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Unintended Consequences by sbmcneil
Chapter 23 : Chapter 22 - The Clearing
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 1

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Harry woke slowly. He was lying on something solid. Reaching out his hand, he felt the floor. It was not stone or earth. He couldn't tell exactly what type of floor he was on. Cautiously, he sat up and looked around the big empty room. The room was white and the edges were filled with a misty smoke. As he started to move, the room changed. It now looked like the Gryffindor common room. A set of robes appeared over the arm of the sofa. Looking down, he realized he was naked. Harry quickly donned the robe and continued to look around the room. Was he dead? Was this heaven? Why was he alone?

A moaning sound drew his attention and Harry caught sight of a moaning disfigured creature under the table where he and his friends normally did their homework. It looked like a horribly disfigured baby with Voldemort's red slit like eyes. What was that thing?


Turning, Harry saw his godfather headed toward him. "Sirius! Where are we? What's going on?"

Sirius smiled as his godson's eagerness. "This is…I don't know exactly what to call it, but it is a way station of sorts."

"A way station?" Harry looked at him in confusion. "I'm dead, right? I remember getting hit by the Killing Curse."

"Well, not exactly."

"What do you mean, not exactly? I meant to die. I stepped in front of the Killing Curse." Harry froze. "Wait, if I'm not dead, what about Ginny? Is she okay?"

"Ginny is fine," Sirius said, breaking through Harry's panic. Sirius guided his stunned godson over to the sofa and sat down next to him. He smiled proudly at the younger man. "Harry, there were a lot of people who wanted to be the one to talk to you. In some ways, Professor Dumbledore might be the better person to be here, but…we have a stronger connection so I was allowed to come."

Harry calmed at the news that Ginny was alive. He forced his brain onto what may have happened. "But the part of Voldemort's soul that was in me…it's gone, right?"

"Yes, it is," Sirius said with a smile.

"How is this possible?" Harry asked in wonder.

Sirius smiled. "I think you know the answer to that. Think about what you have learned about Voldemort."

Harry thought back over all of his interactions with Voldemort. "My blood. Voldemort took my blood when he had himself resurrected."

"Exactly," Sirius replied. "When he took your blood, he took Lily's protection into his veins. The way Dumbledore explained it, Lily's love and protection is what saved you when you were a baby. The love your mother felt for you was a very powerful enchantment. So powerful that as long as the small portion of the enchantment lived on in Voldemort, he could not kill you."

Harry stared at the fire, trying to absorb everything his godfather had told him. "Did you know?"

"What part? No, Harry. I didn't find out until after I died. Dumbledore played all of it very close to his vest. I didn't even know what the prophecy said until after…" Sirius laughed slightly. "It sounds really strange to say, but after I died."

"So Dumbledore knew?"

Sirius hesitated. "He thought it would work out this way, but he wasn't sure. If you knew you would survive, it wouldn't have worked. You had to believe that you were sacrificing yourself or else it wouldn't work."

Harry felt a flare of anger at his former headmaster, but had to acknowledge it did make sense. He sighed. "I don't know what to think about Professor Dumbledore. I think he just wanted what was best for me, but at the same time…he never told me anything. I read his journals and they helped explain some things to me…but I don't like all the secrets. I realized I was starting to do the same thing and I don't think I want to be like that."

"I know what you mean," Sirius replied. "I was quite angry with him for a long time. I don't think he did right by you or me. He was so focused on getting rid of Voldemort that he forgot that we have thoughts and feelings. He and I have talked several times, some of them at quite a loud volume."

Harry laughed. "I'll bet."

Sirius shared a smile with his godson. "I was actually quite calm, compared to your mother. She was furious with him. She yelled at him for quite some time."

"Really?" Harry asked in wonder. He was not used to someone being so angry on his behalf.


His smile faltered as a thought crossed his mind. "Sirius, did you know how Snape felt about my mum?"

The older wizard sighed. "I knew he had a crush on her. We all did. That is one of many reasons James and Snape never got along. I know Lily was sad to lose Snape's friendship, but for her at least, it never went any deeper than friendship. At that time, I didn't realize Snape's feelings for Lily were so strong."

"It's really confusing," Harry said. "I mean on the one hand, he hated me and treated me like crap the whole time he knew me, but on the other hand he turned spy for Voldemort because he loved my mum so much."

