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Chapter 21 : Chapter 20 - The Gathering Storm
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"Harry? Ginny? What are you doing here?"
Harry raised his hands to show he was unarmed. "It's us, Professor. You gave me my first broom after I made the Quidditch team, my first year. Kreacher brought you a note from me during the Christmas holidays."
"We had tea every Sunday evening during my second and third year," Ginny added. "I don't think I ever told you how much that meant to me."
Professor McGonagall gave them a rare smile. "It meant a lot to me, as well."
Standing, she embraced them each. Ginny readily returned her hug, while Harry stiffened for a moment before returning her embrace.
"What are you two doing here? Have you finished what you needed to do?"
"Yes, we did," Harry said. "But he knows…Voldemort is headed here."
She paled slightly, but nodded. With a wave of her wand, she sent three of her Patronuses running out of the room. "I'm sending messages to Professors Flitwick, Slughorn, and Sprout. The castle has defences that we can activate."
She sighed. "We need to gather the students. If the older ones want to fight, I won't stop them, but we need to get the younger students to safety."
Harry nodded. Turning to Kreacher who had brought them to the castle, he said, "Why don't you go down to the kitchen with the other elves and see what you can do to help?"
"Of course, Master Harry."
"Thank you, Kreacher."
After Kreacher left, Harry gestured toward the door, but Ginny stopped. "Wait, if we are going to be fighting, I don't want them to claim they didn't know it was me again."
With a wave of her wand, she said, "Finite Tinctus!" Harry smiled when he saw her hair was its natural beautiful red once again. She noticed his look and said, "I asked Alicia how to reverse the dye."
Professor McGonagall smiled. "Mr. Malfoy will not be able to pretend not to recognize you now."
Slipping his Invisibility Cloak over himself and Ginny, Harry followed his former Head-of-House down the hall.
As they approached the portrait hole, Harry heard an all too familiar voice behind them. "Minerva."
She stopped and turned to face the Headmaster. "Severus."
"What are you doing out in the halls?"
"Checking on my students," Minerva said icily. "I believe that is still part of my responsibility."
"It is dangerous to be out at this time of night," Snape replied.
"Dangerous? Why would it be dangerous to walk around the school?" Minerva returned.
He ignored the question to ask one of his own. "Have you seen Potter?"
"Potter? No, why would I have seen Harry? Your friends in the Ministry have made him an outlaw. I can't imagine him coming into the school," Minerva replied.
Snape sneered at her. "He obviously made it into the school over Christmas in order to murder the Carrows."
Minerva didn't respond and Snape pressed her. "I must speak to Potter. It is imperative."
She flicked her wand in his direction, too quickly for Harry to see what spell she'd fired. Snape quickly returned fire and Harry backed up against the wall so that neither he nor Ginny were in the line of fire.
The two combatants were fairly evenly matched and Harry watched in amazement as his favourite teacher demonstrated just how good she was at fighting. When he heard Ginny gasp, he looked down at her. She pointed to a spot past Professor McGonagall where they could clearly see Edward Nott with his wand raised.
"Diffindo!" Harry sent a Cutting Curse hurtling towards Nott.
Nott was able to block that spell and Harry and Ginny moved further down the hall to engage him.
"Potter!" Snape yelled.
Hate and anger flared up in Harry and he shot a Blasting Curse towards his hated former Potions Master. It missed, but Harry noted with satisfaction that his follow up Cutting Curse sliced Snape across the chest. He heard a muffled curse and out of the corner of his eye saw Ginny duck an ominous blue curse.
Nott took advantage of this and ran past the three Gryffindors to join the Headmaster. Snape grabbed his cloak. "Come on, we have to go!"
Harry cursed as the two Death Eaters escaped. The sound of running caused him to swing around with his wand raised. To his relief, it was Professor Flitwick and Professor Sprout.
Harry felt another wave of pain as the Great Hall disappeared from view. He dimly viewed the old Gaunt shack and felt Voldemort's anger spike before the Great Hall swam back into view.
"Are you okay?" Ginny whispered as she slid her arm around his waist.
