Chapter 16 : Revelations
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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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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…”
“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?”
“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.
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?”
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.
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.
“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.
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…”
“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…”
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.
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.
“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 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.
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.
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.
“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? 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 several seconds before answering.
“I trust that you would do anything within your power to keep her safe, Harry,” Dumbledore told him soothingly.
“You didn’t seem to believe that before she was taken,” Harry replied angrily. “Tell me what’s going on,” he demanded. “Tell me about the Fidelius.”
“I can’t do that,” Dumbledore replied.
“There are things you can’t know right now. I will explain it to you, as best as I can, when this is over,” Dumbledore promised. “But you will have to trust me for a little while longer.”
Frustrated, Harry turned away and headed to the door.
“The clock is ticking, Harry. If you’re going to try, you need to do it now.”
Exiting without a reply, Harry stopped just outside the door. Looking around, he searched the expansive Auror office until he found who he wanted. Crossing to the far wall, he came up beside Bill who was staring at a large map of Great Britain.
“We’re running out of time.”
“I know,” Bill replied grimly, keeping his eyes on the map.
“Dumbledore thinks that I can find her if I search for her magic,” Harry said, watching Bill’s profile as he stiffened. “Do you think that?”
Slowly, Bill looked over at him. For a moment he was silent before he nodded.
“Yeah, I do.”
“But you’re not happy about it,” Harry noted
“No, I’m not,” Bill agreed with a frown. “But we don’t have a choice anymore, do we?”
“No,” Harry breathed.
Like Ginny and Hermione, Ron arrived in the center of an empty room. The torch flickered against the wall, casting shadows on the stone.
Dropping the note, Ron tucked Hermione’s rings into his pocket before he lifted his wand.
Turning in a circle, he found that the windowless chamber didn’t have door. Crossing to the wall in front of him, he walked swiftly around the room, trailing his hand along the stone, looking for a disguised entrance.
“Put your wand on the floor and walk to the center of the room.”
Freezing at Malfoy’s disembodied voice, Ron looked around.
“Do it, Weasley.”
“Let me see them first,” Ron answered, not moving.
“If you want to see either of them alive, do as I say,” came the cold response.
Gritting his teeth, Ron leaned down and placed his wand on the floor. Straightening slowly, he walked with measured steps back to the center of the room. As soon as he stopped, a ring of blue flame ignited around his feet. A shimmering wall shot from the flames to the ceiling, rustling his hair as it enclosed him.
Knowing better than to touch the iridescent barrier, Ron remained still, his eyes narrowed as he looked around the room. Finally, he saw Malfoy as he came around from behind him.
Not bothering to look at him, Draco crossed to where Ron had laid his wand, picked it up and then snapped it neatly in two. Tossing the pieces aside, he crossed back to stand directly in front of Ron.
“Weasley,” Malfoy said, his voice muffled by the wall of magic.
“Where are they?” Ron demanded.
“Somewhere else, obviously,” Malfoy answered, twirling his wand in his hand as he looked Ron up and down.
“Let me see them.”
“All in good time,” Malfoy replied, his lip curling into a sneer. “I just want to revel for a moment…”
“Malfoy, if you’ve hurt either of them, I swear I’ll kill you,” Ron promised his eyes dark with hatred.
The only response he received was an arch of Malfoy’s brow before he turned his back.
“Pity you won’t be alive to fulfill that promise,” he threw over his shoulder as he walked away. “Bring him.”
Two wizards Ron didn’t recognize appeared at Malfoy’s order. With a squelching sound the barrier dropped from the ceiling. Before Ron could move, the acid blue ring swirled up from the floor to bind his ankles. A strand broke off, snaking up his body to wrap securely around his wrists, binding his hands together.
One of the wizards grabbed his arm, spinning him around and forcing him toward the door that had appeared behind him. The glowing magical shackles gave him just enough room to walk as the two wizards led him out of the room and down a long hallway.
As soon as he was through the doorway, Ron began to struggle.