"I know," Sirius agreed. "I don't think it's a secret that Snape and I didn't get along. He was rude and hateful and way too interested in the Dark Arts, but he risked his life on a daily basis for the past three years to help defeat Voldemort."

"So was he good or…"

"He was both," Sirius broke in. "When I was a child, I knew most of the future Death Eaters that Snape befriended while he was at school. I despised him for embracing what I tried so hard to escape. He willingly participated in dark magic rituals."

Sirius fell silent while he tried to figure out how to explain this to Harry. "I grew up around these people and I know how seductive the power of dark magic can be. Snape did not grow up in a happy home and for him, the Death Eaters became a family. He wanted to pursue a relationship with Lily, even though she was a Muggleborn. He chose the Death Eaters over Lily and I think he always regretted it. I think he blamed himself for Lily's death and he chose to change sides in an effort to make up for the harm he caused. Does that make him good? I don't know."

"Me either," Harry said. "I feel bad that I didn't trust him or rather trust that Dumbledore had a reason to trust him, but he honestly tried to make me think he was guilty."

"I know, kiddo. I know," Sirius replied with a sigh.

"So I am not dead," Harry clarified after he thought everything over.

"No, kiddo. You are not dead," Sirius replied with a smile. "You have a choice – you can chose to move on or you can go back. It is up to you."

Harry looked up with a smile. "I can be with Ginny?"

Sirius broke into a big smile. "Yes, you can be with Ginny." He laughed. "I knew you two would end up together. I just didn't think you would be married so young."

"I didn't think so either, Padfoot, but I'm really glad we are," Harry said with a smile. "She is amazing."

He looked past Sirius toward the stairs that led to the dorms. "In some ways, I'd love to go on and see my parents. I have loved staying at their house. I feel like I've gotten to know them a bit. But I can't leave Ginny."

"I know that, kiddo," Sirius said with a smile. "Your parents send their love. They love you and are so proud of everything you've done. Your dad was so thrilled that you play Quidditch so well. Go back, love Ginny and have a wonderful life and provide me with lots of god-grandchildren. We will be here when you are ready to move on."

"I love you, Sirius."

"I love you, too."

The pain that had been missing during his time with Sirius came flooding back. Harry was aware of the hard ground underneath him as well as the sound of soft sobbing coming from above him. He groaned softly.

A soft hand came to rest on his shoulder. He felt a soft curtain fall around his head, the soft floral scent letting him know that it was Ginny.

Without moving, he cracked his eyes open. Ginny was leaning over him. He could see tears streaming down her face. Grief such as he has never seen was etched into her face.

"Gin," he barely whispered.

Ginny paled. "H-harry. You're alive?"

"What happened?"

She leaned closer and whispered. "When y-you stupidly s-stepped in front of the Killing Curse, he f-fell too. I t-thought you were dead."

Harry peered through the red curtain of Ginny's hair. He could see Voldemort starting to move. Looking back up at his wife, he whispered, "It's okay, love. He's mortal now."

Reaching down, he gestured to the disillusioned sword that was still strapped to his leg. "Step back, Gin."

Nodding, Ginny leaned down and kissed him before moving back. She crawled over to Charlie, who had regained consciousness and was watching his sister anxiously. Like everyone else in the clearing, he assumed Harry was dead.


She looked down at her brother briefly before looking back at her husband. He had not yet moved, but she could tell he was watching Voldemort. Without looking down, Ginny reached her hand out and touched her brother's shoulder. He followed her line of vision and reached up with his other hand to cover hers.

Most of the fighting in the clearing had ceased as they watched Harry and Voldemort. More people from the castle had joined the combatants. Remus had subdued Lucius while Bill and Kingsley had one of the Lestrange brothers bound, the other lay mortally wounded. Dolohov had made his way to his master's side.

"My Lord," Dolohov's voice sounded loudly through the clearing.

Voldemort moved, causing everyone to focus on him. He pulled himself up, snarling at Dolohov who tried to help him. Voldemort cast an eye around the clearing, focusing on Harry who lay still in the centre of the clearing.

A flick of his wand cast a barrier keeping everyone except Harry and the two Death Eaters on the outskirts of the clearing. To Ginny's surprise, Voldemort didn't approach Harry. She watched him watching Harry and realized, to her surprise, that Voldemort was afraid of her husband.

