ginny moving around inside the bathroom, he dropped his head back and stared up at the ceiling.

He didn’t know what to do.

Should I talk to Ginny?

He didn’t want to scare her. Trying to explain what he’d seen or share his feelings about the actions of their family would only add to her worries.

Hell, I don’t even know what I’d say.

Something was definitely going on…he just had no idea what.

Suddenly, he wished he could talk to Hermione.

Even if she didn’t have any answers, she’d disappear into the library until she found something that would help.

However, thoughts of Hermione only roused Harry’s anger and he shut his eyes.

There was no one to turn to for help. Beyond figuring out what was wrong with Ginny, they also needed supplies. He knew they had to keep moving, to get somewhere farther away. In order to do that they would need provisions – food, water, shelter. Finding a cabin or abandoned building would be ideal, but he knew that wasn’t a certainty.

Gradually, his exhaustion began to take over. His body started to feel heavy as his mind finally slowed down. Slowly sinking into a more comfortable position in the chair, he rested his head on the back as his breathing deepened.

A few minutes later the slight brush of fingers across his forehead yanked him out of his doze. His eyes flew open and his hands clamped onto the arm rests, his power spiking briefly at his surprise.

Ginny was leaning over him; her eyes warm as she ran her fingertips down his cheek. Fresh from the shower, her hair was wavy as it fell around her shoulders and she was wrapped in a fluffy white robe.

Relaxing slightly at the sight of her, Harry sank back against the cushions as he brought his insides back under control.

“Sorry,” she smiled, leaning in and pressing her lips against his forehead. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“S’ok,” he replied, catching her hand and bringing it to his mouth. “Did you leave me any hot water?”

“Of course not,” she replied cheekily, before sliding into his lap. “So we’ll just need to sit here and wait a few minutes,” she sighed, tucking her head into his neck.

“Fine with me,” he chuckled.

Wrapping his arms around her, Harry rested his cheek against her hair. Comforted by her presence, he pulled her closer, squeezing her around the waist as he breathed her in.

For a few minutes they simply sat together, Ginny listening to the steady beat of his heart. The sun slowly crept higher, brightening the room as it appeared though the window.

“Harry,” Ginny murmured, eventually breaking the quiet.

“Hmm?”

“Where are we going to go?” she asked, her fingers stroking the side of his neck lightly.

“We need to find someplace secluded…preferably muggle…”

“We should leave Britain,” she suggested.

Nodding, he moved his hand to her hair. Raking his fingers through it, he watched the colors dance across the waves.

“I was thinking Norway,” he admitted hesitantly, “at least initially. We can hide in the Fjords. It rains a lot though…”

“I can handle it,” Ginny said without hesitation.

“Can you?”

At his worried tone, Ginny shifted away. For a moment she studied his face before frowning.

“What happened last night?” she asked.

“It stormed,” Harry said, attempting to keep his expression impassive.

“And…”

“And,” he said slowly, covering her hand with his, “you weren’t able to handle it. And I couldn’t help you.”

“It’s nothing new,” she reminded him, cocking her head to the side. “I’ve been dealing with this for years…”

“I don’t want to put you through that,” he argued, caressing the back of her hand with his fingers. “We can go somewhere else.”

Pursing her lips, she held his gaze for a moment as she considered him.

“I’m not going to break, Harry,” she said finally, leaning in and kissing him softly.

Catching her neck as she began to pull away, Harry brought her back to him. Coaxing her lips apart, he kissed her tenderly for several moments. When he broke away he kept her close enough for their noses to brush.

“I know you won’t break,” he explained, his voice haunted. “I just don’t want to see you like that again.”

“I know,” she replied, smiling at his protectiveness. “And when this is over we can go somewhere it never storms,” she promised, “but right now this makes the most sense, right? Staying safe is more important than worrying about something as silly as my fear.”

“It’s not silly,” he replied adamantly as what happened last night flashed through his mind. Swallowing, he cupped her cheeks, pressing his lips against hers for a moment before settling her back against him. “It’s real and it’s something to be considered,” he said, attempting to keep his voice even.

“I-I’m…I’m sorry I scared you,” she said after a second, unsure of what to make of him this morning.

She could tell he was tired and worried…but there was something else, a sense of dread that seemed to encompass him.

“It’s not your fault,” he whispered, pulling her closer for a second. Shutting his eyes, he rested his cheek against her hair.

“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?”

“What do you mean?” he asked, his voice casual, even as his body tensed slightly, betraying the underlying tension.

“I don’t know,” Ginny said pulling away so she could see him. “But something’s upsetting you.”

“The situation is upsetting me,” he replied, brushing her hair away from her face.

“No, that’s not it,” Ginny contended, catching his hand and lacing her fingers through his.

Harry didn’t reply. He didn’t want to have this conversation. He still didn’t know what to tell her.

Standing up, he deposited her back into the chair before walking toward the window.

“It’s nothing,” he hedged, cracking the curtains and looking out.

“It’s not nothing,” Ginny argued. Standing up, she followed him, coming to a stop behind him. Reaching out, she rested her hand on his back, feeling him tense slightly under her touch. “Talk to me,” she insisted, taking hold of his arm and turning him around.

“I have nothing to say,” Harry insisted in frustration, pulling his arm out of her grasp.

“Well say something anyway,” Ginny shot back, narrowing her eyes at his sudden defensiveness. “There’s something wrong with you…what is it?”

“Ginny…” Harry shook his head, pinching the bridge of his nose.

What happened,” Ginny probed. “Harry…”

“Nothing…”

“What is so bad that you can’t tell me?” she asked. “It’s about last night, right? The storm? What happened? What’s so bad that…”

Ginny…

“You’re scaring me,” Ginny admitted.

At her confession Harry looked up.

“You’re scaring me,” Ginny repeated softly.

Folding her arms across her stomach, she held his gaze, waiting for him to respond.

Swallowing, Harry reached out and glided his hand down her hair before cupping her neck. Closing the distance between them, he leaned down and pressed his lips briefly against hers. When he tried to deepen the kiss, however, Ginny pushed him away.

“Don’t,” she glared at him. “You can’t just kiss me and make me forget.”

“That’s not what I’m…” clenching his jaw, Harry looked down. Shaking his head, he squeezed his eyes shut before finally meeting her gaze again.

“I’m not trying to scare you,” he promised wearily. “I’m trying not to scare you.”

“Well it’s not working.”

“Apparently not,” he said quirking his lip briefly before sobering.

“Just tell me, Harry,” Ginny said, resting her hand on his chest.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” he said truthfully, shaking his head.

“Start at the beginning,” she suggested. “Tell me the truth.”

“It’s not that simple.”

“Yes, it is,” Ginny snapped back. “Just say, ‘Ginny…something’s wrong.’”

“What?”

“Say ‘Ginny…something’s wrong,’” she said firmly as her eyes flashed.

“Ginny…something’s wrong,” Harry repeated slowly, watching her closely.

“I’m scared about something,” Ginny continued, removing her hand from his chest and crossing her arms.

Harry instantly missed the contact. Taking a step closer, he remained silent until she gestured irritably for him to repeat her.

“I’m…” Harry hesitated before he took her hand, linking their fingers together. “I’m scared about something,” he nodded, his voice soft as he held her gaze.

“The storm freaked me out,” Ginny continued.

Something flashed in Harry’s eyes before he looked down, his eyes focused on their clasped hands. Frowning, he traced his thumb over her knuckles.

“Harry…”

“The storm freaked me out,” he breathed.

Ginny swallowed, nodding as he met her gaze. Suddenly she was nervous as he tucked her hair behind her ear and cupped her cheek.

“The storm really freaked me out.”

“Because,” Ginny whispered, her worry about what was upsetting him finally creeping back into her tone.

“Because,” Harry echoed, his eyes flicking back and forth between hers as he caressed her cheeks with his thumb. Swallowing, he shut his eyes and rested his forehead against hers. “Because I…I tried to see into your mind,” Harry admitted slowly.

“You told me that.”

“I know,” Harry nodded, his forehead rubbing against hers. “But I didn’t tell you everything. I didn’t tell you…”

Trailing off, he shifted his lips to her temple, pressing a kiss against her skin as he traced her hairline with his thumb.

“Didn’t tell me what?” Ginny asked, pulling back in confusion.

Searching his eyes she could see his trepidation, his hesitancy in sharing whatever he was about to say.

“I don’t know what I saw,” Harry said softly. Sliding his hand down to her neck he ran his thumb along her jaw. “There was this…this wall…” he explained, his eyes flicking to hers, “…in your mind.”

Ginny didn’t respond at first, her mouth opening soundlessly before closing again.

“What?” she managed finally, furrowing her brow.

“A wall…a barrier or something…I couldn’t get past it,” Harry said, seeing Ginny’s confusion mix with her frustration. Looking down, he shook his head before meeting her gaze again. “The harder I tried, the more it hurt. It hurt both of us. It was blocking something…or…I don’t know. You were so panicked it was hard to understand what was happening...”

“I don’t understand,” Ginny frowned, “what are you saying?”

“I’m saying that what I saw wasn’t natural, Ginny,” Harry murmured. “Whatever it was…I…I think it was put there.”

Falling silent, he watched her face closely for signs of recognition. Even though he doubted it, there was always the possibility that she would be aware of the magic’s presence. Instead his heart dropped as he saw Ginny’s confusion begin to slowly shift to fear.

Pulling away from him, Ginny took a step back.

“M-Malfoy?” she asked, trembling at the idea that he would have done something else to her.

“Not Malfoy,” Harry shook his head. “It’s much too powerful for him.”

“So…Wait, I don’t…” Ginny shut her eyes, pressing the palms of her hands and against her temples. “There’s something in my mind?”

“Yes…”

“A wall?”

“Or something,” Harry nodded, taking a step toward her.

“I…I don’t understand,” she whispered. Her mind was racing, her heart thumping in her chest.

“I know you don’t,” Harry nodded, enveloping her in his arms.

Ginny kept her hands tucked up against his chest, trapped between them as he held her.

“I don’t understand it either,” Harry told her. “But I promise as soon as we can, we’ll work it out. We’ll fix it or…”

“But what is it?” Ginny demanded, pushing away. “What’s it doing there? If it’s not Malfoy then…then…what’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing!” Harry declared fervently. “There is nothing wrong with you. I’m not even sure what I saw…” cursing softly, Harry pulled her back against him. “This is why I didn’t want to tell you,” he mumbled only to have Ginny shove away from him again.

“How could you not want to tell me something like this!” she exclaimed.

Her eyes filled with tears of fear and confusion as her hands went to her head.

“Ginny,” Harry began, following her as she backed away. “We don’t know what it is and the people we would ask…well…we can’t ask them about it now, unless…” hesitating, he came to a stop. “Unless you want to go back…”

“No,” Ginny replied instantly shaking her head. “I don’t want to go back, but…”

“I promise you, we’ll work it out,” Harry swore reaching out to her. “I promise, Gin. I won’t let anything or anyone harm you. But right now, this isn’t our most pressing issue. Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be hurting you.”

Falling silent, he watched Ginny nod slowly as he considered his words. For all he knew, whatever it was could be hurting her. Reminded of her increasingly frequent headaches, he frowned slightly.

But they were related to the tracer, he reminded himself. Weren’t they?

She’d had one last night, but with everything that had happened there was really no reason to think it was anything more than just stress. Unwilling to upset her more, he chose not to mention it.

“We need to get out of here first, Gin,” he said soothingly, taking a step toward her. “Once we’re safe we’ll have to figure out how to deal with Malfoy and everyone else. Then we can worry about this, yeah?”

Slowly, Ginny nodded again.

Wiping her hands across her cheeks she looked down for a moment. Taking a fortifying breath she reached out and grasped his hand.

“Hey…” he coaxed her to look into his eyes. “We’re going to get through this,” he swore, linking his fingers through hers and drawing her back toward him.

“I know,” she replied softly. Rising up on her toes, she caught his lips with hers. Leaning against him she let his warmth seep into her as they kissed.

“I love you,” she breathed, caressing his cheek, rough where he hadn’t shaved.

“I love you too,” he murmured, meeting her gaze when she looked up. Dipping his head he kissed her again for a few seconds before reluctantly pulling away. “We should leave,” he told her with a slight frown. He didn’t want to push her when she was upset but he knew they needed to get moving.

“I know,” she nodded smiling weakly. “I’m ok,” she assured him.

“Liar,” he replied, shaking his head. “But you will be,” he promised bringing a hand to her cheek. “The sooner I get ready, the sooner we can leave.”

“Ok,” she replied, shutting her eyes as he dropped a kiss onto her forehead.

Ginny watched him disappear into the bathroom before squaring her shoulders. Focusing on getting ready to leave, she quickly dressed and packed their bags. It didn’t take long and soon she was sitting on the bed, her legs crossed as she stared out the window in thought.

The water in the bathroom shut off and she looked over, listening for sounds of Harry moving around behind the door.

Moving suddenly, she rose from the bed and went to stand in front of the mirror. Silently she stared at her reflection, running her eyes over her face and hair and then down her body. Stepping closer to the mirror she stared at her reflection, studying her eyes as though trying to see what was inside.

A sharp knock jerked her attention to the hall and she tensed.

“Housekeeping,” a muffled voice announced through the door.

Shooting another glance toward the bathroom, Ginny began to cross the room.

“Um, you can come back later,” she called as she approached the door.

The doorknob rattled and Ginny sped up.

“We don’t need…”

Ginny trailed off as the door opened to reveal a short cleaning lady, dust rag in hand. Ginny froze as their eyes met, the older woman’s eyes opening in surprise.

“Oh, I’m sorry, dear,” the woman smiled, glancing around the room. “Did you want me to come back?”

“Yes please,” Ginny said, trying to keep her voice calm as she watched the woman’s eyes fall on the two duffels before going knowingly to the bathroom door. “Thanks so much,” Ginny smiled brightly, grabbing the door and swinging it closed.

Her heart was pounding as she clicked the lock back into place. Shutting her eyes, she put her hands over her face before running them through her hair. Opening her eyes as her fingers curled into her hair, she realized she didn’t have a glamour charm in place.

Moving suddenly, she ran to the bathroom, knocking twice before throwing the door open.

“We have to go now,” she announced as she strode toward him.

Harry turned toward her in surprise, his hands on his jeans as he did the buttons. Seeing her expression, he straightened.

“What happened?” he demanded glanced past her into the empty room.

“The cleaning woman, she…she just came in. I said we didn’t need her, but I guess she didn’t hear or…she saw me,” Ginny explained worriedly, grasping his arm and beginning to lead him out of the bathroom. “I just…I think we should go.”

“Stay here,” Harry nodded, his jaw set and his eyes determined as he slipped past her. Looking around the room, he stuck out his arm, causing her wand to fly toward him. Catching it easily, he turned and handed it to her. “I’ll take care of it,” he promised. “Just lock the door,” he instructed as he shut her into the bathroom.

Moving quickly he pulled on a shirt, his attention trained on the door to their room. Not bothering to put on shoes, he crossed the room, casting a quick glamour before slipping into the hall.

Inside the bathroom, Ginny paced nervously, listening intently for any sound in the bedroom. After a few minutes she froze when she heard the door open. Footsteps approached quickly and she instinctively tightened her grip on her wand.

“Gin,” Harry’s voice called through the door a second later, “Open up.”

Hurrying to the door, Ginny turned the lock and pulled it open. Not expecting him to be glamoured, she faltered for a second, staring at his light brown hair and altered features.

“Let’s go,” Harry said, slipping past her and gathering up their toiletries.

“What did you do?” Ginny asked turning to watch him.

“I modified her memory,” he said glancing at her. “She won’t remember you…if anyone comes looking.”

Ginny was blocking the door when he walked back toward her but she turned and headed quickly across the room. Sinking onto the bed, she pulled on her shoes as Harry stuffed the remaining items into his duffel.

When he finished pulling on his own shoes, he picked up their bags and slung them over his shoulder.

“Ready?” he asked, glancing around the room before meeting her gaze.

“Yeah,” she nodded.

She’d put on her own glamour and her short blonde hair brushed against her shoulders as she nodded.

Hand in hand they left the room, walking quickly down the hall toward the back stairs. On the way they passed the cleaning lady humming contently as she pushed her cart toward them. Looking up over the pile of freshly laundered towels, she smiled at them.

“Good morning,” she greeted, stopping at the closest door to knock. “Housekeeping,” she called, not sparing them another glance as they passed her.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Ron awoke with a start; his eyes snapping open a second before he straightened in his chair. Pain shot instantly down his back and he winced. Groaning, he brought a hand to the nape of his neck, trying to massage out the kink as he rolled his shoulder.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Ron,” a voice apologized from behind him. “We didn’t mean to startle you.”

Turning in his chair, Ron wasn’t surprised to find Mr. and Mrs. Granger standing in the doorway of the hospital room. Their eyes were worried as their gaze shifted to the bed behind him.

“Is she awake yet?” Mrs. Granger asked, beginning to cross the room.

Ron looked back at Hermione, who was still sleeping soundly, her hands folded neatly across her abdomen.

“No,” he sighed, reaching over and linking his fingers through hers.

Staring at her face, so calm and peaceful as she slept, his mind went back to what had happened to lead them here.

Finally arriving home, Ron lowered the wards, his mind occupied with the events of the day. After his trip to Hogwarts, he’d spent hours scouring the area near Harry’s flat. There’d been no sign of them and Ron found Harry’s bike missing from its usual place in the garage. In his haste, Harry hadn’t even bothered to put the wards back up to disguise his storage room.

With no idea which way they’d headed, it was going to be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to find them.

Opening the door to his flat, Ron was surprised to find Hermione pacing in front of the fire, her brow furrowed in thought. He knew that look and instantly wondered how long she’d been walking in circles. Setting his wand on the table near the door, his eyes moved to the floor that was littered with books of all shapes and sizes.

“Hermione,” he said, causing her head to snap around and her eyes to widen in relief.

“Ron!”

Running across the room she threw her arms around him as he caught her.

“Thank Merlin you’re back,” she said anxiously as she held him close.

“What are you doing up?” Ron asked, reaching up to stroke her hair. “You should be asleep…”

“Asleep?!” she scoffed, pulling away. “How could I possibly sleep!” she demanded, crossing her arms over her chest. “With you out there and Harry…Harry…”

Taking a breath she shook her head and closed her eyes.

“I know,” Ron murmured, pulling her back into his arms. He could feel the stiffness of her body, tense with stress.

“Oh, Ron, I’ve been so worried,” she murmured into his shoulder. “You don’t know what it’s like to just be stuck here…waiting…it’s awful.”

“You know you can’t go with me,” Ron reminded her, trying to ease the stress in her back as he rubbed circles on her spine. “If he loses it when we find them, or…well it’s not safe.”

“I’d be fine,” she huffed, “I’ve been in more than…”

“You’ve never been pregnant,” Ron interrupted firmly. “It not up for discussion and you know it.”

“But I’m not helpful here, Ron!” she cried in frustration. “I’m not helping! I mean, it’s just…I swear I don’t know how your Mum did this during the war…”

Unsure what to say to comfort her, Ron kissed her hair, pulling her closer as she shook her head.

“Have you eaten?” she asked when his stomach growled suddenly. Pulling back she narrowed her eyes as she assessed him. “When was the last time you ate?”

“Hermione,” he chuckled, running her fingers through her curls. “I’m fine, really…let’s just go to bed, ok? It’s been a really long day.”

“Nonsense, you have to eat first. I’ll make you something,” she announced, ignoring him as she pulled away and headed quickly toward the kitchen.

“Hermione!” he said, becoming frustrated as he followed her. “Don’t, I’m fine…you should be resting…”

“Don’t tell me what I’m supposed to be doing, Ronald,” she sniped over her shoulder as she began pulling things out of the cupboard.

Coming up behind her, Ron caught her arms and turned her around.

“I will tell you, if you’re being unreasonable,” he said firmly, forcing her to look at him. “I know you want to do something to help but it’s late. Have you rested at all? You shouldn’t be stressing yourself and worrying…”

“How can I not!” she exclaimed, breaking out of his grasp and walking to the table. “Harry’s out there somewhere! You’re out there! My God, Ron…he’s…he’s going to hurt her or himself or…”

“We’re going to find him,” Ron countered firmly.

“How?!” she demanded, her hands shaking as she raked them through her hair. “How are we going to do that? We don’t know where they went or…or anything! It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack…”

Shaking her head, she sank down into a chair.

“Why didn’t he just come to us?” she wondered regretfully. “We would have helped him. I’ve been going over it and over it and I just can’t…” trailing off, she shook her head helplessly.

“I don’t know, Hermione,” Ron replied. “After what happened at the ministry he should have….but he didn’t and you need to stop…”

“Oh, God, he thinks we knew,” she gasped interrupting him. Her horrified gaze flew to his, reading his confusion. “Ron, he thinks we were in on trying to separate them!”

“We’d never do that,” Ron shook his head before frowning. “I mean…we wouldn’t have…before…”

“I know that, but you know he must think so, why else wouldn’t he…” she shook her head, her breathing becoming frantic as her mind raced. “How did we let this happen? We need to find him…”

Standing up, she felt suddenly lightheaded. Pressing a hand down on the table to steady herself, she closed her eyes as she shook her head, trying to force air into her lungs.

“We’ll find him,” Ron tried to reassure her. Closing the distance between them, he cupped her face in his hands. “We will…”

“Ron, I…I feel…” Hermione furrowed her brow, squeezing her eyes shut tightly in an attempt to make the room stop spinning. Her hand curled into her shirt where it rested on her stomach while her free hand rose to her temple.

“Hermione,” Ron said worriedly, watching her face pale quickly. “What’s wrong…Are you…Hermione!” he cried, catching her as she crumpled.


“She’ll wake up soon,” Hermione’s father said, pulling Ron from his thoughts. “They gave her a…a sleeping pill or something right?”

“A potion,” Ron corrected with a nod.

His thumb ran over her knuckles as he stared at her face. His panic had been instant when she’d collapsed against him, his mind and body going numb as he flooed to St. Mungo’s with her in his arms.

“Ron?” Hermione mumbled sleepily, bringing him out of his seat in an instant.

“Hermione?” he said hopefully as he leaned over her, pushing the hair out of her face.

Turning her head toward his touch, her eyes flicked open.

“Hey, baby,” he whispered, smiling slightly.

“Hey…”

“I’m so glad you’re awake,” he sighed, cupping her face as he kissed her. “How do you feel?” he whispered, kissing her again.

“Fine,” she replied, her eyes finally leaving his when someone took her right hand.

Glancing over, she found her mother standing beside her bed with her father looking over her shoulder.

“Darling, you really gave us a scare,” her mother said, her eyes full of tears.

“I’m…I’m sorry, Mum, I just…” Hermione’s voice faded as her eyes went back at Ron, unsure of what they knew.

“It’s ok,” he nodded encouragingly. “I told them about…about the baby…” he trailed off as his eyes moved instinctively to her stomach.

Reaching out, he rested his hand on her abdomen, caressing her lightly through the blankets.

“Is she alright?” Hermione asked tremulously, sucking in a shaky breath as her vision blurred. “Oh, Ron…I…is she…”

“The baby’s fine,” he assured her, stroking her hair soothingly as he shook his head. “They said everything was fine.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Hermione whimpered, as her tears began to fall. “This is all my fault,” she sniffled, “I was just so worried. I forgot to eat and I just kept thinking…about all of these horrible things that could…could…oh, I was…I was stupid…I’m sorry, Ron…on top of everything you don’t need…”

“Shh,” he soothed as she trailed off with a sob. “It’s ok. It’s not your fault. Yesterday was really stressful - too stressful. Let’s just focus on you right now, yeah?”

Hermione nodded, forcing a smile as her mother squeezed her hand.

“Do I have to stay here?” she asked tremulously.

“No,” Ron replied shaking his head. “They just wanted to keep you for the night…because of the baby. We can go whenever you’re ready.”

Suddenly, her smile faltered as a feeling of panic began to spread through her.

Seeing her reaction Ron leaned in and kissed her cheek. Wanting to help her, he brought his mouth to her ear.

“You’re fine…you’re both fine,” he whispered. “And how many times do I have to tell you…we’re having a boy,” he teased.

Choking out a surprised laugh, Hermione shook her head. Wiping her tears off of her cheeks she turned to look at him as he pulled back.

“You know Weasleys have boys,” he added, breaking into a grin. “It’s in our blood.”

“Tell that to Ginny,” she countered softly, rolling her eyes.

“Fluke,” he smirked before kissing her again.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Ginny shut her eyes, resting her cheek against Harry’s back as they changed direction again. They’d been flying for several hours without a break but the bike was still surprisingly comfortable.

Much better than a broom, she thought absently as she shifted her body to keep from going numb.

Pushing away from him, she opened her eyes and stretched her arms above her head with a sigh.

Alarmed by her sudden absence, Harry glanced back.

“Are you ok?” he asked, his hand moving to her thigh to steady her.

“Fine,” she replied, smiling slightly as she twisted to stretch her back. “Afraid I fell off?”

“No,” Harry smiled, but his grip on her leg tightened.

“Really, Harry,” she laughed, patting his hand, “it’s much wider than a broom. I could stand up on this thing and not fall off,” she teased.

Suddenly inspired, she placed her hands on his shoulders and kissed his cheek. Before he could react she was on her feet, balancing on the back of the bike. A lifetime of riding brooms kicked in and for a split second Ginny smiled, leaning her head back with her arms open wide as the wind rushed past her.

“See?” she called.

Harry’s panicked curse and the hand suddenly gripping her jeans caused her to look down.

“Sit down!” he ordered.

“In a minute!” she yelled, relishing the freedom of flying this way.

After the suffocating fear and anger that had been pressing down on for the past two days, she didn’t want to let go of the giddy feeling coursing through her.

Barking out another curse, Harry slowed the bike to a stop, attempting not to jostle them. His heart was pounding, his body rigid with fear as he tightened his grip on her jeans. The bike hovered in the air as he looked up.

“I mean it, Ginny! Sit down!”

“I’m not going to fall, Harry,” she reassured him with a laugh. “It’s much easier than balancing on a bro…”

“I don’t bloody care!” he exclaimed, his eyes narrowed as he snapped his head back to yell at her. “Sit down! Christ, what if you fall off?! Ginny, I swear to…”

“Ok, I’m sitting,” she sighed as she sank into a squat behind him. Holding onto his shoulders, she let her legs slide down the sides of the bike. “Better?” she asked when she was seated safely behind him again, her arms wrapped around his waist.

“Yes,” he grumbled.

“Merlin, Harry,” she said, nuzzling his neck. “You act like I’ve never stood on a broom before.”

“You’ve never stood on a motorcycle before,” he pointed out firmly.

“Which is much wider than a broom,” she commented.

“You could have fallen,” he countered as he slowly released the brake on the bike.

“Will you stop being cross if I let you stand on the bike?” she teased kissing his skin as they began moving forward again.

“No,” he replied, attempting not to be charmed by her tone.

“But I know you’d like it,” she continued encouragingly, “if you just try it.”

“I don’t need to try it,” he replied.

“I’ll hold your legs,” she promised, moving her hands to rest on his thighs. “I won’t let you fall off.”

Harry chuckled before he could stop himself. Ginny laughed behind him before kissing his neck.

“I don’t need to try it,” he repeated a bit sheepishly, “because I’ve done it.”

“What?” Ginny demanded, slapping his leg lightly. “Then why…”

“You could have fallen…ow!” he said, reaching down and grabbing her hand where she was pinching his thigh. “Ok, you probably wouldn’t have fallen,” he conceded, “because you’re the most brilliant flyer ever,” he added dryly.

“That’s right,” Ginny replied loftily, causing Harry to smile.

“But still,” he said, becoming serious again. “It scared me, ok?”

Ginny sighed, resting her cheek against his shoulder as he rubbed circles on her palm with his thumb.

“I need you to be safe,” he added softly.

“I am.”

~..~..~..~..~..~

The Burrow was unnaturally quiet.

With only Molly at home, the only sound was the clinking of dishes. Unable to come up with anything productive to do and determined to stop staring at the family clock, she’d taken to washing dishes the muggle way.

The sound of the floo being activated jerked her out of her worried thoughts and she spun around. Her eyes widened and she crossed the room at a run when her youngest son stepped out of the flames.

“Ronald!” she exclaimed, throwing her arms around him and pulling him into a tight hug. “What are you doing here, is everything ok? What’s happening, is there news?”

“Everything’s fine, Mum,” he interrupted, pulling her quickly away from the fireplace as he leaned over and kissed the top of her head,

A second later the flames turned green again, erupting up and out as Hermione entered the kitchen.

“Hermione!” Molly smiled, pulling away from Ron to envelope her daughter-in-law in a hug. “It’s good you’re here too.”

“Hello, Molly,” Hermione greeted, glancing at Ron over her shoulder.

Finally pulling away, Molly looked back and forth between them before spinning on her heel and heading to the kitchen counter.

“Have you spoken with your father?” she asked, pointing her wand at the teapot on the stove as she began pulling tea cups out of the cabinet.

“Not yet,” Ron said, pulling out a chair for Hermione to sit.

“Not yet?” Molly asked lightly, although her hands seemed unsteady as she clanged the dishes together. “But they’ve been out since…well surely you’ve been with them while they…”

“I’m on my way to meet them,” Ron clarified, watching his mother give a quick nod before flicking her wand at the now whistling pot.

Turning toward them with a smile, she crossed to the table and began preparing tea for them.

“Really, Molly, you don’t need to do this,” Hermione said from her place at the table. She looked to Ron who merely shrugged helplessly.

“Nonsense, Dear,” Molly said, not looking over as she poured the tea and summoned a jar of biscuits. Her movements were jerky and distracted, her voice deceptively light.

“Mum,” Ron said, stepping forward and intercepting his mother on her way back to the counter. “Really you don’t have to do this.”

“Don’t argue with me, Ronald,” Molly snapped. “You know you’re hungry.”

“I can’t stay, Mum,” Ron replied shaking his head. “I have to join Bill and…”

The mention of Bill caused a rush of tears in his mother’s eyes. Turning away in an attempt to hide them, Molly wiped at them quickly as she nodded.

“Right, of course,” she said tremulously. Placing her hand on the counter to steady herself, she cleared her throat.

Placing his hands on her shoulders, Ron kissed the top of her head again.

“She’s going to be fine,” he murmured, squeezing his mother’s shoulders as they shook. “I promise.”

Turning back to him, she gave him a watery smile. Bringing a hand to his cheek, she gazed up at her youngest son.

“I need Hermione to stay here with you,” Ron said softly.

“Oh…well of course but…are you not going?” Molly replied, casting a questioning glance toward Hermione. She knew as well as anyone that Hermione wasn’t one to be left behind, especially when it had to do with helping Harry.

“Not this time,” Ron said before Hermione could respond.

“You know you’re always welcome to stay here, Dear,” Molly assured her, seeing the annoyed look Ron received from his wife when he spoke for her. “Is that what you want?”

“I’d like to go,” Hermione began, shooting Ron a furtive look.

“She’s staying,” Ron countered firmly. “It’s too dangerous.”

“Ron, I can speak for…”

“Make sure she eats and drinks regularly and…”

Ron, you don’t need to…” Hermione interrupted, standing from the table.

“No, I mean it,” Ron insisted, glancing toward his wife before returning to his attention to his mother. “Just…make sure she takes care of herself and…and you too, Mum.”

“I’m sorry but…but what is this about?” Molly asked in confusion, her eyes moving to Hermione when she came up next to Ron.

“I’m sorry,” Hermione apologized, “he’s just being…”

“Being what?” Ron demanded, turning toward her. “Mature and responsible? One of us has to!”

“What does that mean?” Hermione gasped, seemly forgetting that Molly was even there as she squared off with her husband.

“It means, I’m not the one who ended up in hospital!”

Molly’s gasp caused both of their heads to snap towards her as their argument trailed off.

“It was nothing,” Hermione murmured sheepishly.

“We were going to tell you,” Ron offered meeting his mother’s gaze apologetically. “She was just dehydrated and didn’t eat and…and in her condition…the…the stress you know…”

Molly looked back and forth between them for a moment before recognition began to dawn in her eyes.

“Ronald,” she breathed, tearing up.

“We were going to tell everyone at the picnic,” he said, fighting the automatic blush that began creeping up his neck at his mother’s look. “But…well you know, after what happened, it just…”

“Oh, Ron,” Molly gushed, flinging her arms around him. “Oh, my baby boy…”

Stooping slightly, Ron hugged her tightly before she pulled away.

“Oh my darling, darling girl,” she exclaimed gathering Hermione into a fierce hug as tears flowed down her face.

Ron stood watching as his mother and his wife cried and laughed together.

“I know it’s just…rotten timing,” Hermione sniffled as she pulled back.

“Nonsense,” Molly assured her, brushing the tears off the younger woman’s cheeks. “It’s wonderful…wonderful news.”

After a few more moments their attention turned back to Ron as he announced that he had to go. Feeling secure in the knowledge that Hermione and his mother would look after each other, he was suddenly anxious to get going. Having already missed hours of search time, he’d have to join his brothers and find out if anything had turned up yet.

“Be careful,” Hermione insisted, kissing his cheek as he enveloped her in his arms.

“You too,” he replied, holding her tighter as he pressed his lips against her temple.

“She’ll be fine,” Molly assured him as he pulled back.

“I know,” he nodded before dropping a kiss on his mother’s head. “I’ll see you tonight,” he promised before he disappeared back into the flames on his way to the Ministry.

~..~..~..~..~..~

“Ginny…Ginny, wake up,” Harry urged gently.