He rested his head on her shoulder momentarily. "He's angry. He's checking on all of his Horcruxes before coming here."
Ginny tightened her hold on him, brushing a kiss across his cheek. He lifted his head to smile reassuringly at her. "I'm okay."
He pulled her into an embrace, realizing he may not have another chance to hold her until this was over. The thought crossed his mind that he might not have another chance to hold her at all, but he quickly pushed that thought away. Six months ago, he might have said he didn't expect to survive the final confrontation with Voldemort, but now he had something to live for and he was determined to survive.
"I love you," he whispered into her ear.
Ginny glanced around the anteroom behind the Great Hall where the couple was waiting until after Professor McGonagall addressed the students. She could hear the murmuring of the student body as they passed rumours back and forth about why they were here. The couple was once again hidden under his Invisibility Cloak while the students gathered in the hall.
Wrapping her arms around him, she whispered, "I love you, too. Please remember that and try not to do anything foolish like get yourself killed."
He tried to smile, but couldn't quite manage it. "I'll try not to. I wish…I hope we both make it through this night. I love you so much. I can't really imagine a life…without you in it. Part of me wants to lock you away with the younger students, but I know that's not fair of me. I just wish I could keep you safe."
"You can, love," Ginny replied. "Finish this tonight and we will be free to live our life. We can finally see our families again. We can travel and go to Quidditch games and do everything we have been dreaming about."
That thought did make him smile. He threaded his hand through her hair and leaned down to kiss her. He poured all of his love and passion into the kiss and she responded with equal measure. Harry pulled back and drew her closer into his arms. He rained kisses down her neck as he ran his hand across her back. Ginny buried her head in his neck and bit back a moan of pleasure.
He didn't respond, but continued to kiss her. He placed his hands on her hips and lifted her slightly. She wrapped her legs around his waist, even as she whispered into his ear, "Harry, we need to stop."
Ignoring her statement for the moment, Harry captured her lips in a passionate kiss. Despite her words, Ginny kissed him back wholeheartedly. He pulled her closer, revelling in the feeling of her body moulded up against his. He tangled one of his hands in her hair. Ginny moaned and the sound went straight through him. Harry pulled away slightly before resting his forehead against hers. "I know we need to stop. I…I just. Just let me hold you for a minute?"
"Of course, love," Ginny replied as she ran her hands through his hair. She kissed him softly. "We can pick this up later."
He laughed. "Is that my incentive for getting rid of Voldemort?"
"If that works," Ginny replied returning his laughter.
Reluctantly, Harry set her back down on the ground. She turned in his arms so they were both facing the Great Hall. Harry wrapped his arms around her as Professor McGongall's voice filled the Great Hall. The students quieted automatically.
"Voldemort is on his way to Hogwarts."
The Great Hall exploded in noise. Professor McGonagall paused for a moment before she once again called for silence.
"Quiet, please. As I said, Voldemort is on his way to Hogwarts. The school has defences that have been activated. However we will be evacuating the younger students. Students who are of age and wish to defend the school will be allowed to remain. However, I must emphasize that if you choose to stay, you will be facing Voldemort and his most experienced followers." She paused for a moment to let that information sink in. "If you stay, you may be wounded or killed, so I want each of you to seriously consider your choice.
Turning to Professor Slughorn, she said, "Horace, you will lead your Slytherins out of here."
He nodded uneasily as he started to round up his students. Professor McGonagall tasked the prefects as well as Professors Slughorn and Sinistra with leading the students to safety. To Harry's astonishment, at Professor McGonagall's command, a tunnel opened up in the back of the Great Hall. A clanging sound drew Harry's attention and he watched open mouthed as a column of suits of armour lined the newly revealed passageway.
"This tunnel will lead you to a set of caves along the edges of Hogsmeade. Several townspeople will meet you there and there you will remain until someone comes to get you."
As the students left through the newly revealed tunnel, Harry could see some members of the Order of the Phoenix entering the Great Hall as well as former members of the D.A. Hearing Ginny catch her breath, he followed her gaze and saw her brothers entering the Great Hall. Tightening his arms around her, he whispered in her ear, "You will be able to talk to them."