"Are you happy now, Tom?" Ginny yelled as she pulled herself up on her knees. "You killed him."

Voldemort laughed, covering up the gasps and moans of those opposing him. "Of course. Did you really think a mere child could kill me?"

Regaining his confidence, Voldemort headed toward Harry apparently taking Ginny's word that Harry was dead.


Voldemort laughed as Harry's body convulsed. With a wave of his wand, he tossed Harry's body into the air. He took great delight in tossing him around. Yells from those in the clearing threatened to drown out his laughter.

"This is your great hero, your chosen one. Not so great, now is he?" Voldemort goaded them. He turned to Ginny. "Miss Weasley, I don't think we've been officially introduced. I hear from Lucius that you got to know my younger self quite well. I hope you realize that he died for you."

Voldemort laughed at the pain on Ginny's face. "He was a fool, just like his mentor. He threw his life away, just like his Mudblood mother."

"He is not…was not a fool!" Ginny yelled at him. "He loves me and wanted to protect me just like his mother protected him!"

"Love didn't do him much good, did it?" Voldemort sneered.

"I don't know. I think it did me a lot of good."

Voldemort whirled around while the clearing fell silent in shock. Harry smiled as he bounced confidently on his heels, facing Voldemort.

"What's wrong, Tom? No snappy comebacks?"

Voldemort recovered quickly from his shock. "I don't know how you managed that trick, but you will not be able to hide forever. Do you want someone else to come take a curse for you?"

Harry shook his head. "No, it is just you and me, Tom."

"You think you can somehow defeat me?"

Harry smiled. "I know I can. Your Horcruxes are gone, Tom. It is just you and me now."

Voldemort faltered when he heard about his Horcruxes. He hoped the boy didn't know about all of them. "You have gotten lucky in the past, boy. I have defeated Dumbledore, I have taken over the Ministry and I have taken over Hogwarts."

"You did not defeat Dumbledore." Harry ignored the gasps he heard filling the clearing. "He arranged his own death. He knew he was dying that night on the Astronomy Tower. Snape was loyal to him, not you. It was arranged between the two of them."


"Snape was in love with my mother. When you refused to save her, he turned against you." Harry smiled at the anger he saw flash in Voldemort's red eyes. "He asked you to save her, didn't he?"

Voldemort scoffed. "He may have had a passing interest in her, but he knew she was not worthy of him."

Harry shook his head. "You don't understand and that will seal your fate."

"You think you know magic that I don't?" Voldemort laughed. He waved his wand in front of Harry. "I have the Elder Wand, the unbeatable Death Wand. How do you hope to defeat that?"

Voldemort, thinking he had intimidated Harry, was shocked to hear Harry laughing. Harry circled Voldemort. "Did you not hear what I said? You did not defeat Dumbledore. He and Snape arranged his death between the two of them. Snape is dead. He was killed by Nott."

"Why would Nott kill him?"

"Because he saw Snape helping me," Harry replied. "It doesn't matter anyhow. The Elder Wand had already chosen a new master. Draco Malfoy was the new master of the Elder Wand."

"Then I will kill him. It doesn't matter."

"You're right. It doesn't matter because I defeated Draco months ago. I took his wand." Harry smiled at the look of fear that snuck into Voldemort's eyes. "That's right. I am the rightful master of the Elder Wand."

Anger flared and Voldemort raised his wand. "Avada…"

Harry dove out of the way and in one fluid motion, drew his sword and brought it crashing down, slicing across Voldemort's neck. The force of the blow decapitated him. Harry and the rest of those gathered in the clearing watched in silence as his head fell to the ground, followed by his body.

Harry fell to his knees next to the body and grabbed the Elder Wand before it could fall into the wrong hands. He looked down on the body of his nemesis, trying to take in the fact that it was over. He used his sword to pull himself to his feet.

Screams and cheering rent the air and the shield Voldemort had put up fell. Ginny was the first to reach him. She threw her arms around him, laughing and crying at the same time. He buried his head in her hair and closed his arms around her. "I love you. I love you. I love you."