Roused by the sound of his voice, Ginny’s eyes blinked open before she straightened with a yawn.

“Where are we?” she asked, reaching her arms over her head as she stretched.

The air was damp and noticeably cooler as a slight breeze lifted her hair. Faintly the sound of waves crashing against the shore could be heard.

Realizing they weren’t moving, she glanced over Harry’s shoulder. Surrounded by trees, they were parked in front of a small cottage.

With red paneling and white shutters, it was a quaint two story house. The paint was cracking, faded and worn by the salt breeze coming off the ocean. A weathered “For Rent” sign was staked at an angle in the front yard.

“Much better than a tent wouldn’t you say?” Harry asked, raising his wand and banishing the sign.

“Much better!” Ginny smiled, slipping off the back of the bike.

Earlier in the day, they’d stopped in a village to eat and buy some supplies. Using glamour charms, they’d disguised their appearance and rested in the corner of a local pub.

Hoping to avoid sleeping outside and wanting to find a more permanent place for them to hole up, Harry had poured over the local newspaper, looking for available cottages. Although not willing to take the risk of actually renting one, he wasn’t above finding one in a remote location to “borrow”.

Quickly, they climbed the front steps the wood creaking slightly as they crossed the front porch. Pulling his wand, Harry pointed it at the muggle lock, causing it to open with a click.

With a groan, the door swung in to reveal a large front room. The air was stale from lack of use and a thin layer of dust curled up around them as they walked in.

For a moment they simply stood inside the door, looking around in silence.

“Home sweet home,” Ginny murmured, causing Harry to look down at her.

Her eyes continued to roam the room as he pulled her against him. Dipping his head, he rested his lips against the top of her head and shut his eyes.

“We’re going to be ok,” he breathed into her hair, the reassurance as much for him as it was for her.

“I know,” she nodded against him.

“Come on,” Harry said raising his wand as he led her forward into the house.

Together, they made their way through the first floor, checking each room. The cottage was small and it didn’t take long to explore the intimate den and kitchen. They found another room that seemed to have been an office and library at the back. The upstairs was even smaller with only a single bedroom, bath and storage room.

Once Harry was confident the house was empty, he left their bags in the bedroom.

“Hang on, I need to check something,” he said, pulling her to a stop at the top of the stairs. Dropping her hand he took several steps back.

“Don’t move, please,” he said when she took a step to follow him.

As Ginny became still Harry took a breath, tightening his grip on his wand. Wanting to know if there was any magic in the area, he shut his eyes and stretched his senses, searching for any traces of energy.

The first time he’d realized he could do this it had been an accident. During a training exercise several years ago he’d shut his eyes, trying to listen for any sound of movement. Straining to hear anything outside of the room he was hiding in, he’d focused harder and harder until his magic had unexpectedly flowed out of his body, spreading through the walls and seeking out the other magical energy around. Suddenly he’d been able to feel, rather than hear, what was happening in the building.

Ginny watched silently from her place near the stairs. Her eyes widened when a pulse of energy seemed to flow suddenly out of his body, shooting away from him in all directions. At first she didn’t feel anything as it seemed to pass right through her. After a second, however, her skin began to tingle as energy seemed to suddenly surround her.

Harry had searched for magic this way many times before without a problem, even at the Burrow during Malfoy’s attack, so he wasn’t expecting the surge that came when his magic hit Ginny’s.

Instead of continuing past her, outside of the house and into the woods, his energy seemed to change direction, focusing on hers as though drawn to a magnet. Staggering as his power awoke within him, Harry’s eyes snapped open.

Shite…

Ginny’s hair was whipping around her as the air seemed to become charged between them. She couldn’t see the colors but he could. He could see the green aura of his energy swirling around the gold of hers, quickly encompassing it. Harry gasped as he watched the dark energy flow from him in waves. Struggling to control himself, he tried to pull it back as the green aura was quickly turning to black.

“Harry?” she cried, her eyes wide. “What’s happening!?”

“Don’t move!” he yelled, gesturing for her to stay put.

With a cry he ripped his magic away from her, physically propelling himself backwards with the effort. He landed hard on the floor, his head hitting the wood with a thud. His magic receded back inside of him as he took a great gasping breath.

An instant later Ginny was on her knees next to him.

“Harry! Harry, are you ok?” she asked anxiously.

Nodding he pressed his hands against the floor, pushing up into a sitting position. Squeezing his eyes shut he took a calming breath. When he felt her hands on his cheeks he slowly opened his eyes.

“Are you ok?” he asked grimly meeting her gaze.

“I’m fine,” she replied worriedly, “what just happened?”

“I don’t know. I was searching for magic in the area, but…I’m sorry,” he apologized shaking his head. “I didn’t expect…here, come here,” he said, standing up and pulling her to her feet beside him.

“How do you search for magic?” she asked as he pulled her into his arms.

“It’s um…an Auror trick,” he lied softly. “And that doesn’t usually happen or I’d never have done it near you,” he murmured, pressing a kiss into her hair.

“But you’re ok?” she asked, stroking his back soothingly.

“Yeah.”

“So did you feel any magic?” she asked, looking up at him.

“Only yours,” he said, shaking his head. “But I didn’t get past the house so…”

“Can you try again?”

“I can,” he answered reluctantly, bringing his hand up. “But I don’t think it’s a good idea,” he said, running his thumb along her hairline as he stroked her hair. “Maybe tomorrow, when we’re not so tired.”

Leaning down, he watched her eyes close as he pressed his lips against hers.

“For now I’ll just go move the bike and set up a perimeter,” Harry said, kissing her again lightly. Slipping his hand into hers, he led her back downstairs to the front room. “Don’t leave the house,” he instructed, squeezing her hand before heading back outside.

Ginny watched as he closed the door, a light blue glow appearing around the edge as he sealed her in. Pulling her wand, she turned slowly on her heel as she looked back around the room.

To her left was a sitting area, with a small sofa and a coffee table flanked by a single lounge chair. The furniture was arranged around the fireplace, the close space reminding her vaguely of the Burrow.

With a flick of her wrist she banished the white covers from the furniture before igniting a fire in the grate.

For a moment she watched the flames crackle and grow before looking around again. She could see the kitchen through an open doorway to the right and her stomach growled in response. Smiling wryly she pulled off her jacket, draped it over the back of a chair and went to see if there was anything in the cupboard.

Once outside, Harry took a breath and looked around. What just happened upstairs had scared him, his sudden surge of power catching him off guard.

The only good thing was that Ginny didn’t seem to have realized just how dangerous the situation had been. Frowning, he headed toward the bike, unsure of what to think about his magic’s reaction to her.

A sudden drop of water landed on his forehead, derailing his thoughts as he looked up.

Several minutes later Harry opened the front door and slipped back inside. Cursing softly, he shook his head, sending water droplets flying in all directions.

While he’d dealt with the bike it had begun to rain. Despite the abrupt change in the weather he’d remained outside, determined to put up a perimeter and preliminary wards. He also added a muggle repelling charm so that anyone who got to close would feel the sudden urge to turn back. The last thing they needed was someone coming to visit or rent the house.

Now he found his clothes soaked through and he shivered, shrugging off his jacket before he toed off his shoes.

“Ginny?” he called as he made his way across the front room.

“In here!”

Despite the need to change he followed the sound of her voice, concerned about how she would be reacting to the rain.

Entering the kitchen, he found her standing at the counter, her back to him as she stared out the window. It was fogged up from the temperature change that came with the rain.

“Hey,” he said, walking up behind her.

“I found some soup,” she said absently, pushing a can down the counter beside her without turning around.

Coming to a stop behind her, Harry settled one hand onto her waist. Picking up the can with the other, he read the label silently.

“It’s raining,” she noted needlessly.

“It’s just raining,” he assured her, squeezing her waist slightly and setting the can back on the counter.

“Yeah,” she nodded, turning around to face him. The sight of his hair plastered to his head made her smile and she shook her head.

“Aren’t you cold?” she asked him. “You’re soaked!”

“Yeah,” Harry nodded with a grin as he moved closer. “Freezing.”

Then, without warning, he pulled her against him, catching her lips with his as he wrapped his arms around her.

Squealing as he pulled her against him, Ginny wiggled in his arms trying to get away.

“Harry!” she laughed, looking down at her wet front when he finally released her. “You’re all wet!”

“That I am,” he acknowledged with a smirk. “And now so are you.”

When he moved toward her again her hand flew to his chest holding him away.

“Don’t even think about it,” she ordered with a laugh, pushing him back.

Curling his fingers around her wrist, he pulled her hand from his chest, and kissed her palm. This time careful not to touch her, he leaned down, kissing her tenderly for a moment.

“You’ll be ok without me?” he asked against her mouth.

“I’ll be fine,” she assured him, watching his eyes. “Like you said…it’s just raining. Go change before you get sick,” she ordered, pushing him away.

“Right away, Healer Weasley,” he smiled, kissing her again before heading to the bedroom.

Watching him disappear through the door, Ginny shook her head again before turning back to the counter. She watched the water droplets make their way down the window for a moment before forcing her attention back to creating an edible meal for them.

Upstairs in the bedroom, Harry pealed his wet shirt off and dropped it onto the floor. Quickly undoing his jeans, he shoved them down, shivering as the cool air hit his damp skin.

Pointing his wand at the grate he lit a fire before performing a quick drying spell on himself. Adding a warming charm for good measure he rummaged through his bag before pulling on a dry set of clothes.

Rubbing his hands over his face he fought the exhaustion that was suddenly trying to take over. It had been over twenty-four hours since he’d last slept. The constant worry, added to the traveling hadn’t helped and now he found his eyelids drooping.

The smell of Ginny’s cooking wafted upwards into the darkened room as he sank down onto the edge of the bed. Propping his elbows on his knees, he rested his forehead in his hands and stared at the floor.

He knew he couldn’t go to sleep yet. He would definitely need to center before going to bed and he wanted to watch over Ginny. Even so, his eyes soon lost focus as his exhaustion fought harder to take over.

Lowering himself back onto the bed, he stared up at the ceiling, breathing deeply.

I’ll just rest for a minute, he thought, listening to the faint sound of water running in the kitchen and the dull patter of rain against the roof.

~..~..~..~..~..~

A knock sounded on the dark oak door, disturbing the silence of the study. Not bothering to get up, Malfoy took another sip of his red currant brandy.

“Come in,” he ordered crisply, his eyes trained on the fire before him.

The door opened and Blaise Zabini entered, followed by a hooded wizard.

“Malfoy,” Zabini, greeted, nodding as he came to a stop near the fireplace in front Draco’s chair.

“Mullinsky, where have you been?” Malfoy demanded, ignoring Blaise as his attention settled on the second wizard.

“I’ve been searching,” Sam answered, pulling back his hood. “We’ve all been called in. There’s been no time to leave without it seeming suspicious.”

“Where are they?”

“We don’t know yet,” he replied shaking his head as he raised his hands helplessly.

“That is not helpful to me,” Malfoy glared menacingly causing Sam to pale slightly. Setting his glass down on the side table, Draco picked up his wand and twirled it idly in his fingers.

“Wait…look,” Sam stuttered, his gaze flicking to Blaise for a second. “All I know is that everyone’s panicked. Dumbledore, Lupin, the Weasley boys…everyone Harry’s close to. He fought with half the Auror office before disappearing.”

“Why were they fighting?”

“I don’t know,” Sam admitted in frustration. “It’s weird, no one will say. I’ve tried asking but no one seems to know. All we’ve been told is that it’s imperative that we find them. Almost every other assignment has been put on hold.”

Narrowing his eyes in anger, Malfoy moved his gaze back to the fire. This turn of events had been completely unexpected. He had no idea why Potter would suddenly be at odds with his mudblood-loving friends and even less of an idea where to find him.

“Pull every resource we have,” he announced, finally addressing Blaise. “I want them found, soon. Watch everyone he might contact. Mullinsky,” he added shifting his attention back to Sam. “I want every lead you and the other Ministry members find. What they know – I know, got it?”

Sam nodded before turning to leave.

“And Mullinsky,” Malfoy added, bringing the young Auror to a stop. “Having someone on the inside, does nothing for me if they provide the information I need. Don’t make me regret our relationship,” he warned in a hard voice.

Swallowing, Sam nodded curtly before hurrying from the room.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Resting her chin on her hand, Ginny waited for Harry to join her. Drumming her fingers on the counter, her eyes moved to the darkening sky and then back to the soup steaming from the two bowls in front of her.

Slipping off her stool, she headed up the stairs to see what was keeping him. She was hungry and he’d had more than enough time to change.

“Hey,” she said, pushing open the door and stepping into the room, “the soup’s getting…”

Her voice trailed off when she found Harry asleep on the bed.

Crossing the room, she gazed down at him. His eyes were closed, his head turned to the side with one arm draped across his chest.

Knowing he was exhausted, she was careful not to wake him as she climbed onto the bed with him. She didn’t think he’d slept at all the previous night, even though he’d avoided answering her directly when she’d asked.

Sitting on her knees beside him, she watched him for a minute as he slept. The slow, steady rise and fall of his chest was hypnotic and calming.

Bringing her hand to his chest, she trailed her fingers across his shirt before resting her palm against the beat of his heart.

Sighing, she leaned over, kissing him softly on the lips before resting her forehead against his shoulder.

“Thank you,” she murmured, shutting her eyes.

He’d given up a lot for her yesterday without the slightest hesitation. She knew she would have done the same thing for him, and yet the depth of his love for her was still humbling.

Rising back up, her eyes roamed his face. It was difficult to remember when she hadn’t loved him. It felt like another lifetime. The emotion was so complete and natural. It was hard to comprehend how quickly he’d become so important to her.

Sitting beside him, watching him sleep…she couldn’t think of a moment when it had happened…it had been gradual, spreading through her until it was as innate as breathing.

Somewhere in the back of her mind she knew it should frighten her… she should realize something that developed so fast couldn’t possibly last…and yet she’d never felt more sure of anything.

Smiling softly, she used her free hand to brush his hair off of his forehead. Gently she traced his lightening bolt scar. When her fingers moved on to caress the contours of his face, Harry shifted, turning his head into her touch.

Shifting down onto her side, Ginny caressed his chest lightly as she shut her eyes.

She’d just begun to drift off when Harry jerked suddenly, startling her back awake. Her eyes snapped opened, and her brow furrowed as he moaned softly.

With surprising speed, Harry seemed to become agitated in his sleep. His eyes squeezed shut as his body began to twitch with increasing violence.

Concerned, Ginny sat up, shifting onto her knees as she brought her hand to his cheek.

“Harry,” she said softly, leaning over him as she caressed his skin, trying to wake him.

Below her, Harry’s jaw tensed. Biting back a cry, he thrashed his head away from her touch as energy began to ripple off of his body in waves.

“Harry!” she repeated worriedly, shaking his shoulder with one hand as she reached for his face with the other.

Suddenly, Harry’s eyes shot open. His expression was wild and his eyes seemed unusually dark, as though the pupils had dilated so wide the green had disappeared completely. Before she could react he moved, his hand flying to her neck as he shoved her back roughly onto the bed.

“Harry!?” she choked out, becoming frightened as she pressed a hand against his chest.

She tried to push against him but he was too strong and she began to struggle as his hand tightened around her throat.

As quickly as it started, though, it was over.

Harry blinked and shook his head. His eyes widened in horror as they focused on her, as though just realizing she was beneath him. The green swiftly began to return, overcoming the black. Shooting away from her, he scooted back as she slowly sat up.

“What happened,” he asked; his expression unreadable as his eyes flicked down to where she was rubbing her neck. “Did I…did I hurt you?”

“No,” she assured him, shaking her head.

Harry didn’t believe her, curling his hands into the mattress as he pressed his back against the headboard.

“You were having a nightmare or something,” she said, beginning to crawl tentatively toward him, as though trying not to startle him. “Are you ok? Your eyes, they’re…”

“I’m fine,” Harry said, launching off the bed and backing away. “I’m just…I’m going to take a shower,” he stuttered, turning and leaving the room before she could respond.

“Harry!” Ginny called, slipping off the bed, and following him down the hall.

“Don’t follow me,” he snapped over his shoulder, his hands balled into tight fists, his shoulders stiff.

“Harry, stop for a second!” she said sternly, grabbing his shirt as he reached the bathroom.

“Get away from me!” he exclaimed, swinging around suddenly.

Ginny stumbled back, hitting the wall with a thud as she stared at his face. His eyes were wrong, the green in them gone again as his pupils dilated to an unnaturally large size. She could feel the energy flowing out from him as he disappeared into the bathroom, slamming the door behind him.

Throwing a sealing charm at the door, Harry he dropped to his knees. Curling over, he pressed his fists into the floor as he squeezed his eyes shut. He felt sick at how close he’d just come to hurting her. For a minute he focused solely on his breathing, trying to calm his insides.

When he finally stood up he crossed to the shower, turning the water on full blast. As steam began to fill the small room he slipped off his clothes and climbed in. The shower was a tiny tiled square and he braced his hands on the wall, dipping his head as he let the water rain down on him.

For several minutes he didn’t move, working to get his power back under control. Finally, he opened his eyes, blinking against the water as it ran down his face.

Nothing like this had happened in over a year. He didn’t like that it had happened here…that Ginny had seen it.

She’s frightened enough and now this.

He hadn’t meant to fall asleep, but after everything that happened he was exhausted. Having neglected to center in almost two days, he knew it was a miracle he hadn't truly hurt her. Even now he could feel his insides still churning, his dream stuck in his mind.

“Stop fighting me,” Harry growled, his robe billowing around him in the wind.

“Harry please,” Ginny pleaded, shaking her head as she backed away. “You don’t have to do this…You don’t want to do this…”

“No, I really do,” he replied, his lips curling into a hard smile as he raised his wand.

His curse hit her hard in the chest, blowing her against the wall where she stayed, suspended in the air, her body convulsing as she screamed.


Pressing his hands to his face, Harry attempted to block out the echo of Ginny’s screams. The only thing worse than the sound of her pain was the sickening feeling of pleasure that had started to come with it.

After a few more minutes he turned off the water and climbed out. Frowning, he dried off, trying to figure out what he was going to say to her.

The truth is certainly not an option.

Taking a steadying breath, he sank down to the floor. Crossing his legs, he laid his hands on his knees. There was no way he could sleep again without centering. Taking a calming breath, he shut his eyes and began clearing his mind.

When he finally came back into the bedroom, he found Ginny sitting on the bed waiting for him. She had her chin on her knees and her arms wrapped around her legs. The relief in her eyes was evident as she watched him approach.

“Are you ok?” she asked, straightening up and dropping her hands into her lap.

“Fine,” Harry replied curtly, dropping his eyes from her searching gaze.

He could feel her displeasure at his short response as he headed to the bureau.

Harry…”

“I’m tired, Ginny,” he said, avoiding her gaze as he slipped on a clean shirt.

“You’re tired?” she asked, sarcasm slipping into her voice. “Well that’s too bad,” she said, sliding off the bed and crossing to him. “We need to talk about this.”

“There’s nothing to talk about,” he replied turning toward her.

Her eyes were wide with disbelief, her arms crossed over her chest as she gaped at him. After a second she found her voice.

“I’m not a child,” she gritted out. “Tell me what’s going on.”

“It’s none of your business, Ginny!” he shot back, harsher than intended.

Frustrated, he tried to move past her but she grabbed his arm. He looked down at her hand, his skin tingling despite his irritation at her questions.

“None of my business?” she asked incredulously. “I certainly think it’s my business when the person who’s supposed to be protecting me attacks me!”

His eyes flew to hers and he pulled his arm out of her grasp.

“Don’t be dramatic,” he said finally. “It was nothing.”

Pushing past her he climbed quickly under the covers lying on his back with his eyes glued on the ceiling.

Ginny stayed where she was, her eyes narrowed as she watched him. After a moment she crossed to the bed.

“Harry,” she said softly as she sank down on the edge of the mattress.

He frowned at her tone, hearing the hurt in it.

“Why don’t you trust me?”

“I trust you,” he said, running a hand through his hair.

“Then why won’t you tell me what’s wrong?”

“I told you…it’s none of your business,” he said quietly, hating himself as he said it.

Turning his back on her, he focused on a tree outside the window, unable to face the hurt he knew he’d see in her eyes.

Ginny stared at his back, surprised at how much his refusal to talk to her stung. Turning away she found herself fighting back an unexpected rush of tears.

I trust him, she thought angrily. I trust him with my life and he doesn’t trust me enough to tell me what’s going on.

After a few more seconds she stood up.

“Fine,” she said as she reached across him to grab her pillow and a throw. “Keep your bloody secrets,” she muttered as she left the room.

When the door slammed Harry glanced over his shoulder.

“Hey!” he called, sitting up. “You can’t sleep down there, Ginny!”

“Well, I’m certainly not staying with you!” she yelled, her voice fading as she stormed down the hall.

Cursing when he heard her stomp down the stairs, Harry threw off his covers, grabbed his wand and headed after her. Even if he didn’t want to answer her questions, he wouldn’t let her stay by herself.

Finding her in the den, he watched her stoke the fire angrily with her wand before she settled onto the sofa. Crossing his arms, he leaned against the door frame as he weighed his options.

Why am I not telling her? he reasoned.

A large part of him wanted to tell her, to let her in, but he didn’t want to scare her. Above everything else, he never wanted her look at him in fear. She was too important.

Ginny knew he’d followed her but she refused to look at him. Pounding her pillow with her hand she finally settled against it, closing her eyes. The sound of him walking to the sofa caused her chest to tighten but she kept her eyes closed.

When she felt him sink down onto the floor in front of her, she hesitated before slowly opening her eyes. Surprisingly she found herself looking at the back of his shoulder instead of his face.

Harry was sitting on the floor, leaning back against the sofa with his legs bent and his arms draped over his knees.

“I trust you, Ginny,” he said quietly.

“Really?” she asked, the disbelief evident in her tone. “You could’ve fooled me…”

“I’m just trying to protect you,” he said wearily, resting his elbows on his knees as he pressed his forehead into his palms.

“From what?” Ginny asked in frustration.

Shaking his head, Harry exhaled slowly.

Without thinking, Ginny slid her hand to his shoulder. “Just talk to me…”

“I…I can’t,” he said.

“Why not?”

“Because…because I’m afraid,” he admitted quietly.

“Of me?”

Harry shook his head.

“Of what will happen when I tell you,” he confessed. “I don’t want you to…to…”

“You don’t want me to what?” she prompted, watching his profile as she rubbed soothing circles on his shoulder.

Turning suddenly, he leaned close, his hand moving to cup her cheek as he held her gaze.

“I don’t want you to be afraid of me,” he said shakily.

“I could never be afraid of you,” Ginny whispered back, trying to read his expression.

Smiling sadly, Harry ran his thumb over her cheek before he shook his head and looked down.

Yes, you could,” he said.

The conviction in his voice, combined with the regret made Ginny pause. Holding her breath, she slid her hand across the sofa to his chest.

“Why?” Ginny asked, her fingers moving up his shirt to the bare skin of his neck. She could feel his pulse pounding.

“I’m…I’m really powerful,” he breathed finally, his voice barely loud enough for her to hear.

“What?” Ginny asked, shifting closer.

“I’m really powerful,” he repeated, his eyes trained on the sofa.

“I know that, Harry,” she replied, her voice strained in her attempt to be patient. “I’ve seen you fight. But…”

“No,” he interrupted, glancing up at her. “I mean I’m really powerful.”

Ginny stared at him, furrowing her brow as she searched his eyes. He was obviously distraught, his eyes intense as he held her gaze.

“I…” she trailed off, unsure of what to say. “I don’t understand,” she confessed.

His expression softened and he reached up, lacing his fingers through hers where they rested against his skin.

“I know you don’t, baby,” he whispered, pulling her hand to his lips.

“Why do you act like it’s something bad?” she whispered, her voice worried as her body began to tense.

“Because it is something bad,” he replied almost as though he were apologizing. Holding her gaze for a moment, he took a steadying breath. “Scoot over,” he urged as he climbed up onto the sofa.

Ginny shifted back as he stretched out next to her. Keeping her cheek on her pillow, she watched his face as he wrapped his arm securely around her and rested his head eye-level with hers.

“We were in the middle of the war,” he said tentatively, unsure of where to start. “You know about…I mean everyone knows about Voldemort,” he said, watching her eyes as she nodded. “I fought him…finally defeated him when I was twenty,” he explained.

“I’ve heard the stories,” Ginny replied.

“Not this one,” he smiled sadly, his eyes running over her face. “No one talks about what happened when I killed him.”

Ginny remained silent as he began to tell her. He described his final battle with Voldemort…how they’d fought and their wands had locked.

“When Voldemort was destroyed something unexpected happened,” Harry said, thinking back. “We should have expected it really. I mean, when I was a baby some of his power was transferred to me, but not much. He had his Horcruxes so he couldn’t die; his soul and his power were safe. But this time…” he shook his head and took a breath.

There was no going back after this. She would be connected to him in a way only a few others shared if he told her. In that moment, sitting with her in the darkness of the cottage, he wanted to tell her. He wanted that link.

“Oh shite,” he breathed, shutting his eyes and scooting forward until his forehead was against hers.

“Harry,” Ginny soothed, bringing her hand to his cheek. “It’s ok…you don’t have to tell me if it’s…if you can’t.”

“No,” he shook his head. “I want to…” he replied, taking a calming breath. “This time, when I fought him,” Harry continued softly after a second. “This time I’d destroyed his Horcruxes…”

“I don’t know what that is,” Ginny admitted, shaking her head.

Harry opened his eyes to look at her. It hadn’t occurred to him that she wouldn’t know. The world knew he’d defeated Voldemort, but those sorts of details were never explained.

“I forgot,” he smiled, kissing her softly. “It’s so easy to forget I haven’t known you forever.”

“I know,” she agreed, smiling slightly against his lips.

“They were pieces of his soul,” he explained, pulling back to see her. “He broke it up into seven pieces. One was in his body and the other six were hidden. As long as one piece remained he couldn’t be killed.”

“Oh,” Ginny nodded. For a moment she seemed to contemplate what it meant before nodding again. “Ok. So…you fought him…”

“Yeah,” Harry said, picking up where he left off. “He was trying to do some sort of spell when I killed him. Something similar to what Malfoy’s trying to do. There was this huge storm and…it just…Things got confused and his power…the power he was trying secure through the ritual…”

Ginny felt him begin to tremble as he spoke and she ran her fingers through his hair.

“…Even Dumbledore isn’t completely sure what happened but….but it…that evil was somehow transferred to me.”

“What do you mean?” Ginny asked.

“It’s like I have this force in me, but it’s more,” he broke off as he shook his head, trying to find the right words to explain it. “It’s stronger than just power. What would have been channeled and ordered if done correctly just…it just got mixed up. It’s like…I understand the darkness. Like I control it and even though it’s bottled up I can always feel it, trying to control me…

Sometimes it gets out. I’m…I’m sorry I scared you, it hasn’t happened in awhile. I thought I had it under control. But I guess when you’re evil, you’re evil…” he trailed off and took in a shaky breath.

What if she’s afraid of me?

His insides twisted forcefully at his thoughts and he suddenly wanted to take it all back.

“What are you talking about?” Ginny demanded as she shifted, pulling back so she could see his face.

Caressing his cheek with her thumb, she held his gaze when it hesitantly flicked to her. His eyes were as green and striking as ever, all trace of the darkness from before gone.

Harry opened his mouth to reply but she silenced him with a kiss.

“You are not evil, Harry,” she whispered vehemently when she pulled back. “It may be inside of you, but it’s not who you are.”

She drew him to her and wrapped her arms around him, rubbing his back.

“It doesn’t control you,” she whispered into his ear as he sank into her, comforted by her.

“You don’t understand the temptation…you don’t know what it’s like,” he said into her shoulder, taking in a shuddering breath. “If I wanted to, I could do whatever I wanted. I could hurt whoever I wanted and there isn’t anyone alive strong enough to stop me.”

Ginny wasn’t sure what to think as she held him. She’d seen the change in him, had seen his eyes when he’d awoken before. The difference in him when he’d been fighting at the Ministry shot into her head but it seemed impossible. She couldn’t really believe the man she’d met, grown to know and care for could have something like that inside of him.

“So how does it work? Why don’t you seem…I don’t know…more powerful than everyone all the time?” she asked.

Harry didn’t answer at first before he sighed and looked away.

“It doesn’t work that way,” he explained reluctantly, not used to talking about it with anyone other than Dumbledore. He shut his eyes as he continued. “It’s sort of…all or nothing. I mean, if I focus I can do things without losing control…like with your neck after the banquet.” At this he paused, his fingers instinctively sliding from her hair to her throat. Absently, he caressed the skin where Malfoy’s brand had been.

“It took years to get to this point but I seem to be able to draw it forward only when I want to…most of the time.”

Unless I do something stupid like not sleep for two days and fall asleep without centering.

“Can I see?” she asked quietly.

“See what?” he replied, furrowing his brow.

“You bring it forward…”

“No!” Harry said quickly, horrified by the suggestion, his eyes flying to hers. “God, no…”

“Why not?” Ginny asked indignantly. “I can handle it.”

“No,” Harry insisted frowning as he shifted instinctively away from her. “No, you can’t. I can’t…”

“Harry…”

“I said no!” he exclaimed. In an instant he’d pulled away and risen from the sofa.

Ginny sat up, watching him anxiously as he stalked to the fireplace.

Raking his fingers through his hair, Harry stared at the flames.

“I’m sorry,” Ginny said from behind him, although unsure of what she had done.

Harry shook his head at her words, his shoulders tense and his back straight. Finally turning back toward her, he crossed his arms over his chest as he lingered near the fireplace.

“Don’t be sorry,” he reassured her softly.

“I’m just trying to understand,” Ginny said as she stood up, mirroring his position as she crossed her arms.

“I know,” he nodded. “I’m sorry, I’m just…it’s late and I’m tired and…” His voice faded as he looked away, frowning slightly.

“I would never draw it forward around people,” he admitted, his eyes flicking to hers. “Not fully…I…it’s too dangerous. I mean…it’s so much better now, but I would never risk that. I wouldn’t risk you,” he explained, meeting her gaze again.

Letting his arms fall to his sides, he crossed back to her. When he came to a stop in front of her, he slipped his hand into hers.

“I want to answer all of your questions, Ginny,” he replied, squeezing her hand. “I’m going to answer your questions…but,” he hesitated, shutting his eyes with a frown. “I’m exhausted and it’s harder to…” he shook his head, letting his breath out with a rush. “Today has been hard,” he sighed.

Taking in the dark circles under his eyes, Ginny rose up on her toes and pressed her lips against his.

“Let’s just go to bed then,” she offered softly when she pulled back.

“Ok,” he sighed.

Smiling slightly she squeezed his hand before leading him back up the stairs.

Once they were in bed, Ginny rolled onto her side, tucking her arm beneath her head as she stared at Harry’s profile.

For a minute he simply stared up at the ceiling. Eventually, he turned his head to look at her. Remaining silent, he let his gaze travel over her face.

Ginny stared back at him, waiting to see if he was going to talk to her.

“You don’t look at me differently,” he said finally, relief filling his eyes.

“Should I?” she asked with a smile.

“I don’t know,” he admitted, turning his head to stare up at the ceiling. “You’re the first person I’ve told who wasn’t there…at the beginning.”

“It was really bad wasn’t it,” she murmured hesitantly, not wanting to push him.

Reaching across the bed, Harry found her hand as he nodded.

“I couldn’t handle it,” he said, his mind wandering back to what he could remember.

Most of his early memories were sketchy because he’d been unable to keep any of his own thoughts or freewill when his power would surface.

Ginny’s thoughts went back to when he’d had her pinned to the bed, his eyes almost completely black and his face hard.

She knew she should be content not knowing what actually happened when he didn’t “react well with people”, but she couldn’t shake her curiosity.

“What did you used to do?”

“What?”

“What did you do to people when you didn’t react well,” she clarified and she felt him tense a little. When he didn’t answer she moved her free hand to his forearm, caressing his skin tenderly. “Harry,” she urged softly, watching his jaw work.

After a few more moments of silence she felt him begin to relax.

“I hurt them,” he said as she continued to rub her hand over his skin. “I tried to kill them,” he added softly.

When he forced himself to look at her she didn’t look upset about it and he furrowed his brow.

“You tried,” she echoed and he paused as he considered her.

“I didn’t manage to succeed if that’s what you mean,” he replied after a moment. “But that doesn’t make it better.”

She held his gaze for a second before her gaze slid away, swallowing as she stared out the window.

Harry took that as a sign of agreement and they lay in silence for a few seconds.

“It makes it a lot better, Harry,” she reasoned eventually, shifting so that her hands were on his pillow on either side of his face as she gazed down at him.

“No it doesn’t,” Harry disagreed breaking her gaze and turning his head to the side. “I only failed because I didn’t know how to use what I had…If I tried now I wouldn’t fail.”

She almost smiled at him. It was such an obviously warped Harry way of thinking about it. Bringing her fingers to his chin, she turned his face back to her.

“Would you try now, Harry? Now that you know you would succeed?”

He stared at her for a second. “I don’t know,” he admitted shakily. “I wouldn’t want to…but I don’t know if I’d be strong enough to control it.”

“Of course, you would be,” she whispered, giving him a small smile, rubbing her thumb along his jaw.

“Why?” he whispered back, his eyes showing his doubt. He wanted her to believe in him and reassure him, to make him feel better, something he knew without question she would be able to do. “Why do you think so?”

“Because you’re you,” she said, cocking her head at him as though it was the most obvious answer in the world. “You were young and scared then…and you’ve spent the past five years making sure you wouldn’t lose yourself in it like that again. No matter how strong it is Harry, you’re stronger.”