She nodded as she followed Bill's progress through the Great Hall. Harry dropped a kiss on top of her head and hoped that her brothers would believe her. Ginny watched with a growing excitement as her brothers neared the antechamber where she and her husband were waiting. Harry tightened his arms around her before whispering, "Go ahead, love."
Turning, she kissed him before slipping out from under the Invisibility Cloak and hurried into the Great Hall. Harry pulled off his cloak and stuffed it in his pocket while he watched his wife.
She hurried towards her brothers. Launching herself at her oldest brother, she cried out, "Bill."
"Ginny!" Bill caught her in an embrace. He held her close for a moment before Fred and George pulled her away from him and into a hug with the two of them.
"Ginny, we have been so worried about you," Bill said as he hugged her again, kissing her on top of the head.
Looking up into her brother's smiling face, Ginny felt her eyes stinging with tears. "Bill, I …you know that…"
Bill cut her off. "Sweetie, we know it wasn't you." He gestured to the twins. "We've never believed it was you."
She sagged against her oldest brother with relief. "Oh, thank Merlin. I was so worried. They kept printing all of those horrible stories and we couldn't talk to anyone."
"We know you would never go dark," Fred said.
"And Harry would never abandon you," George added.
Ginny hugged all of her brothers again before a thought crossed her mind. "Bill, Mr. Ollivander…is he okay?"
Laughing, Bill replied, "Yes, he looks like he will be okay. Fleur is looking after him. I have to say it was quite a surprise to suddenly find him and a house elf on my doorstep."
"Sorry," Ginny replied. "I…he was in Malfoy Manor and we didn't know what to do. I knew that you and Fleur could help him."
"It's okay, sweetie," Bill said with a smile. "I'm honoured that you trusted us enough to help you."
The sound of coughing filled the small bedroom in Shell Cottage. Fleur watched in concern as her mother-in-law helped the elderly wizard lay back down on the pillow.
"There, that is better," Mrs. Weasley said gently as she watched Mr. Ollivander relax on the bed. She watched quietly as he drifted off to sleep. Lowering the light in the room with a practiced wave of her wand, Mrs. Weasley quietly left the room with her young daughter-in-law.
The two women headed back toward the kitchen and within a few minutes found themselves sitting at the large kitchen table with a cup of tea and bowl of soup.
"Fleur, what happened? How did he get here?"
Fleur sighed. "I still don't know exactly what happened. Apparently Monsieur Ollivander was being held by Death Eaters. You-Know-Who tortured him personally."
"What? The poor man," Mrs. Weasley said, looking horrified at the thought.
"Oui." Fleur hesitated, not sure how to tell her mother-in-law the rest. "Harry rescued him from where he was being held."
Ignoring the look on Mrs. Weasley's face, Fleur pushed on. "Harry and Ginny broke into the place where he was being held and rescued not only Monsieur Ollivander, but some young Muggle girls as well. Harry had his house elf bring the wandmaker here."
"Harry and Ginny?" Mrs. Weasley looked at the younger witch in confusion. "What are they doing together? I thought he left her."
"Mon dieu! He loves her. He would never leave her. Bill and I have been telling you that, Remus has been telling you that – why won't you listen?" Fleur burst out angrily.
"Have you seen the pictures and the stories? He has been seen carrying on with all kinds of women this year. He abandoned her and…and you've seen the pictures," Molly rebutted.
"Why are you so blind? He loves her and he never left her. Yes, I have seen the pictures – pictures of Harry and a girl whose face we can never see. All we can see in the pictures is her hair. What is Ginny's most recognizable feature? Her beautiful hair. Is it so surprising that they would hide her hair colour?"
Mrs. Weasley sat back, staring at Fleur in confusion, her mind racing. At Christmas, she had been secure in the knowledge that her daughter was safe with Harry. The months of silence combined with the articles and pictures had eroded that conviction to the point where she didn't know what to think. Could Harry have been keeping Ginny safe this whole time?
"But…but why haven't they contacted us? Why didn't she come back home?"