Soon the couple was swamped by family, friends, and well-wishers. Harry did not let go of Ginny once. He kept one arm wrapped around her and greeted everyone with the other. News of Voldemort's defeat spread quickly through the grounds and up to the castle.

Harry and Ginny soon found themselves in the Great Hall. Voldemort's body as well as those of his Death Eaters were secured in the antechamber where Harry and Ginny had waited for the fighting to start.

Sorrow welled up in Harry as he watched the victims of the Death Eaters laid out on the floor of the Great Hall. He heard Ginny moan and following her eyes, he saw the body of Colin Creevey being laid out next to Lavender Brown. Tears rolled down both of their faces as they looked around the room.

"My brothers, can you see my brothers?" Ginny asked fearfully.

"Bill took Charlie over to the makeshift infirmary," Harry said as he looked around the room, hoping for another flash of red.

Ron heard the cheers echoing through the castle as he, Hermione and the twins hurried back toward the ground floor. They had finished sealing the Astronomy Tower and the North Tower and were returning to the Great Hall. They turned down the Charms hallway when Ron saw a flurry of movement in one of the classrooms.

He stopped and gestured toward the door of the classroom. Fred and George nodded their understanding, the looks on their faces far more serious than Ron could ever remember seeing. He looked over at Hermione, detecting fear and determination in her face.

Ron and Hermione flattened themselves against the wall.


Fred and George blanketed the room with Stupefying Charms. Ron heard two thuds come from within the room. He and Hermione cautiously joined the twins in the classroom.

"Over here," Fred called.

Ron hurried over with his wand drawn. To his disgust, it was Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson. He looked over at his brothers and between the three of them, they unleashed a wide range of hexes on the pair of them.

"Stop it!" Hermione yelled. "You can't just go around hexing unconscious people."

George looked over at her and shook his head before calling out, "Incarcerous!"

Leaning over, he checked the tightness of the knots securing the two Slytherins before he grabbed their wands. Searching their robes, George found an extra wand in Pansy's inside pocket.

Holding it up, he said, "Isn't this Ginny's?"

Fred looked over. "I think it is. We'll take it with us."

The twins levitated the two bound Slytherins in front of them and the group started out the doorway. They had reached the end of the corridor when an explosion rocked the hallway. The wall exploded into the hallway, knocking the twins off their feet and subsequently causing Malfoy and Pansy to fall.

Harry watched as Bill ran out of the Great Hall. Ginny looked over at him. "What happened?"

"I don't know," he replied, a note of concern in his voice. "I think he received a Patronus message and then he ran off."

Their questions were answered as a group of redheads ran in and headed straight for the makeshift infirmary. Ginny grabbed Harry's hand and the two of them hurried over to see what had happened.

"It must have been a time-delayed blasting hex," Ron was explaining to Neville as the couple walked up. "Fred took the worst of it. He was right next to the wall when it exploded."

Harry and Ginny stayed on the edge of the group that waited eagerly for news from Madam Pomfrey, who had hurried over to assess the twins. Harry wrapped his arms around Ginny, who leaned back into his arms, drawing strength from him. It was a tense wait as the group watched Alicia and Susan Bones run around helping Madam Pomfrey, fetching potions and performing spells. Ginny tensed in Harry's arms when a blue robed healer from St. Mungos hurried over in response to Madam Pomfrey's call.

A blue flame lit over the bed of one of the twins and that brought a whole new level of activity. Two more healers hurried over to help.

Harry couldn't understand much of what they were saying about blood pressures and haemorrhaging. Leaning down, he whispered in Ginny's ear, "What does that blue flame mean?"

"It means that someone stopped breathing," Ginny whispered in a broken voice. "We…we saw that happen at St. Mungo's one day when we were visiting Dad. Mum explained what it meant."

As if mentioning her name summoned her, Mrs. Weasley made her way through the crowd with her husband hurrying behind her and stopped at the twins' bedside. Harry dropped a kiss on the top of Ginny's head and ran his hand up and down her arms in an attempt to comfort her. His heart was breaking at the thought of one of the Weasleys dying, a dull ache started in his chest.

The grim group kept their vigil in silence. Noise from the rest of the Great Hall had been muted and a divider had been set up separating the beds of the three Weasley brothers and the rest of the wounded. It was almost a quarter of an hour later that the healers straightened up and spoke to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley.