Harry stared at her as he took in a shaky breath.

Well shite.

He’d wanted her to make him feel better, not make him cry. Shutting his eyes for a second, he let his breath out slowly, waiting for the tears that were prickling his eyelids to go away.

Ginny began tracing her fingers down his cheek. She bit her lip as she watched him take another steadying breath.

“So all of those books,” she murmured suddenly, her mind moving to his library of dark material. “When you said you couldn’t fight what you didn’t understand…you were talking about yourself.”

Harry chuckled in surprise before opening his eyes.

“How did you remember that?” he asked, bringing his hand to her cheek as his gaze drifted over her face.

“I don’t know,” she shrugged, smiling as he drew her into a kiss.

Harry kept the kiss light, holding her close as he pressed his lips against hers. Relief began to slowly spread through him. She wasn’t running from the room. In fact, she was holding him, reassuring him and seemingly unconcerned by any danger he could pose.

Shifting, he rose up, maneuvering her onto her back as they kissed. Soon she was the one looking up at him when he pulled away.

“I love you so much,” he whispered, kissing her again before he lowered his body to the bed. Curling around her he tucked his head into her shoulder.

“I love you too,” she murmured, stroking his hair.

Harry kept his eyes trained on the window, allowing his breathing to become deep and even. After several minutes Ginny too was relaxed, her fingers having stilled in his hair.

“Ginny,” Harry whispered.

When she didn’t respond he carefully raised his head to find her sleeping peacefully. Watching her face he moved slowly, trying not to wake her as he slipped out of her arms and off the bed.

Moving to the window he sat with his legs crossed and his eyes shut. Afraid to sleep yet after what had happened, he spent several more minutes centering. When he finally moved back to the bed, he lay on his side, his hand tucked under his pillow as he watched Ginny sleep. His eyes remained locked on her face until he finally nodded off, sinking into a thankfully undisturbed and much needed sleep.




Authors Note: Hey guys! This ended up being a huge chapter so I guess it makes up a bit for the crazy wait. Apologies, I was hit by a a very huge and very tiring real life truck this time. It's still dragging me along actually, but I was determined not to make you wait any longer. Thank you so much for your patience, I realize that waiting for updates can be painful and frustrating and the fact that so many of you continue to read and review means the world to me. In case you’re a new reader, I’ll just remind everyone that my posting time is about three months, although I always aim to be faster than that…it has yet to work out, but maybe chapter 13 will surprise us all. :)

I also wanted to let you know that if you gave up on checking for a response from me for your chapter 11 review, I’m now all caught up. I didn’t want anyone to think I’d ignored or forgotten about them and I will always respond to all of the previous chapter’s reviews before I post the new one. Also, a special thanks to sugarquills23 and wvchemteach for, as always, taking the time to help me…you guys are lifesavers.

Ok, I think that’s it…thanks for reading and have a great summer!






Chapter 13: Fighting Fate
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Morning dawned slowly, the sun creeping lazily over the windowsill until its warm light spilled onto the floor. Inching across the hardwood, it eventually meandered up the side of the bed and across the two forms asleep under the covers.

Harry was on his back with the blankets down around his waist. One arm was folded over his chest while the other was draped across Ginny’s stomach, his hand curled instinctively around her hip.

The room was charged with magical energy, the curtains rustling in the wake of each wave of power. A soft hum rose from the bedside table, where the lamp was beginning to vibrate against the wood.

Ginny’s face remained peaceful as she slumbered, while Harry’s mouth tightened into a thin line. The hair on his arms stood on end, his muscles growing taunt as his grip tightened on Ginny’s hip.

As the room continued to slowly brighten, magical currents flowed unchecked from Harry’s body. With each passing second, the tension in his muscles increased until his head jerked to the side and he inhaled sharply.

As if on cue, Harry’s eyes snapped open when the morning light finally hit his face. For a second his fingers dug into Ginny’s hip in the wake of his dreams. When she shifted slightly at the pressure, he quickly released his bruising grip.

Looking over, he found her red hair strewn across her pillow, her face angled away from him as she slept. Smoothing out the fabric of her pajama bottoms, he gently slid his hand just under the hem to caress her skin.

Shutting his eyes, he expelled a slow, unsteady breath as he arched his neck. He could feel his body still tingling from sleep and he curled his fingers into a fist to ease the sensation. After a moment he uncurled them, allowing the pent up energy to siphon off.

He’d been dreaming of his final battle with Voldemort - reliving the moment that had changed his life. His breathing quickened and his eyes opened as the memory resurfaced in his mind.

Lightning flashed across the sky and rain pounded down as Harry dove behind the large bubbling cauldron, narrowly escaping the dark lord’s curse.

He could hear the wizard’s demented laughter as he struggled to catch his breath. Crouching behind the huge pot, he looked around, clutching his wand tightly. The muddy ground was riddled with the remains of the interrupted ritual, the distorted pentagram shining silver against the dark earth.

A crack of thunder shook the ground as Voldemort called his name.

Rising up, Harry rounded the cauldron, throwing a series of curses as he moved. The wind whipped his robes around him and flung his wet hair across his face.

Voldemort’s sudden curse hit him in the chest, slamming him against the cauldron. He tumbled over it, landing hard on his back as he knocked the large copper pot over.

Harry felt like he was on fire as the bubbling contents splashed over the rim and onto his body, soaking his robes and filling his mouth as he cried out. Struggling to breathe, he chocked on the thick potion, unable to stop the flow of liquid that oozed down his throat.

Quickly he rolled over and swallowed, coughing as he tried to clear his lungs. His stomach clenched painfully as he struggled to his feet, wiping the potion out of his eyes with the back of his hand.

“Time to die, Harry!” Voldemort shouted.

Desperate and out of options, Harry threw out his arm, his eyes blazing.

Time seemed to slow down when it happened. They shot the killing curse at the same time and as before, their wands locked. A magical barrier erupted instantly around them, shielding them from the weather.

Gritting his teeth, Harry struggled to hold his wand steady. His gaze locked with his parents’ murderer as he fought to force the ball of magic toward his enemy.


Harry shut his eyes against the images. He could never remember the moment he’d won, the moment he’d finally gotten the spell across the circle to Voldemort.

All he remembered was the explosion afterwards, the pain and the sensation of being thrown through the air before everything went dark.

Beside him, Ginny shifted with a sigh, drawing him out of his memories. Opening his eyes, Harry looked over and focused on her face.

No longer calm, she seemed to be frowning in her sleep as she began to shift restlessly. His fingers were tingling where he touched her skin and he gasped as a vision suddenly erupted inside of his head.

Ginny was standing outside of the barrier, her wet hair whipping around her face and shoulders in the rain. Her eyes were full of fear as she held his gaze.

His arms were shaking as he fought to hold his wand steady. He could hear Voldemort’s laughter as he struggled, but he couldn’t look away from her face.

Despite the tears rolling down her cheeks she broke into a smile. She was beautiful and perfect and, although he couldn’t hear it over the storm, he saw her mouth form the words.

“I love you.”


Pain shot through Harry’s head and his body convulsed on the bed. His fingers dug unconsciously into Ginny’s hip again as another image flashed before him, replacing the last.

“HARRY…Harry…”

He heard her voice in the darkness before she appeared over him, the dripping strands of her hair forming a curtain around their faces.

Bringing her shaking hands to his cheeks, she wiped the mud and blood off of his skin.

She flew away from him suddenly, landing hard on her back ten yards away as he sat up. He was on her an instant later, his hand wrapped around her neck as he held her down.

Rain pounded on his back as she struggled beneath him, her eyes widening with fear…


The image was gone almost as soon as it appeared, replaced only by pain.

Ginny whimpered beside him, trying to roll away from the discomfort of his grip.

Ripping his hand away from her with a gasp, Harry grabbed his head as he sat up. Squeezing his eyes shut with a moan, he fought the wave of nausea that had moved over him with the pain. It was extreme and consuming, like his brain was splitting in two.

What the hell…

Pushing off the covers, he slipped gingerly out of the bed. Moving unsteadily to the window, he sank down before it, resting his hands on his knees and shutting his eyes.

After a moment, he abandoned the pose, instead bringing his palms back to his forehead as he curled over. Gritting his teeth so tightly his jaw ached, he worked to bring his power back under control.

Fifteen minutes later, he was back beside the bed, gazing down at the woman now snuggled peacefully under the covers.

Her hair was tangled and draped over her shoulder shimmering in the morning light. She looked tiny, young and suddenly very fragile as he watched her sleep.

He couldn’t understand what he’d seen. The moments were already fading away, eluding his grasp as he tried to remember them.

He knew he’d centered before sleeping, but it apparently hadn’t been enough after the previous night.

The thought worried him, unsure of how to deal with his increasing instability. Even now he still felt a bit unsteady and the thought of what had happened the night before made him shudder.

Memories of regaining control and seeing Ginny struggling beneath him on the bed surged inside of him and he took a steadying breath.

What if I’d actually hurt her?

The idea of losing control while he was near her, of putting her in danger again, scared him - terrified him actually.

He’d questioned the attempt to separate them at the Ministry a hundred times. Today, however, was the first time he wondered if they’d been right to want to get her away from him.

As soon as he thought it, he shook his head, raking his fingers through his hair. It was all just too much. He couldn’t focus on one question without, what felt like, a hundred others popping up.

What are we doing? he wondered in frustration.

They’d run from everyone to keep from being separated and he didn’t really even understand why.

They put me with her. Why would they all of a sudden decide I was too dangerous?

If he really thought about it, he couldn’t even explain the intensity of his determination not to let her go. The logical part of his brain knew that it wasn’t as if he’d never have seen her again. He would’ve been able to check on her and keep tabs on her…but he hadn’t cared. He wouldn’t trust her to Dawlish or anyone else’s protection.

And yet it was more than that. It wasn’t just about protecting her – it was about her.

The need to stay near her, the fear of being separated that had surged inside of him had been intense and elemental. Even now the thought of not being with her caused his throat to tighten and his heart to speed up.

Is it even normal? he asked himself as his eyes roamed her face. To need someone this much?

He hadn’t needed Cho like this…or anyone else he’d been with. He knew what he felt for Ginny in comparison was different, stronger, but still…

The room darkened suddenly, derailing his thoughts. Looking over at the window he saw the previously blue sky masked by a bank of clouds rolling in to block the sun.

Careful not to wake Ginny, he lifted the covers and slipped back into bed. The mattress dipped with his weight and she rolled toward him, a sigh slipping quietly from her lips.

Lying on his side, Harry folded his arm under his head and continued to watch her sleep for several moments.

It was true he’d never needed Cho or anyone the way he needed her, but at the same time, no one else caused his power to react the way she did either.

His dreams hadn’t been this dark for years. Never could he remember waking up next to anyone and having to immediately fight down such a powerful urge to hurt them.

He did remember feeling the need to hurt Ron and Hermione and other people he cared about - but that had been before he’d learned how to control himself. He certainly didn’t dream about them or have this kind of trouble controlling himself when he was around them.

I just need to focus harder, he decided. I need to be more diligent and remember my training.

He also knew he needed more rest. The situation was beyond trying. His emotions were all over the place, and he couldn’t let that disruption to his system cause Ginny to be hurt.

Reaching out, Harry gently brushed a few strands of her hair from her face. Her skin was smooth and warm and once he touched her, he found it hard to stop. His palm tingled as he cupped her cheek, his fingers sliding into her hair.

Ginny stirred in response to his touch, her brow furrowing before relaxing again.

For Harry, touching her brought an immediate surge of pleasure. The expected urge to destroy followed quickly behind it, but Harry was ready for it this time.

It wasn’t a surprising response. He’d learned over the years that his power reacted poorly to anything that brought him joy and he focused on tamping the feeling down. Drawing his insides back under control was a daily routine and he was relieved by how swiftly he was able to do it at this moment.

Keeping his hand against her face, Harry focused on her warmth, allowing a feeling of calm to grow inside of him. As it built, slowly easing his tension, it occurred to him how ironic the situation really was.

At times her touch seemed to aggravate his power, sending him nearly over the edge with the urge to hurt her…or worse…

Now in the wake of his nightmares, he was using her touch as a comfort. Had the situation been less serious he might have found the contrast in his reaction to her presence comical.

Leaning forward, Harry pressed his lips against her forehead. At the same time, he slipped his arm underneath her. Rolling onto his back he brought her with him so that her head was resting on his shoulder.

With a murmur, Ginny shifted more fully against him, sliding her arm up to his chest. As she settled back to sleep, she exhaled slowly and draped her leg comfortably over his.

Harry stared at the ceiling, her slight weight soothing as he held her. After several minutes he felt almost normal. His hand glided smoothly over her hair as he continued to mull over the recent events.

Eventually Ginny stirred again. Moaning softly, she turned to rub her forehead against his shoulder before looking up at him.

“Hi,” Harry breathed brushing her hair away from her eyes.

“Hi,” she replied. A sleepy smile stretched across her face before she rolled off of him. “Mm, what time is it?” she asked stretching her arms over her head as she arched her back.

“No idea,” Harry answered as he followed her. Unwilling to lose the contact, he pulled her back toward him, burying his face against her neck. “Who cares?”

Laughing softly, Ginny wrapped her arms around his shoulders, pulling him closer as he curled his body against hers. His shirt was slightly damp as she ran her hands over his shoulders. Frowning briefly when she felt the tension in his body, she began to rub soothing circles down his back.

“Harry…”

“Hmm?”

“You ok?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he breathed, pressing his lips against her throat.

Curling her fingers into his hair, Ginny tugged gently, urging him to look up so that she could see his face.

“Really?” she pressed, searching his eyes when he finally met her gaze.

“Really,” he lied.

The sun peaked back out from behind the clouds as they stared at each other. Ginny released his hair, running her thumb back and forth across his cheek absently as she studied him.

“Did you have a nightmare?” she asked finally.

Harry hesitated before dropping his gaze and shaking his head.

“Nothing I couldn’t handle,” he told her with a sigh.

“You had one? You should have woken me,” she admonished.

“That wouldn’t have been a good idea,” he said running his thumb down her cheek.

He watched her expression change, knew she was remembering what had happened the night before. The corners of his mouth tilted down into a frown as he lowered his forehead to hers.

“It was nothing,” he lied smoothly, brushing his lips against hers.

“Do you always have them?” she asked after a pause.

“Sometimes,” Harry admitted before kissing her again.

Undeterred by his attempted distraction, Ginny pushed him back.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Harry stared at her, considering his answer before he shrugged.

“I didn’t want you to worry,” he admitted. “It’s not that unusual for me, and before…when you didn’t know about everything, it wouldn’t have made any sense if I tried to explain. Besides, when I center it’s not so bad…or at least the effect of the dreams isn’t as…extreme,” he explained, unable to find a better word.

Ginny nodded, remembering the violent reaction he’d had when she’d woken him before. She stared at his eyes, vibrant and green this morning, where they’d been black the night before.

“So…centering,” she said, thinking out loud. “It’s for your power?”

“Yeah.”

“And you do it before you sleep?”

“Mhmm. When I wake up too,” he answered, sliding down onto his side and resting his cheek on her pillow. “I’m in less control of my mind when I’m asleep. The power is more active, so I can get…”

“Testy?” Ginny supplied when he trailed off.

“Yeah,” he chuckled, reaching for her hand and threading his fingers through hers. “When you woke me up yesterday…I hadn’t meant to fall asleep. I hadn’t centered in two days. It was stupid of me…and it won’t happen again.”

“It’s ok.”

“No, it’s not,” he replied, his voice instantly hard. “It was irresponsible.”

“I trust you.”

Making a sound of disbelief in his throat, Harry brought her hand to his mouth, pressing his lips against her skin.

“I do.”

“I know,” he said, kissing her hand again before lowering it back down between them. “I just don’t think you really appreciate how close you were to being hurt.”

“You wouldn’t hurt me on purpose,” Ginny insisted firmly as she gave his hand a squeeze.

Pulling her closer, Harry tucked his face into her neck with a sigh. His lips grazed her throat, his breath warm on her skin as he shut his eyes.

Silence descended around them as they both became momentarily lost in their thoughts. Gradually, Harry’s breathing deepened as the warmth from the sunlight on his back relaxed him.

“Harry!”

The alarm in Ginny’s voice shot through him and he opened his eyes.

“What’s that?” she asked.

Following her gaze, he twisted to look over his shoulder. When he saw what she was talking about his body went rigid.

A white owl was flying toward the window. If it weren’t for the lush jade forest behind it, he wouldn’t even have noticed but now he watched in shock as the bird flew toward the cottage.

“Is…is that an owl?” Ginny stammered, unable to believe what she was seeing.

A string of expletives flew from Harry’s lips as he launched himself off the bed. His wand flew instantly from the side table to his hand as he crossed to the window.

“Goddamn it, Ron,” he hissed, tightening his grip on his wand as he watched the bird fly closer and closer.

“Ron?” Ginny exclaimed, jumping up after him. “How did he find us?!”

Her voice was panicked and Harry glanced back at her as she followed him to the window.

“It’s ok,” he assured her, reaching for her hand.

“It’s ok?” she repeated, her voice suddenly trembling. “It’s not ok! How can it be ok, Harry!? What if they’re right behind it…”

“They’re not,” Harry said firmly. Releasing her hand he cupped her cheek in his palm, kissing her swiftly. “They’re not,” he repeated.

“You can’t know that.”

“Yes, I can,” he nodded. “Hedwig wouldn’t let anyone follow her. Even Ron.”

“Who?” Ginny asked.

“Hedwig,” he said, looking back out the window. “My owl,” he explained grimly, his eyes locked on his oldest friend.

“Your…but how did she find us?”

“She can find anyone,” Harry sighed, his face a strange combination of frustration and admiration. “Look, stay behind me,” he said, moving his hand to Ginny’s shoulder and gently pushing her back.

“Why?”

“She doesn’t like gir…people,” Harry explained, suddenly a bit sheepish.

Swiftly, he pushed up the sash, stepping back seconds before the snow white owl swooped in the window.

Ginny backed away, watching warily while Harry held out his arm.

Hedwig landed with a flourish, shaking out her feathers while her beady eyes assessed him shrewdly.

“Hey, girl,” he greeted warmly, reaching up to stroke her feathers. “What are you doing, making such a long…ow!”

Shaking out his hand, Harry gaped at Hedwig as she turned her face away, refusing to look at him.

“What was that for?!”

“Are you ok?” Ginny asked, causing Hedwig’s head to swivel in her direction.

Launching off Harry’s arm with a loud hoot, Hedwig flew suddenly toward her.

“Hedwig!” Harry exclaimed, moving to follow. “No!”

Startled, Ginny instinctively stuck out her arm, her eyes widening when Hedwig landed lightly. Surprisingly the bird’s expression appeared almost friendly as she hooted softly.

“Well…hello,” Ginny smiled. Tentatively, she reached up. When Hedwig didn’t seem to mind, Ginny began stroking her feathers. “Aren’t you a pretty girl,” she cooed as the owl nipped affectionately at her hand.

Harry gaped at them for a moment, snapping his mouth shut when Ginny looked his way.

“I thought you said she didn’t like people,” she said, quirking an eyebrow.

“She doesn’t,” he insisted, shaking his head helplessly before he frowned. “Well no, she likes people. She just doesn’t like my girlfriends…”

“Oh?” Ginny replied as her eyes began to twinkle. “And am I your girlfriend?” she teased, breaking into a grin.

Harry grinned back, but soon his expression faded once again to disbelief as he watched Hedwig walk up Ginny’s arm. The bird tilted her head expectantly as though waiting for Ginny to continue stroking her feathers.

“That’s just so odd,” Harry said, shaking his head. “It’s like she knows you or something…” He trailed off when Ginny’s eyes snapped to his.

Hedwig hooted loudly, sticking out her leg as her head swung back around toward Harry, reminding him that she’d brought him a message.

“She doesn’t seem very happy with you,” Ginny stated, watching the way Hedwig responded to Harry.

“I haven’t visited her since…well since this all started,” Harry explained as he approached.

Now, too old to be used on a daily basis, Hedwig technically lived with Hagrid at Hogwarts. Although Harry still visited her regularly and used her for his more important jobs, he’d wanted her to have the freedom of the school grounds, as opposed to being cooped up in his flat for days on end.

Hedwig’s gaze swung away from him, pointedly ignoring him once he got close.

“Hey, don’t be like that,” Harry frowned, reaching out and running the back of his fingers down her wing. “You know I wouldn’t have stayed away if it weren’t something really important.”

Hedwig hooted in reproach while Harry untied the note. Crumpling the string into his hand, he squeezed it tightly before presenting a transfigured treat to her.

As Hedwig took the morsel and flew up to the top of the bureau, Harry unfolded the parchment. Ginny moved to his side, following along with him as he read the short note.

Harry,

What’s going on? Where are you? You need to come back right now.
If you care about her, you’ll bring her back, mate.
We’ll explain everything when you get back. I promise.

Ron


Harry stared down at the letter, his eyes stuck on the last two words. “I promise.”

Liar, Harry fumed silently.

Gritting his teeth, Harry’s feelings of betrayal toward Ron came back full force.

He let them try to separate us at the Ministry. How could he possibly think we’d trust him now?

Harry's eyes narrowed as his anger grew. He didn't even notice the force of his grip causing the paper to crinkle and fold around his fingers.

Ginny’s soft curse caught his attention and he looked over. At the same time, she reached for the letter, pulling it from his grasp and ripping it up into little pieces.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Pansy stood in the doorway, watching Draco as he sat in a large leather wingback chair. Hunched down in the cushions with a half-empty decanter of alcohol in his hand, he stared blindly into the fire.

His last couple of days had been consumed with hunting for Ginny and Harry. They weren’t any closer than when they started, but despite the hopelessness of the situation, Draco refused to turn his attentions elsewhere.

“You’re up early,” Pansy commented as she strolled into the room.

She didn’t need to ask why he’d awoken at the crack of dawn.

On the table in front of his chair, was a small silver cauldron.

When Draco had realized his tracer on the Weasley girl had been removed, a potion had been created using a piece of her hair. As long as she remained pure the concoction would appear clear but the taking of her virginity would cause the liquid to swirl into a deep violet color.

Although general use of this type of purity potion had fallen out of common practice, pureblood families had once used the method to ensure the innocence of their daughters before marriage.

When she got close enough to peer inside, Pansy frowned, noting the clear potion within.

So she’s still a virgin, Pansy mused, mildly surprised.

Rounding the chair with a sigh, she came to a stop in front of Draco.

“You should come back to bed, baby,” she murmured silkily, slipping open her robe to reveal a sheer black nightgown. “You need to relax.”

When Malfoy didn’t even bother to look over, Pansy stepped closer. Sliding her knee slowly in between his legs, she watched his face for any sign of rejection. Although he still didn’t make any move to touch her, he shifted to allow her better access. Smirking slightly, she climbed into the chair so that she was straddling his lap.

Draco settled his hands on her hips, continuing to stare into the flames as she began kissing his neck.

“There are other options,” Pansy murmured after a second, sensing his persistent distraction. Running her hand up and down his shirt in a soothing gesture, she kissed his cheek. “Why do you have to use a Weasley?”

“It’s what I want,” he answered shortly, digging his fingers into her hips in response to her questioning him.

Shifting under his painful grip, Pansy went to work on the buttons of his shirt.

“But who cares who you use as long as it works?” she pouted. “Is she so important?”

“She’s powerful,” Malfoy grumbled, leaning his head back on the chair and shutting his eyes while Pansy caressed his chest.

“That’s not why you want to use her,” Pansy shook her head.

“You’re right,” he admitted with a hard smile. “Using her hurts so many convenient people.”

Slipping his hand to Pansy’s neck he guided her mouth down to his skin.

“But once you get the power, you can hurt them all you want,” Pansy pointed out as she pressed kisses from his throat down to his chest. “You can make them pay,” she murmured.

“Oh, they’ll pay,” Malfoy agreed softly. Twisting his fingers into Pansy’s hair at the thought, he pulled her head up, kissing her roughly. “And that’s just the beginning.”

“So use someone else,” Pansy urged breathlessly. “Someone easier.”

Someone you don’t want as much, her mind added jealously.

“Damn it, Pansy,” Malfoy snarled, pushing her away. “I want to use her, so stop hassling me about it. I have my reasons.”

“I’m sorry, baby,” Pansy soothed, undoing his pants as she leaned back in to kiss his chest. “I know you do,” she murmured. “I know they killed your parents…”

“What did you say?” Malfoy hissed freezing under her touch.

Speaking of Malfoy’s parents was forbidden but Pansy pressed on, hoping to make him realize that continuing to hunt Ginny was reckless and unnecessary.

“Killing his sister isn’t going to bring your mum back, baby,” she said gently. “There are other ways to punish him…to punish all of them…”

With a growl Malfoy shoved her hard.

Pansy tumbled off his lap with a cry of surprise, landing on the floor at his feet.

“That’s not what this is about. They don’t get to dictate who I use,” Malfoy spat, his eyes glittering dangerously down at her as he stood up. “And neither do you…I’ll get someone else if I have to. But not until any possible chance of getting what I want is gone.”

“They’ve been gone for two days,” Pansy said, narrowing her eyes. “She won’t be a virgin much longer.”

“Not everyone’s a whore like you,” Malfoy growled as he strode away.

Pansy scoffed, lounging back on her elbows.

“Locked up in some safe-house with Potter? Who wouldn’t do him?” Pansy called. Even as she knew she’d pay for her words, she couldn’t resist adding, “He’s delicious.”

~..~..~..~..~..~

Freshly showered and dressed, Harry headed down the stairs, looking for Ginny. They’d eaten a large breakfast earlier, both hungry after missing dinner the night before.

Entering the kitchen quietly, Harry came to a stop just inside the doorway.

Ginny was standing at the sink, with what looked like all of the cabin’s dishes piled beside her. The water was running, drowning out most of the simple melody she was humming as she washed each one by hand.

Cocking his head to the side, Harry watched her for a few moments while she worked.

Setting one plate aside, she picked up another and began to scrub it clean. Her circular motion became slower and slower, her song fading away as she stared out the window. Obviously lost in her thoughts, she didn’t seem to notice when Harry finally approached.

Coming up behind her, he settled his hands on her waist, causing her to jump in surprise.

“What are you doing?” he asked softly, lowering his head to inhale the fragrance of her hair.

Memorable and floral, the smell was distinctly Ginny and he closed his eyes as he rested his chin on her shoulder. His power rumbled inside of him almost instantly, but he tamped it down.

“Washing dishes,” she replied, beginning to scrub the plate again.

“All of them?”

“They’re dusty,” she shrugged.

“Well that’s very…domestic of you,” he grinned, pulling her hair off of her shoulder to have better access to her neck. “Any particular reason you’re doing it by hand?”

She gave a small shrug as she felt his warm breath on her skin.

“Mum made us do it the muggle way when we were in trouble growing up,” she explained.

Straightening, Harry began running his fingers though her silky strands.

“Were you in trouble a lot?”

“Yes,” she admitted with a smile. “But not as much as the boys.”

Harry chuckled, sure she meant the twins.

“Yeah, right,” he teased, giving her hair a light tug. “You know you were a hundred times worse than they could ever dream of being.”

“I was not!” she protested with a laugh. “I was an angel.”

“No, you were just better at not getting caught,” he corrected with a smirk.

“Same thing,” she declared loftily.

“Of course it is, Angel,” he smiled.

“Well, regardless…” she smirked, before diverting back to their original topic, “doing the dishes this way helps me relax in a weird way.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” she echoed as she continued to wash the dishes.

While she worked, Harry stood behind her, running his fingers absently through her hair.

“What were you thinking about before I came in?” he asked thoughtfully after a moment of silence.

“Nothing,” she said, her voice coming out slightly hesitant. “Just…things…”

“What things?”

His voice was low and comforting and Ginny rested back against him as she worked.

“You know what,” she murmured, setting another dish aside.

“Actually, I don’t,” he replied, bringing his lips to her temple. “Malfoy…your family…what we’re doing…me?”

Setting his hands on her shoulders he waited for her answer, hoping that it wasn’t him she was worrying about. After his loss of control the night before, he wouldn’t be surprised, but still, he didn’t like being part of her fears.

When she merely shook her head he frowned.

“You don’t have to worry about Ron,” he assured her, “the letter. We’re not going back. You know...”

“I know,” she interrupted. “It’s not that.”

“Then what is it?”

“My mind,” she admitted quietly after a second.

“What?” he asked not understanding her whisper over the sound of the running water.

“The thing…in my mind,” she repeated louder, her body shuddering.

Instantly, Harry regretted telling her the truth the day before at the inn. He almost hadn’t told her about the wall of white he’d found in her mind during the storm.

She already had enough to frighten her, he lamented briefly. I don’t even know what it was…if anything.

“Why are you thinking about that?” he asked softly, beginning to run his hands up and down her arms.

“Because it scares me,” she admitted shakily. “More than the rest…”

“Ginny…we’ll work it out,” Harry promised. “But we agreed to deal with other things first, didn’t we?”

“Yeah.”

“Don’t worry about it right now. Please,” he breathed into her ear. Rolling her shoulders with his fingers, he pressed a kiss to her neck. “Let’s just relax today. We’re both tired.”

Ginny shut her eyes briefly at the feel of him behind her, his warmth seeping into her skin.

“Ok,” she agreed.

“Wash your dishes, love,” he suggested, his lips brushing the shell of her ear.

As she refocused on washing the plates, Harry stood behind her smoothing her hair behind her ears. After another minute of silence he began to pile her hair up on top of her head.

“What are you doing?” she asked, quirking her lip.

“Keeping you company while you relax,” he answered innocently as he slid his hand down her arm. Pulling her hair band off of her wrist he twisted it around the messy bun he’d made on the top of her head.

Ginny’s body was tense and for a few minutes Harry worked on massaging the knots from her shoulders. When her head rolled down with a moan of contentment, he smiled, kneading her muscles.

Eventually he trailed his hands down her back; tracing her spine as he lowered his lips to her nape. He felt her body shiver and continued to kiss her skin as his hands gradually moved to her hips.

Spreading his fingers wide on her slender frame, he pressed his thumbs on her lower back as he began to make small circles on her hip bones.

Dropping kisses around to the side of her neck, he urged her head to the side to have better access.

Ginny trembled under his touch as he pressed his front to her back, his fingertips curling into her skin as he ran his teeth and tongue over her throat. Pushing back against him, her breath caught when he moved up to take her ear between his teeth.

“Ginny,” he breathed and she moaned softly in response. “You aren’t washing the dishes,” he teased huskily.

Ginny’s eyes flicked open and she looked down to find herself gripping a plate as if she was trying to break it. Loosening her grip, she watched it slip under the water as Harry took her ear back into his teeth.

“Here, let me help,” he offered, his voice caressing her skin.

Wrapping his arms around her, he slid his hands down over hers and began helping her wash. Or at least he attempted to…in reality he mostly just rubbed water farther and farther up her forearms as he nibbled on her ear.

Pressed between his body and the counter, Ginny struggled to keep her eyes open as her heart thumped in her chest. The temperature in the room seemed to have risen sharply during the last few minutes and she shifted back restlessly against him.

His sharp inhalation as his hands tightened on her arms sent a spark of heat down her body.

“Are you done yet?” he asked.

Even as she nodded her head, he was already moving, reaching past her to pull the stopper from the drain.

“Let’s do something else,” he suggested softly as he took her hands and rinsed them under the running water.

“What do you want to do?” Ginny murmured.

Watching his fingers slide back and forth smoothly between hers, she felt the sensation down to her toes.

“I’m sure we can think of something.”

“I’m sure we…Bugger!” Ginny exclaimed suddenly, breaking the spell.

“What?” Harry asked as he jumped at her outburst. “What is it?”

“My ring,” she said frantically, turning the water off before reaching back into the draining water. “It slipped off…damn, I…”

Plunging his hand down into the water as well, Harry searched with her, pushing the remaining dishes around as they felt for the elusive piece of jewelry.

Unsuccessful, they watched the last of the suds swirl down the drain, leaving only the white porcelain basin.

“Shite, shite…” Ginny muttered as she stared at the bottom of the sink.

It was just a ring, but Ginny suddenly found herself fighting tears as she attempted to reach down into the hole.

“You can’t get it that way,” Harry pointed out, watching curiously as she continued to try to jam her hand into the small opening.

Ignoring him, Ginny slapped her hand against the drain in frustration before trying again.

Realizing how upset she was, Harry grasped her hips, shifting her gently to the side.

“Here,” he said, kissing her temple as he moved to the sink. “It’s ok. I can get it back.”

Sinking down onto his knees, he pulled open the doors below the sink.

Stepping back, Ginny watched as his head and shoulders disappeared into the cupboard.

“What are you doing?” she asked in confusion.

“Getting your ring back,” he replied, his voice muffled from inside the cabinet.

“But…I don’t…why are you down there?”

“It’s where the pipes are, love,” he explained with a laugh.

“The pipes? Harry, why don’t I just get a wand and…”

“What happened to doing things the muggle way?” he asked, pulling back and looking up at her with a wink. “No worries, Gin, I’ve done this before. You’ll have it back before you know it.”

With that his head disappeared back under the sink.

“You’ve done this before?” Ginny asked incredulously.

Unable to understand his mumbled response, she caught a couple of words that sounded like aunt and plumber.

“What?”

“Nothing, have you seen a wrench?”

“A what?” Ginny asked, furrowing her brow.

“Never mind,” he chuckled.