Fleur barely restrained herself from rolling her eyes. "She couldn't. If she came back home, she would have been arrested or sent back to Hogwarts or sent to You-Know-Who. I don't know why we haven't heard from them. Maybe they didn't know how to get word to us. Maybe they thought we would trust them."
Their argument was interrupted by the arrival of a silvery otter. "It is real. Join us if you can."
Both women jumped to their feet. Fleur looked anxiously toward the stairs. "If you would like to go, I will stay with Monsieur Ollivander."
Mrs. Weasley stared at the determined young witch in front of her before nodding. "I will go. I'll send word as soon as I can."
"Tell Bill I love him," Fleur called out as Mrs. Weasley hurried toward the Apparition point.
Looking up from his Quidditch magazine, Ron watched his older brother race around the small cabin they shared. "What's going on?"
"They are fighting at Hogwarts," Charlie said as he turned toward his brother. "I just got the message. You-Know-You is headed there."
Ron stared at his brother in shock. Was it possible? Had Harry done it?
Charlie grabbed his cloak and turned back to his brother. "Come on, what are you waiting for? I have a Portkey that will take us to Hogsmeade."
Jumping up, Ron hurried over to his brother and grabbed a hold of the old practice Snitch turned Portkey Charlie held out.
Turning, Harry caught sight of Neville and Seamus. He hurried towards them.
"Neville, Seamus!" He shook both their hands and was pulled into exuberant hugs by both of them.
"It is great to see you guys," Harry said as he smiled at his former roommates. "Are you okay? Ginny's been telling me how horrible it is here."
"No, we're okay, mate," Neville replied. "Kreacher has been a lifesaver."
"That's great," Harry said. "I'm glad we could do something to help."
Seamus nodded. "You really did." He paused for a moment before continuing, "Is Ginny alright? That Playwizard…"
"We know it wasn't her," Neville cut in. "But we couldn't do anything about it. Pansy and Malfoy made sure there was an unending supply of that issue. Snape even made it a punishable offence to have a copy of that…rag."
Harry gave them a weak smile as he looked over at his wife. "Was it as bad as I imagined?"
Neville and Seamus exchanged a glance before Seamus asked, "You mean you haven't seen it?"
Shaking his head, Harry said, "We saw the cover, so we knew that it had been published…but I didn't want to see that…whore pretending to be Ginny."
Neville agreed. "Professor McGonagall was so angry about the articles and the pictures. She caught one of the fourth years with a copy of the article and I have never seen her that angry."
Smiling at their friends' defence of his wife, Harry looked at his two friends. "I wanted to thank you for looking out for Gin when I wasn't here."
"Harry, you realize she was looking out for a lot of people herself," Neville said.
Harry blushed slightly. "I know. She's very strong and very powerful, but at the same time…I just…Thanks for being here when I wasn't."
"Neville, Seamus!" Ginny smiled at her two friends and kissed each of them on the cheek. "Thank you so much for your support over the past few months. It really helped to know that some people believed in me."
Harry stepped back while Ginny greeted their friends. He stumbled slightly and felt a hand on his shoulder to steady him. Turning, he came face to face with his wife's oldest brother.
"Harry," Bill replied, shaking Harry's hand. "It's good to see you."
Gesturing towards his sister, Bill said, "Thank you."
Harry blushed, but smiled. "I'm just glad I was able to help her." He shivered. "I still have nightmares about what might have happened if I hadn't arrived in time."
Bill nodded. "I know. Kingsley told me about the scene in Carrow's classroom. I don't know exactly what happened, but thank you for getting my sister out of there."
They stood in silence for a moment watching Ginny interact with Neville, Seamus and the twins. Bill looked over at the younger man. He looked older to Bill's eyes – it was nothing he could point to, he just looked older and more mature. His hair was a bit longer and he looked a bit more filled out than Bill remembered. The older wizard smiled as he watched Harry watch his sister.
Glancing down, Bill caught sight of the gold ring around Harry's finger. With a smile, he broke the silence. "So is it true that you are my brother-in-law?"
Harry looked over startled. "What? H-how did you…?"
He blushed as he looked over at Ginny. Realizing that she couldn't hear the conversation and wouldn't be able to help him, Harry took a deep breath. "Yes."