“HERMIONE!” he yelled, straining his neck as he looked around. “GINNY…”
“Shut it,” one of the wizards snarled, shoving Ron hard to the right.
Colliding with a small table set against the wall, Ron crashed to the floor with a curse. Unable to stop his fall, the side of his face slammed against the rough stone.
“Keep him quiet,” Malfoy’s voice sounded from the darkness ahead of them.
As Ron shook his head to clear it, one of the wizards grabbed his hair and forced his head back. At the same time, the other shoved a piece of cloth into his mouth, tying it tightly around his neck.
Dragging him up from the floor, the wizards held Ron between them as they continued on. His head was spinning and he could feel the trickle of blood from his temple as he walked.
There were few lights in the large old building, leaving his location hard to determine. Based on the absence of any outside noise, he guessed somewhere remote or forsaken.
After staggering up two sets of stairs, he was finally led into an enormous and virtually empty room. The ceiling was high, well above nine feet and the walls were adorned with large glass windows. The only piece of furniture in the room was an ornate king-sized bed, set against the wall in front of the door.
Ron’s anger rushed through him as he eyed the scarlet rose petals scattered across the black sheets. What typically would have been a romantic gesture was made crude and mocking by the circumstance.
“Do you think she’ll like it?” Malfoy asked maliciously as he watched Ron from the other side of the bed.
His response muffled, Ron’s face was red with fury as he was led past the end of the bed and pushed into the open space beyond.
The floor was covered with a large crimson, pentagon. Only recently completed, Ron could see the blood still glistening in some places as it dried. There were tall black candles already lit at each of the five points of the star. In the center was a huge bubbling copper cauldron.
Led to the far candle, Ron was placed just outside of the circle. As soon as he was in place, Malfoy flicked his wand. The binds securing Ron’s wrists shifted instantly, dragging his arms up and out above his head. He was pulled until he was stretched up slightly on his toes.
“Don’t wander off,” Malfoy told him sarcastically as he and his men left the room.
For about five minutes, Ron was left alone. Pulling on the magical manacles, he worked his jaw to try to get the gag out of his mouth. Eventually, he paused in his attempts, hearing movement in the hall.
The door to the room opened and Ron’s eyes narrowed as Malfoy and then Goyle entered. A second later, Hermione appeared behind them, her hands bound by the same blue binds that held Ron.
At his muffled exclamation, her eyes lifted to his.
“Ron!” She cried, panic filling her face. Her rush forward halted abruptly when Malfoy grabbed her and jerked her back against him. “Let me go! Ron!”
Ron twisted, straining to get closer as Malfoy held her securely.
“Oh, all right,” Malfoy relented in a bored voice, releasing her a second later.
Bolting across the room, Hermione skidded to a stop in front of Ron. Reaching up with her bound hands, she pulled the gag from his mouth with trembling fingers.
“Ron,” she whimpered, wiping the blood from his face. “What are you doing here?”
“Are you ok?” Ron asked at the same time, dipping his head so that his forehead pressed against hers. “Did they hurt you?”
Shaking her head, Hermione pulled on his shirt as she pressed closer.
“You shouldn’t have come here,” she told him desperately, her eyes full of tears. “What were you thinking?”
“You know me…always…”
“Don’t joke,” she cut him off softly as she began to cry. “He’s going to kill you…”
“Better me than you,” he whispered fervently.
“No,” she protested as he pressed his lips against hers.
Suddenly, dragged backwards by the binds on her wrists, Hermione cried out as she was turned.
“Ron!” Hermione screamed, tugging fruitlessly as the magic drew her arms over her head so that she was positioned on the edge of the pentagram near Ron.
“Leave her alone, Malfoy!” Ron yelled, straining on his bonds. “I came like you wanted; now keep your end of the deal!”
“You’re in no position to make demands,” Malfoy smirked.
“It’s not a demand,” Ron shot back, his face red as a vein throbbed in his neck. “Those were the terms for your trade! I stay and she goes free.”