For a few minutes he seemed to fiddle with the pipes. Unfortunately, whatever he was attempting to do didn’t work. After a minute he pulled his wand from his back pocket with a muffled curse.

“I thought we were doing things the muggle way,” Ginny teased, crossing her arms and leaning her hip against the counter.

“Shut it,” he warned from under the sink, although she could hear the smile in his voice.

After a few more seconds of tinkering and clanging of metal, Harry shouted, “Ah ha!”

Pulling out quickly, he proceeded to smack the back of his head on the cabinet.

“OW!”

Cursing loudly, Harry turned around and collapsed against the door, rubbing the back of his head with his hand.

“Are you ok?” Ginny asked worriedly, dropping to her knees next to him.

“Bloody hurts,” he mumbled.

“Aw, poor baby,” Ginny cooed, wrapping her arms around him and pulling him over so she could kiss his head. “Do you want me to make it feel better?” she asked pressing kisses down his cheek to his neck.

Harry nodded and she pressed her palm against the bump forming on his head. The throbbing instantly faded away as she cast a wandless soothing charm.

“Mm,” Harry smiled, ducking his face into her shoulder. “Thank you, Healer Weasley,” he sighed, slipping his arms around her waist and snuggling into her.

“My hero,” she sighed, hugging him against her. “Wounded in battle with the big bad sink,” she teased softly.

“Hey,” he chuckled. “Do you want your ring back or not?”

“Yes, please,” she smiled, pushing him away and holding out her hand.

Harry straightened, shifting so that they were face to face on their knees. Squeezing his fist tightly, faint yellow lights escaped through his fingers before he turned his hand over and uncurled his fist.

“Good as new,” he said gallantly, picking up the sparkling clean ring from his palm.

“Thank you,” Ginny grinned, watching as he took her hand in his.

Slipping the ring back onto her finger, Harry stared at the large emerald. Light seemed to sparkle from within it as he ran his thumb over the jewel.

Ginny watched him rub his fingertips over the warm stone, the levity slipping from his features.

“Your parents gave you this?” he asked, keeping his eyes on the ring.

“Mhm,” she nodded. “Why?”

“I…no reason,” he replied, shaking his head as though to clear it. “It suits you,” he said, his mouth curving into a smile as he looked up.

“Thank you,” she smiled back.

A soothing feeling of warmth spread through her as they stared at each other, wrapping around her like a soft blanket. Tingles shot up her arm as he continued to trace his finger absently around her ring.

Leaning in, she kissed him slowly.

“You’re rather handy to keep around, you know,” she commented softly, touching his cheek as she pulled back.

“Am I?” he asked, arching his brow playfully as he followed her.

“Mhmm,” she grinned against his kiss.

“Well, glad to be of service,” he murmured eventually, sliding his arms around her waist and pulling her against him.

For a moment he merely brushed their noses together before finally catching her lips again. Initially gentle and teasing, the kiss soon became deep and thorough as the tension between them grew.

When he urged her back onto the floor, she went easily, pulling him down with her.

They’d been interrupted over and over, but now, in the silence of the kitchen there was no one to stop them or keep them apart.

Anticipation of where they were heading spurred her response and Ginny moaned against his mouth as she lost herself in him. Reaching for his jeans she fumbled with the clasp for a moment before giving up with a frustrated groan.

Grabbing his shirt instead, she pulled it from his jeans and began pushing it impatiently up his chest.

Chuckling against her throat, Harry caught her hands and dragged them easily above her head. Kissing her deeply, he then worked her shirt up, pulling it over her head before tossing it away.

Rising up, his gaze wandered hungrily down her body as he took his own shirt off. Amusement flashed through his eyes when she immediately reached to touch him.

Catching her wrists with the swiftness of a seeker he moved her hands back over her head. Easing his body back down onto hers, he relished the feeling of their skin touching for a second before refocusing his attention of her throat.

As soon as he released her hands Ginny tried to move. Gasping when she realized she couldn’t, she looked up to find her wrists magically stuck to the hardwood.

“Harry!”

“Hmm?”

“What are you doing?”

“Helping you relax, remember?” he smiled against her skin.

“But I want to touch you,” she complained breathlessly as he dipped his tongue into the hollow of her throat.

“That’s very good to hear,” he chuckled huskily, “but I think this is about you right now.”

“Oh…Is it?”

“Mhm…” he assured her as he meandered his way back up her neck.

“But…”

Harry silenced any protest she might’ve had as he slipped his tongue into her mouth.

Moaning helplessly, Ginny kissed him back, her skin trembling under his touch.

“I love you,” he told her, releasing the front catch of her bra. “I love you so much,” he swore, his forehead dropping briefly to her shoulder as he watched his hands slide up her body to her breasts. “I don’t want you to worry…”

Ginny groaned, arching into his touch before crying out as he replaced his hand with his mouth. She could feel the first hint of a headache but she ignored it, lost in the feelings he was evoking.

“Harry…”

“Shhh…don’t think about anything but this,” he murmured. Eventually rising back up, he kissed her again, stealing her breath.

Ginny gasped against his mouth, the ache in her head intensifying with every second.

When he pulled away her eyes flicked open, meeting his hungry gaze.

“I love you, Gin.”

With a flash of pain the world seemed to tremble. Ginny blinked as Harry distorted above her, shifting from the Harry she knew to a younger version of himself.

Backlit by the afternoon sun, he seemed to glow as he gazed down at her. His hair was messy as always, his cheeks flushed and his eyes twinkling at her from behind a pair of round wire-rimmed glasses that were sliding down his nose.

“I love you, Gin,” he repeated, the words sweet and almost hesitant as a blush crept across his cheeks.

With a whoosh, the world around her changed again as she gasped.

Disoriented, Ginny blinked to find the Harry she knew come back into focus.

“I…”

Leaning down, he caught her mouth again in a thorough kiss that left her reeling.

“What is it?” he panted, nipping at her bottom lip.

“N-nothing,” she breathed. Lifting her head she kissed him again moaning in both pleasure and pain as his tongue rolled over hers. “I just…I love you too,” she managed dazedly.

She followed him, rising up as far as she could to catch his mouth again but he simply smirked and slipped away as she pulled on her bonds.

Ginny was drowning in sensation as he moved back down her body. She was shaking, her mind mush as she watched his hands and mouth move over her. His nimble fingers made quick work of the button on her jeans and she arched up, trying to help him take them off.

She’d never felt like this, her heart pounding and her body reacting every time he breathed out his love for her. She heard her jeans hit the floor, felt his hands and mouth on her legs.

She loved him so much. She wanted him so much she felt like she couldn’t breathe and then…

She couldn’t breathe.

In an instant she couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move at all as the ache in her head erupted into a blinding flash of pain.

Harry felt her body go rigid a second before she screamed.

Looking up, his eyes widened as he saw her expression. His grip tightened automatically on her thighs, holding her legs still as she began trying to kick.

“Ginny!”

Her cries echoed around the kitchen as he shot up her body, leaning over her. Tears were beginning to roll down her cheeks; her eyes squeezed shut and her chest heaving as she struggled.

Catching her face in his suddenly trembling hands, Harry pulled them away again when her screaming only increased.

“What is it?!” he asked in confusion, unsure how to help her. “Tell me what’s happening.”

“Head…my h-head,” she choked out. “Hurts,” she moaned.

Releasing her arms from the binds, Harry stayed on his knees between her legs as her hands flew to her face. Pressing her palms against her temples, Ginny whimpered.

Harry didn’t understand what was happening, temporarily frozen as he stared at her in shock and fear. Instinctively he looked up at the window.

It’s not storming. Then why....

The only time he’d seen anything similar to this was when she’d gotten lost in her mind during the storms. Even then, it was only when he’d tried to force his way through her mind that she’d seemed to be in any physical pain.

What’s causing it?

Her headaches had been dismissed as related to the tracer, but now he wasn’t so sure. She’d had more than one since it had been removed, this being by far the most extreme display he’d seen.

There’s no reason for her head to be hurting right now, is there?…

“Gin,” he breathed, reaching tentatively for her. One hand slid to her waist while the other wrapped around one of her wrists. “What’s happening…”

Ginny’s breath caught at his touch before she shoved his hands away with a cry.

“Ginn…”

“Don’t touch me,” she gasped, scooting back quickly before rolling onto her side. Her body was trembling as she curled into a ball.

“Talk to me,” Harry entreated.

“Hurts,” Ginny whimpered, her arms covering her face as they curled up protectively over her head.

Waving his hand at the ceiling, Harry caused the lights in the kitchen to go out. The room became enshrouded in darkness with the clouds blocking the sun outside. Crawling around her, Harry sat on his knees several feet away, watching her face in silence.

Slowly her trembling lessened. Her breathing returned to normal before her eyes finally flicked open.

“Tell me you’re ok,” Harry said when her gaze locked with his. His voice was hoarse with emotion, his hands curled into fists where they rested against the floor.

Swallowing, Ginny nodded, rubbing her temples as she slowly sat up.

“I think I’m ok,” she murmured, crossing her arms over her chest.

“Tell me what happened,” Harry encouraged her. He began to crawl toward her but stopped when she scooted back. “Gin,” he breathed.

“I-I…I’m just…I’m going to…”

Pushing her hair out of her face, Ginny clamored to her feet.

Harry stood as well. He approached her again, not stopping when she backed up into the counter, her arms clamped over her chest. Coming to a stop in front of her, he stared at her face as she kept her eyes firmly on the floor.

“What happened?” he asked again, his voice quiet.

“I don’t know,” she whispered. “I felt…it felt wonderful but then, but my head, it…there’s something wrong with me.”

Moving slowly, Harry reached out. Sliding his finger under her chin, he tilted her face up.

“Are you still in pain?” he asked, sliding his hand to her cheek.

Closing her eyes, she leaned into his touch before she shook her head.

“How did it hurt?” he questioned her, using his freehand to smooth her hair.

“It felt like my head was going to split in half,” she whispered. Her body was trembling again as she bit her lip. “I saw…”

“You saw?” Harry pressed. “What did you see?”

“Nothing,” she shook her head.

Ginny.”

“Nothing!” she insisted. “It was just pain and white and flashes of…of nothing…things that don’t make sense. I can’t even really remember…”

“White,” Harry echoed faintly when she trailed off. His heart sped up as a sense of dread began to fill him. “And it got worse…when I was touching you?” Harry asked, remembering how she’d jerked away, seemingly in more pain when he’d initially reached for her.

She nodded before swiping her hand under her nose and looking away.

Harry caught her wrist, drawing her attention down as he stared at her skin. Furrowing her brow Ginny noticed the red swipe across the back of her hand.

Her eyes flew back to his at his soft curse.

“What…” she began, before falling silent as he quickly grabbed a towel from the counter.

Cupping her neck in his palm, he tilted her head back as he dabbed underneath her nose, his own face ashen.

Ginny pushed his hands away, bringing her fingers up to her nose. She felt the trickle under her right nostril; saw the blood when she pulled her hand away. Eyes wide with fear, she looked up at Harry, who seemed at a loss.

“Let me…”

He tried to reach for her again with the towel but she shoved his hands away with a sudden sob.

“Don’t touch me.”

“Ginny, let me help y-”

“Don’t touch me!” Ginny snapped again, the panic clear in her eyes as she shoved at him.

Stepping back, Harry let her slip past him. Turning, he watched her disappear through the doorway.

He managed to wait a full minute before going to find her. The bathroom door was locked, and when he knocked there was no answer. The sound of her crying filtered through the door, however, and he laid his hand flat on the wood.

“I’m coming in,” he announced, before performing a quick unlocking spell.

Ginny was sitting on the floor, her robe wrapped around her. Her arms were clasped around her legs, her forehead on her knees. When Harry entered, she looked up at him helplessly. There was a wad of toilet paper in her hand, a small round stain of blood visible on top.

Crossing the small room, Harry sank down next to her. He rested his back against the wall and stretched his legs out in font of him. Careful not to touch her, Harry simply sat next to her in silence.

Ginny didn’t move, her shallow breathing the only sound in the room.

“I’m sorry I yelled at you,” she whispered finally.

“Don’t apologize.”

Moving almost at the same time, they came together. Ginny leaned into him, burying her face in his neck as he wrapped an arm over her shoulder, holding her close.

“It’s ok,” he soothed, pressing his cheek against the top of her head. Bringing his hand up, he held her cheek in his palm and kissed her hair. “It’s ok,” he repeated softly. “Tell me what happened, step by step.”

“My head started to hurt, but I ignored it because I…I didn’t want to stop. But then it…it felt like I was coming apart.”

“Did you see anything?”

“No. Yes, I…I can’t remember,” she moaned in frustration. “I feel like…I don’t know. All I can remember is pain and flashes of…of something.”

Harry frowned, pulling her closer as he thought about what he’d seen in her mind during the storm – the wall of white and the fragmented images behind it when it had splintered.

“And it went away quickly?”

“Yeah,” Ginny nodded against him.

“Do you remember anything like this ever happening before?”

“No,” she mumbled into his chest.

“Ok,” he soothed when he felt her shaking. Slipping his arm under her knees he pulled her up on to his lap so that she was cradled against him. “We’re going to figure it out…but we’re not going to do anything while you’re upset. We both need to calm down, ok? Right now we’re going to rest and when we’re ready we’ll deal with it…”

“But that’s what we were doing,” Ginny replied, her voice muffled by his neck.

“What?”

“We were resting! We were relaxing and it…”

“Baby, we weren’t relaxing,” he murmured, pressing a kiss to her head. “I know you’re frightened, and so am I, but I promise. We’re going to deal with this before anything else.”

“How?”

“I’m not sure yet,” Harry admitted after a moment. “I have an idea, though.”

“Which is?” Ginny prompted when he didn’t initially elaborate.

“I think…I think I want to look into your mind if you’ll let me,” Harry suggested slowly, as though still thinking the idea through. “I want to try to figure out what it was that I saw…to see what happened to you today. I don’t know what else to do.”

Except take you back, his mind added rebelliously, but he stubbornly pushed the idea aside, knowing she’d never accept it.

“Do you want to try now?” Ginny asked, attempting to pull away.

“No,” Harry replied, holding her in place against him. “We’re not doing anything until we’re calm.”

Ginny hesitated before she nodded, settling back in his arms.

They stayed together on the floor for several minutes, both lost in their own thoughts. Eventually Ginny’s breathing deepened as her body slowly relaxed in his embrace.

When Harry realized she was asleep he rose carefully to his feet, trying not to jostle her. He carried her down to the front room before depositing her gently on the sofa. Kneeling down in front of her, he pressed a kiss against her forehead.

Her face was pale and Harry waved his hand at the fireplace, causing a fire to erupt in the grate. Looking around, he summoned a blanket from a nearby chair and draped it over her.

Standing up, he began to head to the kitchen, only to stop in surprise when her hand caught his wrist. Looking down, he found her gazing up at him, her eyelids heavy with sleep.

“Stay,” she murmured, pulling him back toward her.

Sinking down in front of the sofa, Harry leaned in and gave her a kiss.

“Of course,” he assured her softly, kissing her again before shifting around and resting his back against the sofa. He kept her hand in his, her arm draped over his shoulder as she fell back to sleep.







Chapter 14: Falling Apart
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The Hogwarts main hall was silent, the midday sun shining through the tall windows that lined the room. Fred sat on top of the Gryffindor table, eating an apple he’d nicked from the kitchens.

In front of him, Bill was pacing back and forth, his hands clasped tightly behind his back. Unshaven and rumpled looking, the eldest Weasley ran a hand through his hair as he mumbled under his breath. Fred watched him warily, taking another bite of the apple as they waited in silence.

After several minutes the sound of distant footsteps drifted into the room.

Fred continued eating, while Bill looked over, focusing on the open door as the footsteps grew louder. A moment later, Ron appeared in the doorway, a frown on his face and his wand in his hand.

“Is Hedwig back yet?” Bill asked coming to a stop.

“Not yet,” Ron answered, shaking his head.

His shoulders stiffened and his expression hardened when Bill let out an irritated snort and went back to pacing.

“She might not even have found them yet,” Ron defended, coming to a stop next to Fred.

If she finds them,” Bill muttered.

“Harry might still bring her back,” Fred suggested doubtfully. “Even if he doesn’t get Ron’s message, he’ll bring her back if he thinks he might hurt her.”

“He’d have to be thinking rationally to do that,” Bill countered in exasperation. “By the time he’s afraid he’ll hurt her, it might be too late to do anything about it.”

“Yeah, well maybe they wouldn’t have run off if you’d handled things differently,” Ron grumbled. “Maybe if you’d trusted everyone with…”

“Dammit, Ron, are we going to do this every time we see each other?” Bill groused. “You were too close to Harry. There’s no way you could have kept your memories. How were you supposed to see him everyday and be his best friend if you were lying to him the whole time? You never could have done it if you remembered you’d stolen his memories.”

“I didn’t steal anything!” Ron shot back.

“You were just as involved as the rest of us,” Bill snapped, squaring off with Ron, “whether you remembered or not!”

“I never wanted any of this,” Ron glared at him. “Ginny didn’t want this…”

“It was bigger than just Ginny!” Bill exclaimed. “You know what it would have done to Harry if he’d killed her. It would have killed him too…the goodness in him. He would’ve been lost to us and unstoppable.”

“And if he kills her now?” Fred asked.

“He won’t do that!” Ron rounded on Fred furiously.

“You don’t know that, Ron,” Bill said firmly. “And the odds aren’t in his favor.”

A tense silence descended around them for a moment as Ron struggled to find a response. The need to defend Harry was instinctual, but he knew deep down that Bill was right. As much as he believed Harry would try to prevent anything from happening, there was no guarantee that he’d be able to control himself.

“You have to face the facts, Ron…”

“No, I don’t,” he protested stubbornly.

“Yes, you do!” Bill shot back. “Face it, Ron, you know he’s dangerous or you wouldn’t be out here trying to find them just as frantically as we are. What if he hurts her before we find them? Then what? Will it matter that you trusted him then? Will…”

“Just stop it!” Ron interrupted hotly. “I’m not talking about this with you anymore and I don’t…”

“Weren’t you two singing this song when we left?” George’s voice called from the doorway, interrupting the argument.

Bill turned to the door while Ron continued to glare at him.

“Anything?” Bill asked focusing on his father as they approached.

”No,” Arthur replied, looking as though he hadn’t slept. “Neither of them are showing up on any of the Ministry sensors, but that was expected.”

“Unless he wants us to see them, we’re not going to find them,” Ron pointed out, his voice suddenly weary.

Bringing his hands to his forehead, he tried to rub away his growing headache.

“Percy stayed to monitor the Ministry feeds,” George supplied, hopping up on the table next to Fred and taking his unfinished apple.

“But if we can’t see them, why would he do that?” Fred asked furrowing his brow.

“We know Harry’s unstable. If he surges large enough, his own wards might not hide his signature,” George explained, taking a bite of the apple.

“Or if he kills her he’d have no reason to hide,” Bill added softly.

“Bill,” Arthur warned sharply as Ron inhaled a sharp breath. “That’s not going to happen.”

“Where’s Charlie?” Ron asked tightly.

“Oh, yeah,” George said snapping his fingers. “Charlie wants Hermione to meet him in the…hey, where is she anyway?” he asked suddenly, looking around.

The Weasley men all turned to Ron expectantly, their brows furrowing together as his ears turned red.

“Ah…she’s looking after Mum,” he said.

“What?” Fred asked in surprise. “Why would she do that? This is Harry!”

“And Ginny!” George added.

“Well, she’s, um…not feeling well,” Ron explained, avoiding their eyes as he shifted his weight on his feet.

“This is important,” Bill pointed out. “She should…”

“Don’t start, Bill,” Ron warned testily.

“I’m just saying that a cold shouldn’t keep her at home when she knows how much we need…”

“She doesn’t have a cold, Bill!” Ron snapped taking a step toward him. “She’s pregnant.”

Bill opened his mouth to reply before shutting it with a snap.

When no one said anything, Ron took a breath, moving his gaze across the shocked faces of Fred and George before stopping on Arthur’s. He could feel the heat creeping up his neck as the silence stretched on.

“Um…we were going to tell you at the picnic, but…”

He jumped in surprise when the twins suddenly let out simultaneous whoops before rushing him.

Surrounded by their congratulations and jokes, Ron found himself smiling and soon laughing with them as they pounded on his back.

He sobered when Bill stepped up.

His oldest brother seemed to hesitate, looking slightly self-conscious before holding out his hand.

“Congratulations,” he said, his eyes looking brighter than Ron had seen in days.

Ron dropped his gaze to his hand, before taking it firmly.

“Thanks, Bill,” he replied.

Breaking into a grin, Bill pulled him into a hug.

“Really, I’m happy for you,” he said. “I didn’t mean to imply that she didn’t…”

“I know,” Ron nodded when Bill’s voice faded.

Turning toward his father, Ron suddenly felt nervous again.

“We um…know the timing isn’t great but…” he began but trailed off when Arthur suddenly hugged him tightly.

“Congratulations, son,” he said thickly, before pulling back. Keeping his hands on Ron’s shoulders, he shook him slightly, smiling despite the tears in his eyes. “Does your mother know?”

~..~..~..~..~..~..~

Ginny sat curled under a blanket on the sofa, staring unseeing into the fire burning in the grate. The front door was open and a slight breeze rustled the window curtains.

She’d spent the afternoon on the sofa in an attempt to rest. She’d slept on and off, and when she had, it was fitful. Twice she’d woken up with a headache to find Harry leaning over her with a worried expression.

Bringing her glass up, she took another sip of her wine. Despite her attempts to calm down, her hand remained slightly unsteady and she pressed her lips together in frustration.

Harry came in from the porch a second later, pausing at her expression.

“What is it?” he asked automatically in concern.

“Nothing,” she replied, shaking her head and taking another sip of wine.

Crossing the room to her, he held out his hand.

“I want to show you something,” he said when she didn’t move.

“What?”

“Just…come on,” he smiled mysteriously before reaching down and linking his fingers through hers.

Pulling her from the sofa, he led her back to the front door and out onto the porch. Guiding her to the railing, he slipped behind her, his hands resting on her hips.

“It’s not raining tonight,” he pointed out softly even as she gasped.

The night was unusually clear, not a cloud in the sky. Even so, it wasn’t black. Instead it was filled with green and gold swirls as they seemed to dance in front of the stars.

“It’s the Northern Lights,” he murmured into her hair.

“Wow,” she breathed, resting back against him. “It’s beautiful…”

“Yes, it is,” Harry whispered, wrapping his arms around her stomach. “That’s what we look like, you know.”

“What do you mean?” she asked, furrowing her brow and tilting her head back against his shoulder to look at him.

“Your magical aura is gold,” he explained, his eyes on the sky.

“Is it?” Ginny asked, refocusing on the lights as she rested her arms on his, secure in the warmth of his embrace.

“Mine’s green,” he added as he threaded their fingers back together. “And they look like that. We look like that.”

Standing together in silence, they didn’t move for several minutes as they watched the lights chase each other across the sky.

Eventually, the clouds began to move back in, blocking out the lights and covering them in darkness. Harry sighed, shifting his head to rest his cheek on her hair.

“Ready?” he asked softly.

“No,” Ginny answered truthfully. Raising her glass, she took a deep swallow of wine before shutting her eyes. She could feel his heart beating with hers, soothing in its steady rhythm.

“We don’t have to do this,” Harry told her gently, kissing the top of her head.

“Yes, we do,” Ginny corrected. “I do.”

The wineglass hung from her fingertips as he led her back into the house and up the steps. The old wood creaked beneath their feet as they walked, breaking the silence around them. It seemed as though the closer they got to the bedroom, the higher the tension rose.

Pushing open the door, Harry led her inside. The room was dark, with moonlight filtering in through the shades and casting everything in shadow. With a wave of Harry’s fingers the candles positioned around the room flared to life.

“How are we going to do this?” Ginny asked apprehensively.

Looking over, Harry studied her face for moment. Then, moving tentatively, he took the wineglass from her hand and crossed the room.

“I thought you’d lie on the bed…just in case,” he suggested quietly, setting the empty glass on the bedside table.

He felt almost sluggish as the fear in the room pressed against him.

Turning back around, he met her gaze. For a moment neither moved, both nervous about what was to come and frightened of the possibilities.

Finally, Ginny’s eyes moved to the bed and she walked purposefully toward it. Climbing onto the covers she turned over and stretched out on her back.

Swallowing as he fought his unease, Harry climbed up beside her. Kneeling next to her, he held her gaze for a moment.

When he reached out and ran his fingers tenderly through her hair, Ginny’s eyes moved to the ceiling above him.

“It’s going to be fine,” he said softly. “I’m sure…”

“Just get on with it, Harry,” she interrupted, her eyes filled with determination as her gaze flicked back to his.

“Right,” he nodded resolutely.

Climbing over her, he positioned himself so that he was on his knees, one on either side of her hips.

“Just relax,” he murmured, resting his hands next to her shoulders as he leaned over her. Bringing his hand to her cheek he kissed her tenderly.

“I love you,” he breathed against her lips.

“I love you too,” she replied softly.

“I’ll stop if…if anything…” Swallowing to try to hide his apprehension, he kissed her again. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”

“I know.”

Legilimens,” he whispered, rising up on his arms and meeting her gaze.

Her eyes held his firmly and in an instant he was inside her mind. Carefully, slowly, he sifted through her thoughts looking for anything unusual. At first her mind seemed normal, filled with memories, thoughts and dreams like anyone else’s.

When he found the moment in the kitchen, he held his breath, pausing briefly to watch the scene unfold. Ginny’s transition from pleasure to pain was as swift and violent as he remembered and he shuttered as he watched.

His power flared briefly in response, but he pushed it down with a frown.

Feeling Ginny tense beneath him at the memory, Harry moved on with determination, delving deeper into her memories.

So much had happened since Malfoy’s attack at the Burrow; Harry was almost surprised when he stumbled upon the image of him in her room.

“I’ll have to remember you’re a light sleeper,” Malfoy purred as he came into focus above her. He smirked, watching her eyes widen in horror...

Harry could feel Ginny’s desire for him to stop watching, but he shook his head slightly continuing to observe the attack.

His anger surged quickly, followed by the guilt of not having kept her safe. He began to shake as he listened to Malfoy’s words and felt Ginny’s fear as she’d fought to get away.

“I want you, and I will have you,” Malfoy promised, keeping his face close to hers. “Not today…but soon, Ginevra. He won’t be able to stop me. No matter how…”

“Go to hell, Malfoy,” she spat shoving him up.


“Move on, Harry,” Ginny’s voice suddenly invaded the scene as she reached up and grasped his wrist.

Ignoring her, Harry stubbornly watched as the rest of scene unfolded.

Malfoy’s eyes were icy as he raked them down her body. The lust in his gaze made Ginny feel sick, her skin crawling as though he were touching her with his hands.

“Merlin, I can hardly wait to have you now that I know Potter wants you.”


Harry lifted his hand from the bed and threaded their fingers together when Ginny eyes filled with tears below him. His brow furrowed as he watched Ginny’s wandless magic blow Malfoy across the room. He could see her own confusion before she ran to the door. The scene ended abruptly when Malfoy’s Cruciatus curse slammed Ginny into her bureau.

Taking a steadying breath, Harry pushed deeper and deeper into her mind, encountering moments from school and growing up, but there was no hint of the wall of white he’d seen before. There was however, a growing sense of deja-vu as he watched her play Quidditch and eat lunch in the large main hall of Beauxbatons.

It was the brown-haired boy who brought the first real hint of pain. Instinctively, Harry knew it was Julien. Jealousy came first, intense and immediate despite the knowledge that everything he saw was in the past.

Blinking rapidly, Harry tried to focus on the images that began to flash around him. Julien and Ginny flying and kissing and laughing…it seemed familiar and yet wrong. A tremor ran through Ginny’s body beneath him as the memories seemed to begin to distort.

The first spike of pain shot through Harry’s forehead at the same time that Ginny winced beneath him. The world seemed to shift, the images in her mind shaking before steadying.

Determined to figure out what was going on, Harry pushed deeper, flipping through her memories like the pages of a book as he looked for the passage he wanted.

“Harry,” Ginny murmured.

“It’s ok,” he assured her softly, pressing deeper in search of the elusive wall of white.

He could feel his power churning slowly inside of him. The farther he pushed, the more unstable the images seemed to become. Within moments, everything appeared to be trembling, pushing him back as though trying to keep him out.

He stopped on a memory of Ginny running toward Julien, her expression filled with determination. Oblivious to the room full of students around them, she threw her arms around him, hugging him tightly.

Harry’s heart was suddenly pounding, his power swirling faster as he watched Ginny pull back, a smile on her face right before Julien kissed her.

Releasing Ginny’s hand, Harry gripped the bedspread to steady him as the image shuttered violently.

Ginny gasped beneath him, and his head throbbed.

Something was trying to pull him away from the image as it began to distort, the edges blurring as the colors faded together.

“S-stop,” Ginny gasped from beneath him. “Harry, stop, it…it hurts…”

“I know,” he gritted out, his knuckles white as he gripped the sheets. “Just…”

Fighting to focus on the collapsing scene, he squinted. For an instant everything altered. The ice blue colors decorating the stone walls deepened to a burgundy as the students robes turned black. In the center of the room, Ginny kissed not a brunette, but a boy with tangled dark hair.

The wall of white came suddenly, slamming him back and causing his skull to pound with pain. The agony skyrocketed as his power flared unexpectedly inside of him. Crying out, he scrambled to keep control and pull out of her mind.

Ginny began to move but his hand flew to her hair, twisting into the tangled locks to hold her in place.

“Don’t,” he groaned, “I can’t…oh, God…fuck…”

He couldn’t stop pushing. As hard as he tried to pull away, to leave her mind, it wouldn’t happen. Instead of backing away from the barrier, a force propelled him forward, attempting to break through.

The images that flashed between them, jerking and distorted, were unrecognizable as the brightness encompassed everything.

Ginny whimpered beneath him, chocking out his name as his eyes darkened, his body beginning to pulse with power above her.

The air was electrified swirling around them with increasing force as Harry panicked. His knuckles were white against the sheet as he struggled in vain to stop another, stronger surge of darkness that threatened to take over his consciousness.

“No,” he gritted out, choking on his horror as the urge to hurt her suddenly grew more and more extreme.

Gasping for breath, Ginny tried to push him off, only to curl her hand into his shirt when the pain became unbearable.

Harry struggled in vain to stop what was mounting inside of him. Amongst the chaos of her mind he was startled to see Julien again. Almost as soon as the image appeared, it shuttered and shifted.

For an instant a shock of black hair and round glasses overtook the youth’s features before white pain seemed to snap forward, enveloping all of the jumbled images as it rushed toward Harry.

A loud crack exploded around them as Ginny screamed and Harry went flying across the room. He hit the wall hard as Ginny gasped on the bed.

Her hands flew to her head, pressing against her forehead. Tears of pain rolled down her cheeks as her body trembled.

Taking several deep, shuttering breaths she squeezed her eyes shut. Finally rolling onto her side, she pushed herself up on unsteady arms only to freeze.

A whirlwind of energy seemed to be building in the room as the curtains blew, straining against their rods. Ginny’s hair whipped around her face and the woosh of rushing air filled her ears as she stared at Harry in disbelief.

Rising to his feet in the middle of the room, he rolled his shoulders back and lifted his face.

His eyes shone black, his chest heaving as he stared back at her. His mouth twisted into a cruel smile and her heart slammed into her chest as a fear ingrained deep within her reignited.

“Don’t do this,” she pleaded automatically, unsure of what she meant as the words came out.

“Don’t do what?” he asked.

His voice was wrong, darker and thicker, almost as if it echoed across the room as he spoke. He took a step toward her and she instinctively scooted back on the bed.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

Before she could reply he’d flown toward her. He moved so quickly she didn’t even have time to blink before he’d lifted her up and slammed her into the wall behind the bed.

He stood on the mattress while Ginny’s feet dangled.

“Don’t do what?” he repeated his voice a caress that sent a shiver of fear down Ginny’s spine. “Make you scream?” he murmured.

Their eyes locked at his words. The vision came from nowhere, slamming into them both as they cried out in pain. Harry fell into her, pinning her to the wall while she clutched his shoulders her eyes squeezed shut.

“You can’t run from me, Ginny!” Harry bellowed.

“Please fight it!” she cried back. “Please! You don’t want this…you don’t…”

“Don’t tell me what I want!” he roared angrily, throwing out his hand.

Ginny flew backwards, slamming into the bookshelf and sending books and knickknacks raining down on top of her when she hit the floor.

“I’m going to make you scream,” Harry promised as he stalked toward her, the air around them rippling with power.

“Harry, please…” she groaned as she pulled herself to her feet. “I love you…you love m…”

“Stop saying that!” he screamed and a red light shot from his hand, exploding over her head as she ducked.

“I’m going to make you scream! And then I’m going to make you bleed and beg and when I kill you I’m going to be free…”


Ginny’s head felt like it was splitting in-two, her face buried in Harry’s shoulder. It wasn’t until she suddenly couldn’t breathe that she wrenched her eyes open. Harry’s hand was wrapped securely around her throat, his grip tightening by the second.

Bringing her knee up with a cry, she hit him hard between the legs.

With a groan of pain, Harry crumpled, bringing her down with him as he fell to his knees. They bounced on the mattress, and Ginny ended up on top of him.

She scrambled away and tumbled off the end of the bed, landing hard on her hands and knees. Shooting to her feet she ran for the door.

She heard him yell a spell and spun around.

Protego!”

His magic collided with the shield just as it erupted from her hands. Although hers was strong, his was much stronger and it broke through.

Weakened by the collision with her barrier, however, it hit her with less force than intended.

