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Protection by PrincessPotter
Chapter 12 : A Matter of Trust
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 110


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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!






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