“I won’t leave you here!” Hermione insisted.
“See?” Malfoy sneered, “She doesn’t want to leave. We’re about to make history after all…and she gets a ring-side seat.”
“You ruddy bastard!” Ron roared furiously, his body trembling as he strained forward. “You f…”
The rest of his curses were muffled as Malfoy sent his gag back into his mouth with a flick of his wand.
“You really should be thanking me,” Malfoy said to Hermione as he turned his attention toward her.
“Go to hell,” she replied coldly.
“Him first,” Malfoy shot back, pointing his wand at Ron.
Bill stood stiffly, his expression unconvinced as he looked at Harry.
“Are you sure you want me to do this?”
“I’m sure,” Harry nodded, holding out his arm. “Going with me isn’t really an option…but I want you to be able to find me.”
“Right, but why me?”
“Because,” Harry replied, exhaling with a quirk of his lips. “You don’t like me.”
“That’s not…” Bill trailed off with a frown. “It’s complicated.”
“It doesn’t matter…because I don’t like you much either,” Harry replied, his expression grim. “But whatever this is, it’s about protecting Ginny. Your loyalty is to her. I trust you to keep her safe…even from me, if…if you need to. I know you’ll do that first and always, no matter what that means for me.”
Bill stared at him for a moment before nodding. Raising his wand, he pressed it hard against Harry’s inner wrist. As he muttered the incantation for the Tracking Charm, Harry’s skin glowed orange.
“Thanks,” Harry murmured, rubbing his wrist with his thumb as the glow faded away.
“I’m not sure how much help it will be,” Bill admitted. “You might just take it off.”
“True,” Harry replied, his lips pressing into a thin line as he considered it. “We’ll just have to hope I don’t decide to do that.”
“We’ll follow a few minutes behind you,” Bill said. “And if nothing else, Malfoy’s surge will show up on the Ministry sensors…but…by that point…”
“It’s not going to come to that,” Harry interrupted firmly, although his face was ashen at the thought.
“Right,” Bill nodded.
After a moment of tense silence, Harry turned to leave.
Crossing the room, he lowered his head, his hands in his pockets as he reminded himself that this was the only way to find her. That knowledge didn’t lessen his fears. As he walked, apprehension of not being able to pull back, of actually following through on the urges Ginny seemed to inspire, grew steadily.
“Harry, wait,” Remus called, intercepting him as he reached the lift.
Harry looked up, watching as Lupin stepped in front of him, seeming to struggle with what he wanted to say.
“I just…I want you to know that I trust you to bring her back safely,” Remus said finally, putting his hand on Harry’s shoulder.
Harry clenched his jaw as Remus’ words stirred his anger.
“Why is it,” he mused in aggravation, “that when we’re out of options everyone suddenly trusts me with what they didn’t a few days ago?”
“We’re backed into a corner, Harry,” Remus admitted, his expression troubled. “But they don’t have a chance if you don’t try.”
The weight of pressure on Harry’s shoulders increased at Remus’ words and he looked down, shifting on his feet with a frown.
“You can do this, Harry…she needs you to do this.”
Looking back sharply at Remus’ face, Harry stared at him.
“They all need you to do this,” Remus continued softly. “You’ll be fine. You know what you’re doing.”
“I did know!” Harry corrected, his voice shaking as his frustration and fear boiled over. “For years I’ve known…but now something’s broken and it has to do with her and a Fidelius and a hundred other things people won’t explain to me…”
“That can’t be helped,” Remus replied, “But, later we’ll…”
“Yeah, whatever!” Harry exclaimed, throwing up his hands. “Later doesn’t help me right now, when I’m supposed to just run head-first into a situation where I know I’m going to want to hurt her!”
“You don’t want to hurt her,” Remus corrected. “You love her…it’s what’s inside you that doesn’t like those feelings.”
“It’s the same thing!”