With a gasp of pain, Ginny slammed into the doorframe. Clutching her shoulder, her eyes locked on Harry. She knew she should run, but she couldn’t seem to move as his gaze met hers.

“Harry,” she choked out, taking a step toward him.

On the bed Harry’s gaze went to where she was holding her shoulder.

For an instant he smiled, before he cried out and curled over on the bed. His hands tangled into his hair, the bed seeming to tremble as he managed to get out one terse order.

Run…

Hesitating for only a second, Ginny stumbled out the door. Glancing back when she heard the sound of splintering wood inside the bedroom, she flew down the stairs.

When she reached the front door, she stopped, her hand curled around the knob. Her chest heaving, she rested her forehead against the wood as she listened for any sound of his approach. The seconds ticked by as she waited, but she heard nothing from upstairs.

Eventually, she turned, sliding down the door until she was sitting with her knees pulled up to her chest.

She didn’t know how long she sat there. Her head was still pounding and her shoulder burned but she simply sat, her eyes glued on the floor by her feet.

“Ginny…”

At the sound of Harry’s voice, Ginny’s head snapped up and she pressed back against the door.

He was standing at the bottom of the stairs, his hands at his sides and his face in shadows.

“Are you ok?” she asked, her voice shaking.

“Am I ok?” he asked incredulously, his voice as unsteady as hers.

Stepping into the room and out of the darkness, his eyes were green and horrified as he stared at her. Honing in instantly on where she held her shoulder, he froze.

“You’re hurt,” he breathed.

“It’s fine,” Ginny assured him as she stood up.

“I hurt you,” he ground out, his teeth clenched as he curled his fingers into fists. “It’s not fine.”

When she approached him, he took a step back, his eyes glued on her shoulder.

“Harry, stop it,” she frowned. “It’s not your fault.”

“Of course it is!” he replied hotly. “Twice in two days I’ve lost control around you.”

“But you’re ok, now. I’m ok.”

“I could’ve killed you,” he whispered harshly.

“I don’t believe that,” she countered as she approached him. “You stopped. When you saw that I was hurt, you told me to run. You were stronger than the darkness.”

“It’s not that simple, Ginny. I’m dangero…”

“Stop,” she ordered, reaching out and grabbing his shirt when he looked ready to flee. “It was an accident,” she insisted firmly, although her voice shook. “We didn’t know that was going to happen.”

“You’re right, we didn’t,” he replied bleakly. “It was a stupid idea.”

“It wasn’t stupid. When you tried to look into my mind during the storm it affected me. You had no reason to think that whatever was wrong would affect you too.”

Shaking his head, Harry looked down.

“You know I’m right,” Ginny insisted.

“No you’re not,” he corrected, squeezing his eyes shut and bringing his palms to his forehead. “You’re not, Gin. It affected me too – the first time.”

“What?”

“When I tried to look into your mind at the inn,” he said, lowering his hands and meeting her gaze. “It affected me. It blew me across the room and knocked me out, but not before I lost it.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Why do you think I didn’t tell you?” Harry replied tiresomely. “I was trying to protect you. I didn’t want to make it worse or give you something else to worry about. I thought I’d be fine this time because I knew it might happen. I thought I could control it, but it was so strong.”

“So, what does it mean?”

“I don’t know.”

Reaching out, he pulled her hand from her shoulder. The fabric of her shirt was scorched and he stepped closer, peeling it carefully away from her skin.

Biting her lip, Ginny looked away, letting him run his fingers lightly around the wound.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered thickly. “Gin, I…”

The self-loathing in his voice made her shake her head. Tightening her grip on his shirt, she pulled him against her so she could rest her forehead on his chest.

“It’s ok,” she assured him, rubbing her nose into his shirt. “I have other scars.”

“You’re not going to have this one,” Harry replied vehemently. He started to place his hand against her wound before he hesitated. “Can I…”

“I trust you,” she promised softly.

Harry’s breath caught at her words. A hundred different emotions rushed through him at her simple declaration before he wrapped his arms around her and buried his face in her hair.

“I love you,” he choked out, squeezing his eyes shut. “If anything ever happened to you…if I ever…”

“I know,” Ginny assured him, hugging him close as he shook against her.

It took him a few moments to pull himself back together. Swiping his hand brusquely over his eyes with a sniff, he focused intently on her shoulder again.

Ginny looked up, staring at his face as he mumbled under his breath. Using her free hand, she wiped the tears from his cheeks but his focus didn’t falter. Warmth spread from his hand to her shoulder, soothing the pain. She watched the glow of the magic reflected in his eyes as it seeped through his fingers.

Looking over when he removed his hand, she saw the faint white scar, round and puckered against her pale skin. Glancing back up at Harry, she saw his frustration.

“It’s fine, Harry,” she smiled reaching up to touch his cheek again. “Dark magic always leaves a…”

“No, it doesn’t,” he interrupted, his eyes narrowed. “Not if I don’t want it to.”

Leaning down, his mouth brushed her shoulder as he shut his eyes. He slid his arm around her waist, holding her against him while he replaced his lips with his fingers.

Ginny stood still; closing her eyes and furrowing her brow as she listened to him breathe words against her skin that she couldn’t understand. The sound of the words reminded of her of the banquet, when he’d done something similar to remove Malfoy’s brand from her throat.

Again Ginny felt warmth seep into her shoulder, her skin tingling before the sensation faded.

Harry pressed his lips against her shoulder for a second before he slid his mouth across her collarbone and up the side of her throat.

“All better,” he breathed in her ear.

“Thank you,” she murmured. “Are you ok?”

Instead of replying, he kissed her softly, cupping her cheek in his hand.

“No,” he breathed unsteadily before pressing his lips against hers. “Of course, I’m not ok.”

Ginny curled her hands into his shirt, pulling him closer as he slanted his mouth over hers. For several moments they stood together, taking comfort from each other as their embrace became deeper.

The air around them was soon charged with energy and Ginny whimpered. An instant later Harry ripped himself away from her, stumbling back as he doubled over with a curse.

With a hiss of pain, Ginny pressed her hands against her forehead. Shutting her eyes, she backed away from him, only stopping when she ran into the wall.

Slowly the pain lessened until she was able to lower her hands.

When Harry finally turned back toward her, they remained silent for a long moment. Harry was the first to look away, his gaze moving to the window as he took a deep breath. Shutting his eyes, he flicked his fingers restlessly.

Behind him, the sofa transfigured into a queen sized bed, complete with a thick down comforter and large fluffy pillows.

“You should sleep down here tonight,” he said, running his fingers through his hair wearily as he looked at her.

“And you?”

“I destroyed the bedroom,” he admitted, shoving his hands into his pockets and rocking back on his heels. “I’ll need to put it back together.”

He watched her nod before she looked down at the floor. Even from across the room he could see her hands shaking as she tucked her hair behind her ears.

“You’ll be safe down here,” he promised softly.

Brushing away an errant tear she nodded again.

Harry moved instantly, taking a step toward her before stopping.

“I thought I couldn’t sleep somewhere else,” she said as she looked up.

“That was before,” he replied, looking down with a frown, “when I thought…when I thought you were safer with me.”

“Harry, don’t,” Ginny breathed, her voice breaking slightly.

“I’ll see you in the morning,” he murmured, turning away and heading for the stairs.

“So, that’s it?” she called just before he reached the stairs. “You’re just going to tell me to go to bed and then leave?”

“Ginny…”

“Don’t you think we should talk about this?” she demanded pushing off from the wall as he turned reluctantly back toward her.

Harry took a step back as she approached.

“We can talk tomorrow.”

“We can talk now,” she corrected firmly grabbing his arm, her fingertips tingling as she touched him.

“I can’t talk to you now!” he snapped, yanking out of her grip and spinning away.

Ginny could feel the energy in the room mounting as she stared at his shoulders. They rose and fell rapidly as he covered his hands with his face.

“Harry…”

Reaching out, she gently touched his back only to have him jerk away.

When he turned back to her, the color of his eyes seemed to be trembling - shifting slightly from green to black.

“I don’t have any answers,” he ground out in frustration. “I don’t know what’s happening. I don’t know what to do. All I know is that right now, I can’t touch you.”

Taking a step toward her, he held her gaze, his hands fisted at his side.

“I can’t touch you,” he repeated, his voice pained.

“Yes, you can,” she replied, closing the distance between them.

Bringing her hands up, she traced her fingers lightly over his face as his eyes shut.

“I hurt you,” he breathed resting his forehead against hers.

Before either had a chance to start hurting he pulled away and left the room.

Ginny stayed where she was for several minutes, her eyes unfocused as she stared at the empty doorway. Finally moving, she crossed numbly to the bed. Climbing up, she slipped under the covers and curled into a tight ball.

Only then did she cry, the sound muffled by her pillow as she gave into the fear and growing feeling of hopelessness inside of her.

Long after her tears had faded she finally drifted into a restless sleep.

Awoken by her nightmares mere hours later, she wearily dragged herself from the bed, knowing she wouldn’t be able to fall back to sleep anytime soon.

The sun was barely up, leaving the house dreary and cold around her as she made her way to the kitchen. She put on a pot of coffee before climbing the stairs to the bathroom.

Standing in front of the sink, Ginny stared at her reflection in shock. The girl in the mirror looked broken and worn, dark circles shadowing her cheerless eyes.

Determined not to allow Harry to see her wearing her despair so blatantly on her face, she leaned down, splashing water on her skin and scrubbing her cheeks roughly with her hands. When she straightened, she let her gaze wander down her body.

Delicately she traced the five bruises on her throat – one on the left side and four on the right. The memory of Harry’s attack and subsequent feelings of guilt rushed into her mind and she quickly grabbed her wand, using it to hide the marks so he wouldn’t see them.

Pulling off her clothes and stepping into the shower, she tried to work through her emotions – trying to make sense of what had happened.

She didn’t understand, couldn’t remember what had caused the pain when Harry had been looking into her mind. Everything had been jumbled and confusing…the images too distorted for her to make sense of them.

Frustrated, she stood under the hot stream of the water with her arms crossed over her shoulders and her chin dropped to her chest. Despite the steam rising from the tub, she found herself beginning to tremble.

She knew that if they couldn’t figure out what was going on quickly, Harry would take her back. Already she could feel it coming…if he felt like he was a danger to her he’d leave to protect her.

Her trembling increased and an ache grew in her chest at the possibility of separating from him. Even as she tried to work through the logic of what would be best, she couldn’t shake the panic that came with the prospect of being without him.

~..~..~..~..~..~..~

For the first time since his assignment had begun, Harry woke up late.

His mind was filled by the remnants of another frighteningly clear dream. He’d been fighting to get to Ginny, his way barred by both magic and wizards. His fury had risen with every barrier until he’d finally gotten through the door to where she was.

As Harry centered his mind, he worked to get rid of the images of what had happened once he’d entered the room. He worked to forget her screams.

By the time he’d gotten himself centered, he headed to take a shower. Reaching the door he paused, hearing the sound of the water already coming from within.

Mildly surprised that Ginny was already awake, he descended the stairs to the kitchen. The small room was still dark due to the overcast sky. He didn’t bother to turn on the lamps while he poured himself a cup of fresh coffee.

Sitting down at the table, he swirled his steaming drink in his mug as he waited.

It was another ten minutes before he finally felt Ginny enter the room. Looking up from his coffee, he watched her pull the tie closed on her robe as she crossed the kitchen. Her hair was wet and it clung to her back as she opened the refrigerator.

“Morning,” he greeted softly, causing her to jump and spin around.

“Harry!” she gasped, her hand going to her throat. “You…you scared me.”

“I’m sorry,” he apologized, his heart twisting at her words.

Attempting to keep his expression neutral he pushed his chair back and rose to his feet.

An awkward silence stretched between them as they stared at each other, neither sure what to say.

“You should dry you hair,” Harry suggested finally.

Ginny’s eyebrow lifted at his random announcement.

“Really?”

“It’s cold…I don’t want you to get sick,” he finished with a sheepish shrug.

The corner of her mouth lifting, she took a step toward him only to stop when he backed away, running into his chair in his haste to keep distance between them.

“I’m sorry,” he blurted when he saw the levity in her expression replaced instantly with despair. “I just…”

“It’s fine,” she lied, turning her back on him.

Pulling her wand from her pocket, she flicked it absently at her hair. Drying instantly, the thick strands curled up into natural disorderly waves.

“How do you feel?” Harry asked as she pulled the milk from the fridge.

“Fine,” she said as she opened the carton and poured herself a glass.

“Don’t lie,” he murmured, watching her back tense at his words.

“I’m not lying,” she said after a second, turning around and leaning back against the counter. Despite her casual stance, her anguish showed in her eyes. “I feel fine.”

Harry studied her for a second before slowly rounding the table. Crossing the room he came to a stop in front of her.

She shifted uncomfortably against the counter, biting her lip as she watched him approach. She was determined to appear nonchalant, but inside her heart began to pound, frightened that something would happen.

It wasn’t so much that she was afraid of him…she was afraid of what he would do to keep her safe if anything else occurred.

Resting his hands on the counter on either side of her, Harry leaned in close.

“How do you feel now?” he asked quietly, keeping a tight hold on his power as he watched for any signs of pain in her eyes.

“Fine.”

“Ginny…”

“What do you want me to say, Harry?” she asked, shutting her eyes. “That I’m upset? That I’m afraid…That my head hurts?”

“Does it?” he asked quickly.

“No,” she shook her head.

Gritting his teeth, Harry lowered his head, his hair brushing against her forehead.

“What did you see in my mind?” she asked quietly. “Before you lost control?”

A muscle in Harry’s jaw jumped at the reminder. Straightening, he stroked his chin with his palm before meeting her gaze.

“I didn’t really see anything,” he admitted. “At least nothing helpful,” he clarified. “Some of it was strange and sort of…distorted somehow. Mostly it was just pain and things that didn’t make sense. And the white…”

Ginny nodded reaching for his hand.

“So, we’re back where we started,” she observed.

“Well,” Harry began, rubbing his thumb over her skin. “We know for sure there’s something in your mind,” he said with a frown.

“True,” Ginny acknowledged. “Now we just need the what, and why and how,” she smirked.

Harry watched the expression fall from her face almost as quickly as it came. Despair rose within him as he watched her fight the tears that threatened. He could see her frustration at being unable to keep her emotions in check.

“We also know that I’m unstable,” he murmured, bringing his hand to her face. “We know that I’m having trouble staying in control…and that it hurts us to touch.”

“You’ve been stressed and tired,” Ginny defended. “We don’t know that anything’s connected.”

“No, but…”

Trailing off, Harry rubbed his hand against his forehead.

“How are you feeling this morning?” she asked softly.

“Ok,” he answered.

“Liar,” she whispered.

“I’m ok,” he insisted, giving her hand a squeeze.

“Any destructive urges?”

“No…”

“Good,” she whispered, pulling him toward her. Pressing her face into his shoulder, she inhaled his scent. Her arms slid around his waist, holding him against her. “We’re going to be ok,” she promised, pressing her lips against his throat.

“Gin…” Harry breathed as she rose up on her toes and caught his lips with hers. “I don’t…I’m not sure this is a good idea…”

“It’s just a kiss,” she breathed, her lips ghosting over his.

“Just a kiss,” he repeated.

Moving his hands to her waist, he lifted her up and set her on the counter, never taking his mouth from hers. Inhaling through his nose, he ran his hands up her neck and into her hair while she pulled him closer.

She was beautiful. He loved her so much it consumed him as he caressed her throat.

“You’re everything to me,” Harry murmured.

I’m going to protect you, he continued silently as they kissed, and love you…Wake up beside you and make you smile…and scream…and…and cry and break…I want you to bleed and…

Ginny grabbed his wrist as his grip on her throat began cutting of her air. Gasping for breath, she tried to pull his hand away.

“Harry…” she choked out, hitting his shoulder as she began trying to twist away.

An instant later he shoved away from her, stumbling back with a gasp of his own.

Seeming disoriented, Harry looked around, meeting her gaze briefly before looking down. Pressing his palms against his eyes he took a deep breath before curling his fingers tightly into his hair.

On the counter, Ginny remained silent, her heart pounding as she watched him. Absently, she brought her hand to her throat. When he looked up again, she quickly dropped her hand.

“I’m dangerous,” he whispered. “I’m dangerous and I hurt you. No matter what’s causing it, we know that’s true.”

“Harry…”

“Ginny, I just centered!” he cut her off sharply. “There’s no reason for that to have happened. Kissing you shouldn’t cause pain or send me spiraling out of control but it does.”

Slipping off the counter, Ginny took a step toward him.

“It does, baby,” he insisted in a gentler tone taking a step away. “I wake up wanting to hurt you. I want to hurt you right now and it’s getting harder to…”

“To what?” she urged when he trailed off. “To what?”

“To stop myself from doing it,” he forced out, his fear clear in his eyes as he held her gaze.

Shaking his head when she started to respond, he turned quickly and left the room.

What’s wrong with me?

Harry made his way unsteadily up the stairs. Shaking his head in an attempt to clear it, he winced at the pain that shot through his temple. His body was still reeling from her, his power more active than normal and his head continuing to ache.

Pushing open the door to the bathroom, he stepped inside only to falter. Immediately surrounded by steam from her shower, Ginny’s familiar, flowery scent lingered in the air, nearly overwhelming his senses.

Staggering into the wall as an image erupted into his mind, he cried out as his power surged with it.

“What did you smell?” Ron asked as they headed down the hall.

Harry shrugged in response, trying to place the individual scents in the Amortentia. Most of it was familiar but he couldn’t place all of it.

Walking with his hands shoved in his pockets, his head jerked up when he caught a sudden whiff of the floral aroma he’d smelled earlier.

Looking behind him, he searched the crowd of students as Ginny appeared at Ron’s side…


“Harry?” Ginny’s worried voice came from behind him.

Having heard him cry out, she’d run up to the bathroom. Entering the room she found him on the floor just inside, his back to her as he leaned against the wall.

The mirror was rattling as their toiletries hung suspended in the air. Slowly, the air began to swirl, making the shower curtain rustle while the window pane shook.

Dropping to her knees behind him, she reached for his shoulders fearfully. Power seemed to flow from him, making her hair become charged with static as soon as she touched him.

“Harry!” she called, trying to turn him around, “What’s happened? Are you ok?”

“Ginny…away…” Harry gasped and Ginny jerked her hands back.

Edging away, she watched him intently as his body trembled. His pupils were flickering unsteadily between green and black, his jaw clamped tightly shut.

Her touch and the sound of her voice mixed with the effect of her smell and Harry squeezed his eyes shut, curling his hand into a fist. The pain was excruciating and for a second his memory shifted…

With a cry, his eyes flew open just as the glass in the mirror and window shattered.

Ginny screamed, throwing her arms around Harry instinctively to shield him. When nothing hit them, she looked up, glancing around to see a shimmering blue shield curving around them. The shards of glass hung suspended in the air around them.

Confused, she looked over to find Harry’s eyes shut as he trembled in her arms. Realizing that she’d created the shield, she looked up again in wonder and confusion as she stroked her hand down Harry’s hair.

He shoved her away an instant later and she hit the cabinets with a thud.

Ginny’s shield dropped and the glass began to fall again only to stop as Harry raised his hand. Flicking his wrist, he sent the glass flying back into place.

“I…I’m sorry,” he apologized, his voice strained.

“Harry…”

“Get out,” he said tightly. “Get out and…and shut the…door...”

“I…” Ginny nodded, knowing she needed to leave.

She began to scoot away only to hesitate. Against her better judgment, she couldn’t shake the need to stay. She wanted to help him.

“Ginny, get out,” Harry ordered, his voice shaking as it deepened.

His eyes flew open and the blackness of his pupils spread outward, overtaking the iris and bleeding into the whites of his eyes.

Biting her lip, Ginny stood up. Her gaze remained locked with his as she stumbled back toward the door. Grasping the handle she turned away and slammed it shut behind her.

Crossing the hall, she turned back to the door, leaning against the wall as she slid down to the floor. She couldn’t hear anything happening inside the bathroom and she pulled her knees to her chest as she waited.

When Harry eventually opened the door, Ginny shot to her feet.

“I’m fine,” Harry assured her before she even had a chance to ask.

He watched as she seemed to hesitate, unsure whether it was ok to approach him. Sighing he stepped toward her, reaching for her hand.

Taking it instantly, Ginny closed the distance between them, standing in front of him as she looked up at his face.

Harry stared at her for a second, his eyes becoming intense as he studied her.

“I saw you,” he murmured finally, holding his body very still.

“What?” she asked in confusion, bringing her fingers to his cheek. “What do you mean?”

“I saw you…at Hogwarts.”

Ginny furrowed her brow.

“Harry you’re not making sense.”

“I know,” he agreed. “But your smell, I…in there it was so…I saw you.”

“Harry,” Ginny said slowly, her heart rate increasing with her growing concern and bewilderment. “What are you talking about? I don’t…”

“I’ve seen you before,” he interrupted. “I just didn’t think…Do you see me?”

“What?” she asked.

Harry brought his hands to her face, pushing her hair back so he could cup her cheeks. Pulling her closer, he searched her eyes for something, although Ginny didn’t know what.

“Do you ever see me?” he repeated. “In your thoughts…in…”

“Of course,” she interrupted.

“In your memories,” he spoke over her. “Do you ever see me where I’m not supposed to be?”

Ginny froze as her heart stumbled. Echoes of her moments with Julien and her increasingly strange dreams shot into her mind.

“W-what?”

“You heard me,” Harry insisted.

Shaking her head, Ginny took a step back.

“We can’t fix anything if you don’t tell me the truth.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Then I’ll explain it,” Harry said, following her across the hall. “I see you. And I saw myself too.”

“What?”

“I think…I think I saw myself in your mind yesterday,” he admitted coming to a stop as she tensed. “Not as I am now…but years ago at school…at Hogwarts.”

“You saw yourself at Hogwarts in my mind? But that’s not possible,” Ginny insisted, her face pale. “You know I’ve never been there. I didn’t even know you then, Harry…”

Bringing her hands to her forehead, she shut her eyes.

“I know,” Harry agreed. “But it doesn’t change what I saw….what I see. I dream about you where you shouldn’t be,” Harry said softly.

“You do?” Ginny asked, looking up in surprise.

Harry nodded, staring at her for a moment before recognition dawned in his eyes.

“You dream about me too,” he said firmly, not giving her a chance to try to deny it. “You told me I pushed you off your broom…”

“It was just dream, Harry,” she shook her head. “I was frightened. They’re just dreams…”

“You’ve had more than one?” he demanded.

“I…”

“When was the last one?”

“Last night,” Ginny admitted softly after a second. Dropping her gaze at his sharp intake of breath she focused on the button of his shirt.

“What did you dream?” he asked, his voice strained in his attempt to remain calm. “Please,” he urged more gently when she hesitated.

“I was in this strange room and I couldn’t get out,” she told him finally, her gaze moving back to his. His eyes were guarded as he listened, his body as still as a statue. “There weren’t any windows or doors and…and I couldn’t get out. I wanted out. My brothers were there and I…I was so angry and I was frightened and I could hear everyone screaming and…and…then the door opened and you were there.”

“Was I?”

“Yes,” she nodded. “But it didn’t make me happy,” she breathed unsteadily as her eyes filled with tears. “It made me afraid. I…I was afraid of you.”

“Then what happened?”

“Nothing,” she shook her head. “I woke up with a terrible headache.”

For a moment they stood in silence.

“You know what, Gin?” Harry said finally, his voice flat.

“What?” she asked shutting her eyes.

“I’ve had that dream too,” he murmured, a shiver running down his back. “But I didn’t wake up when you did. I got to see what…what…”

Trailing off as the dream replayed in his mind, he swallowed and looked away.

“What happened?” she asked quietly. “What did you see?”

“I almost killed you,” he gritted out, shutting his eyes.

“But that doesn’t make it real,” she whispered. “That doesn’t mean…”

“But they feel real…don’t they to you? Mine feel so real I can’t forget them. They make my power surge and my head hurt and I…I hurt you,” Harry sighed, reaching out and caressing the faint bruises on her throat as his eyes became haunted by the memory of his nightmares. “I always hurt you,” he breathed, dropping his hand and shaking his head.

“I have to take you back,” he whispered.

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he knew how wrong it felt. He also knew she’d never stand for it, never accept it. Holding his breath, Harry watched her expression and waited for the fight.

Ginny froze, her eyes flying open and her hand moving automatically to his shirt.

“What?” she asked softly, even though she knew she hadn’t misheard him.

“I’m dangerous…it’s better if…”

“No,” Ginny argued shaking her head as the panic surged instantly, overwhelming her with its intensity. “No. Being apart is not better.”

“Ginny,” Harry replied, shaking his head. “Bill’s right…”

“No!” she exclaimed, grasping his neck and pulling him into a kiss. “No…we can fix this. We can figure it out,” she assured him between kisses. “We’re fine.”

“Ginny,” Harry said grabbing her hands and holding her away. “We’re not fine,” he ground out, his eyes fluctuating briefly between green and black. Shutting his eyes he turned his head to the side and squeezed her wrists. “I’m not fine…”

“Please, don’t do this,” Ginny pleaded, suddenly feeling the urge to cry. “You can control it…”

“I shouldn’t have to control it,” he hissed, his eyes flicking open. “I won’t hurt you.”

“What about Malfoy?”

Harry looked up at her, his eyes troubled and yet determined. He brought his hand to her face, cupping her cheek tenderly.

“I won’t let anything happen to you,” he swore.

“How will you do that if you’re not with me?” she asked, reaching for his shirt again.

Her body was shaking as she fought to keep her composure.

“I’ll find him…”

“How?” Ginny demanded, shoving back from him and turning away. “You said it yourself…you can’t find him.”

“I will.”

Ginny shook her head, wrapping her arms around her stomach.

“You promised,” she whispered.

Harry stared at her silently, curling his hands into fists. His heart was thudding dully in his chest, his power still rumbling inside of him. Clenching his jaw, he walked up behind her, bringing his hand to her hair.

For a moment she didn’t move, shutting her eyes as he ran his fingers through her hair. His other hand came up, gliding over her shoulder before beginning to massage her neck. Ginny leaned back into him slightly, dropping her head forward as his lips found her ear.

“I love you,” he murmured, keeping an iron hold on his power as it began trying to rise.

Harry breathed her in for a second before changing tactics. Wrapping his arms about her waist, he pulled her back against him. His hands slid under the hem of her shirt and he caressed her stomach, listening to her breath catch at his touch.

“Ginny,” he murmured, gliding his teeth over her ear.

“Harry…”

“Does your head hurt?” he asked, caressing the skin just below the waist of her jeans.

He felt her hesitate before she shook her head.

“No,” she breathed, her hands slipping over his.

Turning her around, he brought his hands cheeks, holding her face in his palms as he searched her eyes.

“Liar,” he said, smiling sadly as she blinked back her tears.

“It’s nothing,” she argued weakly.

“It’s not,” he corrected. “You know it’s not. We can barely touch…you know there’s something wrong. I have to take you back.”

A tremor ran through Ginny’s body before she leaned in, resting her forehead against his chest.

“Please don’t,” she pleaded shakily.

“I don’t know what else to do to keep you safe,” he told her regretfully, caressing her cheeks with his thumbs.

In his heart he knew he didn’t want to do what he was suggesting anymore than he expected her to agree, but he didn’t see any other way to keep her safe. After the past couple of days he just didn’t trust himself. He didn’t know what was wrong or what to do to fix it.

“I could hurt you, Ginny,” he repeated wearily. “I could kill you and I don’t…”

“I don’t care,” Ginny shot back shaking her head. “I want…”

“I care!” he exclaimed, grabbing her shoulders and pulling her up on her toes. “I care,” he gritted out, his expression desperate. “I have to protect you, even if it means protecting you from myself.”

“Harry…”

“You’re the most important thing in my life,” he told her, pressing his forehead against hers. “If anything happens to you…I just…I can’t, Ginny. I need to take you back.”

Shutting his eyes, he slowly released her shoulders waiting for her response. Her forehead left his as she lowered back down onto her heels. He could feel her gaze on his face, but he kept his eyes shut.

To his surprise, Ginny simply remained silent as she stood in front of him.

“Say something,” he murmured eventually as her silence became deafening.

Another minute passed before she answered him.

“I’ll go get my things,” she said softly as she slipped past him and headed to the stairs.

For a second Harry was too stunned by her acceptance to move. Turning quickly to watch her, he felt his body begin to instinctively panic. Suddenly the idea of taking her back made him feel physically ill.

He hadn’t expected her to agree so quickly, if at all.

It had been easy to cling to the idea that going back was the right thing to do when he knew she’d fight him. He got to be the logical one, while she got to be their hearts.

“Ginny,” he called haltingly. “Wait, are you sure? I mean…it’s just that…”

Pausing, Ginny turned her face, not looking at him, but allowing him to see her profile.

“If you think we should go back, we’ll go back,” she said. “If this is what you need to do, I’m not going to fight you.”

Swallowing, he fell silent as she disappeared up the stairs.

“This isn’t what I want,” he called, his voice thick.

“I didn’t say it’s what you want!” Ginny called back sharply, her footsteps pausing. “I’m doing what you asked, Harry,” she added as her voice began to break. “Don’t make it harder.”

Cringing at her words, Harry took a breath.

Oh God, I’m taking her back.

Bending over, he squeezed his eyes shut with a groan. His insides were churning in protest to the plan.

The part of him that was in love with her didn’t want to leave her – didn’t want them to be apart or put her in danger with Malfoy still at large.

Amongst his fears of being away from her, something else lurked, just beneath the surface. The darkness surged briefly inside his mind, urging him to keep her near as well, not to keep her safe – to harm her.

Don’t let her get away… a haunting voice called from deep in his mind. You need her to truly be free…

Feeling worse, Harry straightened, resisting the darkness inside of him.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Upstairs, Ginny picked up her duffel from where she’d stashed it in a corner of the bedroom. Carrying it to the center of the room, she sank to the floor. Flicking her wand, her clothes flew toward her, landing in a pile to her left.

Her body was aching at the thought of going back, at not being with him, but she held herself together as she began to pack. This was what he needed…what made sense.

She knew something was wrong, very wrong. Unfortunately, that knowledge didn’t help to erase the feeling of emptiness and fear that came over her each time she thought of being away from him.

The feeling was familiar. It was a panic she’d felt before, when she thought he was going to leave her after Malfoy’s attack at the Burrow. Intense and confusing, the idea that Harry would always leave her to protect her churned within her.

"It's for some stupid, noble reason, isn't it?"

Shutting her eyes as pain shot through her temple, she shook her head, trying to clear it.

"How do you think I'd feel if this was your funeral...and it was my fault..."

~..~..~..~..~..~

Climbing the stairs silently, Harry found Ginny on the floor in the bedroom. Her back was to him as she stuffed her clothes into her small duffel.

Harry felt like he couldn’t breathe as he watched her.

Finally he moved, crossing quickly to her and dropping down to his knees behind her. He felt her stiffen as he enfolded her in his arms. Burying his face in her hair he took an unsteady breath.

“This is madness,” he breathed shakily. “I have to take you back. I know that, but…”

Harry squeezed his eyes shut, gritting his teeth as he struggled to hold onto his logic. It was a futile effort against the need to stay with her.

Whether for reasons of love or evil, the desire to keep her was elemental.

The seconds ticked by as they sat together, both trembling as they struggled with their emotions.

“Compromise,” Harry whispered finally. “Let’s compromise.”

Chuckling tremulously, Ginny brought her hands to his arms and rested back against him.

“I don’t need to compromise with you…I already agreed to do what you wanted,” she reminded him.

“I know…but I don’t want to do what I said,” he interrupted, pulling her closer. “I can’t do it. I want to be with you. It makes me feel sick to think of…of not…”

“I know,” she whispered, squeezing his arm.

“I love you…but this isn’t a normal feeling, Gin,” Harry breathed. “I feel like I’m losing my mind, but I can’t let you go…”

“I know,” Ginny nodded, “but what can we do?”

“We can to compromise.”

“How?”

“We go back, but we stay together, ok?” Harry suggested tiredly. “I think they know what’s happening to us. So…we go back to find out what’s going on…not to separate.”

Ginny remained silent for a moment before nodding.

“I like that idea,” she whispered, her relief evident in her voice. “And I think you’re right. They must know something,” she agreed, thinking back to her family’s determination to get them apart and remembering the words of her father and brothers claiming that Harry would hurt her.

“But how will we get them to tell us what’s really going on?” Harry asked uncertainly. “It’s one thing to go back; it’s something else to actually get the facts.”

“We’ll figure it out,” she promised, pulling away and turning so that she could see his face. “We’ll figure it out together.”






Quotes from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, chapter 30, page 646-647 (US Edition), by J.K. Rowling. :)



Chapter 15: Guarding The Truth
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Sitting on the sofa in the Burrow, Hermione bounced her knee up and down anxiously as she stared at the books piled on the table in front of her. She’d already read them. She knew there was nothing in them that would help, but she couldn’t fathom just sitting by and doing nothing.

Molly was bustling around the room in front of her, going through the motions of cleaning the den for the third time since Hermione had arrived.

Clutching her cold cup of tea tightly, Hermione fought the urge to tell her to stop. The constant movement was wearing on her already thin nerves.

It was still confusing to have all of her memories back, to remember people and things that two days ago she couldn’t.

Despite the anger over the fact that they’d used her research, Hermione couldn’t deny that their actions had probably saved Ginny’s life. At the time, they’d run out of both time and options. What had seemed like the best and only plan had miraculously worked and for that she was grateful.