"They have both been critically wounded, but I believe they will survive." The healer pointed to Fred. "This young man had severe internal injuries as well as head trauma. We will be taking him to St. Mungo's for observation. He will have a rather lengthy recovery, but he should be fine."

Harry thought he heard a sob from Mrs. Weasley before the healer gestured to George and said, "This young man will be fine. We will take him to St. Mungo's also, but he should have a much shorter recovery time."

The silent pall that had enveloped the waiting crowd dissipated with that news. Ginny squealed quietly as she turned in Harry's arms. She wrapped her arms around his neck and he pulled her close. He could feel her tears dropping on his neck.

"It's okay, sweetie. They'll be okay," Harry whispered.

After a few minutes, she pulled away, wiping her eyes with her sleeves. "I know. I think it just got to me."

Before he could reply, a call came from across the room. "Ginny!"

Turning, Ginny saw Charlie sitting up on his bed with Bill next to him. They were waving her over. She hurried over to her brothers and hugged Charlie first.

"I was so scared," Charlie whispered into her hair.

She looked at him quizzically. "What?"

"When V-voldemort held his wand on you. Lestrange hit me with a Reductor Curse to my leg and I couldn't do anything to help you," Charlie explained.

Bill agreed as he pulled Ginny into his own hug. "When that Killing Curse started toward you…Ginny, that was horrible. I couldn't get there fast enough."

Both brothers turned to Harry, who was looking rather upset himself at the thought of the Killing Curse hitting his wife. Bill was the one who spoke up. "Harry, mate. I have never seen anything like that in my life -"

"Ginevra Weasley!"

The four of them turned to see Mrs. Weasley bearing down on them. Ginny sighed. She was really hoping to avoid this confrontation at least for a while.

Mrs. Weasley reached them and grabbed Ginny in her arms, squeezing her for all she was worth. "Ginny, where have you been? We have been so worried about you. Why didn't you contact us? Do you have any idea what we went through? Why didn't you come home?"

By the end of her questions, Mrs. Weasley had worked herself into a full temper. "What were you thinking? Running away? You should have been at home!"

"At home, Mother?" Ginny responded. "If I was at home, I would have been arrested or sent back to school. Either way it would not have been good for me."

Ginny's temper flared as she saw her mother start to shake her head. "And I didn't run away! You must know that Malfoy and Zabini kidnapped me and Pansy used Polyjuice Potion to impersonate me. I know you know that! Alicia said Neville and Seamus told you what happened."

"That was at Christmas, young lady!" Mrs. Weasley yelled back. "Why haven't you contacted us? Why the silence?"

"What was I supposed to do, Mother? Harry told me you were being watched. We didn't know how to get in touch with you without alerting the Ministry," Ginny defended herself.

Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw Neville and Seamus shepherding the others out of the area. Remus stepped closer to Harry, standing behind him in support. Bill cast some silencing charms and surreptitiously summoned his mother's wand as Mr. Weasley spoke up for the first time. "Molly, dear. Please, try to calm down."

Ignoring the glare of his wife, he turned to his daughter and opened his arms. "Ginny."

Despite her anger with her mother, Ginny was happy to see her family again. She threw herself into her father's arms. "Daddy."

Mr. Weasley smiled as he finally held his daughter in his arms again. "I am so glad to see you, my love. We were so worried about you."

"I know, Daddy. I really would have contacted you if I could have," Ginny said as she wiped her eyes yet again. "We just didn't think we could risk it."

"We really didn't, Mr. Weasley," Harry said, speaking for the first time. He took a step closer to his wife and she reached out her hand for him.

"You should have tried!" Mrs. Weasley burst out. Harry cringed at the look he was receiving from her. She continued, despite the looks she was getting from her family trying to silence her. "You took her from her family!"

"No," Harry shot back. "I took her from Death Eaters. They were using the Cruciatus on her. I should have left her there? I got her out of there."

Mrs. Weasley paled at the thought of the Cruciatus being used on her only daughter. She opened her mouth as if to rebut what Harry had said when Charlie interrupted.

"No, Mum. I know you are upset about those pictures, but Harry and Ginny had nothing to do with them."

Ginny looked between her brother and her mother, realization dawning on her. "Y-you thought that was me? You really thought I would turn to the Dark Arts?"