“No it’s not!” Remus insisted. “You’ve fought for five years to get to a point where you’re in charge. You, Harry. If you think that the darkness is stronger than your desire to keep her safe…then you don’t have a chance in hell of being able to pull it together when you find her.”
Sucking in an angry breath, Harry looked down.
“Trust yourself, Harry,” Remus urged. “You can do this.”
For a moment, Harry stared at the ground, a muscle in his jaw working as he ground his teeth together. Unexpectedly, something Ginny had said to him in the cabin flashed through his mind.
“You are not evil, Harry…It may be inside of you, but it’s not who you are.”
Hearing her voice in his head sent a shiver down Harry’s spine and he shut his eyes. Essentially, she and Remus were arguing the same point, but her words were infinitely more comforting and strengthening at that moment.
He knew that the possibility of something going wrong was there…but in the end, he knew there was no way he wouldn’t try.
When the lift finally arrived with a ding, he looked up. Gazing steadily at Remus for a second, Harry nodded once before stepping inside.
“We’ll be right behind you,” Remus said as the doors slid closed.
Making his way out of the Ministry, Harry exited onto the street. Standing in the darkness, he looked up. Although no longer storming, the sky was still blanketed by clouds and the air was heavy around him.
Think of Ginny, he urged himself. Think of your promise.
Reminded of his vow to keep her safe, Harry took a fortifying breath.
“You can do this,” he whispered.
“I believe in you, Harry…” Ginny’s words floated in his mind. “I trust you…I will always trust you.”
With a final look at the Ministry, Harry spun on his heel, appearing an instant later in front of Malfoy’s abandoned cottage.
Dark and quiet, the house sat beside an ancient Sessile Oak.
For a few moments he let his hatred for Malfoy and what he was doing seethe inside of him. Closing his eyes, he took a breath and searched the building for any signs of people, even though he already knew Malfoy wasn’t there.
Breathing deeply, he turned his thoughts back to Ginny. Instantly his anger was replaced by guilt. His chest tightened and he curled his hands into fists.
I’m coming, baby…
Unsure of how to purposefully search for someone specific, when he had no idea how far away or in what direction they were, he simply stood for a moment. Focusing on the memory of her face, he imagined her chocolate eyes, freckled nose and long red hair.
He ached being away from her. Standing in the road, he wanted nothing more than to be where she was, to be able to see her and touch her and hear her voice. His power churned slowly within him at the feelings, gaining strength as he imagined her in his mind.
Keeping his focus on her, Harry reached out again with his senses. Swaying slightly as the bolt of energy flowed from his body, Harry lowered his head. Rushing away from him in all directions, his magic rolled over the hills and through the homes, alerting him to any magic in the area.
Ginny he chanted inwardly, find Ginny…please…
For several minutes, Harry stood like a statue, never moving. His eyes were closed and his hands hung loosely at his sides.
The electricity in the air gradually increased until a slight wind swirled continuously around him. His breathing became harsher until finally, the pull of energy changed. The air blew against him harder and harder until suddenly, his head snapped up.
That way, he thought as he looked to his left, his eyes dark.
It was faint, but he could feel her. Stifling a groan, Harry pressed his lips into a thin line as the magnetic pull brought a confusing combination of desire and malevolence.
Initially, he instinctively pushed down the darkness…but that diminished the connection with her to a point where the wind began to die around him. Afraid to lose the link completely, he let his magic surge back up.
With a gasp, the pull increased, bringing with it visions of finally having her again…of being able to wrap his hands around her neck and watch her love and life fade away. Curling his hands into fists, Harry groaned aloud as the pleasure of imagining that came.
Turning deliberately, he began to walk down the road. For several minutes he walked, breathing deeply as he let his intuition guide him. Veering slightly at one point, he left the road and crossed out into the field. As he continued on, his eyes continued to darken and he steadily sped up.
As his anticipation grew, his eyes swirled between green and black. Soon he was running, his heart pounding and his senses focused solely on the feel of her. Speeding up until he couldn’t race any faster, his energy surged and he jumped, disappearing without a sound.
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