She remembered her part of the ritual now – the frantic hours spent poring over books, researching anything that could be done or altered or created to help. She remembered the pressure and anxiety of trying not to rush but knowing that every second that ticked by was drawing them one second closer to disaster.

And she remembered the arguments that had occurred about whether what they’d found could or should be performed. She had been torn, but ultimately her loyalty to Ginny’s wishes had won out and she’d sided with Ron against the others.

Mostly though…mostly she remembered the terrible time before the spell, when they’d moved Ginny from place to place, trying to hide her long enough to get control over Harry and figure out how to help him.

Despite their efforts, it had never worked and his power had only seemed to grow as he lost more and more of himself.

Running her fingers through her curls, Hermione set her mug on the coffee table and curled up against the side of the sofa. Unused to having to wait at home, Hermione did the only thing she could think of – she went over her memories again, trying to think of something that could help them.

Ginny sat in the middle of the sofa at the Burrow, rocking back and forth restlessly. Her arms were wrapped tightly around her stomach and her eyes were locked on the floor.

Hermione sat next to her rubbing soothing circles on her back.

“It’s going to be alright now,” Hermione promised softly.

“No, it’s not,” Ginny replied, her voice trembling.

“It’s not permanent,” Hermione assured her, looking over when Molly appeared in the doorway with a cup of tea. “Right, Mrs. Weasley? Dumbledore will find a way to help him.”

“Of course, dear,” she answered immediately. An encouraging smile was stretched across her face as she brought the mug over and pressed it into Ginny’s hands. “It’s going to be fine, darling…”


That had been the first of their lies, but certainly not the last or the worst. Every memory Hermione could think of had them telling Ginny it would be ok, even as they all began to fear that it wouldn’t.

They’d moved her from place to place, taking her farther and farther and making the wards stronger and stronger, but nothing had worked.

Looking around, Hermione took in their meager surroundings. They were seated in the front room of a small cabin, hidden away in the middle of nowhere. Despite the roaring fire in the grate, there was an overwhelming sense of grief that filled the room.

“We won’t be here forever,” she heard Molly telling Ginny. “They’ll find him and help him before he can...can…”

“Kill me?” Ginny provided when her mother trailed off.

No,” Molly replied, sitting down next to her daughter before taking her hand. “You’re safe now, Ginny,” she insisted firmly.

“You keep saying that,” Ginny sighed, shaking her head.

Hermione stared at her friend. Smaller and frailer than she’d ever seen her, Ginny’s bruises had yet to fade completely from the last time Harry had gotten too close.

Fighting the feeling of helplessness rising within her, Hermione watched from her seat as Ginny stood up and walked to the front window.

“He’s not going to find this place,” Molly insisted, as though saying it aloud would make it true. “It’s unplottable.”

“And nothing can break a Fidelius,” Hermione pointed out in support. “You know that.”

Ginny didn’t reply as she pulled the curtains back.

“He’s not out there, Ginny,” Hermione said, watching her friend peer into the darkness.

When Ginny remained silent, Hermione stood and crossed to the window behind her.

“He’s not going to find you here,” Hermione assured her as she followed Ginny’s gaze into the darkness. “And even if…even if he does, he can’t get inside...”


Hermione looked up, drawn out of her thoughts when she realized Molly was speaking to her.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Did you want me to warm up your tea, dear?” Molly repeated, her smile too cheerful and her eyes too bright.

Straightening, Hermione shook her head.

“No thank you,” she said, forcing a smile of her own.

“Alright, well just let me know if you change your mind.”

“Molly,” Hermione said when her mother-in-law began to walk away.

“Yes, dear?”

“Ron’s going to find them,” she said. She instantly regretted her words as her throat began to close up with emotion. “Everything’s going to be fine,” she finished tightly.

Molly looked away for a moment, focusing on the window, before moving to sit down next to Hermione on the sofa.

“Of course it is, luv,” Molly said, taking her hand and holding it tightly.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Ginny stood at the window, her right hand on the frame. Her fingers were curled tightly around the wood, her knuckles white with tension.

Behind her there were frantic voices arguing about how it was possible, but she wasn’t listening. Her focus was on the man standing in front of the small cabin.

His black hair was blowing wildly in the wind, his robes whipping around him. His eyes were narrowed in frustration and a moment later he let out a furious, wordless yell.

Flinching, Ginny swayed away from the sound before pressing her palm against the glass.

“Harry,” she breathed.

She knew there was no hiding from him. Despite the unplottable location of the cottage, it had only taken him a few hours to find them.

Watching him, she traced her finger around his form before he began to pace angrily. Every few passes, he threw his hand toward the cottage, testing the magic.

“GINNY!” he screamed suddenly, his black eyes glittering as he glared toward the house.

“Come away from the window,” Arthur coaxed his daughter, taking her shoulders and pulling her back.

Ginny shook him off, resuming her place in front of the glass.

Harry remained on the edge of the walk, the wind swirling around him as he walked back and forth past the gate.

She knew he couldn’t see them…that the Fidelius prevented him from getting inside, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that it was just a matter of time.

The world faded suddenly to gray, her surroundings blurring and spinning before snapping sharply back into focus.

Back at the window, she watched Harry walking toward her through the yard. Closer and closer he moved. The wind seemed to die down as he came straight up to the window, his gaze moving up and around the frame before finally focusing on her.

“It’s ok,” she murmured, watching him. “He can’t really see me.”

Tears welled in her eyes as she said it, aching that she had to be afraid of him. Transfixed by him, Ginny raised her hand to the window, pressing her palm against the glass as she leaned closer.

“Harry…”

Her eyes widened as Harry slowly raised his own hand, pressing it against the glass so that it mirrored hers.

With a gasp, Ginny’s eyes flew from their hands back to his face.

Lips curved into a small smile, his black eyes met hers.

“Hey baby,” he said, his voice muffled by the glass.

Ginny jumped backwards at the same time that Harry drew back his hand and smashed it into the window…


Ginny awoke in a panic, her entire body throbbing with pain as she shoved blindly away from the warm body in front of her. As her momentum carried her backward, her eyes flew open and she lost her balance, tumbling unexpectedly off the motorcycle.

“HARRY!”

“Ginny!” Harry shouted, lunging after her.

For a second, Ginny fell before she suddenly jerked to a stop, her shoulder wrenching painfully. She cried out as she swung under the bike, narrowly missing the spinning back wheel. Looking up, she met Harry’s wide, horrified eyes as he gripped the leather sleeve of her jacket.

Gritting his teeth, Harry tried to heave her up, but only managed to make the bike wobble dangerously from side to side. Cursing, he grabbed the handlebar with one hand and held onto her with the other.

“Grab my hand!” he yelled, his heart lodging in his throat as he felt the leather beginning to slip slowly through his fingers. “Ginny!

Staring down at her terror-filled face, Harry shuttered as something dark shifted inside him, swirling up swiftly into his consciousness.

Why not just let her go? he suddenly wondered.

The world seemed to slow down as he pictured it. He could just release her jacket and watch her fall to the earth. He envisioned her eyes widening with fear, her tears sparkling in the sunlight until she was too far away to see the features of her face. The satisfaction that came from the image was heady and he trembled as he watched her fall away from the bike.

“HARRY!!”

The sound of Ginny’s scream shook him and he blinked as he came back to himself. The sight that greeted him as his eyes refocused froze his heart. Ginny no longer struggled to grab his hand; instead, she plummeted toward the earth.

Oh my God…No…

Horrified, Harry jerked the bike into a dive. Roaring after her, he struggled to hold the bike steady.

The bike rebelled against the direction, the charms on it trying to force them back parallel to the ground. Cursing, Harry stood up and pushed the front of the bike down with his weight, forcing it to continue the dive as the metal strained against the abusive wind.

Realizing he’d never catch her, he drew his legs up so that he was crouched on the seat.

Please, God…

With a cry he jumped, propelling himself downward as he pushed off the bike. Whipping his arms to his side, he sliced through the air like a diver in an attempt to overtake her. He heard the whine of the metal and several loud pops, but didn’t look back to see what was happening.

Below him the air rushed past Ginny, stinging her cheeks and tangling her hair as she squeezed her eyes closed. Heart pounding, she dug frantically into her pockets for her wand as her body twisted and turned in the air.

ACCIO, GINNY!”

With a jerk, she changed direction, her head snapping back from the force of Harry’s spell.

She collided with him a second later, her arms flying around his shoulders as his arm encircled her waist.

“HOLD ON!” he cried, his voice lost above them almost as soon as the sound came out.

Locking her legs around his waist she held him as tightly as she could. Her hair swirled red around them, the air almost deafening as it rushed past their ears.

As soon as Harry had her in his arms, he cast a spell to slow them down. Knowing that alone wouldn’t be enough to keep them from hitting the ground much too hard, he hoped it would at least buy him time.

Thinking fast as the ground rushed up to meet them, he quickly sent another red flash slamming into the earth. As it hit, the field seemed to ripple with the impact before sending a shockwave rebounding upward and heading straight for them.

“Harry!” Ginny cried as he cursed.

“I see it! Hold on,” he yelled directly into her ear. “Don’t let go!”

The energy from his second spell collided with them, knocking the breath from their lungs and sending their bodies into as spin as it passed.

Rolling over each other, they fell the final feet to the ground. They impacted with a cry; their eyes squeezed shut. When they hit, the earth seemed to implode, stretching downward with their weight like a trampoline before flinging them back into the air.

They bounced several times, each time with less height before the ground seemed to level out beneath them.

Ginny kept her face buried in Harry’s neck as he gasped for breath his chest heaving beneath her.

“O…Ok?” he panted after a moment.

“I-I think so,” she shuttered, swallowing.

Harry pulled her tighter for a second before pushing her quickly off.

The ground rolled like a waterbed beneath them as Harry climbed to his feet and took several unsteady steps away. Keeping his back to her, he leaned over for a moment as he brought himself back under control.

Ginny stayed on her back, her heart still racing and her eyes locked on the sky as she contemplated how far they’d fallen without being killed.

Sitting up slowly, her eyes moved to Harry. She watched him sink to his knees and curl over, his shoulders shaking. Standing up, she almost stumbled as the remnants of his spell caused the ground to roll under her feet.

Making her way carefully toward him, she stood behind him for a second in silence. Harsh broken sobs came from him and her heart twisted at the sound.

“Harry,” she began, reaching down to touch his shoulder.

“Don’t touch me,” he wrenched out.

Stung, she straightened as he crawled away. Unsure why he was so upset, she hesitated before speaking again.

“What’s wrong?” she asked quietly as he stood up. “We’re ok…”

“We’re not ok,” he replied his voice catching before he finally turned to face her.

“Harry…” she began, taking a step toward him.

“Stay away from me,” he ordered harshly.

“I’m not going to do that,” she told him.

“Why not?!” he exploded suddenly, his vicious yell causing Ginny to flinch as she came to a stop. “What is wrong with you?” he demanded. “I just dropped you off a motorcycle! I just tried to kill you! Why would you possibly want to…to…” choking on his words, he looked down, unable to hold her gaze.

Feeling nauseous he leaned over, wrapping his arm around his stomach. He could have killed her.

“Oh God…please just stay away from me,” he whispered, fighting the bile in his throat.

What are you talking about?”

The incredulity in her tone barely registered as he sank back down to the ground.

I almost killed her…not on accident, but because I wanted to.

Losing the battle with his insides at the thought, he spun away from her, curling over as he vomited.

With a gasp, Ginny ran to him, dropping down beside him. Fumbling in her pockets she found her wand and quickly cleaned him up.

“Harry,” she said worriedly, pushing his hair away from his forehead. “What’s going on? Talk to me…”

A series of pops sounded in the distance, interrupting her words. Looking over with a start, she scanned the horizon.

“Did you hear that?”

“It’s ok,” he replied, his voice strained. “They’ll protect you.”

“What?” she gasped, looking back over at him. Her hand went to his arm, gripping his sleeve tightly. “What are you saying?”

“It’s ok,” he repeated, his eyes moving to the top of the hill ahead of them. “They’ll have been watching the Ministry sensors…just in case,” he explained shakily. “At least that’s what I’d be doing. That spell had to have shown up.”

Ginny’s face paled as she realized what he meant. She hadn’t even thought about the ramifications of the spell he’d performed when they fell. There was no way they could have missed its power if anyone had been monitoring.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” she demanded, pulling on his arm as she began to stand. “We have to leave!”

“When they get here, find Bill…”

“Shut up,” Ginny snapped, shaking him. “We stay together, remember?”

Harry shook his head mutely, refusing to look at her.

Ginny could hear the sounds of voices in the distance.

“Look at me,” she ordered, reaching for his cheek and turning his face toward her.

The despair in his eyes made her want to weep but she pushed the feeling aside, keeping her face stern.

“You didn’t drop me,” she told him firmly, trying to keep her growing panic out of her voice.

Harry scoffed, trying to turn his head away.

Listen to me,” she ordered. “My jacket ripped and I fell. You didn’t drop me! I swear you didn’t.”

Confused by her words, he glanced back over at her. His brow furrowed when he saw her gesturing to her right arm, where the sleeve of her jacket was missing.

“But...I don’t understand,” he admitted slowly, his mind refusing to work properly as he stared at her freckled skin. “I saw…”

“I don’t care what you saw!” Ginny interrupted, her gaze moving from his face to the top of the hill and back. “Trust me, Harry,” she pleaded as she stood up. “Please trust me. Come on.”

Harry shook his head again, but allowed her to pull him to his feet.

“I know what I saw,” he insisted his eyes on the hill as the voices got closer, “don’t be stupid…”

“Ginny? Ginny where are you!”

“No!” Ginny gasped when she heard Bill’s voice. Not looking - not stopping to think, she pulled Harry against her and Disapparated with him.

An instant later they reappeared in the middle of a small grove of trees.

Gasping, Harry shoved away from her and stumbled back.

“Ginny!”

“Shh!” she hissed, following him quickly and clamping her hand over his mouth. “We’re not that far away. They could hear us…”

“Good!” he growled, snatching her hand away. His eyes were fluctuating between green and black as he glared at her. “Maybe they’ll come talk some sense into you before you get yourself killed.”

“Stop talking nonsense!” she shot back.

Grabbing his wrist, she pulled it up so that it was in front of his face.

“What is this, Harry?”

Blinking in surprise, Harry stared at his fist, which was clutching her missing sleeve. It suddenly occurred to him that his hand was aching, his knuckles white from the force of his grip.

Ginny curled her hand around his, gently prying his fingers open.

“You didn’t let go of me,” Harry heard her say as he watched the piece of leather fall to the ground.

Relief, overwhelming in its intensity, broke over him, mixing with his confusion. Suddenly taking in a deep breath, he met her gaze again.

She was watching him tenderly now, her hands still wrapped around his as she waited for him to realize the truth.

“But…I saw…I let you go,” he said hoarsely. “I thought about letting you go and I saw myself do it…you fell…”

“That’s not what happened, sweetheart,” she assured him, bringing his hand up and pressing her lips against his knuckles. Leaning in, she rested her forehead against his shoulder. “I wouldn’t lie to you,” she whispered. “Not about this.”

Harry brought his hand up, cupping the back of her head as he turned his face against her hair.

“Thank God,” he breathed shakily.

They stayed still for several moments before Ginny pulled back.

“Feeling better?” she asked.

“No,” he answered. “Not really.”

“Why not?”

“Even if I didn’t do it, I still thought about it,” he admitted shamefully. “What if your jacket hadn’t ripped? What if I really had decided to drop you?”

“Harry, you’ve dealt with dark moments before,” she argued. “Each time you’ve found a way to protect me…to come back to yourself.”

“But what if…”

“There is no if,” she corrected him firmly. “When you realized I was falling, you jumped off a motorcycle for me, Harry. You risked your life to try to save me. If you were trying to kill me why would you do that? You could’ve just watched me fall.”

Harry had no reply so he looked down, reaching out and taking her hand. He twirled her ring slowly around her finger for a moment.

“I believe in you, Harry,” Ginny promised. “I trust you…I will always trust you.”

Placing her hands tenderly on the sides of his face, she pulled him toward her. She meant to kiss his mouth, but at the last second rose up and pressed a kiss against his scar.

Harry groaned softly under her touch as her lips lingered.

“Let’s go,” she murmured, her lips brushing his skin.

“Ok,” he agreed.

Stepping back, Ginny turned in a circle as she took in their surroundings.

“I don’t know where we are,” she admitted, hands on her hips.

“Shite,” Harry breathed, looking around to get his bearings. “It’s a miracle you didn’t Splinch us.”

“Not a miracle…skill,” Ginny retorted as the turned to face him.

“Yes, well, regardless of your skills, there’s no way you can take us all the way across the country,” Harry said, leaning down and picking up her sleeve. “And I’m not going to try.”

“But you could right?” she asked, pulling off her ruined jacket and dropping it on the ground.

“Usually,” Harry nodded, pulling out his wand. “But I don’t think…I don’t want to risk it,” he admitted, chancing a glance at her.

Ginny met his gaze, reading his wariness in his eyes as she approached him. Coming to a stop next to him, she watched as he turned her sleeve into a Portkey. The piece of leather glowed blue for a few seconds before fading back to black.

Taking a breath, Harry reached out, drawing Ginny against him. He held her gingerly at first, afraid to be too close with his power simmering just under the surface.

Ignoring his hesitation, Ginny slipped her arm around his back, holding on tightly before she reached out and took hold of the Portkey.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Ron searched the horizon as he made his way across the glen. They’d fanned out and were searching the area quickly and thoroughly for any signs of Ginny and Harry. Coming to a stop, he turned in a slow circle.

He knew they were near one of the Lochs, but hadn’t bothered to pay attention to which one. He could see the silhouettes of some of his brothers in the distance, backlit by the setting sun as they headed in other directions. He could see the larger hills and mountains surrounding them in the distance.

Determination filling his features, he headed toward the line of trees off to his left.

“Over here!”

Ron spun instantly at Kinsley’s sharp cry. Sprinting in the direction of the red flare that shot into the sky, he soon reached the tall wizard’s side. His brothers and the other Aurors were arriving as well, their wands ready and their eyes wary.

The ground in front of Kingsley was littered with pieces of metal. Some seemed to be smoldering, smoke curling slowing up from where they were strewn about the area.

For a moment Ron looked around in confusion, trying to make sense of the scattered metal Kinsley had found.

“Oh, God,” he breathed suddenly, his heart leaping into his throat as he realized what it was.

Instinctively he looked up into the sky before he began to frantically move through the wreckage, searching for any trace of his sister or best friend.

Did they crash?

“Is this…” Charlie trailed off as he picked up a bent handlebar.

“Spread out, search everything,” Bill demanded from where he stood, his face white as he stared at the remains of Harry’s motorcycle.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Ginny stood in the trees behind her house, her eyes fixed warily on the familiar crooked structure. Her hand was clutching Harry’s, her tension mounting with each second of silence.

“Is this a good idea?” she asked softly, her nerve faltering now that she was so close to their destination.

For a moment, Harry remained silent, his gaze moving from one window to the next. His body was tingling with nerves as well, his power hovering just under the surface of his control. Ordinarily he would have used his magic to search the house, but after what had happened at the cabin, he was afraid to do it near Ginny.

“It’s the best idea we have,” he answered finally, his gaze coming to a rest on the back door.

At that moment Molly Weasley walked out onto the porch. Ginny’s grip on Harry’s hand tightened as they watched her cross to the railing and dump something into the grass.

Balancing the empty bowl on her hip, Molly looked out at the backyard for a moment before heading back inside.

Harry remained still for several minutes after the door shut. Finally, he moved, pulling Ginny forward as he began to walk toward the house.

“Come on,” he urged, throwing a disillusionment charm over them. “It’s now or never.”

Climbing the back steps, Harry turned the knob, slowly edging the door open. The kitchen was empty so they entered silently, easing the door closed behind them. Lifting the disillusionment charm, Harry led Ginny across the room. They were halfway to the den when Molly came walking back into the kitchen.

With a gasp of surprise, the mug she was carrying slid from her hands. It hit the floor with a crack, breaking into pieces as the liquid spilled in all directions.

“Ginny,” she breathed, tears of relief filling her eyes. “Oh sweet Merlin, you’re alive. Are you hurt?”

Oblivious to the mess at her feet she took an automatic step forward as she reached for her daughter.

Harry’s wand was up in an instant as Ginny recoiled.

“Don’t,” he warned, ignoring the guilt he felt from pointing his wand at Mrs. Weasley.

“Harry!” Molly’s eyes widened as she stared at him, her hands dropping to her sides.

“Please don’t move, Mrs. Weasley,” he said, the politeness of his tone heightening the absurdity of the situation.

“Harry, what are you doing?” Molly demanded nervously, her eyes moving back to her daughter. “Ginny?”

“We’re not staying,” Harry said curtly. “We just want some answers.”

“Answers?” she echoed faintly, her eyes searching Harry’s before flicking to Ginny.

“Yes. What’s happening to us?”

“I…I don’t know what you mean,” Molly replied, flustered. Her eyes remained on Ginny as she fidgeted with her apron.

“I don’t believe you,” Harry said softly. “Why do you want us apart?”

“I…I don’t want you apart, dear,” she replied, her eyes pleading with Ginny to understand. “I just want Ginny safe. I want you both safe.”

“Safe from what?” Ginny asked. She watched her mother’s eyes fly to Harry as her mouth opened and closed soundlessly.

“Why don’t we all just sit down for a minute and talk about this, alright?” Molly suggested finally, forcing a weak smile as her gaze swung back to Ginny. “I’ll call your father and…”

“No,” Harry snapped. “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” Molly stammered.

“Don’t lie,” Ginny spoke from Harry’s side.

“I wouldn’t lie, darling,” Molly shook her head. “I just want you to be safe. I need you to trust me and come…”

“Stop lying!” Ginny exclaimed, her wand shaking as she pointed it at her mother.

“Ginny!” Molly gasped, her hand flying to her throat.

“What’s happening to us?” Ginny demanded, tears filling her eyes.

“I…I…”

“Answer the question!” Ginny ordered, her body shaking. “We saw your face when we first got together. We saw your reaction to everything…the only thing that makes sense is that you know what’s wrong…you know what’s happening…”

“What is happening?” Molly asked, her eyes moving back and forth between them. “Has he hurt you?”

Harry went rigid at her question.

“Why would you ask that, Mum?” Ginny asked, her voice going hard as she placed her hand soothingly against Harry’s back. “All he’s ever done is try to protect me. If anyone’s hurting me it’s you, and dad and Bill and everyone else.”

“Ginny, you don’t understand…”

“Then make me understand.”

“I…I can’t…you just have to…”

“Stop saying that! Tell me the truth!”

“I…I’m sorry,” Molly shook her head frantically, tears rolling down her cheeks, “I can’t…”

The hair on the back of Harry’s neck bristled suddenly as an instinctual feeling of being watched rushed through him.

“Shite,” Harry cursed under his breath, not expecting anyone else to be home. Swinging his arm suddenly to the right, he looked over, pinning Hermione in his gaze where she stood in the doorway.

Her eyes were wide, her face pale as she looked back and forth between he and Ginny.

“Harry,” she breathed, taking a tentative step forward. “Thank God you brought her…”

“Don’t,” Harry warned, bringing her to a stop.

“What’s going on?” she asked, her eyes dropping briefly to Molly’s spilled tea. “Tell me what you want, Harry,” Hermione suggested calmly, bringing her gaze back to his. “Why are you here?”

“I want to know what’s going on,” he replied tightly. “I want someone to tell us what’s going on.”

“Ok,” she nodded. “Why don’t we go to Hogwarts…”

When Ginny took an automatic step toward the door Hermione raised her hands.

Or stay here,” she amended quickly. “Dumbledore can come here and explain and…”

“Bollocks!” Harry snapped. “He wasn’t interested in talking to us; he just wanted to separate us. You all want us apart and she knows why,” Harry explained, pointing his wand back toward to Molly.

Immediately, Ginny swung her wand from her mother to Hermione.

“She can’t tell you what you want to know,” Hermione said, shaking her head.

“Then you tell us,” Ginny countered.

“Darling, we can’t,” Molly said. “It’s…it’s too dangerous. Just let us help you.”

Harry looked back and forth between Molly and Hermione, his frustration mounting quickly from their evasiveness. His head was aching as his power continued to churn more forcefully in his stomach.

“…Trust us…” he heard Molly say.

He could feel Ginny stiffen beside him and his eyes began to fluctuate between green and black as Mrs. Weasley’s words ignited his anger.

“Harry, calm down,” Hermione warned, her back straightening at the sight.

“I’ll be calm when I know the truth,” he ground out.

“It doesn’t work that way,” Hermione told him shaking her head. “We can’t tell you what you want to hear.”

Hermione swallowed as she watched him struggle to control his anger. Beside him, Ginny was tense as she shifted closer, bringing her hand to his side.

“You don’t understand what’s happening, Harry,” Hermione told him gently.

“And whose fault is that?” he snapped, distracted briefly by pain as he pressed his hand against his forehead.

“It’s no one’s fault,” she said, edging toward him while he wasn’t looking. “It’s just…”

“Yes it is!” Harry barked, jerking his head up to meet her gaze. “It’s someone’s fault, Hermione. It’s someone’s fault that she’s hurting and it’s someone’s fault that we don’t know how to fix it, so just stop lying and tell us what’s going on!”

“We can’t tell you anything!” Hermione snapped in frustration.

“Why not?!”

“Because we can’t!” she insisted, her hands curling into fists. She didn’t know how else to say it. There was no other way without explaining too much, giving him too much. “We can’t. I would tell you…I swear I would but…”

“Hermione,” Molly cut her off sharply.

“Come on,” Ginny said, grabbing Harry’s wrist. “They’re not going to help us.”

“Ginny, please,” Molly pleaded, taking a step forward. She stopped when Ginny’s wand swung toward her.

“Don’t come near me,” Ginny warned, biting her lip as it began to tremble. “If you won’t help me, if you won’t help us, we’re not staying here.”

“Ginny, please…”

Harry’s gaze stayed on Hermione’s face, his mind whirling as Ginny dragged him backward to the door.

She says they can’t…not that they won’t, he thought. Staring into Hermione’s eyes, seeing her struggle, he knew the answer was right in front of him. They can’t…can’t - not won’t…why wouldn’t they be able to…

The memory of Bill cut off seemingly mid-rant so many times over the last few days flashed through Harry’s mind…at the Burrow…his flat…the Ministry…

The images brought with them an idea that made Harry’s stomach turn.

No. They would never…not to me…

“Wait,” Harry said, shaking off Ginny’s grip and crossing back toward Hermione. His heart was pounding as he prayed simultaneously that he was both right and wrong. “Who is it?” he gambled, holding Hermione’s gaze.

Hermione took a step back, her face paling swiftly.

“What?”

“Who is it, Hermione?” Harry repeated his tone low and firm.

“I don’t know what you…”

“Yes, you do,” Harry cut her off sharply. “Who is it?”

“Who is what?”

“The Secret-Keeper!” Harry yelled, causing Hermione to flinch and Molly to gasp. “Tell me who it is!”

“NO!”

Harry’s eyes went wide. The room seemed to tilt around him and he sucked in an unsteady breath as he realized he’d guessed correctly. There was a Fidelius Charm at work, although how and why he didn’t know. Shock was swiftly overridden by fury and he closed the distance between them.

“What’s hidden?”

“You know I can’t tell you that,” she replied miserably.

“How could you?” he demanded, his voice wavering.

“I…I…”

“How could you let someone…”

Helplessly, Hermione shook her head, unable to talk about it even if she wanted to. She stood trembling in front of him as the guilt of what had happened slammed into her.

“I’m s-sorry,” she breathed.

“Give me the name,” he ordered grabbing Hermione’s arm.

“No.”

“Dammit, Hermione, give me the name!”

“He won’t tell you anything,” she told him, shaking her head. “It’s too dangerous. Please just trust me…”

Trust you?” Harry scoffed furiously.

“Just let us help you…”

“Who is he?” Harry demanded, shaking her. “Who is he? Bill? Dumbledore? Ron?

“Harry, stop,” Molly called.

“You’re hurting me,” Hermione whimpered trying to pull away from his bruising grip.

“Give me the name!”

“No!”

“GIVE ME THE BLOODY NAME!” Harry roared, his body trembling as he held onto his control.

The room crackled with energy as it rippled out of him, rustling the curtains and causing everyone’s hair to lift with static.

“Harry,” Ginny soothed, coming up beside him.

“Back off,” Harry growled, his head turning to look at her.

Spiraling out of control in that instant, his attention focused so intently on Ginny that his hand loosened on Hermione. Taking a deep breath, his nostrils flared as his pupils dilated wider and wider.

Recognizing the change from his episodes at the cabin, Ginny took a step back.

“Harry…”

Harry’s hand shot out, catching her forearm and drawing her back toward him.

“No!” Molly cried, yanking Ginny away and placing her body between them.

“Mum!” Ginny yelled angrily.

“Harry!” Hermione called at the same time, grabbing his shirt and bringing his attention back to her. “Focus,” she ordered sharply.

Harry shook his head, wincing. Tightening his grip on his wand, he struggled for control.

“Calm down, Harry,” Hermione pleaded. “Please just…”

“I’m fine,” he said through clenched teeth, his face paling as his eyes flicked to Ginny.

Molly’s arms were out, blocking Ginny behind her.

“Harry,” Hermione said firmly, “You’re not fi…”

“Shut up,” he cut her off, his voice trembling. “Just…” Rubbing his forehead as he squeezed his eyes shut, he gritted his teeth. “Just…tell me the name.”

“I can’t do that,” Hermione told him. “I won’t.”

Hermione…”

When he met her gaze a few seconds later, his pupils were almost back to normal and his voice was deceptively calm.

“Give me the name…or I’ll take it from you.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” Hermione gasped, even as she instinctively shut her eyes. “You wouldn’t do that to me,” she whispered.

“Try me.”

Shaking her head, Hermione’s bottom lip began to tremble.

“I’m your best friend,” she said. “I would never hurt you.”

“Then prove it,” Harry replied, his voice breaking with sudden anguish. “Help me,” Harry begged softly, lowering his head down to hers. “Help me, Hermione.”

“I can’t,” she whimpered powerlessly.

“Look at her,” Harry ordered, shaking Hermione slightly. “Look at her,” he repeated, waiting until Hermione’s eyes opened and moved to Ginny. “This is hurting her,” Harry told her in a low voice. “Whatever this is, it’s hurting her. Give me what I need to fix it. Please.”

Biting her lip, Hermione studied Ginny, whose eyes were locked worriedly on Harry. She could see the echo of pain in her features, the paleness of her face and the weariness of her stance.

“Dammit,” Harry hissed, tightening his grip before thrusting her away.

As soon as he began backing up, Ginny pushed past her mother and ran to his side. He didn’t reach for her, but he squeezed her hand tightly when she grabbed his.

Harry’s whole body ached as his trust in his best friend broke. Her eyes were full of tears and a desperate apology as she held his gaze but he just shook his head and turned away.

Hermione stood shaking as she watched them head quickly towards the door. The look of betrayal on Harry’s face made her feel sick, and she didn’t know what to do.

Think, Hermione, she scolded herself. Cry later.

No matter how much he was fighting it, there was no doubt that he was losing control. She knew she couldn’t let them leave, but she also couldn’t tell them what they needed to hear to stay. She was no match for Harry if she tried to force them with magic.

I need time…time to get Dumbledore and everyone else here.

“Wait!” she cried desperately, taking a step toward them.

“Hermione,” Molly warned weakly, but her eyes were locked on Ginny.

“Talk to Snape,” Hermione blurted, before she could change her mind.

“What?” Harry asked, pausing as he looked back at her.

“You need to talk to Professor Snape,” Hermione said, swiping at a tear that rolled rebelliously down her cheek. “But he won’t tell you…”

“Snape?”

Hermione nodded, cringing as Harry’s anger returned full force.

Snape?”

“Who’s Snape?” Ginny asked, confused by Harry’s reaction.

Shaking his head, Harry simply slipped his arm around Ginny waist, pulling her tightly against him.

Recognizing his intention, Molly started forward.

“Don’t!”

Heedless of her plea, Harry and Ginny disappeared with a pop.

No!” Molly gasped, stumbling the final few steps to where they’d been standing.

“We can still stop this,” Hermione said as soon as they were gone. Not giving herself a chance to second guess her decision, she pulled her wand and pointed it at the backdoor. “Expecto Patronum!”

A silvery-white Otter erupted from the end of the slender vine wood. Shooting straight across the kitchen it raced through the door and across the backyard. Hermione watched silently as it vanished into the trees.

When it disappeared from view Hermione turned her attention back to Mrs. Weasley. Walking over, she placed her hand gently on the older woman’s shoulder.

“We both know we couldn’t have kept them here,” Hermione reminded her softly. “But we can send Ron and the others after them now that we know where they’re going.”

~..~..~..~..~..~

Low clouds hung ominously over an empty London street. Terraced houses lined the narrow road, the dark red brick making them virtually indistinguishable.

A pop sounded suddenly, breaking the silence and sending an errant red squirrel scampering across the street and up a tree. It sat on a low branch, its nose twitching as it watched the wizard and witch who’d appeared on the sidewalk below.

Unaware of their tiny audience, Harry released Ginny and stepped back. Curling his hands into fists to hide their trembling, he took a steadying breath. Unconsciously he stretched his neck to the side before straightening, trying to clear the mounting ache in his temples.

“Where are we?” Ginny asked her back to him as she looked up and down the unfamiliar street.

“London,” Harry answered, his gaze moving to the house across the street.