Mrs. Weasley looked slightly embarrassed. "I…I didn't want to believe that, but…we hadn't heard anything and there were all of the pictures of him in paper with other women."

"Other women? Have you never heard of hair dye, Mother?"

"How was I supposed to know that?"

"Oh, I don't know," Ginny replied mockingly. "Maybe you should have trusted Harry and what you know about him."

"Do you have any idea what he did for her?" Bill put in.

Mr. Weasley looked up sharply. "What do you mean?"

Bill exchanged a look with his closest brother before he explained, "He stepped in front of a Killing Curse for her."

Everyone gasped when he said that and Ginny took a step closer to her husband. Harry reached out for her and she willingly went to him.

"Ginny and I were fighting Bellatrix Lestrange and we…we killed her," Charlie explained haltingly. "When Voldemort realized that she was dead…he was so angry. One of the Lestrange brothers took me out and that left Ginny standing alone facing Voldemort. He sent a Killing Curse at her and Harry just stepped right in front of her."

Charlie looked over at Harry and with emotion cracking his voice, said, "I know I can never thank you or repay you for what you did, but if you ever need anything – anything at all, let me know and I will get whatever you need." He held up his hand to stave off Harry's reply. "I know that you didn't do it for us and I can see how much you love her, but we love her too. I, for one, want to thank you for what you did."

Harry nodded shakily as he pulled Ginny into his arms. "I only did what I needed to do. When I saw the Killing Curse headed for her…I didn't know what else to do. I didn't even think about it. I just stepped in front of it. But…I had to…"

"What do you mean you had to?" Remus asked as he put his hand on Harry's shoulder.

Looking down at Ginny, Harry saw the questions in her eyes as well. He knew he would have to explain what had happened. He looked around the group gathered in the makeshift infirmary. George and Fred had been taken to St. Mungo's, but the other Weasley brothers were there as well as Hermione and Remus Lupin.

"Did you cast any privacy charms?" Harry asked Bill.

Bill nodded. "No one else will be able to hear what you have to say."

"Sit down, Harry," Remus said gently as he guided the young couple to an open bed. The rest of the group settled on the beds vacated by the twins with Bill sitting on the foot of his brother Charlie's bed. Remus sat on the end of the open bed with Harry and Ginny.

Taking a deep breath, Harry asked, "Do you know what we were doing?"

"We think that you were looking for Horcruxes. Is that right?" Bill asked. At the look in Harry's eyes, he explained, "Ron and Hermione couldn't tell us what you were doing, but we knew you were looking for something. It was Ravenclaw's diadem that gave me the clue what you were doing."

Harry ignored Hermione's intake of breath and nodded. "Tom Riddle made six Horcruxes. He was terrified of dying so he was trying to extend his life. Professor Dumbledore found and destroyed two of them. He left me with the task of finding and destroying the rest of them. I honestly didn't know that much when we left the Burrow. Ron, Hermione, and I found one of them right away, but we didn't have any luck finding the rest of them. After they…left, I found and destroyed one in Godric's Hollow."

Reaching for Ginny's hand, he continued, "I came to Hogwarts to look for another one and I…I was able to rescue Ginny. She helped me and we found and destroyed the last two Horcruxes. Riddle discovered that we had destroyed at least some of them and he came here to look for the Horcrux he'd hidden here.

"Snape…found me as I was headed toward the forest. He did some spell that let me see some of his memories. He knew my mum and I think he'd fallen in love with her. When he realized that he helped cause her death, he turned to Dumbledore and became a spy. What Dumbledore never told me was that I had become a Horcrux."

Harry closed his eyes as he heard the gasps around him. He felt Ginny put her hand on his face. He was almost afraid to look at her, but gathering his courage, he opened his eyes, unsure of what he might see in her eyes. To his relief, he could only see love and support in her eyes. Ignoring the others for a moment, he kissed her gently on the lips.

"I'm sorry, baby. Snape showed me what happened and that I needed to die. I didn't want to…I wanted to stay with you, but I knew that if I didn't kill him…we wouldn't have any kind of life." He gently wiped the tears from her eyes, ignoring his own tears. "I didn't know exactly what I was going to do, but when I saw the Killing Curse headed toward you…it just made perfect sense. If I had to die, it was best if I died protecting you."