The sound of laughter startled him. "Merlin, Potter. I'm not going to hurt you."
He looked nervously at the laughing curse-breaker. "You're not?"
"No." Bill drew himself up to his full height. "Unless I need to."
"N-no, you don't need to," Harry reassured him. "I love your sister. We were just going to perform a betrothal ritual to protect her from the Trace."
"So what happened?"
Harry smiled. "We decided to use the Sponsus ex Amor. Have you ever heard of it?"
A new voice sounded from behind them. "Sponsus ex Amor… that means the pledge of love, right?"
Harry turned to see Remus behind him. "Remus!"
"Harry! I am so glad to see you."
"Did you get my note?"
Remus broke into a smile. "Yes, I did. Harry, that stone for Sirius is amazing."
Blushing slightly, Harry said, "I just really wanted to do something for him. I've been visiting my parents for a while and it just felt right to put something for Sirius there." Smiling briefly, Harry stated, "I'm sorry, Remus. I know you are not a coward. I…I just kept seeing my dad dying and Sirius falling through the veil and I…I'm so sorry."
Remus surged forward and embraced Harry. "Harry, I am the one who should be sorry. You were perfectly right in everything you said. I think that I came to see you because you would yell some sense into me. You made me really think about what I had done and you were absolutely right. James would have been the first to yell at me."
He stepped back and smiled at the younger wizard. "I've been looking for you. Dora had the baby – a little boy, Teddy Remus. He is amazing. He's a Metamorphmagus like his mum. He changes his hair a lot. He seems to favour a turquoise blue." The proud dad pulled out a picture that he handed to the younger wizard.
Harry took the picture and slowly broke into a smile. "A boy, that's great! When was he born?"
"March 10." Remus smiled over at Harry. "We want you to be the godfather. Will you?"
"Me?" Harry said in surprise. "Are you sure you wouldn't rather have someone…I don't know, older?"
Remus laughed. "No, we want you. Besides, you're only three years younger than your parents were when you were born."
Harry paled slightly at that, but smiled. "I would be honoured."
Smiling, Remus met Bill's eyes. Turning to Harry, he said, "I didn't mean to interrupt. You mentioned something about the Pledge of Love?"
Harry smiled as his eyes sought out his wife. "Yes, well as I was telling Bill, Ginny and I…we were originally trying to find a betrothal rite to protect her from the Trace. The Pledge of Love seemed perfect, so we went through the ritual. To our amazement, we were married. It was amazing."
"That explains it," Bill said. Looking at Harry, he explained, "Remus and I have been trying to figure out how you could be married when Ginny was still underage."
"Did you tell anyone else?" Harry asked anxiously. "We…we haven't been able to tell anyone, but after this…we will be able to let everyone know. What do you think your parents will say?"
Bill looked at his young brother-in-law, trying to decide how to answer the question. A loud noise echoed through the Great Hall before he could respond. Harry looked up to see Professor McGonagall hurrying the last group of students through the tunnel.
A loud gong sounded through the Dining Hall at Beauxbatons, grabbing the attention of all of the students. The teachers reacted immediately.
Madam Maxime stood up quickly. "That noise signifies that Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is under attack. Students from that school should be arriving here via Portkey within twenty minutes. I want all younger students to head back to their common rooms. Any students fifth year and older who would like to help, please come up front."
Turning away from the students, Madam Maxime began addressing the staff. The students split into two groups – one headed for the common rooms and the other headed for the front of the Dining Hall. The group of students from Hogwarts that had become so fractured over the past few months suddenly joined together and surged forward to see what they could do for their school.
As the Dining Hall cleared out, a group of older students stood waiting for Madam Maxime to finish conferring with the older staff.
"Is it You-Know-Who?" Justin whispered to Hermione. "Do you think he is attacking the school?"
Hermione looked over at him nervously, her mind racing. "He must be. I can't imagine why."
"Harry must be there," Lauren stated. The others nodded in agreement.
Hermione took no part in the whispered discussion of the others. Could he have done it? Could Harry have actually found and destroyed the rest of the Horcruxes?
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