Nondescript, the house looked like all of the others, from the red brick to the faded white trim around the windows. At first glance it appeared empty, with no lights shining in the windows and no car parked in front.

Who’s Snape?” Ginny asked again, her brow furrowing as she tried to place the familiar sounding name.

“More importantly, why Snape?” Harry responded.

“What do you mean why Snape?” Ginny repeated, looking back at him. “Who cares who they used? I want to knowwhy a Fidelius. Why the secrets? What is so awful that they would do something so…so…”

“That’s what we’re going to find out,” he promised, when he heard the distress in her voice.

Meeting her gaze, he reached for her, grasping her hand tightly.

Stepping closer Ginny shook her head, bringing her fingers to her forehead.

“I don’t understand what a Fidelius has to do with what’s happening…”

“I don’t either,” Harry replied, squeezing her hand. “But we’re not leaving until we figure it out,” he said with a frown before leading her purposefully across the street.

As they walked, the first fat drop of rain landed on Harry’s shoulder. He didn’t seem to notice, but Ginny did when she felt a drop hit her head.

Looking up, she saw that the street seemed to be growing darker as they walked, the thunderclouds rolling in to blanket the city.

Ginny stiffened as they climbed the steps to Snape’s front door.

“What if he won’t talk to us?” she asked nervously as they reached the porch.

“He will,” Harry replied shortly, his grip on her hand tightening.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Crouching down, Bill picked up the leather jacket from where it rested among the leaves. Shaking it out, he held it up, his stomach dropping when he saw that it was about Ginny’s size.

“It’s missing a sleeve,” he noted, rising to his feet.

“There are traces of magic over here,” Dumbledore said from a few steps away as he turned in a slow circle with his wand out.

Clutching the ruined jacket tightly, Bill shut his eyes as the memories rushed in.

He had no idea how Harry had managed to get into the cabin. When he’d heard the crash and the screams he’d come running from the kitchen to find Hermione and his mother standing at the window.

Running up and shoving them out of the way he saw the broken glass. What remained in the frame was covered with blood and his stomach lurched as he looked out into the yard.

Ginny was trembling on the ground, her shirt and skin ripped by the broken glass when Harry had pulled her through the window.

Harry was on his knees in front of her his hands cradling her face and hair tenderly.

“Don’t hide from me, baby,” he was telling her, his voice hard and soft at the same time. “It just makes it worse…”

Shoving away from the window, Bill ran for the front door. Throwing it open, he stumbled down the two front steps and into the yard.

Ginny was already screaming, her bleeding form arching on the ground as Harry stood over her. Keeping the Cruciatus on her, Harry’s smile was cruel as his eyes flicked up to meet Bill’s.

“I love it when she sings, don’t you?”


“If he hurts her,” Bill murmured, shaking his head to clear it.

“We don’t know what happened yet,” Dumbledore said.

Bill started to respond, but froze when he spotted a flash of white flying through the trees toward them. Whipping his wand toward the flash, he squinted at the approaching object. When he realized what it was his stance relaxed and he lowered his arm.

“Ron!” Bill yelled, watching the sleek shape of a Patronus swoop through the air before coming to a stop. “RON!”

“Over here!” Ron’s voice called from somewhere close by in the trees.

A few seconds later, Ron came running up, followed closely by Charlie and Sam.

“Did you find something?” Ron asked, before stiffening when he recognized Hermione’s Otter.

As if sensing that everyone needed was present, Hermione’s voice sounded from the vaporous creature as it floated in the center of the assembled Aurors.

“Harry and Ginny were here. They’ve gone to Snape’s house. You probably only have a few minutes. Hurry.”

~..~..~..~..~..~

Severus Snape stood behind his large mahogany desk, his fingertip following along as he read from a worn leather-bound book. Beside the book was a small pewter cauldron, the burgundy contents bubbling steadily within. An assortment of small glass bottles were organized into two orderly rows to the left of the cauldron.

Keeping his eyes on the book, Snape deftly plucked a small green bottle from the first row. About to pour it in, he looked up at the sound of a boom followed by a deafening crash.

For a second the walls of the room seemed to shudder before everything became still again. Setting down the bottle, Snape grabbed his wand and rounded his desk.

“SNAPE!”

Coming to a stop at the sound of Harry’s voice, Severus tightened his grip on his wand. Keeping his gaze on the door, he backed up a few steps.

A gust of magic blew his robes back when the door flew open a few moments later. Holding his ground, Snape stared at the wizard silhouetted in the doorway.

“Potter,” he greeted, his shrewd eyes taking in Harry’s worn appearance as he led Ginny into the room. “To what do I owe this unpleasant surprise?”

“Break the Fidelius,” Harry gritted out.

The only reply Harry received was a slight narrowing of Snape’s eyes.

“Where are your manners, Potter?” he replied.

“My manners?” Harry replied in exasperation. “Oh, I don’t know, I guess I forgot them when you fucking Fideliused me.”

“Fideliused you? That doesn’t even make sense,” Snape replied snidely. “You don’t Fidelius a person.”

“And yet…here we are.”

“Yes, here you are,” Snape agreed, distaste lacing his voice. “You break into my home, making ludicrous demands and don’t even bother to introduce me to your…friend.”

“You already know her,” Harry replied tightly, his face stormy. “Don’t you?”

His lip curling into a sneer, Snape took a few casual steps toward Ginny.

“I don’t know why you’d say that, but judging from the hair…I’d have to guess a Weasley,” he mused, raking his eyes up and down Ginny’s slight frame and earning a glare in return. Meeting and holding her gaze steadily, he came to a stop in front of her. “How do you Miss W…”

Harry’s wand was against Snape’s throat in an instant, pushing his head back as Ginny was jerked out of his line of sight.

“Don’t even think about it,” Harry warned in a low voice, stepping in front of him. “If you want to play Legilimency games, you can play with me.”

For a moment they stood in silence, their gazes locked in a battle of wills.

Snape broke first, spinning away when his ability to keep Harry out of his mind began to falter.

“Get out of my house, Potter,” he snapped as he crossed back to his desk. “There’s nothing for you here.”

“Oh, I think there is.”

“There you go again,” Snape chided over his shoulder. “Always thinking you’re right.”

“Tell me what’s going on.”

“And why would I do that?” Snape asked, turning back around. “You don’t even understand what you’re asking,” Snape shook his head, his beady eyes narrowed. “You have no idea what’s going on.”

“Not yet,” Harry said, “but you’re going to give me the answers I need.”

“That you need?” Snape scoffed. “If you needed them, don’t you think you’d have them? You of all people should know that what you think you need isn’t coming from anywhere safe or honorable or good.”

“And you know all about good and evil don’t you?” Harry countered, his voice hard. “Why are you even involved? Why be the Secret Keeper of anything to do with me?”

“Oh, right…and who else would do it?” Snape replied. “Which one of your friends or her family wouldn’t bend to the all mighty Saint Potter the first time you came looking for answers? How long did it take them to send you here anyway? Five minutes?”

They want to fix this.”

“Hardly,” Snape snorted. “At least not in the way that you think they do. But if you really wanted to fix it, you could.”

“I’ve tried,” Harry snapped. “What else do you expect me to do when I don’t know what’s happening?”

“Leave her here and go far away,” Snape proposed.

“I’m not leaving her,” Harry said. “I promised.”

“You have no idea what you’re dealing with here, Potter. You don’t even understand why you want her.”

Harry closed his eyes briefly, gritting his teeth to suppress the tremor that ran through him as his frustration mounted and his power churned.

“I love her.”

“You’re not loving her,” Snape replied cruelly, “you’re hurting her, all because you’re not man enough to stop.”

Snape watched Harry’s reaction closely as he froze. He saw the guilt and worry that flashed across the younger man’s expression before his eyes dilated and the look was replaced by stubbornness.

“He’s not hurting me,” Ginny spoke up.

“Really?” Snape asked, his eyes going to where Harry held Ginny’s wrist. “As stubborn and tight-lipped as ever, isn’t she?” he mused, his eyes flicking to Harry. “Always trying to protect you, even through the pain.”

Startled, Harry looked down to find his fingers digging into Ginny’s skin, sure to leave a mark. Releasing his bruising grip on her arm, he jerked away from her.

“Harry, it’s fine,” she murmured reaching for him.

“Don’t,” he gritted out, clenching his jaw as he avoided her hand.

“Look at you,” Snape replied in a hard voice, watching as Harry twitched. “You can’t even function properly. You’re losing yourself but you’re too stubborn and stupid to care. You know you can’t control it…not really.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Harry gritted out.

“Neither do you,” Snape shot back. “Whatever you say or do, I’ll never ever break the Fidelius for you so you might as well just…”

“But it doesn’t matter does it?” Ginny interrupted suddenly, drawing his attention. “It’s already breaking.”

“What?” Snape replied shortly. “Of course not. Now if you’ll…”

“I think you’re lying,” Ginny countered.

Harry’s head snapped toward her and she met his gaze briefly. She could see his confusion and wanted to reach out to him, but the pain in her head was increasing as she thought about her dream so instead she turned her attention back to Snape.

“I think Harry’s breaking it,” she told him, struggling not to wince.

“He can’t do that,” Snape assured her with a smirk. “No one can do that.”

“He’s done it before.”

Snape’s eyes widened in shock for an instant before his expression went blank as he stared at her.

“What did you say?” he asked finally, taking a step toward her.

Harry remained silent, his eyes on Ginny’s face as he tried to figure out what she was talking about. He’d never broken a Fidelius, although he wasn’t against trying.

“I saw him do it,” Ginny explained, her eyes locked on Snape.

“That’s not possible,” Snape replied softly, moving closer as he regarded her closely.

“I dreamed it…”

Harry’s eyes widened at her words before narrowing.

“Did you?” Snape sneered, his expression becoming instantly condescending at her pronouncement. “I didn’t take you for a lover of Divination, Miss Weasley.”

Despite his casual dismissal of her words, Snape kept his gaze locked with hers and delved swiftly into her mind.

Unfortunately, what should have been an undetectable use of magic sent Ginny staggering back with a cry of pain. Her eyes watering, she curled over and grabbed her head as Harry took a step toward her.

“Ginny!”

“Get him out…out of my mind,” she gasped.

Spinning toward Snape, Harry sent a blue flash zipping across the room. It moved so swiftly that it hit Snape in the chest before he could even begin to react.

The Legilimency link breaking instantly, Ginny groaned. Harry grasped her elbow, helping her to straighten even as he kept his attention on Snape.

Frozen in place, Severus struggled unsuccessfully to move. Unable to even blink, he was forced to stare straight ahead, his gaze locked with Harry’s.

“I thought you didn’t want to play,” Harry said, his voice hard with anger. “But if you insist…”

Alarm flashed through Snape’s eyes before it was replaced by determination. Almost as quickly as Harry entered his mind, Snape’s defenses came up.

“If you won’t break the Fidelius, I’ll break it for you,” Harry promised softly as he crossed to Snape’s unmoving form.

Ginny watched the silent struggle, her brow furrowed and her hand massaging her temples. Unable to stop looking at Snape, she wracked her brain for how she knew him but it only increased the pounding in her head.

Outside, the clouds finally burst, pouring rain hard and fast onto the city.

Ginny jumped at a sudden clap of thunder, her head snapping to the window as a chill flooded her body. The wide branches of the tree outside were swaying as the wind picked up and rivulets of water ran down the window, blurring the scene beyond.

The sound of Ginny’s cry interrupted Harry’s concentration. Looking over, he saw her turning away from window, her hands moving into her hair.

Blinking to clear his head, his gaze moved back and forth between her trembling form and the window before he realized what was happening. Cursing silently, he started toward her, leaving Snape paralyzed in front of his desk.

Ginny’s lungs seemed unable to take in enough air as she forced her eyes to Harry.

“I’m sorry,” she managed, fighting to remain coherent as her vision blurred. “I can’t…”

“It’s ok, I’m right here,” he soothed as he approached.

When a flash of lightening brightened the room, her eyes flew back to the window. Even though she knew it was coming, the following rumble of thunder sent her stumbling farther away from the window with a whimper of fear.

“No, stay with me,” Harry said as he reached her. Holding on as tightly as he could to his control, he wrapped his arm around her waist and drew her against him. “It’s ok,” he soothed unsteadily, pressing his lips against her temple.

Turning toward him, Ginny looked up into his worried face. Pain ripped through her temple at the sight of his darkening eyes and she cried out.

“Ginny!” Harry said when she doubled over.

The next moment brought chaos and confusion as Snape’s fireplace erupted into green flames. Bill, Dumbledore and Ron came barreling out with their wands drawn. Simultaneously the rest of the Weasley brothers came, pounding down the hall and into the room.

Struggling to hold onto Ginny as he looked up, Harry threw out his wand arm, sending a series of spells rocketing one after another across the room.

Unfortunately, the use of his power sent his control spinning again. Darkness swirled up, bringing a burning pain to his temple with it. With a strangled gasp, he stumbled back, dragging Ginny with him.

The spell on Snape finally faltered and the older wizard lunged forward. Catching Ginny’s arm, he jerked her away from Harry.

Harry spun, his eyes widening when he saw Snape speaking quickly to her, his mouth pressed against her ear.

“Get away from her!” Harry yelled as he grabbed Snape’s shoulder and shoved him away.

Blinking quickly, Ginny looked at Snape in confusion as Harry pulled her away. Looking up at Harry, she stared at him for a second before she crumpled with a scream.

It was a scream of pain and her hands flew to her forehead as she crumpled again.

“Ginny!” Harry cried, trying to hold her with one arm as he deflected an incoming spell with the other. The sound of her pain prompted a swift replay of ugly moments from his dreams and a rush of his power.

Her screams were so anguished that Bill and the others faltered as well, their eyes on her.

“What did you do to her?!” Harry and Bill demanded at the same time, although Harry was talking to Snape and Bill was talking to Harry.

“She’ll be fine in a minute,” Snape said, backing into line next to Charlie.

At his words, the Aurors began to move again.

Harry knew his grip on her wrist was too tight, but he couldn’t let go as he threw up a shield to keep out the approaching group of wizards. Even as it erupted around them, it began to tremble and fade, his instability preventing him from casting properly. Gritting his teeth, as he shook his head, Harry struggled for control as his power and the pain in his head increased.

The urge to destroy grew quickly while Harry focused on pushing it down. Having trouble standing as the room began to swim; Harry sagged against the wall with Ginny trembling at his feet.

“Give it up, Harry,” Bill ordered, at the front of the Aurors fanning out to create a semi-circle around them.

“You need to listen to us, Harry. Step away from her,” Dumbledore said, his eyes worried behind his spectacles as he took in the tremors beginning to wrack Harry’s body. “You’re in no shape to Apparate and there’s nowhere to go.”

Knowing he was right, Harry tried to think through the throbbing in his head. Looking down when Ginny’s nails dug into his skin, a combination of fierce protectiveness and anger rushed through him.

“Stay away from us,” he growled as he threw out his arm.

The bolt of power blew the Aurors back across the room while Harry’s attention went back to Ginny. He needed to get them out of here so he could calm down.

“Ginny, get up,” he said desperately.

He'd seen her in pain before and lost in her fear of storms, but this was something different...something more. Her body was now trembling almost violently, her cries broken as he tried to pull her up from the floor.

A spell hit him in the shoulder, sending him stumbling into the wall with a curse. Swinging his arm wide as he straightened, a gust of energy blew the approaching wizards back into the walls.

A series of cracks sounded, announcing the arrival of seven hooded figures as they Apparated into the room. The room lit up with sparks of green and red as the wizards immediately began throwing spells in every direction.

With shouts of confusion the Aurors shifted, fighting the new arrivals as well as Harry.

Afraid to Apparate with her, Harry let go of Ginny’s arm. Stepping in front of her instead he used his wand and his free hand to hold off both the Aurors and what he guessed were Malfoy’s men.

~..~..~..~..~..~

The fireplace at the Burrow flared up, the green flames licking the stone as Sam stepped out. The young Auror pulled his wand, looking around the silent kitchen before moving quietly toward the den.

Poking his head around the edge of the doorframe, he saw Hermione lying on her side on the sofa. There was no sign of Mrs. Weasley.

Squaring his shoulders, Sam entered the room and cleared his throat.

With a surprised gasp, Hermione sat up.

“Oh,” she said, her hand halfway to her wand where it sat on the coffee table. “Sam, you scared me. What are you doing here?” she asked as she stood up.

“They’ve got Harry and Ginny,” he answered. “Ron asked me to fetch you.”

“Oh, thank goodness,” Hermione breathed in relief. Moving quickly, she grabbed her wand and headed for the stairs. “I’ll get Molly and…”

“Actually,” Sam interrupted, catching her arm. “He just asked for you.”

“Are you sure? But I’m sure she’ll want…”

“Not yet,” Sam shook his head. “There were…there were some problems.”

“What? What problems? Is everyone ok?” Hermione demanded faintly, her hand going to her stomach.

“He’ll explain when you get there but he needs you right away,” Sam said, digging into his pocket for a silver coin and pressing it into her hand. “Here, you go ahead. I’ll wake Mrs. Weasley and explain the situation.”

“But…”

“Ron needs you, Hermione,” Sam insisted. “Just go. We’ll be fine here.”

At Sam’s encouragement, Hermione nodded, pressing down firmly on the Portkey and disappearing.

When she was gone, Sam wiped a hand across his forehead. Glancing at the ceiling when he heard movement upstairs, he hurried back into the kitchen. Throwing powder into the flames he disappeared into the Floo, eager to get back before anyone noticed he was gone.

Hermione arrived in the center of a dark room.

It was cold and silent, and she instantly knew she wasn’t where she was supposed to be.

“Ron?” she called, turning in a slow circle. Receiving no reply beyond the echo of her call she raised her wand.

Lumos,” she murmured, instinctively on alert as the tip of her wand flared up like a small torch.

In the pale light, she could see that the room was small and square, with no windows and seemingly no door.

There was a soft shuffling sound behind her and she froze. All she could hear was the pounding of her heart in her ears and she closed her eyes, listening harder. When her wand flew suddenly out of hand, she spun around with a cry.

Her eyes widened as she watched Malfoy catch it effortlessly from where he stood in a doorway.

“Granger,” he sneered as he swung the door shut with a bang.

“Malfoy!” she yelled, running toward the door as it faded away. Arriving at an empty wall, she slammed her hands against the stone.

~..~..~..~..~..~

One of the hooded men at Snape’s house hung back from the fighting, keeping near the wall as his dark eyes scanned the room for his prey. The jumble of Aurors and hooded men amongst the debris and smoke made it hard to see. An errant spell flew toward him and he ducked, stifling a curse as it blasted the brick apart behind him.

Keeping his back toward the wall, he made his way around the room until he finally saw Ginny, slumped on the floor across the room.

Standing in front of her, Harry fought with impressive speed and strength. None of the spells ever seemed to come near him, all changing direction or stopping completely as they approached him. Still, he seemed unsteady, his expression strained as sweat ran down the sides of his face.

As the wizard watched, Harry seemed to stagger without a spell touching him. Taking a step forward and away from Ginny, Harry went down on his knees. One hand hit the ground in front of him while the other, despite his obvious pain, continued to send spells shooting toward Dumbledore and the others.

Sensing his chance, the wizard shoved away from the wall and took off at a reckless run. Dodging spells and rubble, he spun when he collided with another wizard. The Auror staggered and he threw a stunner, causing the man to drop to the ground with a thud.

Continuing on, he dove behind the large mahogany desk. Crawling from one end to the other, he peered around the edge. He could see Harry and Ginny, still on the ground only a few feet away.

Moving quickly, the wizard made his way to Ginny, keeping his eyes on Harry’s back. Staying low in a crouch, he reached for his signet ring and twisted it once around his finger. The silver Portkey, identical to the ones worn by all of the others, glowed blue as it was activated.

Counting down from ten, he increased his pace to reach her before the Portkey took effect.

Arriving at Ginny’s side he grabbed a fistful of her crimson hair. Jerking her up from the floor, he cut off her sharp cry with a hand over her mouth.

Hearing Ginny’s muffled scream, Harry spun around, his eyes widening in horror just as the Portkey sucked them away.

“NO!”



Chapter 16: Revelations
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“GINNY!”

Lunging for her, Harry landed hard on his stomach, his arm outstretched to where Ginny had been just seconds before.

Momentarily stunned, Harry stared in horror at the empty space. Around him, the world seemed to go silent, the wizards moving in slow motion behind him.

No…

An intense ache filled his chest as he processed the fact that she’d been taken. Struggling to breathe he pressed his forehead to the cool wood floor while the pounding of his heart erupted in his ears.

He’d failed her…he’d broken his promise to keep her safe. The internal ache was swiftly joined by a guilt so forceful Harry had to shut his eyes.

It’s my fault…Ginny…

Unwilling to keep fighting, he let himself go, giving in to the dark urges inside of him. Gasping as his power overtook him; Harry had one final thought before his control slipped away.

It’s their fault…

With a whoosh, the room snapped forcefully into focus and Harry’s eyes flooded with black. Inhaling deeply, he pushed up onto his hands and knees. When he stood, the air crackled with energy, swirling as he spun around.

Feeling the shockwave pass through the room, the gathering of wizards froze to stare at him. Even Malfoy’s followers paused, startled by Harry’s black eyes and the magic flowing off of him.

“Everyone, outside!” Dumbledore ordered, recognizing the danger. Pushing his way toward Harry, he grabbed one of the younger Aurors and thrust him backwards. “NOW!”

At his command, the Aurors, Weasleys and Snape dragged their attention from Harry. Seeing the fear on Dumbledore’s face, they Disapparated with a series of curses and pops.

As they vanished, Harry lashed out in anguish and fury. Throwing his hands into the air, he caused the air to swirl around him like the funnel of a tornado.

In defense, Dumbledore brought his arms over his face as a shield. Turning on his heel, the wizard disappeared just as a black cloud of magic surged outward from Harry and swept across the room.

An instant later, Dumbledore reappeared in front of the house. Rain pounded down, soaking him through during the few seconds it took him to conjure an umbrella and swing it over his head.

“They took Ginny,” Bill said urgently, stepping up next to him.

“Yes,” the older wizard said, his eyes remaining locked on the house.

“What do we do now?”

“We wait,” Dumbledore replied his mouth turned down in a frown.

“But…”

“We wait,” Dumbledore repeated. “He’s the only one who’ll be able to ensure we find her in time.”

Instinctively, Bill started to argue, before clenching his jaw shut. Turning to look at Snape’s trembling house, he tightened his grip on his wand.

Beside him, Snape stood silently. Wiping the cut on his cheek irritably with his sleeve, the potions master watched the windows explode from the first floor.

Ron took a few steps forward, watching anxiously as the house trembled on its foundation.

“We need to get in there…”

“No,” Arthur said, grabbing his arm. “Albus is right. There's nothing we can do for him right now. We need to wait.””

~..~..~..~..~..~..~

The silver Portkey on his finger deposited Blaise Zabini in the center of a dark, empty room. There weren’t any windows or furniture, just a lone torch and a door. Ginny was held tightly against him, her body trembling and her breathing harsh against his hand.

Looking down at her, Zabini tugged her wand from her fist, before thrusting her away. As Ginny collapsed onto the floor, he crossed purposefully to the door. Breaking into a smile as he pulled it open, he let the heavy oak slam shut behind him, anxious to get to Malfoy and receive his reward.

For several moments Ginny remained on the floor, her eyes squeezed shut and her body wracked by a series of tremors. Her brain felt like it was splitting in two, the images and flashes of white swirling too fast for her to comprehend.

All she could make out amid the jumble of sounds and voices was Snape, whispering in her ear…

You didn’t go to Beauxbatons, you went to Hogwarts. We hid you from Harry because he was trying to kill you…

Over and over the words replayed, louder and softer and out of order amidst the chaos in her mind.

With a slight whimper, Ginny brought her hands up, pressing her palms against the sides of her head, as if she could physically hold her thoughts together.

It was all she could do to keep breathing until suddenly, everything seemed to settle into place and the pain lifted. Her life at Beauxbatons faded away, like a story someone told her of what might have been.

In place of that life, memories of Hogwarts and her friends…and Harry swiftly emerged. Old feelings for Harry rushed into her heart and she began to cry as she remembered what had been done.

“You can’t let them do this!”

Tears of horror and frustration rolled down Ginny’s cheeks as Arthur held her securely in his arms.

“Please,” she begged as he remained silent, rocking her back and forth on the bed. “Don’t let them do this…Dad, please…”

His embrace tightened, his arms unyielding, as she struggled to free herself.

“Let me go,” she choked out. “I said no. I said no, I…make them stop...”

“It’s not going to hurt, sweetheart,” he told her, although his voice shook and she knew he was crying. “I’m so…I’m so sorry.”

Almost as though she could feel it coming, she fought harder and screamed louder until finally, suddenly, a blinding white light erupted in her vision…


Rolling onto her back, Ginny’s eyes blinked open. She remembered everything now…meeting Harry on Platform 9 ¾…kissing him for the first time…meeting in secret throughout the war…but mostly, most importantly at that moment, she remembered why she didn’t like storms.

“HARRY!”

She couldn’t find him. The storm and the battle were raging around her but she barely noticed.

“Harry! Harry where are you?”

Running through the trees, she dodged branches and jumped over bodies as she went. The rain was coming down in sheets and she squinted, peeling her hair out of her eyes as she came into a clearing.

There was a flash of lightening and a clap of thunder and she shuddered, dropping to the ground reflexively. Trembling in the wet cold, she scanned the nearest bodies for a sign of him.

Not far to her right she could see Remus fighting with Bellatrix but her gaze moved away when she saw the flashes of light coming from beyond a small hill. Launching herself up from her crouch, she ran toward the fighting. Slipping and sliding in the mud, she pulled her way up the hill, heedless of the storm and the way the ground shook as the thunder clapped louder each time.

Finally cresting the top of the hill, she let out a sob - half in relief and half in fear.

Harry was battling Voldemort below her in some sort of magical circle with a bubbling cauldron at its center. The muddy ground was riddled with the remains of an interrupted ritual, the distorted pentagram shining silver against the dark earth.

Her eyes fixed on Harry; Ginny began to slowly make her way down the hill.

Lightning flashed across the sky just as Harry dove behind the large pot, narrowly escaping the dark lord’s curse.

Biting back a gasp at the sight, Ginny continued to make her way toward them, ignoring Voldemort’s laughter as it rang out across the valley.

“Get up,” she whispered, watching Harry as he crouched panting behind the huge pot.

“Come on, Potter!” Voldemort taunted, waving his wand in the air before another crack of thunder shook the ground.

Rising, Harry rounded the cauldron, throwing a series of curses as he moved. The wind whipped his robes around him and flung his wet hair across his face. To Ginny he’d never looked more like a man, older and harder than the boy she’d always loved, but no less precious.

Trying to move faster to get to him, Ginny slipped as the sodden grass gave way beneath her feet. With a sharp cry of surprise she tumbled the remaining distance down the hill, sliding to a stop on her stomach.

Pushing her sopping hair off of her face, she dragged herself up from the ground, her clothes caked with mud. Shaking out her arms, she grabbed her wand from where is lay in the muck.

At the sound of Harry’s scream, her head jerked toward him.

Her breath caught when she found him on the ground, covered in the contents of the now spilled cauldron. The liquid steamed up from his body, almost as though he was on fire. Coughing and choking, he rolled over, pulling himself shakily to his feet.

“Harry!” she shouted as she broke into a run, her voice drowned out by the rain and another rumble of thunder.

Time seemed to slow down when it happened. Before she could reach them, Harry and Voldemort shot the killing curse at the same time. As before, their wands locked, creating a barrier that Ginny couldn’t cross.

“No!” Ginny gasped, sliding to a stop at the edge.

Harry’s eyes moved from Voldemort to her as he struggled, his arms shaking and his jaw clenched. Voldemort’s laughter echoed in the background but Ginny couldn’t look away from his face.

Despite the tears rolling down her cheeks, she broke into a smile. He was beautiful and perfect and the love she felt for him swelled inside of her, nearly overwhelming in its intensity.

“I love you,” she said, reaching out her hand to him.

His eyes flashed at her words before he shut them and cried out. Suddenly, and with surprising speed, the ball of magic shot toward Voldemort, slamming into his chest and causing him to arch back.

With a cry of relief, Ginny’s hands flew to her mouth. Her eyes widened in horror an instant later, when something seemed to bounce back, speeding toward Harry and blasting him into the air.

“HARRY!” she screamed, dropping her hands.

He tumbled over the cauldron as Voldemort crumpled, lifeless, to the ground. The barrier around them dropped as Harry skidded to a stop facedown in the mud, his skin glowing faintly crimson before it faded.

“HARRY!”

Ginny ran to him, her hair whipping against her face as the wind swirled. Before she could reach him a bolt of lightening struck the circle, throwing her backwards as she screamed.

Harry flew into the air with a cry, his arms and legs spread as the blue electric current seemed to encircle his body. For an unnaturally long moment he seemed to hang suspended in the air before falling back to the ground.

As he landed on the grass, the rain stopped. In fact, at that moment, everything stopped. The wind, the rain, the lightening…it was as if the earth had gone still, frozen.

Pushing herself up, Ginny ran to him and dropped to her knees beside him.

“Harry…Harry talk to me…”

His body trembled violently under her touch, his teeth chattering and his eyes squeezed shut. He was covered in blood, mud and the liquid from the cauldron.

“Stay with me…”

With a sudden cry, his body jerked forcefully before becoming still.

“NO!”

Ginny shook him as she cried, screaming his name and leaning over him to wipe the muck off his face.

“Please don’t leave me,” she pleaded, sobbing. “I’m so sorry…I…I couldn’t find you.”

She didn’t notice as Order members began to appear on the horizon. Dumbledore led the way as he made his way down the hill. Running to them, his eyes fell upon Voldemort’s body before looking around at the overturned cauldron and the other remnants of the ritual.

“What happened?” he demanded, dropping to his knees across from her. “Is he breathing?”

“I don’t…I…I don’t know what happened,” Ginny choked out against Harry’s shirt.

“Let me see him,” Dumbledore ordered.

Feeling Harry shift under her, Ginny looked up with a strangled gasp.

“Harry?” she whimpered, ignoring Dumbledore as she took Harry’s face in her hands. “Oh, God please…”

Choking on her tears as she watched his eyes begin moving under his eyelids, she leaned down and kissed him.

“Please, wake up,” she whispered against his lips.

Suddenly his body arched, a pulse of power knocking Ginny back on her heels.

“Ginevra, get away from him,” Dumbledore ordered.

“Harry!” Ginny cried. “Harry…”

The dripping strands of her hair formed a curtain around their faces as she brought her shaking hands to his cheeks again and wiped the mud and blood off his skin.

Shifting his face toward her touch, Harry groaned softly before another tremor wracked his body. Hissing in a breath, his eyes finally snapped open. No longer green and vibrant, they were black and hard as he stared up at her.

A second later, Ginny flew away from him, landing hard on the ground ten yards away. Stunned, she lay on her back as the sky seemed to open up again.

Blinking against the falling rain, she began to sit up as lightening streaked the darkness with a vengeance. The Thunder followed, loud and echoing, sending a shockwave of fear through her body.

Before she could get to her feet, Harry was upon her, shoving her back down as his hand wrapped around her throat. Leaning over her with a cruel smile, he cut off her air as she struggled beneath him...


Tears rolled down Ginny’s face as she stared unseeing at the dark stone ceiling.

Harry had almost killed her that night. As the storm raged, the Aurors had tried to subdue him, not sure why they were having so much trouble doing it. At one point they’d managed to get him away from her, but it hadn’t made much difference. He’d simply narrowed his eyes and sent her flying into the cauldron with a crack. Before they were able to stun him, he’d broken her arm and several of her ribs.

Horrified by her memories, Ginny covered her eyes with her hands, crying harder as she remembered.

Her entire body ached as Bill carried her through the halls of Hogwarts.

“Where’s Harry?” she asked again, her throat sore and her voice scratchy.

“On the other side of the castle,” Bill answered, carrying her into the Hospital Wing as George held open the door. “Don’t worry about him right now.”

“What’s wrong with him?”

“We don’t know, princess,” Bill murmured, watching Percy head for Madame Pomfrey’s office. “Let’s just take care of you for right now. We need to make sure you’re ok.”

“I’m fine…I want to see him,” Ginny insisted stubbornly, trying to leave as soon as Bill set her on the bed. “Ow…ah…”

“Don’t move,” Bill said worriedly, catching her and guiding her back down onto the bed. “You’re bleeding and your arm is broken.”

“But Harry…”

Placing his finger against her lips, Bill knelt next to her bed. Behind him Fred and George looked on fearfully.

“You’re hurt, Ginny,” Bill whispered tenderly, mindful of her bruises as he stroked her hair. “You’ll be of no use to him like this.”

“But he’ll be ok, right?” Ginny asked, her voice trembling.

His answer was cut off as Madame Pomfrey arrived, shooing Bill away so that she could get to the bed…


The door banged open, jerking Ginny out of her memories.

Sitting up, she climbed hastily to her feet as Malfoy entered the room. Swiping at her eyes with the back of her hand, she backed away as he approached. Eyeing him warily, she stopped moving only when her back hit the wall.

She remembered him now too. Although his face was harder, older and his body more filled out, she recognized the boy she’d seen every year at Hogwarts. No longer just a name and a face, memories of the cruel, cowardly boy he’d been at school rushed back.

“Well, look what we have here…”

Ginny glanced up from her revisions to find Draco standing beside her table with his arms crossed. Flanking him were Crabbe and Goyle, identical smirks on their faces.