Pulling Ginny onto his lap, Harry held her as she cried softly. "I'm sorry, baby. I…I didn't have time to tell you what was going on. I just…"

Trailing off, he buried his head in her hair. "I love you."

Remus watched the young couple, amazed at the strength of will it must have taken for Harry to step in front of Ginny. It was the same strength of will that had driven Lily to stand in front of Harry's cot to protect him from Voldemort. He wiped his eyes and vowed that he would be there for Harry from now on.

The young couple comforted each other and whispered back and forth. With his keen hearing, Remus heard whispers of love and support between the two of them. After a few moments, Harry lifted his head and gently kissed his wife again. Ginny laid her head on his chest.

Charlie broke the silence. "Don't take this the wrong way, Harry, but why didn't you die?"

Harry managed a slight smile. "I still don't understand everything, but it had to do with the blood protection my mother gave me. He couldn't kill me because of her blood protection. He hit me with the Killing Curse, but it affected both of us." Harry paused. He didn't want to share his conversation with Sirius with anyone except Ginny and maybe Remus. "I came back somehow and because I gave myself up willingly…I had the opportunity to kill him."

Mr. Weasley shook his head in amazement. "That is amazing, Harry. I agree with Charlie. We can't thank you enough for saving Ginny."

Harry tensed and pulled Ginny closer. He was afraid the Weasleys were going to try to separate them.

Clearing his throat, Bill said quietly, "Harry, you were telling me and Remus about the charm you cast."

Moving over so he was next to the young couple, Bill knelt by his young brother-in-law. "Charlie and I will be here for you and of course Remus will as well. It is better to get it over with all at once."

"I agree," Remus added. "I'll be here for you."

Nodding, Harry looked nervously over at his in-laws. "When we left Hogwarts, we needed a way to…protect Ginny and get around the Trace."

"You can't break the Trace until you are of age," Hermione chimed in, speaking for the first time.

"Actually, Hermione, you can," Bill replied. He looked at the young couple with a smile. "If a couple is betrothed, they can get around the Trace."

"Betrothed!" Mrs. Weasley exclaimed. "You can't be betrothed without parental permission."

"We started researching magic rituals before we left Hogwarts," Ginny explained. "I found something called Sponsus ex Amor or the Pledge of Love. It is an ancient betrothal ritual that can still be used, but does not need parental permission. It basically has one of three outcomes, depending on the strength of the couples' love and commitment. If the couple isn't committed, there are major consequences – they can lose their magic. If the couple is attracted, but not yet in love, they will be betrothed. For a couple already in love and committed, the pledge acts as a marriage vow."

She looked over at Harry who continued, "We performed the pledge and…we are married."

"Married?" Mrs. Weasley glared at the young couple before turning to her husband. "Have you ever heard of this pledge?"

"Mum," Bill broke in. "I checked our records at Gringotts. They are married."

"You knew about this?" Mrs. Weasley glared at her oldest son.

"Molly, I asked him to check into it," Remus said quietly. "Harry had managed to get a letter to me. He left it with a priest at the church where his parents are buried. The priest mentioned Harry's wife. I told Bill about the letter and my conversation with the priest. I didn't say anything to you, because I was waiting for more information."

"Mrs. Weasley, we didn't mean to go behind your back or hide our marriage from you or anything," Harry said earnestly. "I love Ginny and she loves me. We honestly didn't expect to end up married, but I am very happy that we did. I couldn't have done what I did without her. She is…" Harry looked over at Ginny and smiled before he continued, "She is amazing. She is smart and funny and she believes in me."

Mrs. Weasley's face softened as she looked at the two of them. "I always hoped you would end up together. I just never expected it to be this soon. I…I need some time to think about all of this. I do love you both."

Standing, she looked at her husband. "We should get over to St. Mungo's." She walked over to the young couple and hugged both of them. "We will talk more later."

Ginny nodded as she hugged her father. She leaned into her husband as she watched her parents leave.

A/N: The blue flame over Fred's bed was not my idea. I borrowed it (with permission) from Rachelme177's Follow the Phoenix. If you haven't read that story it is wonderful!

.net/s/5069455/1/Follow_the_Phoenix. Hope everyone has a Happy New Years!

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Unintended Consequences: Chapter 22 - The Clearing


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