“Go away,” she said in an indifferent voice as she returned to her work, her quill scratching across her parchment.

Moving suddenly, Draco leaned in, one hand landing on her work while the other gripped the back of her chair.

Ginny’s eyes narrowed as he intentionally smudged what she’d just written with his thumb.

“Where’s Potter?” he asked. His breath stirred her hair, the smell of Firewhiskey sending a shiver of revulsion down her spine.

Every rebellious bone in her body urged her to respond, but instead she simply gritted her teeth. She’d promised Harry that she would ignore Malfoy from now on, since their last encounter had landed her in detention.

“Is the littlest Weasel all alone again?” Malfoy purred, running a pale finger across the back of her hand and leaving a streak of ink. “Is Potter off with his…”

Standing up suddenly, Ginny shoved him away.

“Well, that’s rather unfriendly of you,” Malfoy told her, taking a step toward her again.

“I’m not in the mood, Malfoy,” she warned as she began gathering up her work and stuffing it into her bag.

“Oh...she’s not in the mood,” Goyle sniggered to Malfoy and Crabbe, his voice grating and suggestive.

“What’s the problem?” Malfoy taunted. “Potter not doing it for you anymore?”

“Shut up, Malfoy,” Ginny replied sharply.

“I think I’ve struck a nerve,” he smirked, a grin of victory forming on his lips. “I can’t say I’m surprised,” Malfoy continued. “I mean he is only a half-blood and…”

“Yeah, whatever,” she retorted. “Why don’t you go bother someone else?”

“No one else is as fun to bother as you are,” he replied.

“Shove off, Malfoy,” Ginny glared as she pushed past him.

“So touchy,” Malfoy sneered, grabbing her arm and spinning her back toward him. “Feeling a bit...frustrated?”

When Ginny just glared at him, it only seemed to fuel his fire.

“All this anger isn’t healthy, you know. I think you need to find a way to work it all out,” he told her as he ran his eyes down her front. “You may be a Weasley, but I’m more than willing to help you with that.”

“I don’t touch vermin,” Ginny replied, jerking her arm out of his grasp and stepping back.

Spinning on her heel, she slung her bag over her shoulder as she headed down the nearest aisle toward the library exit.

Glancing over her shoulder, she was relieved to see that they weren’t following her. After turning two more corners however, her relief turned to dread when she found Crabbe and Goyle lounging against the shelves at the end of the row.

Slowing her steps, Ginny pulled up the flap of her bag. Reaching inside, she felt around for her wand, keeping her eyes on Crabbe and Goyle as they watched her.

Goyle’s eyes flicked behind her and she cursed, beginning to spin around.

Malfoy caught her halfway, one arm wrapping around her stomach while the other yanked her hand out of her bag.

“Let go of me,” Ginny ordered.

“Now, now,” he scolded, releasing her wrist to pull her bag from her shoulder and fling it away. “You know they’re no match for you if you have your wand,” he said, pulling her tight against him.

“Don’t you mean you’re not?” Ginny replied sharply. “If you look at our history, I’d say it’s more for your safety than theirs that you don’t want me armed.”

“Funny,” he sneered.

“Come on, Malfoy,” Ginny challenged, “let me get my wand and then we’ll play. That is...if you’re man enough…”

“Oh, we’re going to play,” Malfoy assured her, walking her forward toward the shelf of books. “But I have a different game.”

“Don’t be stupid,” Ginny warned him, pushing back against him as he forced her forward.

“Watch for Pince,” Malfoy told Crabbe and Goyle, who promptly disappeared around the corner of the shelves.

Spinning her around, Malfoy trapped her back against the shelf.

“You’ll like this game,” he promised, his hand moving roughly against her face before tangling into her hair. “It called…Let’s find out what Potter sees in a blood-traitor like you…”

“Touch me and I’ll have you expelled before you can call for your daddy.”

“I’ll risk it,” he smiled cruelly.

Anger rushed through Ginny as she twisted against him. His hand clamped down over her mouth, smothering her sounds as her nails raised angry red streaks on his cheek. Despite her struggles and increasing fear, his larger size and strength kept her pinned.

Shutting her eyes, Ginny drew on everything she had as she tried to remember the last few DA meetings. To her surprise and relief, Malfoy went flying into the opposite shelf a few seconds later.

Not stopping to celebrate her wandless accomplishment, Ginny took off at a run. Grabbing the edge of the shelf she skidded around the end of the aisle and ran right into a person walking quickly the other way.

“Ginny?”

The Marauder’s map fluttered to the floor as Harry’s hands landed on her shoulders, steadying her.

“Hey, I was just…”

Harry trailed off as she looked up. His eyes moved from her tangled hair and flushed cheeks to her shirt where it hung haphazardly pulled out of her skirt. His hands tightened on her shoulders as his body snapped to alert.

“What did he do?”

“I’m fine,” she said, despite the fact that she was trembling.

“Ginny…” Harry began.

“You bitch,” Malfoy’s voice interrupted a second later before he rounded the corner.

Ginny turned angrily toward him at the same time Harry drew his wand.


“Tears of joy?” Malfoy asked, drawing Ginny back to the present. A smile played on his lips as he eyed her wet cheeks.

“Stay away from me,” Ginny glared.

“Oh, now that wouldn’t be much fun, would it?”

“You won’t get what you want, Malfoy…not from me.”

“Put this on,” Draco sneered, tossing a long white nightgown to her.

Catching it automatically, Ginny threw it down without looking at it.

“I don’t think so,” she replied, crossing her arms.

Closing the distance between them, Malfoy caught her shoulders, pinning her to the wall as he brought his face toward hers.

“You’ve caused me a lot of hassle,” he told her grimly, squeezing her arms with enough force to leave a mark. “It will not help you to make me angry.”

“You don’t scare me, ferret,” Ginny replied, her eyes glinting defiantly at him.

Malfoy froze, his eyes widening before narrowing to slits. For a moment he stared at her, his jaw clenched tightly before he managed to grit out a reply.

What did you call me?”

“I called you a ferret, Malfoy,” Ginny enunciated slowly. Her eyes glittered as she remembered how he got the nickname. “Draco Malfoy, the amazing…bouncing…ferret,” she mused with a smirk. “Moody really knew just what to do with you…”

“Shut up.”

“Whose pants did you visit that day, ferret?”

Tugging her away from the wall, Malfoy slammed her back against it, knocking her head hard on the stones.

“Call me that again and I’ll kill you right now,” he hissed.

“No, you won’t,” Ginny gasped, blinking to clear her vision. “You need me.”

“Wrong,” Malfoy answered. “I want you. But push me too far and I’ll use the other one.”

“The other…” Ginny paused in confusion. “What?”

“The other girl,” he clarified irritably. “When you and…Potter disappeared, I had to come up with a backup.”

“You can’t…you can’t just use people like this,” Ginny said, her stomach clenching at the thought of the girl locked up in another room. “It’s sick…”

It’s sick,” Malfoy mimicked before his expression hardened. “What are a few pathetic lives compared to what I’m going to get in return?”

“You’re disgusting…”

“And you’re boring me,” Malfoy cut her off. “Put on the nightgown or...”

“I’m not afraid of you.”

“Then you’re a fool,” he warned her.

For a tense moment, he held her gaze before leaning in and kissing her neck just under her jaw

Ginny’s stomach turned over and she squeezed her eyes shut, trying not to squirm under his touch.

“Get away from me,” she gritted out.

“Put the gown on, Ginevra,” he whispered into her ear. Grabbing her face, he turned her so that she was looking at him. “Put it on or I’ll put it on for you,” he threatened, releasing her shoulder and running his hand down her body.

Ginny tried to jerk away from his touch but he held her in place.

“I have to wait a little longer to take you, but there are lots of other things we could do before then,” he said in a silky voice.

Suddenly angry, Ginny didn’t think, she simply acted. Shoving her hand against his chest, she cast a shocking hex with the wandless ability she hadn’t remembered having before.

With a shout of pain, Malfoy jerked away from her.

“What the…”

Ginny didn’t let him finish as she extended her arm, palm facing out. A purple flash shot towards him and hit his shoulder, sending him across the small room and into the wall.

“Bloody wandless,” Malfoy barked with a grimace.

For a moment, Malfoy was on the defensive, dodging Ginny’s spells as he tried to get his wand out of his robes. Finally swinging around, he hit Ginny with a tripping spell, sending her down on her hands and knees.

Finicurcum!” Malfoy snarled.

Ginny looked up with a glare when she heard his spell. Rising up on her knees, she sent a wandless stunning spell shooting toward him, testing his magic. Instead of reaching him, it impacted with an invisible barrier a few feet in front of her, causing it to glow gold for a few seconds before dissipating.

Malfoy broke into a sly grin as he began to cross back toward her. He twirled his wand in his fingers as he watched her stand up.

“Now, where were we?” he mused, following her when she began to back away. “Oh yes…I was going to help you change.”

Ginny tried to dart past him, but a flick of his wand pinned her back against the wall. Her face flushed with defiance, Ginny struggled to move while he closed the distance between them.

As he took hold of her shirt, the door to the room opened and someone cleared their throat. Ginny’s eyes went to the door and after a moment’s hesitation Malfoy stepped away from her.

“Pity,” he smirked before turning around. “What is it, Goyle?”

“They’re here.”

Malfoy’s eyes flashed with anticipation as he moved toward the door. “Perfect. Get everything ready.”

Releasing Ginny from the wall as he left, she sank to the floor, drawing her knees to her chest.

Picking up the nightgown beside her, she turned it over in her hands. It was simple, with thin straps and small white flowers embroidered across the fabric. She almost ripped it up, but the thought of Malfoy’s threat to help her change made her pause.

After a minute she stood up and quickly changed into it. It fit her like a glove, the soft folds falling away from the empire bodice. Sitting back down, Ginny tried not to think about why he knew her size so well.

~..~..~..~..~..~

Dumbledore walked slowly through the house, his wand in hand and the strongest shield he could produce cast around him. Checking each room on the first floor, he made his way toward Snape’s study. When he reached it, the door and half of the left wall were on the floor.

Stepping cautiously through the opening and into the room, Dumbledore assessed the damage.

It was all but destroyed; splintered wood from what used to be the desk, furniture and shelves littered the floor. Books, papers and shards of glass mixed in with the debris, some of which was smoldering slowly. Several of Malfoy’s wizards hadn’t made it out in time, and lay crumpled in their cloaks.

In the center of the wreckage, Harry was kneeling on the floor. His head was down and his wand hung loosely in his hand. Dumbledore could see his shoulders trembling.

“Harry,” he said, moving carefully as he approached. “Can you hear me?”

Harry didn’t respond, but rolled his head to the side, stretching his neck.

“Do you want me to help you?” Dumbledore asked.

For a moment, Harry remained silent as his jaw clenched. His hand tightened around his wand and his brow furrowed before he nodded his head sharply.

Coming to stand in front of the young wizard, Dumbledore raised his wand and set the tip lightly against Harry’s chest. When Harry made no move to respond beyond taking a steadying breath, Dumbledore spoke the familiar incantation.

Poleo-Consocio!”

Harry’s body arched up with a gasp and his black eyes flew open.

Dark energy rushed up Dumbledore’s wand and into his body, causing him to shift his feet to steady his stance. Closing his eyes, Dumbledore breathed deeply as he siphoned off a bit of Harry’s power, temporarily taking it into himself.

It was something he’d done countless times over the years as he’d helped Harry regain control and learn how to deal with his power. An archaic spell, it was used by wizards who needed or wanted to share power for a limited amount of time.

When the connection was broken, Harry collapsed forward with a groan.

Dumbledore stood still, his head down as he mastered the darkness inside of him. It was only a small portion of what Harry dealt with on a daily bases, but still it took several moments for him to feel steady again. Finally, his eyes flicked open, unnaturally dark as he looked down on Harry.

Biting his lower lip, Harry remained on the floor while he worked to bring himself back under control. With the edge taken off, it was easier to regain command of his mind and push the darkness down.

As the minutes passed, the borrowed magic slowly seeped back, leaving Dumbledore and returning to Harry. Eventually, he straightened slowly, looking around at the destruction. He counted three hooded wizards before moving his attention to Dumbledore.

“How are you feeling?” Dumbledore asked, scanning Harry’s eyes.

“How do you think I’m feeling?” Harry replied, his jaw clenched.

Shaking out his arms as he stood up, Harry briefly pressed his palms against his face before looking around again.

“We need to get to the Ministry,” Dumbledore stated, watching Harry as he crossed to the closest of Malfoy’s men.

We don’t need to do anything,” Harry replied nudging the man with his foot and receiving a moan in response.

“Harry…”

“I don’t want your help!” Harry exclaimed angrily, spinning toward Dumbledore. “This is your fault.”

“We have to work together now,” Dumbledore insisted. “You know that. We all want her back safe and to do that we have to help each other.”

“I don’t see why,” Harry shot back. “You weren’t helping when you attacked us.”

“That was different.”

“You should’ve been fighting Malfoy’s men…not me.”

“Standing here arguing is not going to get her back,” Dumbledore replied evenly. “We don’t have a lot of time.”

Harry glowered at him for a minute before looking away. Raking his fingers through his hair with a curse, he leaned down, hauling the injured wizard up by the arm.

The sound of footsteps in the hall drew his attention and Harry looked over. As he watched, Snape appeared in what used to be the doorway, eyeing the wreckage with narrowed eyes before entering the room.

Releasing Malfoy’s henchman, Harry crossed to Snape in three strides. Ignoring Dumbledore’s call, he shoved Snape backwards into the wall, one hand on his shoulder and the other wrapped around his throat.

“What did you do to her?” Harry demanded furiously.

His only response was a gurgling sound as Snape’s face began to flush.

A second later, a pair of hands wrapped around Harry’s shoulders and dragged him back. Snape came too, staggering forward when Harry didn’t release him.

“Tell me what you did, you bastard,” Harry growled.

“Shite, Harry,” Ron’s voice sounded near his ear. “Let him go, he can’t breathe!”

Another pair of hands grabbed onto Harry, helping Ron pull him away. Charlie appeared behind Snape, dragging him in the opposite direction.

Finally letting go, Harry wrenched himself out of the hands holding him and spun around.

Ron and Fred stood before him, their eyes wary as they watched him.

Harry glared at them for a moment before his eyes flicked to the other men in the room. Remus, Bill and Arthur stood near Dumbledore while the rest were beginning to deal with Malfoy’s fallen men.

Harry’s stomach turned as he eyed Sam kneeling over a crumpled form he hadn’t noticed before. Buried half under a fallen piece of the ceiling, the man was obviously dead; his neck bent at an unnatural angle.

“It’s not your fault,” Ron said softly, stepping up beside him. “He was one of Malfoy’s.”

Without a word, Harry turned away, walking back across the room with trembling hands.

“Harry…”

Reaching the man he’d checked on earlier, Harry pulled him up from the floor.

“Harry, wait,” Ron called as Harry Apparated away to the Ministry. “Dammit!”

“Follow him,” Dumbledore instructed promptly, gesturing to Ron with his hand.

Not questioning the order, Ron disappeared with a pop.

Turning to Snape, Dumbledore began crossing to him through the rubble.

“Severus, what did you do to her?” he asked, drawing the Weasleys’ interest instantly. “What did Harry mean?”

“Nothing. I just told her the truth,” Snape said, rubbing his neck. “I broke the charm on her.”

Dumbledore stopped walking as the room froze in shock.

“You told her...What?” Arthur asked faintly.

“Don’t look so surprised,” Snape said, glancing around. “They were going to run again and you didn’t see them…. it was only a matter of time before the protection disintegrated completely. I had to do something and I thought if she remembered she might leave on her own. Telling her doesn’t hurt anything…”

“Only her,” Remus pointed out.

“The pain only last a few minutes,” Severus shrugged.

“That’s not what I meant,” Remus snapped back.

For a second there was silence before Bill cursed under his breath.

“At least she’ll know Malfoy and his goons,” Fred said with a frown.

“We’ll deal with what this means once we get her back,” Dumbledore decided. “Our priority is keeping Malfoy from completing the ritual and making this whole thing worse.”

~..~..~..~..~..~

Harry arrived at the end of a long grey hallway. On his right were a series of doors, each with a torch mounted on the wall above them. Most of the flames were green, although a few were glowing crimson.

With a pop, Ron arrived behind him.

Ignoring his friend’s appearance, Harry took the groggy wizard to the nearest available room and pulled open the door. Shoving the man inside, he slammed the door, listening to the locks roll into place while the enchanted flame shifted from green to red.

As soon as the holding cell was secure, Harry headed down the hall, away from Ron.

“Harry, wait,” Ron called, walking quickly to join him.

“Don’t talk to me,” Harry warned, his eyes flicking to his best friend as he drew level with him. “The only reason I’m here right now is to get her back…after that I’m gone…”

“Be reasonable…”

Reasonable?” Harry echoed incredulously as he spun toward him.

“Look, I know you’re confused and upset,” Ron conceded, nodding, “and I don’t blame you but…”

“I don’t want to hear what you have to say, Ron!” Harry cut him off furiously. “You let this happen. You let them reassign me. You let us come to the Ministry with no warning…no help…”

“That’s not what happened,” Ron insisted.

“Really?” Harry demanded scornfully. “Because what I remember are Fred and George being the only ones backing me up while my best friend was nowhere to be seen…”

“I didn’t…”

The sound of several more pops interrupted their conversation. Looking over, Harry watched as Kingsley and Moody deposited two more wizards into cells.

Grabbing Harry’s sleeve, Ron stepped closer, lowering his voice.

“I didn’t know what they were trying to do. I didn’t know a lot of things. But you know me…”

With a derisive snort Harry pulled his arm away.

“You know me,” Ron implored. “I wouldn’t have let you walk in here if I knew what was going to happen.”

“Really? So you don’t want us apart?” Harry demanded, looking back at him “When I find her you’re going to be on our side?”

“I…” Ron hesitated, his eyes conflicted.

“That’s what I thought,” Harry said in disgust. “Just...stay out of my way.”

“Stop it,” Ron snapped, his face flushing with anger. “We’re going to find Ginny and then I’m going to help you fix this. Hermione will fix this.”

“Fix what?” Harry shot back. “What do you know about the Fidelius?”

“You know I can’t tell you,” Ron replied. “But Hermione and I will help you, as soon as we stop Malfoy. I’m on your side, Harry. I’ll always be on your side.”

~..~..~..~..~..~

“You’ll be happy to know, things are moving right along…”

Hermione looked over at the sound of Malfoy’s voice. Not rising from where she sat against the wall, she raked her eyes over him with open contempt on her face.

“No need to look so down, Granger,” Malfoy sneered as he approached. With a flick of his wand, Hermione’s hands flew from her lap to the wall, magically bound on either side of her. “This will all be over soon.”

“What am I doing here?” she glared at him. “You don’t need me.”

“Oh, you’re wrong about that,” he disagreed, conjuring a comfy wingback chair and sinking down into it.

Crossing his right leg over his left, he let his wand dangle loosely from his hand as he stared at her.

“I don’t fit any of the requirements for the ritual,” Hermione insisted, shaking her head, “And I’ll never help you get Ginny…”

Malfoy laughed, his grey eyes boring into her.

“I don’t need help getting her anymore.”

“What?” Hermione asked her heart dropping. “What do you mean?”

“Oh, I have Ginevra,” Malfoy admitted snidely, watching Hermione’s face pale. “What I need is a Pureblood.”

“But I’m not a…”

Think Granger,” Malfoy snapped impatiently. “You know what I’m trying to do…what I need to do it. It’s no fun if I have to spell it out for you.”

“You have loads of Purebloods to choose from,” she said, running through what she knew the ritual entailed.

“I need an expendable Pureblood,” Malfoy explained. Shifting, he uncrossed his legs and leaned forward on his elbows. “Someone I don’t mind killing. Preferably, someone I would just love to kill…slowly and painfully and just the way he deserves.”

His lips curled into a cruel smirk as he watched realization dawn.

“Do you know anyone who fits that description, Mudblood?”

“No,” Hermione breathed, her face white as she shook her head. “No.

“It’s going to be perfect,” Malfoy smiled. “Harry’s really going to wish he was here with you…and Ginny…and Ron.”

No. Ron’s not that reckless,” Hermione said firmly. “He knows what’s at stake. He won’t come.”

“Really?” Malfoy asked as he considered her. “He won’t come? Even for you? I’m pretty sure he won’t be able to stop himself.”

Hermione shook her head, blinking back tears as she instinctively curled her knees up against her stomach.

“Oh come on, Hermione,” Malfoy pushed as his voice hardened. “We both know he’ll do anything to save you. Anything.”

Hermione closed her eyes, knowing automatically what he meant.

“Where is he?” Lucius asked, his voice smooth and cruel in the dark chamber.

Shaking her head, Hermione’s body throbbed, her wrists raw and bleeding in the manacles. Shutting her eyes, she cried out hoarsely as she doubled over from the effects of yet another Cruciatus curse.

“MALFOY!”

Hermione wrenched her head up at the sound of his voice.

“Ron,” Hermione choked out. “No…”

Standing in the doorway, Ron held a statuesque blonde woman with his wand against her throat. There was no mistaking the fury in his expression, his body practically trembling as he pushed the woman one step into the room.

“Want to trade?”

“You stupid boy…”


Taking a breath, Hermione opened her eyes. It had all gone horribly wrong and it was only because Harry had managed to arrive in time that both she and Ron had come out alive.

“It was a war, Draco,” Hermione said tremulously, fighting back tears. “People get killed.”

“They were my parents!” Malfoy exclaimed, standing up.

“And they were murderers too!” Hermione shot back. “We’ve all killed people, Malfoy. It was a war. Horrible things happened.”

“That doesn’t make it better.”

“You’re such a hypocrite,” Hermione said angrily, shaking her head. “What was he supposed to do? They were going to kill me.”

“Yes, they were,” Malfoy agreed. Crossing swiftly toward her, he pushed his wand against her throat, tilting her head back as he stared down at her. “Don’t think I’ve forgotten that,” he told her softly as he studied her face. “I hate to leave things…unfinished.”

“This isn’t going to work,” Hermione gritted out. “Even if Ron does come, Harry won’t let this happen.”

Harry isn’t going to get here until I’m ready to let him find us.”

Hermione didn’t reply, but her lips quirked slightly, as though she knew something he didn’t. For a second Malfoy stared at her, trying to read her expression before spinning away.

“But one step at a time,” he said lightly, pulling an envelope out of his robes. “You see,” he said, turning back with a smile that was anything but comforting, “I have this letter that explains exactly why your husband should come meet me. All I need is something to prove I actually have you. Now…what should we send him?”

~..~..~..~..~..~

Harry slammed the door to the interrogation room as he left.

“They don’t know anything.”

“You don’t know that for sure,” Ron said falling into step beside him. “Remus is checking on the house you saw…if that doesn’t pan out, we’ll keep trying.”

“It’s been over an hour!” Harry snapped, his voice trembling slightly. “The only thing they know is that these damn Portkeys, which are no longer active, of course, were going to take them to an unknown location.”

“Leave it to Malfoy not to trust his own men,” Ron said shaking his head.

“It was smart…there’s no way to get anything from them.”

“There’s got to be something, Harry.”

“There’s nothing,” Harry replied angrily. Stopping abruptly, he looked down at the useless rings in his hand. Unable to fight his growing panic he heaved the Portkeys at the wall.

“Harry…”

“What!?”

“Calm down,” Ron said, walking across the hall to pick up the rings.

Harry watched him silently before sagging back against the wall. Suddenly the desperation was pressing in on him, suffocating him with fears of being too late.

“What if I don’t find her?” Harry asked, meeting Ron’s gaze when he turned back around. “What if…I promised her, Ron. I promised…”

“I know you did,” Ron said.

“I love her,” Harry whispered looking down at the floor.

“I know…”

“I don’t know what to do to find her,” he admitted tremulously. “And if she dies because I can’t…If he hurts her…I…”

Ron didn’t reply for a moment, thrown by the open despair in his friend’s voice.

“It’s not going to happen,” Ron finally said, his voice firm. “Malfoy doesn’t get to win. His men didn’t have anything for us, so we’ll just have to find another way.”

“Harry, Ron!” Remus called, walking purposefully down the hall.

“Anything?” Harry asked, shifting instantly from anguish to anticipation as he straightened.

“We think we may have found the house you saw in Dorant’s memories, looks to be recently abandoned.”

“Who’s there?” Harry asked as he and Ron fell into step on either side of Remus.

“Moody and Nymphadora…”

Half an hour later, Harry stood on the second floor of a small country home in Wales. His eyes were shut and his hands hung loosely by his sides while he searched for magic in and around the house. He could feel traces of the wards and unplottable magic that had recently been removed, but the only active magic in the area came from the other Aurors.

As he searched, his energy seemed to slowly begin to shift, pulling more forcefully in one direction than all the others. His power rumbled within him, coursing up through his veins as the pull became stronger.

Wincing, Harry pulled his magic back into himself. Although he’d felt more in control over the last few hours, this was just another reminder that was happening to him...whatever was causing his instability...hadn’t gone away when Ginny was abducted.

“There’s nothing else here,” Tonks said, her hands resting on her hips as she gazed around the room.

“No,” Harry agreed, opening his eyes and raking his fingers through his hair in frustration. “Let’s go, we’re wasting time.”

“We can search the village…the woods…”

“Fine,” Harry said shortly. “But Ginny isn’t anywhere near here.”

“You don’t know that.”

Harry remained silent, not willing to argue despite the fact that he seemed to simply know that Ginny wasn’t nearby and never had been.

Walking over to the table, he stared at the small ivory bloom of Black Hellebore lying forgotten on the floor. Fighting down the panic that came with knowing Malfoy had undoubtedly finished the potion, he crouched down, picking up the tiny plant. Rolling it between his fingers, he tried to come up with his next step in his mind.

The problem was, he couldn’t seem to think. All he could see were Ginny’s eyes…the agony and the fear in them before she had disappeared.

“Ready to go?” Ron asked, coming up beside him.

Crushing the plant in his fist, Harry stood up.

“Yeah.”

Arriving back at the Ministry, Harry and Ron headed straight to where the rest of the Weasleys were clumped around a few desks. Their stance was tense, their heads ducked as they talked seriously.

“Hey, Ron, wait up,” Sam called from behind them.

Harry continued on, while Ron paused and turned back.

“Mullinsky,” he greeted.

“This came for you,” Sam said, holding out an envelope.

“Really?” Ron asked, taking the small package. “What is it?”

Shrugging, Sam headed back the way he came, disappearing around the corner as Ron turned the envelope over in his hands. It was small, but lumpy, obviously holding more than just a letter.

He didn’t recognize the handwriting as he slid his finger underneath the fold and broke the seal. Flipping open the flap, he pulled out the note inside.

“Ron, come look at this,” Bill said from a few desks over.

“Yeah, in a sec,” Ron replied as he dumped the contents of the envelope into his palm. “I’m just…”

Trailing off, Ron’s body went numb as he stared at the two rings in his left hand. One was a simple gold band, while the other had a small solitary diamond. On the inside of each one he could just make out the engraved initials. There was a lock of hair wound through the center of each perfect circle, soft and wavy as it lay across his palm.

Struggling to breathe, he dragged his eyes back to the parchment he held in his right hand. Forcing his brain to work, he read from one word to the next until the sentences made sense in his mind.

Malfoy had Hermione.

Malfoy had his wife and, unknowingly, his child, locked up in a room somewhere.

“Ron?” Charlie called from across the room. “Ron, are you ok? You look sick.”

Gasping as he realized he hadn’t been breathing, Ron lunged for the trash bin, where he promptly emptied his stomach. Tears pooled in his eyes as his body heaved.

“Merlin, Ron!” Harry’s voice said from behind him.

Shoving the bin aside, Ron curled over, his heart racing.

“I’m ok,” he muttered.

“You don’t look ok,” Fred said.

“I’m fine, back off!” he snapped, climbing to his feet.

Keeping his back to the room, he quickly dug into the envelope for the small pendant. The warning to not tell anyone, unless he wanted to find Hermione in pieces, was flashing in his mind. He didn’t for a second believe that Malfoy was lying.

“I’m sorry, Harry,” he said gruffly, activating the pendant.

“What?” Harry asked, stepping up beside him. “Ron, what? What’s going on?” he asked, grabbing Ron’s shoulder and turning him. “What are you holding?”

“Don’t!” Ron backed away quickly, his eyes full of desperation and grief when they met Harry’s. “I have to go…”

Acting on instinct, Harry lunged for him, snatching the paper from his hand just as Ron disappeared.

“Ron!”

Outbursts and questions came from the rest of the Weasley brothers as Harry looked down at the paper. It was ripped, but he could make out most of the message. As he read it, a loud buzzing began in his ears as the room began to sway.

“What’s going on, Harry?” Arthur’s voice demanded from beside him.

“I…get to the Burrow,” he forced out faintly.

“The Burrow? Why? What’s happened?”

Shutting his eyes, Harry passed the letter to Arthur. Pressing his palms into his eyes, he listened silently to the horrified response of Ron’s family as they read the note. Finally lowering his hands, he took the letter back from Fred. Crossing the large room to Remus’ office, Harry fought for control as he heard the Weasley’s voices behind him.

“…at the Burrow…She was with Mum…Molly…We’ll check on her dad…I’ll go with you…”

Pushing open the door to the office, Harry entered without a knock. Dumbledore was standing at the window, his hands clasped behind his back.

“Ron’s gone.”

“What?” Dumbledore asked, turning to face him.

“He’s gone,” Harry repeated. His hand was shaking as he tossed the letter onto Remus’ desk.

Crossing from the window, Dumbledore picked up the parchment and scanned is quickly. As he read, his expression turned bleak before he finally sank down into a chair. He looked much older as he folded the note and placed it back onto the desk.

“This, I did not anticipate,” he admitted quietly.

“He has them all now,” Harry managed. “It’s only a matter of time before he sends me a letter too.”

“Yes,” Dumbledore sighed, bringing his fingers to his temples. “But not until after the ritual. He’ll want to gloat when it’s over.”

“Damnit!” Harry cried, slamming his hands onto the desk. Lowering his head he rocked back on his heels as he took an unsteady breath. “How did this happen?”

Dumbledore didn’t reply for several moments. When he finally did speak, his voice was resigned.

“We’re not going to find them, Harry.”

Harry went cold at the softly spoken words.

“Yes, we will.”

Dumbledore met his gaze steadily when Harry looked up.

“Not the way we’re looking. Malfoy is too well hidden.”

“I’ll never stop looking,” Harry replied.

“I’m not suggesting that you do. But I think it’s time for you to truly start looking for her,” Dumbledore told him. “I had hoped his men would have something…would give us something. But it seems it’s up to you now.”

Harry straightened as his stomach churned uneasily at his words.

“I don’t understand.”

“I think you do,” Dumbledore disagreed, standing up. “I believe that if you really searched for her, you’d be able to find her.”

“Don’t talk in riddles,” Harry said through gritted teeth. “We don’t have time for that.”

“You can search for magic, Harry,” Dumbledore explained patiently. “Search for her.”

Harry stared at him as memories of the last time he’d tried to search for magic near Ginny came rushing in.

…he wasn’t expecting the surge that came when his magic hit Ginny’s.

Instead of continuing past her, outside of the cabin and into the woods, his energy seemed to change direction, focusing on hers as though drawn to a magnet. Staggering as his power awoke within him, Harry’s eyes snapped open.

“Harry?” she cried, her eyes wide. “What’s happening!?”

“Don’t move!” he yelled, gesturing for her to stay put.

With a cry he ripped his magic away from her, physically propelling himself backwards with the effort. He landed hard on the floor, his head hitting the wood with a thud. His magic receded back inside of him as he took a great gasping breath…


Dragging his fingers through his hair as his heart began to pound, Harry blinked the memory away.

Suddenly, the similarity of that moment to what he’d begun to feel in Malfoy’s abandoned house struck him. Even though what he’d felt earlier was nothing compared to the force of his moment with Ginny, the focus of his magic toward something specific was the same.

His chest beginning to ache, he contemplated the idea that the pull on his magic in Wales had actually been a pull toward her. Diminishing the automatic excitement at the thought, though, was the memory of the effect on his power in both situations.

“Even if I can search for her,” Harry considered, “she could be anywhere. I can’t just search the whole world.”

“Why not?”

“Why not? Because…because to do that would take…I don’t think…”

“You’d have to let yourself go, yes,” Dumbledore nodded. “But you can find her.”

“Even if I do, and manage to keep it together…you know he’s used a Fidelius. Without the Secret Keeper we’re still stuck.”

Dumbledore stared at him for a second before his eyes moved to the window.

“I believe,” he began, choosing his words carefully, “that if you want to find her, you’ll find her, Harry. If you want to get to her, you’ll get to her.”

“Why are you so sure?”

“Why are you unwilling to try?”

“Because I’m dangerous. I’m more dangerous than Malfoy.”

“Not right now.”

“But I will be,” Harry said in frustration. “If this actually works, what then? What if I get near her and I can’t…can’t stop…”

“Do you truly believe that would be a problem?” Dumbledore asked, studying him.

Harry didn’t reply initially as the images from his dreams of her bloody and broken beneath him flashed through his mind. Grimacing, he shut his eyes.

“I don’t know,” Harry admitted finally. “I just…I have trouble…keeping myself together around her.”

“I know,” Dumbledore said.

Harry looked up at him sharply. He had so many questions, but he knew there wasn’t time to get the answers he wanted.

“What if I hurt her?” Harry asked finally. “I know that’s what you’ve been afraid of. Why you wanted us apart.”

Dumbledore was silent for sev